Walt Disney World vacations are great, but they don’t always work for the schedule or the budget. Sometimes you want to get away from your home state, but stay within driving distance. Regional driving vacations are a great way to see new things, eat good food and relax.
Our family wanted to spend a few days together before school started, so we decided to check out southwest Missouri and Little Rock, Arkansas in a whirlwind 4 day trip. Our first full day started in Springfield, Missouri.
Springfield is the world headquarters of Bass Pro Shop, and it was a must-see for our family. Even if you do not hunt, fish, boat or camp, this is a phenomenal place to visit. There are numerous displays with mounted animals, live fish and other aquatic creatures, a firearms museum, the National Archery Hall of Fame and a restaurant.
A stop in the Springfield Visitors Center was a good use of time, as the gentleman was well-informed and helped us find some attractions that were not even in Springfield. He did not “home-town” the Springfield attractions. He was not negative about anything, but did give what seemed to be an honest assessment of the strengths and shortcomings of some of the area offerings. With limited time, we very much appreciated his assistance.
Our visit to Springfield was short as we had to move on to the wholesome family fun capital of the region -- Branson!
Most of the time on our short end-of-summer get-away was going to be spent in Little Rock. We left Springfield for Branson, Missouri, where we had made a reservation for the musical production Jonah in the Inspiration Theatre on Gretna Drive. Prior to the 3:30 performance, we ate at Landry’s. The hostess and wait staff were very professional and friendly, but it seemed to take a little longer than it should. The food was okay, but probably a bit overpriced.
As a family, we generally enjoyed Jonah. We wondered if it was performed live or to a pre-recorded track, which is a real complement to the vocalists if it was performed live. There were some outstanding musical numbers, and although there was a little artistic license taken with the biblical story of Jonah, it was a good message and seemed to be well-received by the audience.
In the evening, we spent some time at the Branson Landing area. We ate at the Texas Land and Cattle Steak House. Before we decided to dine there, we called ahead to ensure they cooked with and served real butter. We have gluten sensitivities and other diet restrictions in our family, so the butter request was important. After ordering a baked potato with “lots of butter,” I was disappointed when the waiter came out later and said the restaurant cooks with margarine and didn’t have any butter for the potato. Long story short -- the waiter went to another restaurant to get me butter! Very cool and greatly appreciated.
We spent the night at the Comfort Inn on Gretna Drive. Nice room and friendly staff. We had a good night's rest and were ready for our Arkansas adventure.
Not surprisingly, our family likes to travel. We love big trips to Walt Disney World, but we also like to go on shorter regional trips. Last August before school started, we decided to end the summer with a short trip through Springfield, Misouri, Branson, Missouri and Little Rock Arkansas. It was a great time with several highlights along the way. The photo above was taken at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock. The photo was taken in a replica of the West Wing Cabinet Room. I am sitting in the chair position reserved for the president. Over the next few days, I will share some of our memories and thoughts on our trip and hopefully a few tips for your own visit to the region.
We like Ike! The nation loved our favorite son Dwight D. Eisenhower, and he loved Kansas. Though he was born in Texas, Eisenhower was raised in Abilene, Kansas, and that is the home of his Presidential Library and Museum. Our family has visited the Eisenhower Center numerous times. The grounds include President Eisenhower's family home and the final resting place for the President and former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower.
Smithsonian.com in 2013 called Abilene the 17th best small town in the United States to visit. They ranked Gettysburg, PA as the number one town that year. Eisenhower retired to Gettysburg following his presidency.
Abilene is a great place to visit for a weekend trip or a long day trip, depending on your starting point.
Our Disney Cruise is several months away, but there are numerous ways to get the kids excited about the upcoming adventure. We have a homemade Disney Countdown calendar, we watch Disney Cruise Line videos, watch YouTube videos others have taken of their cruises and peruse the DCL website. The best thing we do to get in the Disney mood is visit our nearest Disney Store.
Admittedly, some stores will put you in the mood better than others. However, when you walk through the doors, hear a familiar Disney song or movie playing in the background, see a cast member with the Disney name tag and view Mickey, Minnie and Princesses surrounding you, you feel just a little of that Disney Magic. We were at Walt Disney World in May, so it hasn't been that long ago, but my youngest children both said they missed Disney when we left the store on our recent visit to the Disney Store.
I hate shopping, but even I love our visits to the Disney Store. It's a little taste of Disney to get you by until the real thing!
The Knapp Family writing about travel and leisure.