When I found out we were headed to Branson for a family adventure this summer, I was so excited. Branson has been a midwest family vacation destination for me since I was a very young child - and this trip promised an array of entertainment options for us to experience that I had never had the chance to see. In fact, the very first item on our itinerary - the Showboat Branson Belle - was something brand new to me.
At the end of the post, I'll summarize my Top 4 Tips for Taking Toddlers on the Showboat Branson Belle!
My grandparents took a trip on the Branson Belle when I was little, and I remember seeing the photo from their ride proudly displayed in their home. I always wondered what the big deal was about getting to ride on a boat in Branson, so I was eager to experience the "Queen of the Ozarks" for myself. Designed to be reminiscent of the grand showboats of the 1800s, the Showboat Branson Belle brings to life a time that is long gone!
Lincoln and Adelaide were primarily thrilled to be out of the van (we drove straight to the Showboat from home), and kept us busy chasing them around the dock as we waited until it was close to the departure time to board.
I was blown away by how beautiful the Branson Belle appeared, majestically resting upon Table Rock Lake. She was christened in 1995, but I can't imagine that she looks any less spectacular now than she did then.
|Photo courtesy of the Showboat Branson Belle|
Measuring in at 278 feet (almost as long as a football field), the Branson Belle can seat 700 passengers. She is propelled through the clear lake water by the huge red paddlewheels at her stern. Each of these wheels has a dedicated, independent motor and they are fascinating to watch!
So, what should you expect on a Showboat Branson Belle Dinner Cruise?
I had no idea what lay ahead of us, so this entire experience was new and delightful for me! We were greeted and taken to our seats, which were in the second row near the center. All of the dining tables face the stage and are arranged in rows. We received aisle seats, which was excellent because I completely lost track of how many times I had to take a child out of the theatre to use the restroom, stretch their legs, or because they were loudly vocalizing during a performance (thanks, offspring).
The entertainment began right away as our emcee for the evening, Christopher James, took the stage. He is part magician, part comedian, and a great all-around entertainer. He involved multiple audience members in his routines and kept everyone laughing throughout the night!
Dinner is served by a very accommodating wait staff. Our waitress was so nice to our kids and brought us a high chair, special cups with lids, extra straws when we lost the first ones, and more. There was even a special chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese option for Lincoln and Addie, who weren't thrilled about the adult fare.
We were served rolls (most of which Lincoln devoured), an iceberg and romaine salad featuring a sweet Vidalia onion dressing topped with homemade croutons, slow-simmered beef roast and
honey-Dijon glazed chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, sugar snap peas with Julienne carrots. For dessert, we had golden brittle lemon-berry torte drizzled with caramel. If these options are not appealing, there is a vegetarian plate available, plus a premium dining option for an additional cost. I have to say: I'm an extremely picky eater, and I ate everything on my plate! That's pretty rare for me.
The dining experience is accompanied by entertainment from emcee Christopher James, plus the music of the Rockin' Dockers. Lincoln was fascinated by all of the instruments on the stage! The photo above is a great overall picture of what to expect when dining on the Branson Belle...and the photo below is a real life example of what your table might look like if you have toddlers along for the ride.
They seriously fought over my lemon-berry torte. I barely got to touch it!
After the conclusion of dinner, we were given a break to stretch our legs and explore the ship as we cruised around the lake. Lincoln really wanted to run around the decks!
|Table Rock Lake|
A highlight for kids aboard is the chance to meet the captain of the ship during the cruise! We traveled up to the top of the boat, where the 10-foot solid maple wood wheel is used to carry the Branson Belle through the water. Lincoln really wanted to check it out, but then freaked out as soon as we got inside the room. Typical toddler behavior - he'll probably enjoy it more when he is a little bit older!
After our adventure on the three decks of the Branson Belle, we headed back in for the start of the show, Made in the USA. 2014 is the final year for this production playing on the Branson Belle, and it is one you don't want to miss!
The show is split between different entertainers:
The ShowMen, a group of singers/dancers/entertainers extraordinaire who had no lack of songs to croon in perfect harmony.
Janice Martin, an unbelievably talented pianist, vocalist, and the world's only aerial violinist.
I did not get to experience the show in its entirety because my kids were not in the most cooperative mood that evening, but I was able to hear every note! The entire show was beautiful - the USA theme caused it to be steeped with American patriotism, featuring many songs from bygone eras, as well as beautiful, heart-felt renditions of patriotic numbers.
Janice Martin is a joy to watch, and the ShowMen are the perfect balance for Janice's solo acts. All of the performers were expertly accompanied by the onstage band, the Rockin Dockers. We were all astonished when Janice took to the air with her violin and played for us while suspended, and upside-down. As a musician, I can attest to the incredible amount of focus her act demands!
|Excuse the cell phone photo quality - Lincoln was astonished at the show!|
Overall, our cruise on the Branson Belle was beautiful! It would have been more entertaining for us as parents if our kids had been more interested in sitting still - but let's face it, little kids like to move. I think my kids would have handled this better in a few more years, when they will be old enough to understand some of the "slow" parts of the show when there was minimal singing/dancing/movement onstage. My kids (especially Lincoln) are very spirited, though - so if you have a child who doesn't try to run off at every given opportunity, it may be a great fit for you. If you're considering this attraction for your family, here are some tips!
Top 4 Tips for Taking Toddlers on a Showboat Branson Belle Dinner Cruise.
1. Strollers are Allowed. We used ours to push the kids on and off the cruise. Our server took it to the back of the theatre and stored it for us during the show. It was great to have when the show was over and everyone was striving to disembark. Lincoln tried to run off and might have gotten lost in the chaos, but we were able to keep him contained. There's an elevator aboard, if your seats are on a level higher than the main entrance.
2. Bring a Busy Bag. Something that's easily contained in mom's purse would have gone a long way at this event for my kids. A little car to drive, a small coloring book, a matching game - I wish I had had the forethought to bring something of this nature!
3. Bring a Changing Pad. I didn't spy any baby changing tables in the restroom facilities that I used. But I also didn't ask - so I could be mistaken. Addie was changed right before we boarded, so it wasn't an issue for us.
4. Request Seats by an Aisle. The tables are not uncomfortably close together, until you have to get up and move a squirming toddler to the exit. Having an aisle seat just makes life easier on you and your fellow passengers.
You can find out more and purchase tickets for your own Showboat Branson Belle trip here - plus make sure you are following on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates!
Have you ever been on a dinner cruise with kids in tow? What was your experience?
Disclosure: In exchange for my post and to facilitate my honest review of this experience, my family received tickets for this attraction as part of a promotional blogger tour of Branson, MO through US Family Guide. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own. For more info, you can view my Disclosure Policy.