It was sad for me to leave my hometown after such a great visit. Being able to spend time with my family made me feel, well, normal, after so many months of isolation. Our next stop was Branson, Missouri — well known for its variety of shows and attractions. Unlike Pigeon Forge, Branson doesn’t have a defined “strip”, instead includes a fairly large rambling area dotted with strip malls, restaurants and numerous theaters.
Under normal circumstances, I’d have been in show hog-heaven. I could have seen live entertainment literally every day — comedy, variety, band tribute shows — you name it. But …. COVID. It’s ironic that early this year, we couldn’t see and do a lot of tourist activities because States weren’t open. Now, some areas are TOO open!
Quite a few shows in the Branson area are open and actively performing. But, the State of Missouri has no mandated COVID controls, as far as we can tell. The city of Branson has enacted a mask mandate, but it seems to be inconsistently followed and/or enforced. Shows have no capacity restrictions, which means they can sell tickets to all the seats, if they want – no social distancing. And although masks might be required going into the theater, they are not required while seated, presumably so that you can enjoy your purchased concessions. The idea of sitting in a packed (indoor!) theater, for 2-plus hours, with essentially no COVID precautions, just doesn’t seem like a good idea.
Restaurants don’t have any mandated capacity or social distancing requirements either. We stopped at a small diner while out motorcycling our first day here, and the tables were stacked like usual. We were able to socially-distance, because we went at an off-peak time, but the waitress and other workers (and other patrons) did not wear masks at all. Folks in this region are mostly living like this pandemic doesn’t exist.
The area also has the Silver Dollar City theme park, but after our somewhat disastrous pandemic-time visit to Cedar Point, I’m not sure Silver Dollar City will offer a much better experience.
I’m not going into the politics of the pandemic, or getting into an argument about whether masks are effective or not. But, as responsible adults, we have to make decisions about the health risks we are willing to accept. Considering the uptick in COVID cases throughout the country, we’ve decided that, for this visit, we would forgo shows, restaurants, and attractions. We focused on motorcycling, outdoor activities, and maybe some shopping during off-peak times.
Since it rained more than half our stay, even outdoor activities were constrained. During the couple of nice days we had, we rode the countryside. This area is really beautiful with rolling hills, lakes, and valleys. One of our rides involved taking a free ferry across a lake. That was pretty cool!
All in all though, Branson has been sort of a bust.
I look forward to coming back some day when we can actually participate in all the attractions this area offers.