Long popular as Midwest America’s go-to place for country music, Branson, Mo., is staking its claim as home to the most spectacular and longest-running Christmas celebration of the 2018 holiday season.
At the center of all the excitement is Silver Dollar City, the Ozark Mountain town’s omnipresent 100-acre 1880s-era theme park. On Nov. 3, it unveiled its biggest and brightest Christmas lighting array ever — throwing the switch on 6.5 million colorful LED lights. This is now the world’s second-largest Christmas lighting display. Only Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town in Williamsburg, Va., is brighter, featuring some 10 million lights.
The annual holiday festival, known as “An Old Time Christmas,” continues through Dec. 30. It features a nightly light parade, two Broadway-style musical productions, a five-story special effects Christmas tree, strolling carolers, a dramatic living Nativity and a selection of seasonal foods at the park’s more than 20 restaurants and food stands. The park’s 100-plus craftsmen and women create one-of-a-kind holiday items.
The impact of so many millions of lights is best experienced in Silver Dollar City’s Midtown area. Here, Christmas in Midtown takes holiday lighting to an entirely new level, filling a single acre with more than 1.5 million lights — 145 miles of lights covering just 70,000 square feet — painstakingly strung by hundreds of workers over several weeks.
IF YOU GO: ‘AN OLD TIME CHRISTMAS’
>> Where: Silver Dollar City, Branson, Mo.
>> When: 1 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, through Dec. 30
>> Phone: 800-831-4386
>> On the Net: silverdollarcity.com
The multisensory sensations are mind-boggling. Visitors enter the Midtown area through huge light tunnels and wreath portals to witness a number of innovative lighting elements, including flying angels, running reindeer, rumbling trains, musical Christmas trees with moving lights, stars, snowflakes and a giant turning globe.
Twice each evening, a parade of lights, Rudolph’s Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade, winds through Midtown streets. Grand Marshal Rudolph leads the parade of nine musical floats, illuminated with 200,000 LED lights. Accompanying the parade are 45 costumed characters, including Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, 12-foot-tall elves, 10-foot candy canes, penguins and wooden soldiers.
The festival also features two original musical productions, “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The former is an adaptation of the Dickens classic, with revolving sets, flying spirits, pyrotechnic special effects and a cast of 15, accompanied by a live band. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a musical interpretation of the original film, with unique special effects and a cast of 14 singers and actors.
Since its debut more than two decades ago, Silver Dollar City’s “An Old Time Christmas” has emerged as one of the nation’s most widely recognized events for its spectacular lighting and entertainment — and it has been profiled as one of America’s top holiday celebrations by CNN Travel, USA Today, The Travel Channel and “Good Morning America.”