We're back and mostly recovered from our brief vacation break. The AC is working again (did I say, recently, how much I appreciate air conditioning?) and the dogs have stopped giving us hurt and confused looks... "How could you leave us for two whole days with only the neighbors looking in now and then? How-ow-ow???".
We went to Branson, Missouri. Yes, tacky and materialistic. Yes, hokey, flashy, tourist-y and shallow... but the kids love it. As is our custom, we ate our way around Silver Dollar City. Very good food for a theme park, much better than what we experienced at Disney World, but it seems to be slipping, a bit. In fact, the park seems to be slipping a bit.
SDC expanded like crazy for a couple of decades, erecting one monstrous thrill ride after another, along with an ever-expanding repertoire of diversions for the kiddos... but the economy may have hit them like it has everyone else. We noticed that a number of features were in need of cleaning and repair, and others had been stripped down to basics. It wasn't crowded, as we expected. The wait for rides was happily brief.
What attracted us, initially, to Silver Dollar City was the fact that it was small-ish, kind of homey in an unapologetically Southern way, full of huge oak trees (providing delicious shade) and exuded a warm, relaxed atmosphere very welcoming to families. The rides were always fun, but the great attraction was the whole feel of the park. In the beginning, the rides were noticeably smaller and less flashy than those in more urban areas.
And then there was the food; Huge, open-air pans of fried potatoes mixed with onions, peppers and other secret yummy stuff... ice cream with strawberries, cobblers, very respectable barbecued ribs, turkey legs, pancakes, honey roasted pecans, Kettle Corn, pork rinds fresh and still popping from the hot oil, fried sweet potatoes, cookies a foot wide, whole barbecued chickens, corn-on-the-cob...
The park, as I say, has grown a lot during the time we have been going there, and in recent years has competed more directly with destinations like Six Flags or Busch Gardens. It was more often crowded and noisy. It catered more openly to a younger crowd. Though it retained a good bit of the family-friendly, old-timey pioneer atmosphere at the center of the park, the expanded areas grew more flashy and modern.
We enjoyed our trip, though. The first day, Martha and the kids went to see the Titanic exhibit in Branson and swam in the hotel pool while I took care of some business in Little Rock. I joined them later that night. It was nice to get away together, again. I don't know how many family trips we may have left!
At any rate, glad to be back home.