You can get “robbed” on a train and be happy about it.
You can get a roll thrown at you and be happy about it.
You can eat so much that you’re borderline miserable and, of course, be happy about it.
You can get away from it all — or be right in the middle of everything, costumed characters included.
Now, dare you to tell me Missouri isn’t an interesting place.
The mission here is to introduce Oklahoma readers to things they might wish to experience in the Branson and Kansas City areas.
If you board the train at Silver Dollar City, be wary of robbers. Fortunately, they only exist to steal a laugh from you.
If you stop at Lambert’s Cafe on the way to Branson, you hope like heck hot rolls will be thrown in your direction. Pass the butter?
In Branson and Kansas City, dining, shopping and entertainment choices are plentiful.
For an appetizer, before we ever make it to the state line, let’s mention a sandwich you need to eat on the way.
One of the great hidden food gems on the path is a throwback meat counter inside Nott Grocery, a 100-year-old mom-and-pop store at 604 S. Main St. in Miami, Oklahoma.
Step up to the meat counter inside and order the lunch meat, cheese and bread of your choice. Ask the sandwich builder to customize it with the condiments and veggies that you prefer. The end result is a jumbo sandwich that will remind you of lunch counter sandwiches from another era.
The price is right, and you’ll be much happier with your food choice than you would have been if you had gone to a fast-food joint.
Now let’s move on to Missouri...
Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium
500 W. Sunshine St., Springfield;
Gathering Place in Tulsa was voted by USA Today readers as the nation’s top new attraction in 2019.
The year before, the winner of the same poll was Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri.
The museum and aquarium, located next to Bass Pro Shops national headquarters, features a 1.5 million-gallon “aquarium adventure” showcasing 35,000 live fish, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
Immersive wildlife galleries bring visitors eye-to-eye with the greatest collection of record-setting game animals ever assembled, according to the attraction’s website, wondersofwildlife.org.
The attraction, created by conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder and CEO Johnny Morris, opened in 2017. In the first year of operation, it drew 1.6 million visitors.
1800 W. State Hwy J, Ozark; throwedrolls.com
Lambert’s Cafe, located in Ozark, Missouri, between Springfield and Branson, is called the “home of throwed rolls” for a reason. Servers walk around the dining area armed with dinner rolls that are about the same size as softballs. Who wants one? Raise your hand (or give a yell) and a server will fire a hot roll in your direction. Catch it, and it’s yours to eat.
“Throwed rolls” is the gimmick. But the real reason people flock to Lambert’s is the food — and an unwritten rule that you will not leave hungry. Here’s why: Entrees come with four (four!) side items, and servers walk around doling out helpings of all-you-can-eat “pass around” items like macaroni and tomatoes, fried potatoes and onions, black-eyed peas, and fried okra.
Comfort food is king here, so go ahead and eat like one.
100 Branson Landing Blvd., Branson;
Historic downtown Branson has old-school charm and a new-school attraction, Branson Landing.
A shopping and dining development with a 1.5-mile scenic boardwalk along Lake Taneycomo, Branson Landing features nearly 100 stores and restaurants with a thoroughfare in between the center’s halves.
At the midpoint of Branson Landing is a $7.5 million fountain attraction that entertains visitors with hourly displays that merge water, fire, light and music. Wet Design, which created the fountains at Bellagio in Las Vegas, created the Branson Landing fountains.
Dick’s 5 & 10
103 W. Main St., Branson; dicks5and10.com
The five-and-dime stores from days gone by went extinct.
Or did they?
Entering the Dick’s 5 & 10 store in downtown Branson is like stepping back in time — and maybe that’s because it has been around for 58 years.
The 10,000-square-foot store boasts more than 250,000 items. Retro toys and retro candy can be found on shelves, along with items reflective of Americana and pop culture.
You’ll find things there that you probably forgot ever existed and, of course, you’ll find something you want.
Don’t forget to look up and see displayed collections, including 100-plus signed aviation prints, a baseball “wall of fame,” a White River arrowhead collection, collector trains, cap guns and aviation models.
Dick’s 5 & 10 is open from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
The Branson strip
The strip is the primary route through Branson. Stop at a visitor’s center or hotel to pick up a visitor’s guide with a map of the strip and all the attractions along the strip. Branson is a smorgasbord for music and entertainment. The Presley family and the Baldknobbers were entertainment pioneers in Branson. Growth was sparked after Tulsa’s Roy Clark (RIP) became a presence in Branson.
Strip options (theaters, mini golf, go karts, museums) are seemingly endless, but among the more popular shows on the strip is Dolly Parton’s Stampede, a dinner attraction billed as Branson’s most fun place to eat.
During busy periods, the strip can be jammed with bumper-to-bumper traffic. Be sure and see all the strip has to offer but, afterward, familiarize yourself with color-coded secondary routes to save time.
2722 Missouri 248, Branson; roccosbranson.com
There are a jillion places to eat in Branson. Because kids love pizza, kids were, for this story, consulted on where to go for pizza in Branson. A thumbs-up was given to Rocco’s NY Style Pizza.
Rocco’s, on the north edge of town, is away from the sensory overload of the strip. Wallet-minded parents will like it because of the affordable lunch specials.
Silver Dollar City
399 Silver Dollar City Parkway, Branson; silverdollarcity.com
What happens when you mix craftsmanship from yesteryear with the latest in amusement park rides?
Silver Dollar City happens.
More than 40 rides and attractions are part of the theme park. Among them is the Time Traveler, the world’s fastest, steepest and tallest spinning roller coaster. The $26 million coaster reaches a speed of more than 50 mph and includes a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop.
If the Time Traveler is a bit too adventuresome for your tastes, there are much tamer rides, plus crafts demonstrations, live shows, on-site food options and Marvel Cave. Christopher Cross, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Sawyer Brown and Shenandoah are among performers in 2019.
Visit Silver Dollar City in the warm months to enjoy the waterworks but return during the Christmas season for a different experience.
Big Cedar Lodge/Top of the Rock
190 Top of the Rock Road, Ridgedale; bigcedar.com
Big Cedar Lodge south of Branson is a wilderness resort that is better experienced than explained.
Nearby is the Top of the Rock Ozark Heritage Preserve, which features the Top of the Rock Lost Canyon Cave and Nature Trail, the Ancient Ozarks Natural History Museum and a stunning par 3 golf course.
While staying at Big Cedar, take a day trip to a sister property, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, a 10,000-acre nature lover’s paradise that can be explored on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle, Segway or wildlife tram.
Kansas City barbecue
Barbecue is a source of pride for Kansas City. Instead of telling you which barbecue joint (and there are many) to visit, why not just set aside a few days and take a barbecue tour of the city? Take notes, compare and let us know your opinion of the best of the best.
Royals and Chiefs
For the first time since maybe forever, the Kansas City Chiefs are blessed with the most exciting quarterback in the world. In his first year as a starter, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were oh-so-close to reaching a Super Bowl.
Arrowhead Stadium and Kauffman Stadium are side-by-side. Before the NFL season arrives, catch a Royals game and have yourself a hot dog.
One of the Midwest’s most revered comic book and pop culture conventions is staged in Kansas City.
Planet Comicon celebrated a 20th anniversary in March. Unless you have access to a time machine, it’s too late to go to Planet Comicon 2019, but start making plans now to attend in 2020, which sounds sort of like a science fiction type year.
Costumed attendees and vendors pack Bartle Hall for the convention, which grew so large that it was moved from Overland Park to downtown Kansas City in 2013. Celebrity guests at the 2019 show included Henry Winkler, William Shatner, Dean Cain and Tom Welling. Go to planetcomicon.com for updates.
Bonus for con-goers: The Power & Light District is a short walk away.
9400 State Ave., Kansas City, Missouri;
Float the summer days away at Schlitterbahn in Kansas City (it’s on the Kansas side of the border).
Schlitterbahn is a 40-acre water park that features slides, chutes, rivers and beaches. If you prefer chill over thrills, you can continuously ride a raft wherever the current takes you.
There are other Schlitterbahns, but you’ll have to travel south to find one. The Kansas City park is the only Schlitterbahn that isn’t in Texas. For tickets and information, go to schlitterbahn.com/kansascity.
2450 Grand Boulevard, Kansas City, Missouri; crowncenter.com
Located in the heart of downtown Kansas City, Crown Center is full of locally owned shops and restaurants. And because of two luxury hotels (Westin Kansas City and Sheraton Kansas City), you can stay at the center of it all.
Maybe a train will deliver a burger to your table at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant inside the Crown Center. For a roll call of all of Crown Center’s shops and restaurants, visit crowncenter.com.
The area the Crown Center now occupies once was filled with rutted parking lots, abandoned warehouses and a limestone hill cluttered with signs, according to crowncenter.com. Crown Center reversed the decline and became one of the nation’s first mixed-use redevelopments. The 85-acre complex welcomes more than 5 million visitors each year and has sparked redevelopment.
Great Wolf Lodge
10401 Cabela Drive, Kansas City, Kansas, greatwolf.com/kansascity
The Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City, Kansas, is equipped with an interesting and kid-friendly attraction: an indoor waterpark that is included with stays at the lodge.
There are other on-site activities and attractions, including Howl-in-One mini golf.
Negro Leagues Baseball Museum/American Jazz Museum
1616 E. 18th St., Kansas City, Missouri;
You won’t have to make two trips to visit two fascinating museums in Kansas City. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum share a connecting space and are in the historic 18th and Vine district of Kansas City, Missouri.
The American Jazz Museum pays tribute to jazz greats and is equipped with a jazz club. Go to americanjazzmuseum.org to see a list of upcoming performers and events.
Established in 1990, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of African-American baseball and its profound impact on the social advancement of America.
526 Harrison St., Kansas City, Missouri, and
9950 College Blvd., Overland Park, Missouri;
The stereotype is sports writers know as much about food as they do about sports. Oklahoma sports writers make an annual pilgrimage to Garozzo’s while in Kansas City for the Big 12 basketball tournament. Garozzo’s is known for chicken spiedini, but if you want to overwhelm a first-time visitor, order the three-way pasta and dare them to try to eat it all. You also can’t go wrong with the bistecca modiga. If asked if you want salad with your entree, the answer is absolutely yes.
Multiple locations; stroudsrestaurant.com
The home of pan-fried chicken, Stroud’s Restaurant makes the kind of chicken dinner that puts home cooking to shame.
A Kansas City staple since 1933, Stroud’s dinners include choice of potatoes, choice of homemade chicken noodle soup or salad, gravy, green beans and cinnamon rolls.
For the full Stroud’s experience, the Stroud’s at Oak Ridge Manor is housed in an expanded 1829 log cabin and farmhouse at 5410 NE Oak Ridge Drive.
Country Club Plaza
4706 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri;
A favorite of shoppers, Country Club Plaza can perhaps be described with numerals: 15 blocks, 100 shops, 30 restaurants. Leave plenty of time for your expedition there. You’ll need it.
For a complete list of stores, events and dining options, go to countryclubplaza.com. It’s literally an A-to-Z list, Aldo (high-quality fashion footwear) to Zocalo (Mexican cuisine and tequileria).
LEGOLAND Discovery Center
2475 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, legolanddiscoverycenter.com
It’s a “block party” all the time at LEGOLAND Discovery Center.
Described as the ultimate indoor LEGO playground, the center emphasizes family fun with two rides, 10 LEGO build/play zones, a 4D cinema and other attractions. Miniature versions of Kansas City’s top attraction can be seen in the center’s Miniland.
For information, go to legolanddiscoverycenter.com and click on “Kansas City.”
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
4525 Oak St., Kansas City, Missouri;
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is meant to be a gathering place for people to share and contemplate the greatest creations of humankind. The museum maintains collections of more than 35,000 works of art and welcomes half a million visitors a year.
The museum owes its existence to two people who shared a dream of providing a public art museum for Kansas City and the region.
William Rockhill Nelson, founder of The Kansas City Star newspaper, believed art and culture were necessities for a city to be truly civilized. He died in 1915, and the bulk of his estate was used to establish a trust for the purchase of works of art. School teacher Mary McAfee Atkins had similar goals and provided the city with approximately one-third of her million-dollar estate to purchase land for a public art museum. The William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art and the Mary Atkins Museum of Fine Arts opened to the public in 1933.
Admission is free. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays, so plan accordingly.
8640 N. Dixson Ave., Kansas City, Missouri;
Shoppers might like to head north of Kansas City to check out Zona Rosa Town Center, an open-air, mixed-use shopping center with upscale retail, restaurants and entertainment options.