“Toyland…” my mother repeated. “We’re going to Toyland!” My five-year-old imagination danced with wonder—magic—fantasy. Christmas—and I was going to Toyland. The year was 1944, but I was a visionary, picturing a store as grand as Toys “R” Us. Or perhaps the movie, “Toy Story.”
Holding my mother’s hand, but barely containing my excitement, we walked into a department store. I saw a few shelves of dolls, trains, and whirling tops. No magic. No fantasy. The Sears Christmas Catalog held more wonder.
This past week, I sat on a bench on the square of Silver Dollar City, an 1880s-themed park in Branson, Missouri. Four million twinkling lights outlined the paths, old-fashioned buildings, and roof tops. Giant shimmering snowflakes hung from bare tree limbs. Here and there, a hardwood tree wrapped solidly in blue or red lights contrasted the sparkling backdrop.
At dusk, a five-story special effects Christmas tree burst to life, blazing red, green, blue, silver, and gold colors synchronized to Christmas songs in surround sound. Up to 100 light changes per second flashed before my eyes while lights on trees and buildings flickered on and off in rhythm to the music. Now, more than six decades later, that childhood disappointment flitted through my head.
Totally immersed in lights, sound, and all things Christmas, I wondered what my thoughts might have been if my mother’s “Toyland” had exploded with this magical fantasy.
Silver Dollar City is a year-round once-upon-a-time place. Yet, Christmas in the City, as we affectionately call the park, transports youngsters—and young-at-heart—into the pages of an old-time story book with the technology of the 21st century. One thousand decorated Christmas trees adorn the curving walkways and numerous stores and restaurants.
Twice each evening, the Holiday Light Parade of musical floats winds through the City. Costumed characters dance around the musical floats covered in lights. With magical whimsy, gingerbread men and prancing teddy bears high-five youngsters lining the parade route.
“Designing Women,” a television sitcom that ran between 1986 and 1993 once captured the tone of Silver Dollar City with a mention that one of the characters, Suzanne Sugarbaker, exchanged Christmas presents with someone she met on the park’s steam train ride. The City is that kind of place—friendly folks who relate like neighbors. At Christmas, the train puffs through the park’s wooded terrain, passing static lighted displays of various holiday themes. Passengers in the open cars gaily sing Christmas carols.
Theaters scattered up and down the park’s hills stage shows around holiday music and themes. Throughout the daytime and into the evening, the Opera House traditionally presents A Dickens’ Christmas Carol, an original musical adaptation of the famous classic by Charles Dickens. In Broadway style—and with Broadway quality—the show features a live orchestra and a cast of fourteen singing and dancing in elaborate sets. Visual effects, flying spirits of Christmas past, present, and future, and pyrotechnic special effects enhance the hour-long production.
A musical presentation of the Living Nativity keeps the true meaning of Christmas in the November and December festival. An interactive show “Frosty” piques the imaginations of youngsters as the legendary snowman comes to life.
Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
Silver Dollar City’s Old-Time Christmas, creates a moment—and a memory—for every age. I do not know what I would have thought if I had seen such a spectacle at age five. I think I would have been wide-eyed and awestruck—just as I am sixty-six years later.
Try the RV LIFE Pro Bundle FREE for 7 days
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com