Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Weekend (or maybe a week) in Branson, Missouri

Country music lovers have a destination to go to where the music and shows never quit.  With Branson’s 40 theaters and shows starting as early as 10am (and sometimes even earlier), your toughest choice will be where to begin.  Music fans who have already been to the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, or paid big bucks for Garth Brooks in Las Vegas, or who just want a more concentrated country music experience than what they might have at home, will rejoice in this Ozark Mountains oasis of music on the lake. 


A bit tricky to get to, depending on your gateway city, Branson, Missouri sits aside Table Rock Lake in the Ozark Region of Missouri.   Here you’ll see visitors of all ages, listening, eating and playing, taking advantage of Branson’s family-friendly ambiance and enjoying the great outdoors in addition to the fabulous entertainment inside.  (Yes, there’s fly fishing, zip lining, hiking, camping, too). Add to that a variety of theme museums, special events, and patriotic happenings, Branson is a concentrated dose of Americana.


Music, Music, Music – Theaters here have names like the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre, Dick Clark’s AB Theatre, and the Oak Ridge Boys Theatre. The names don’t actually describe the performers but they'll give you a hint as to the type of show to expect.  Some of the best include the Elvis impersonators like Joseph Hall (one of the stars of America’s Got Talent!), the 3 Redneck Tenors, or Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. Tribute shows exist for non-country artists as well like Neil Diamond, John Denver, Bon Jovi and the Bee Gees. There’s pretty much something for all ages, and the weekly list of shows can be overwhelming. Performers are often available to meet, and you might be in for a treat. I met the original Lennon Sisters of Lawrence Welk fame.



Titanic Museum – John Joslyn, the owner of this museum, is obsessed with the Titanic.  In fact, he spent more than 25 years diving and collecting as many artifacts as he could to create an experience showing what it was like to be on the Titanic’s maiden (and only) voyage.  Greeters in period costumes set the mood, as does the gigantic boat exterior, best seen from the road. It’s billed as the “world’s largest museum attraction.”  



Clockers Café on S. Commercial Street is about as old-fashioned as a coffee shop could be.  Booths, hamburgers, and sweet-as-sugar waitresses await, with prices so cheap that you’ll really think you’re back in the 1950s. Where else can you find a turkey burger on a pretzel bun with fries for $6.29? Add a soda? It’s $1.60. The restaurant opens at 6am so you can enjoy “The Clockers Breakfast” before your first show: two eggs, sausage or bacon, oatmeal or grits, toast or biscuit, with optional hash browns for $5.89. 417.335.2328

The Great American Steak & Chicken House – I can’t vouch for the quality of the food here, but the building is definitely worth a look and a photo.  2420 W. 76 Country Blvd. (no website)


Silver Dollar City -- Home to some of the most creative roller coasters in the country, a made-from-scratch lunch buffet, and superlative baked goods, Branson’s theme park is a magnet for families.  Live entertainment, sprawling grounds, and arcade games fill the park. Test your coaster mettle on rides like the twisting, wooden Outlaw Run and the super-looper WildFire, my absolute favorite.  Not for the faint of heart. 


Dick’s 5 and 10 – Did you lose your original Monopoly game? Or maybe a psychedelic puzzle from the 70s?  Or do you need some fabric, thread, and thimbles?  You’ll find pretty much everything you can think of here including a nostalgia-inducing selection of candy.  Outside, there’s one of those old-fangled rocking horses you can sit on (or get to move for just a few coins).

Flea Markets – Branson is lined with building after building filled with rooms and booths of everyone’s discarded “stuff.”  If you look hard enough, you might just find that one piece of china that would replace the one you broke when you were a child. Your family will thank you. Located up and down Hwy 76 starting from Branson Landing.


Shopping and Dining along the Lake – Along the Taneycomo lakefront in downtown Branson, Branson Landing offers a pedestrian stretch lined with stores and restaurants to fill your hours as well. There’s even an Irish pub if you need to escape the American country scene. Prices are quite reasonable, too.


Bass Pro Shops -- This super-sized fly fishing, hunting, and boating emporium will satisfy all your outdoorsy needs. It’s appropriately located on the lake against the cliffs.


Where to Stay?   

There’s really only one place you should consider, the Hilton Branson Convention Center, 417-336-5400.  Rebuilt after the tornado of 2012 cut a swatch down Main Street and shattered every pane of glass in the hotel, the Hilton Branson is quite beautiful, with several restaurants and bars including the high-profile Level 2 steakhouse. The Hilton is perfectly located away from the traffic surrounding the theaters and walkable to all shopping. 

 












Branson information can be found at www.explorebranson.com.  

Friday, April 17, 2015

Be a Tennis Star or at Least a Tennis Fan at Munich Airport


Have you ever thought about playing tennis at an airport, either during a layover or as a specific destination? Through April 20, tennis buffs can test their skills in the MAC Forum at Munich Airport. In the lead-up to the 2015 BMW Open, players of all ages and skill levels are invited to compete in the unique setting between the two terminals.

You have a choice: watch the excitement or be part of it. The BMW Open by FWU AG happens soon and some of the tournaments here will pit likely BMW Open participants against each other. In addition, there will be two courts, training camps for kids, open courts for anyone who wants to play (passengers and visitors alike).

Could you imagine this happening in the US?  There's a reason Munich Airport is considered five star. Join Munich Airport's passengers, visitors and staff and show your best backhand.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pippin and Cirque du Soleil-type Acrobatics Meet up at New York's City Center: April 16-26


If you loved the amazing acrobats and circus acts in Tony-award winner Pippin, you won’t want to miss Séquence 8, a stunning nouveau cirque performance by Les 7 Doigts de la Main from Montreal. Canada seems to be the homeland of death-defying, creative and gorgeous acrobatics. Think Cirque du Soleil but with hip hop, theater, skateboarding, dynamic music and the acrobatics and humor that we’ve come to love.

It’s exciting that this show is finally coming to New York, after playing to audiences in 15 countries since 2012.

Les 7 Doigts de la Main (The 7 Fingers) was founded in 2002 by seven Montreal-based artists. The company’s name is a twist on the French idiom “the five fingers of the hand,” used to describe distinct parts united tightly, moving in coordination towards one common goal. In addition to having performed their own shows for the past 12 years, the company developed circus choreography for the hit Broadway revival of Pippin. For the 2014 Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony, Les 7 Doigts de la Main staged a 600-person spectacle that was broadcast to approximately four million viewers.

New York City Center has again taken a premier stance in putting forth creative programs for the city, including the acclaimed Encores! musical theater series which mounts “forgotten” musicals with full orchestration, top Broadway stars, and minimal staging. City Center is also home to many distinguished companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, City Center’s Principal Dance Company, and Manhattan Theatre Club. Their newest offering, the Encores! Off-Center series features landmark Off Broadway musicals filtered through the lens of today’s most innovative artists. When you visit, be sure to look up at the ceiling – the restoration of a few years ago has made this theater an architectural landmark in its own right.

Séquence 8 will run for 12 performances, from April 16–26: Tuesday – Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets are $25-$110. More information at www.NYCityCenter.org.

Where to eat after:  To continue the circus theme, try Circo, 120 West 55th Street, for solid Tuscan cuisine in a fun, circus-oriented setting.  It's just across the street from City Center.  Or Abboccato Italian Kitchen, another cozy Italian, also across the street at 136 West 55th Street.


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