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Branson: Boatfuls of Fun

We were in the mood for a road trip. Since we’d heard that Branson, Missouri, offers “family-friendly” environs (boasting everything from golf and fishing to attractions and live shows), we decided to point the SUV north. Nearly 7/12 hours later (minus a longish stop at Braum’s), we emerged from the wilderness to a hilly outpost bedecked with neon signs and bumper-to-bumper traffic.

My first thought: This looks like Las Vegas on the cheap (think motels vs. luxury resorts; putt-putt golf vs. casinos; Yakov Smirnoff vs Celine Dion). We settled into a two-bedroom Residence Inn suite that included free breakfast (or, “onuts” as my 21-month-old son declared) and a social hour (that we never got around to experience with three kids in tow).

Our first night we eschewed the big buffets – if ever so cleverly housed in “boats” and the like – but we gave in to the squeals from the backseat and stopped at on one of the ubiquitous family fun centers. The kids ran from carnival ride to carnival ride (giving me much to look forward to at The State Fair this year), while we kept entering more money into the ride “debit card.” By 10:30pm, we were ready to call it quits and they were ready to find new, more cash-friendly, parents.

Finally we cajoled them back into the car, where my oldest son announced, “This is the best vacation ever!” He earned himself and his brothers all the putt-putt golf they could stand the next day. When it comes to a family vacation, it really is all about the kids.