Sunday, August 13, 2017

Our 2017 Summer Vacation! Branson, Missour!

So, it's taken me way too long to recap this trip of ours. I am sure at this point it's not even interesting to you but I want to be able to look back and see this for myself! Our trip was so wonderful and low key! We didnt get a chance to do half of our to-do list in Branson, but that's okay! All the kids basically wanted to do was swim in our hotel's indoor/outdoor pool and eat junk food! Haha! 

This was one of our cheapest trips! We literally only spent $500 since our hotel was FREE! #bransononabudget

How'd we score our entire hotel stay FREE?
I booked a timeshare tour. A 45 minute tour of a timeshare in Branson and they gave us a free week stay in Branson AND a $150 VISA gift card! #score! 

Believe it our not, they didn't even pressure us! And I would 100% do it again!

If you have ever been to Branson then you know that you can spend some money so I researched some fun money saving things to do! I knew we weren't venturing to Silver Dollar City or White Water  in the middle of the summer with a two year old- so those two major attractions were off the table this trip.

I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking! (BTW- they are WAY out of order!)

We left Wednesday night at 10PM for the 7+ hour drive to Arkansas to our first stop. Josh prepared for the drive by sleeping the entire day the day before and we just knew that since we planned to drive all night that Ryker would sleep most, if not all, of the drive.  But boy, were we wrong.

Ryker... Ryker... Ryker.
The kid falls asleep on the 5 minute drive home from church but WOULD NOT sleep on the drive to Arkansas. Poor baby, I think he was just really tired and that car seat was not his comfy bed he wanted. This made for a not so fun drive up there. We were literally pulling over every other hour to get him out of his seat and hold him.

Before our trip I spent a lot of time on Google. I discovered Gunner Park in Arkansas and I knew we needed to stop there on the way to Branson! It was also near Blanchard Park which I was dying to visit, too. They pictures online were amazing and when we arrived early that morning we were not disappointed!

We had a picnic packed for lunch and we spent the entire day swimming in the mountains! The water was SO CLEAR and SO COLD! We loved the fact that we were basically the only ones there and we got it all to ourselves. If you know me, you know that I do not do well with crowded vacations. Like, I take my kids out of school and we do vacations during the school year just so its not crowded. 

So. We were basically in love and never left- didn't even visit the cool caverns at Blanchard Park like we wanted. But, I'm not even mad. We promised that this would be a go-with-the-flow-super relaxing vacation AND IT WAS!

In fact, we loved this this place so much that we are vowing to take a vacation there every summer now!


When we first arrived in Arkansas we stopped for a 5AM Huddle House breakfast!
They are holding up an 'A' for Arkansas!

Check out these mountains! #love

After a full day of swimming we checked in to our room. Yall, the town was SMALL. And the nicest hotel was Econo Lodge. I was okay with it because it had excllent reviews! (Ya'll! That is my #1 tip for traveling! CHECK REVIEWS! It doesnt matter how pretty the pictures look, reviews are #truth!) But, my kids had never stayed anywhere with the doors on the outside of the building so they were a bit confused, LOL.

When we pulled up CJ said, "Mom, I thought we were staying at a hotel...."

"We are,"I said.

"Well... then why does it look like an apartment?!" Bahahaha!

After a good nights rest we took a walk around their adorable town! Everyone was SO STINKIN SWEET! They invited us to come back that evening when all the locals come to the town square and play folk music with their instruments! Sadly, we had to head to Branson, though. We were all dying to see and hear authentic folk music! And we will definitely check that out when we go back next year!


This view!!!! Headed to Branson, Missouri!

And of course we had to stop for a family photo-op! I was so mad, ya'll!

 This was from our night in Arkansas and in case you are wondering... he's the boss around here! :)

He does the exact opposite of what we tell him. "Ryker, come eat some popcorn and watch cartoons."

Continues opening and closing mini fridge!

"Okay...Ryker DO NOT come and eat this popcorn! And these are MY cartoons, okay? Go play in the fridge and ruin all of our food. You know we love hot drinks, so please take all those out, too. But, DO NOT EAT MY POPCORN!"

"I want po-corn, peeeeese?"

 And... I win!

When we arrived in Branson we took a walk to do some sight seeing and I already planned for us to eat at Mel's! Luckily our hotel was right on the strip and exactly  .10 from Mel's! #perfect! Mel's is an adorable 50's style diner with singing servers! We loved it!

Oh yay! Here we are at Mel's! It was so cute! One of the guys that works there was even on American Idol!

As you can see, Ryker was a HUGE fan!!! LOL He clapped and cheered for EVERYONE!

And clearly, everyone LOVED him, too!

How handsome are my boys!?!

Like I said, the kids just wanted to swim in the hotel, like all day! So we did a lot of that. Josh even took them down there by his self quite a few times and I got to nap! #momwin #besthusbandever But, on one of our days when we ventured out we took a Duck Tour! I HIGHLY recommend this! It was SO FUN!!! Can you believe this truck goes on land and water!?!

The kids' favorite part was getting to take turns driving the Duck on the water! I'm kind of jealous I didn't get asked to.....

This is the face of a kid who is loving the Duck! :)

Look at my girl with her Honorary Captains License!!!

That evening before the boats we ate dinner at Red Lobster (our fave!!) and so when we got off of the Duck we just HAD to stop at this adorable ice cream shop on the strip for a treat! They will infuse your ice cream with fun flavors like Green Apple, Mocha Coffee, and Cheese Cake!

On one of our outings we stopped at the Branson Veterans Memorial Museum and the kids loved checking out the planes and especially this helicopter! I love that they were getting to learn a little while having fun!

We also stopped at Moe's for lunch one day. We don't have a Moe's where we live and it was a nice change. Super good and CHEAP!

And would you believe Ryker was the only one smiling like I asked?!? #mindblown

While surfing online for fun things to do I found a back-to-school bash that was at the Branson Rec Center. It was a FREE faith-based event that consisted of a petting zoo, live moto-BMX show, bounce houses, a rock wall, face painting, balloon animals... and all kinds of fun stuff! If you know me, you know they had me at FREE! HA! 
Ya'll, it was SO MUCH FUN!

They also had this truck with FREE donuts! Ya'll if anything ever happens to me, SEND THIS TRUCK!! :)

Excited and ready for the show to start!

Ryker is obsessed with "Firecucks" we definitely had to stop and check those out! Look at the excitement on his face!

CJ and Raigen had a rock wall race and CJ totally won! Sister was a good sport about losing, though!

And of course they all got their face painted-even Ryker. How she got him to sit still I still can't figure out!

Every time it rains and thunders Ryker will say, "you hear dat? The dinosaurs are comin'!" This day it had sprinkled a bit and thundered earlier in the day, so when the giant dinosaur came running  by, Ryker freaked out! 
(Freaked out in a good way- he was so excited!)

If you want to know if the BMX-Motorcycle show was cool just look at CJ's face:

And Ryker was pretty impressed, too! He couldn't sit still and would jump up, oh-and-ah, and point!

I pretty much had to pull CJ away from this snake! Haha!

"Ryker said, "Yook at dat puppy dog, mama!" LOL! We're gonna have to work on his animals! :)

Lookin' all touristy in their shirts from the cities we visited!

And of course... it had been a few days since this kid had an accident so he decided to run into a wall!

And on our very last day we visited the Celebrity Car Museum!

We had a blast on this vacation and can't wait to go back! We enjoyed so much family time. It was wonderful!

Here are some of my money saving tips if you are road tripping to Branson Missouri!

  • Set a budget and stick to it!
  • Look into touring a timeshare. We were able to score our entire weeks stay FREE and they also gifted us a $150 VISA gift card! 

  •  Branson has two indoor water parks! Grand Country and Castle Rock. These are both hotels you can stay in, however, you don't have to. Tickets to get in if you aren't staying there are only $15 per person! That is CHEAP!
  • If you aren't as cheap as me and  touring a timeshare isn't your thing, checkout vacation packages and family passes to shows. You can save a lot by buying in advance and bundling.
  • Picnics! We love picnics and both Arkansas and Missouri have tons of BEAUTIFUL parks with amazing mountain views!
  •  Branson's Free Downtown Trolley! Hop on the free discovery trolley for an overview of some of Branson’s landmarks, as well as convenient transportation between the historic downtown area, the Branson Convention Center and Branson Landing.

  • Table Rock Lake State Park. This state park has no admission fee and offers a wide range of activities including campsites, hiking, and mountain bike trails! You can also rent boats and scuba dive, too! 

  • Tour of Copper Run Distillery. A must-see! This award-winning distillery specializes in smooth corn whiskey (a.k.a. moonshine), molasses rum and vodka. Enjoy their free tour and samples are definitely included!

  • Branson Centennial Museum! This free museum features rotating exhibits on the Civil War, railroads, bridges, folk art and more! 

  • FREE Sunday Worship Services at the Little Opry Theatre inside Branson's IMAX Entertainment Complex! We really wanted to check this out, but all I packed was flip flops, tank tops, and shorts for us. Next time we will remember to pack a sun dress for the girls and a polo for the boys for church services!
  • Eat in your hotel. I prefer to stay at a hotel that offers complimentary breakfast, but we did this time since they put us up at a fancy hotel that had a restaurant for breakfast. Just remember, you don't have to eat every single meal out. While eating out is fun, it can be expensive. We love to eat out, but anytime we are gone for a week or more we always pack a few easy breakfast and lunch meals for the hotel. I have several meals that are yummy, easy, and dont require you to use the iron to make a grilled cheese or quesadilla! Haha! They only require a microwave! Check them out here!

  • Pack ahead and reduce roadside stops!
    The simplest measures can save you a small fortune on a road trip. 
    We packed a cooler full of drinks and snacks. Whether it’s just packing your own bottled water, or a cooler full of snacks and sandwiches like we did, you’re going to save by not spending your money in convenience stores. There is also the added bonus of being able to eat more nutritious food when packing ahead.