Exploring Branson, MO

Last week was super special for us because we got to embark on our first family vacation as a family of 5.  Not only that, but we were also joined by my college best friend, her husband and their two girls.  So let's count that - 4 adults and 5 girls aged 8 to 11 months.  I'm not even sure we can use the word vacation to describe what we experienced.  More like a trip.  Traveling with kids is something else entirely.  But we had so much fun regardless!

BreeAnna and her family flew in from California for a week so after a few days spent at my parents lakehouse, we drove to Branson for 48 hours, and here is what we did.

We rented a condo through Airbnb.

Going into this trip we knew we wanted to rent something where we could all stay together versus two hotel rooms.  So Rob hopped on Airbnb a few months before our trip date and booked an amazing two bedroom, two bathroom condo in Pointe Royale Golf Resort, just minutes from the strip.  We had access to a playground and a pool, plus a full kitchen.  The space was big enough that after we put the kids to bed, we could enjoy ourselves on the balcony until the wee hours of the morning and not disturb any kids.  It was PERFECT and came in cheaper than what we would have paid for two hotel rooms on the strip.

We ate dinner at Smith Creek Moonshine, on The Landing.

This is a great option for those with kids because it is not necessarily a sit down meal, but it also isn't fast food.  You order at the counter and then you grab the food from a window 5-10 minutes later.  Our entire group LOVED the spiral cut french fries and there was space for a dance party and our double stroller, which is always a win for me.

We saw the fire and water show on The Landing.

I sort of remember this show being more impressive than what it was.  But considering it is FREE, it was a great option for our large group.  After the show was over we walked along the water where the temperature was significantly cooler than elsewhere in Branson.  Plus, the men got to watch ducks do their thing and the kids loved running along the path.

We ate breakfast at the condo both days.

Rob brought along our Blackstone grill and fired it up for some pancakes, eggs and bacon the first morning and the second morning we ate some cereal we brought along from the lake.  This allowed us to leisurely start both mornings without as much chaos.

We visited Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery.

When we started planning this trip, Rob said the only thing he wanted to do was go to the fish hatchery.  It is free to get in and for just a few quarters the kids get tons of entertainment.  We probably could have stayed longer had it not been so piping hot (I got a sunburn!).  The kids were in awe of the fish and I think every last one of us walked away with some knowledge we didn't previously have.  You do not even have to be an outdoor enthusiast to enjoy this.

We ate lunch at Mel's Hard Luck Diner, where they sing to you.

For lunch we tasked Rob with finding us somewhere to eat, and he did not disappoint.  At all.  We ended up going to Mel's Hard Luck Diner, on the strip, where the servers sing to you.  The food was surprisingly good and all the kids enjoyed the singing.  Plus we asked for a basket of fries for the impatient littles and literally three minutes later a fresh basket of fries was in front of us.  That's a WIN for me.

We walked around the Grand Village Shops.

Mel's Hard Luck Diner is located in this charming outdoor village of shops.  So after we ate, we walked off our lunch.  While most of the stores were niche and overpriced, we did utilize a lot of the fun photo opportunities, because blogging, and there was enough shade to justify being outside without dying.

We drove downtown to go to Dick's 5 & 10.

I sort of feel like it is a must to do some souvenir shopping while on vacation.  So we drove back downtown to stop in at Dick's 5 & 10.  Which was PACKED.  With both stuff and people.  The older girls on our trip wanted to pickup a special something to go home with, so it ended up being worth it because everyone found something.  Grace and Brooke walked out with beautiful little fans.  Emily snagged a rubber duck.  I picked an ornament to go on our Christmas tree this year.  Special, small and cheap mementos that mark our first vacation as a family of 5.

We bought a Groupon and got some Old Time photos done.

Somehow I managed to convince my husband that getting Old Time photos done would be loads of fun.  I will probably never be able to convince him of this,  ever again.  We brought a $10 Groupon that gave us the sitting fee for free and included one 8 by 10, a $75 value.  So we showed up, there was no wait, we got changed... started taking pictures and Emily drops a heavy gun on Grace's head.  Chaos ensued.  Somehow by the hairs on our chin, we made it through, sort of sane.  A couple of things I will say about this experience... although it doesn't necessarily say it, if two families show up together, they will only accept one Groupon. Plan to spend about two hours doing this.  They do a full fledge photo shoot and then try and sell you an expensive package of all the pictures, once edited.  Don't let the "photographer" (sales person) guilt you into buying more.  They will try and they may even throw out that they don't get a commission unless you buy X amount... which will make you feel bad, but if you don't like all of them, don't buy them.  Period.  At the end of the day, we really love what we went home with, but it was definitely a one time ordeal.

We ordered pizza to the condo, but could have easily cooked.

By the time we got home, everyone was tired.  So we opted for the easy route of ordering pizza in.  Originally we planned to cook in our fully equipped condo.  If our trip would have had more days, meaning we could spread things out, we would have definitely used the kitchen more.  Unfortunately though - it was a jam packed day and we were wiped.  The pizza absolutely hit the spot.

We stopped at Dolly's Stampede to see the horses.

We all would have loved to have taken the kids to see the Stampede, but it is something I want to do when all of the kiddos are old enough to enjoy it.  So instead, we stopped long enough to see all the beautiful horses used in the show.  Their stables wrap around the edge of the building, so as long as they aren't being used in a show, you can stop and visit them without having to spend a dime.  My horse loving girls absolutely adored it.

We ate lunch at Lambert's Cafe in Ozark.

After we checked out of the condo, we decided to do an early lunch at Lambert's in Ozark.  This is about a 30 minute drive from Branson, but definitely a must do.  We have been to Lambert's a lot because my husbands family is in Springfield, and every time it is worth it.  They throw rolls at you, keeping the entire meal loads of fun.  My advice - get there early! We went around 11:15/11:30 and had no wait!  By the time we left about 12:30 there was a massive crowd out front waiting, on a Tuesday no less.

We visited Bass Pro Shops in Springfield.

If you are driving to and from Kansas City, stopping in at the original Bass Pro in Springfield is a must.  This is about 45 minutes from Branson, but so worth it.  They have an aquarium and several museums and SO much to see and do.  We had a couple of dudes who clearly love the outdoors that were in heaven when we stopped to see the Big Game Awards exhibit on display there this summer.  There is a Bass Pro at Branson landing, but I think the real deal is worth the drive.

We stopped to sample cheese at Osceola Cheese Company.

This last bit I am throwing in for those of you commuting from KC to Branson.  Stop at Osceola Cheese Co.  You will NOT regret it.  This is another thing we do when we drive to see Rob's family.  You can sample all kinds of cheeses and then take home what you like.  There are also clean restrooms and other snacks and drinks available.  The perfect pit stop.

For us, spending less than 48 hours in Branson ended up being the right amount of time.  We kept our budget small with plans to visit again in the future (Christmas in Branson is GORGEOUS!), which took the pressure off of the entire trip.  You could easily visit Branson and drop a small fortune to see and do everything.  There are helicopter tours, ziplines, shows galore, amazing museums and of course, Silver Dollar City.  For us it was not worth it to drop a lot of money on tickets because the kids just aren't old enough to truly enjoy it.

More than anything though, getting to go on a family vacation with beloved friends meant absolutely everything to us.  We are already planning our next group family vacation for a few years from now.  Which will hopefully make the time go in between visits a little quicker.

Until then we have all these memories from our the last week to share.

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  1. We were in Branson about two days after y'all. There's a Lambert's location in Alabama that we went to when we would go to the beach. We ate there, and it was amazing.