The room overflows with chatter and the sounds of laughter when four friends with roots in Mississippi get together over lunches or dinner dates with our husbands. While every meeting is heart-warming, invariably, we four women walk away wanting more time to visit about books we’ve read, projects we’re working on, or share tales of days spent in a state we all once called home. But work schedules, family obligations and miles between our Missouri and Arkansas homes make that difficult.
When an opportunity came for the four of us to get away together to soak up the food, music and beauty of the Ozarks, there was no hesitation, only talk of what knitting patterns or books we would share while we were together.
This fall, Susannah Alms, Janet Taber and Celia DeWoody joined me in carving out three days to unwind, welcome the holidays and get inspired by Silver Dollar City’s Culinary & Craft School in Branson. No husbands or children, just the four girlfriends for a weekend getaway.
All of us had shopped in Branson and seen shows on the strip, but none of us had really visited Silver Dollar City without children. What a surprise it was to find that Silver Dollar City is just as incredible an adult destination as other, more popular Branson spots like the Branson Landing and outlet malls. While it was best known by us for the rides and kid’s activities, the four of us found Silver Dollar City to be a perfect destination for women with a need to feed our creativity. The crafts, shopping, entertainment and culinary school made it a perfect spot for a quick girlfriend getaway close to home.
Since Susannah and Janet were driving in from Gainesville, Celia from Harrison, and I from Mountain Home, we met first at the Showboat Branson Belle for dinner and a show.
Cruising Table Rock Lake aboard the beautifully-decorated Branson Belle was the perfect start to a weekend celebrating our friendships and the upcoming Christmas holidays. Our dinner was served by a waiter who could have been the star of the show himself, and our table was in the front row of the balcony, with possibly the best view in the house.
As good as any in Branson, the show featured Janice Martin, the world’s only aerial violinist and the six-man group, “The ShowMen,” who sang contemporary hits and classics. The two-hour cruise was a refined and elegant way to enjoy the best of Branson’s scenery, food and entertainment.
Our condominium at The Village at Indian Point was the perfect resting point just outside the gates of Silver Dollar City, where Saturday’s culinary class took place. After a lazy morning enjoying coffee on the condo’s screened porch overlooking Table Rock Lake, we headed out for a country breakfast at Billy Gail’s Cafe, one of the cutest, most authentic diners in the area.
We were almost late getting to our class at the culinary school because the conversation was so good and the hand-made goodies for sale caused us to linger too long.
As we rushed into the park, we barely had time to notice Silver Dollar City was fully decorated for Christmas. We had arrived on the day of the lighting of four million lights in the park.
The Culinary & Craft School is nestled deep within the park in an 1880’s style timber-frame farmhouse. Full of functional and fanciful crafts by Silver Dollar City craftsmen, the home is the perfect spot to get design ideas or learn a new recipe or two.
For the luncheon class with Debbie Uhrig, a master culinary craftsman, we had a wonderful menu that featured golden potato soup and ham sliders with Jezebel sauce. To top it off, we scored the secret recipe for Silver Dollar City Ginger Cookies and a cranberry crisp cookie made with English walnuts, dried cranberries and white chocolate chips.
As we left the cooking class and made our way through the park, we shopped in the glass blower’s studio, the pottery shop and the woodcarving store, where Janet found gourds decorated by an artist friend from back home in Gainesville.
If you are looking for handmade crafts or gifts for friends, Silver Dollar City is the easiest place to shop, with row after row of craft booths and boutiques. Several stops to take in live music and Christmas shows like A Dickens’ Christmas Carol made the afternoon fly by.
The sun began to go down as we listened to the hammered dulcimer and banjo players, Silver Dollar City’s famous “Pickers,” just outside the Wilderness Chapel, where shape-note singers sang Christmas carols. As the sky grew darker, thousands and thousands of Christmas lights came on and the crowds gathered along Main Street waiting for the start of the Gifts of Christmas Holiday Parade. It’s easy to see why Silver Dollar City was named the top light and tree show in the nation. A five-story special-effects lighted tree twinkles and dances to the music in the park.
After filling up on succotash at the Buckshot Skillet Cookery and making a stop at Eva & Delilah’s Bakery for homemade sweet rolls and treats to take back home to husbands and children, we made our way back to the condo for late night girl talk and coffee.
While it’s nice to include our husbands, children and grandchildren when we see each other, there was something extra special about spending time together on a girlfriend getaway. Our connection to Mississippi, a state we all share a love of, and our lives together as friends in the Ozarks today, has made us comfortable traveling companions. Though our weekend was full and passed too quickly, we all agreed that it was just the first of many trips we hope to share together in the future. Where are we going next, girls?
M! Feb/Mar 2012