We aren’t able to take big expensive vacations around here, so when we do get away we want to make it count. Our favorite vacations usually involve driving somewhere within reach of a one day drive. Our latest vacation was to Branson MO, it’s a pretty decent family vacation spot but I recommend you go off-season just like we did.
We drove from the Minneapolis MN area to Branson with our two young children; the drive was about 11hrs total with stops. It’s about 645 miles and pretty much straight south from here, so it’s easy to find. I had a new portable GPS to use, which was pretty dang cool. It’s a basic TomTom model and only $90 new, you can check one out here on Amazon:
TomTom ONE 130-S 3.5-Inch Portable GPS Navigator
Having a GPS sure made the trip smoother! No longer do my wife and I have to fight about missing turnoffs and I don’t have to wake her for help reading a map. We won’t take another road trip without it.
Ok, back to Branson! We stayed at a time-share with my wife’s parents so the accommodations were very nice. And being off-season, there was almost nobody around to make noise or bother us in any way. Honestly… this was one of the best parts about the whole trip!
We visited the Butterfly Palace and went on the Branson Ducks which the kids really enjoyed. I do recommend it if you get discounted admission in a package with something else like the Branson Ducks as we did. All these attractions are EXPENSIVE, so plan to spend and spend some time on figuring out what you really want to see.
The Butterfly Palace we visited for free on the second day because we went after 3pm (I think…) so re-admission the next day is free. It’s sort of a small place, out front of the building there is a rock wall (actually a couple trees) that the young kids (over 40lbs) can climb, inside there is a BIG gift shop, a crummy 3D movie you are supposed to watch, a small room with some lizards in fish tanks you can look at, a large and quite fun mirror-maze, and of course the butterfly room. The kids really liked the mirror maze and the butterflies, that was about it.
The butterfly room is interesting, but unfortunately a bit of a letdown for me. The large majority of the butterflies are high up on the walls so you can’t see them very well, and the butterflies MUST NOT be touched with human hands. The oils on our hands will remove the powder coating on their wings so that they can’t fly, and just having them sit on your hand will plug up their receptors on their feet so that they no longer can eat. You can’t touch them, but you can get plenty of closeup photos. Also make sure you look closely for the tiny little quail living amongst the plants, they are really cute.
The other major attraction we visited was the Branson Ducks, these are the amphibious vehicles that are based on old military vehicles from WWII. The Ducks take you on a tour of the area, and if you have a good driver with a good ‘routine’, it will be entertaining enough for all. Of course the kids loved the noisemakers they give you to blow on to sound like ducks, and the whole going in the water thing too. I’m glad we did it, but I’d rather not pay to do it again any time soon.
We were in Branson for about 1 week and overall it was a quality trip. We made the 11hr drive back home straight through, arriving home at about 3:30 am. The family all slept while I drove… and drove… and drove. And I’m sure our next trip will be somewhere just as interesting and probably just as far. Thankfully I’ll have my GPS with me.