Troy Media – By Peter Wilson
Over decades, this city has grown into a major destination for music lovers from across North America, but there’s another side of Branson that provides an equally powerful lure for folks like Chad Phillips.
“There’s no doubt Branson is a mighty fine place for entertainment, but I love the peace and quiet of the creek here,’’ Chad says as he expertly attaches a new fly to my fishing line.
Being the property manager for the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, Chad’s fishing hole is just a 40 minute drive from downtown, but it could be a million miles away from the razzamataz of Branson’s lively theatre strip.
Dogwood Canyon a nature lover’s paradise
A 2,200-acre preserve in the heart of the Ozarks. Dogwood Canyon Nature Park (www.dogwoodcanyon.com) sprawls across the Missouri-Arkansas border, just south of Branson. It’s a paradise of fishing creeks, hiking, horse riding paths and mountain biking trails, all hidden away in the thick forests in this slice of Ozark heaven.
A pro fly-fishing instructor, Chad’s client list has included some pretty famous names, including PGA champ Tom Watson. Not that the golfer champ needed much instruction.
“He has such good hand and eye co-ordination, he was casting like a pro after only minutes of instruction,’’ he smiles, patiently untangling the fishing line I’d managed to stray into some weeds on my first cast.
After an hour, we both agreed I was no Tom Watson, so we sat down to enjoy the peace along our fishing stretch of Little Indian Creek. We watched both bass and trout being caught by other, more talented fishermen than me, when my fishing guide suddenly pointed up stream. It was a mink swimming in the water with a juicy crawdad sticking in its mouth. Chad smiled.
“It’s a pretty pristine area and we work hard to keep the creek and forest healthy, so wildlife like being around here.’’
After the mink disappeared from view, Chad took me to a chapel on the property where six years earlier he tied a very different knot to the ones he puts on fishing poles every day.
The log chapel in the woods is a romantic setting for a marriage, but the building is also another example of how Branson has reinvented its portfolio of attractions.
While Branson can boast more than 50 theatre stages, it has even more churches and wedding chapels spread across its urban landscape.
In fact, the show city has become a hugely popular destination for weddings, with sites ranging from log cabins, similar to where my fishing buddy entered marital bliss, to large ornate chapels that can hold several hundred people. At Shrine of the Holy Spirit Chapel, a stunning backdrop of quarried blue stone and a shimmering light show offers memorablephotographic opportunities for the bridal party. You can even get married in some of the popular Branson attractions like the Titanic, a spectacular museum housing memorabilia and artefacts from the legendary Titanic story. The weddings are usually conducted on a replica of the famous ship’s Grand Staircase.
But if fishing isn’t your passion, and wedding plans are not on your radar, then a good day out at the fairground can also be uplifting for your soul. Branson’s focus on family entertainment is often a deciding choice families make in choosing a vacation here rather than Las Vegas. What happens in Branson, does not have to stay in Branson.
A visit to Silver Dollar City should be included for “youngsters’’ of every age, even if they’re drawing a pension. Here you can step back in time to an 1880′s craft village filled with the best crafts, thrill rides, family attractions and festivals.
Silver Dollar City’s newest addition, Half Dollar Holler, is a brand-new, $1 million playscape and ride area designed with the youngest adventurers in mind. Half-pints will find a woodland wonderland filled with activities to take them to new heights. Half Dollar Holler, created especially for children ages 3 to 7, also provides a safe play zone with a single-access entrance and kid-friendly structures.
The romance of riding the rails
In addition to a host of other exceptional thrill rides, Silver Dollar City’s Culinary and Craft School reflects the creativity and talent of the expert Ozark artisans working on site. Most of the products made in the workshops here are available for sale.
America’s romance with riding the rails is alive and well in Branson, and lives on through excursions on the local Scenic Railway aboard a collection of charming passenger cars that travel through the foothills of the Ozarks. For the best part of two hours, passengers enjoy travelling the rails through tunnels, over trestles, and through the southwest Missouri or northwest Arkansas wilderness that is still home to much wildlife and ruins of long-forgotten communities.
After you get back from your vintage railroad adventure, take a stroll across the street from the station and explore Branson Landing , the city’s newest multi-million dollar addition that includes waterfront shopping, dining, entertainment and more than 100 stores. The highlight here is the Landing’s $7.5 million water and fire spectacle.
For more Information on this showbiz city: Visit www.explorebranson.com
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