Back To The Future: Silver Dollar City ready to celebrate

Back To The Future: Silver Dollar City ready to celebrate

When adventurers in the 1880s lowered themselves 200 feet via rope to explore a beautiful limestone cavern in southwestern Missouri, they couldn’t have imagined what the next 140 years would hold.

The tale that goes with Mystic River Falls hasits roots in the early days of Marvel Cave, the landmark that launched Silver Dollar City into tourist popularity. A real-life explorer and botanist, S. Fred Prince, really did explore Marvel Cave and really did draw a map, which really does say “Mystic River” on it. An original copy of Prince’s 100-year-old journal is in the Silver Dollar City archives and was the starting place for creating Mystic River Falls. (Courtesy Photo/Silver Dollar City)

The legend began when Scientific American magazine described the cave in 1885, and word of the natural wonder spread across the country. Then Canadian mining expert William Henry Lynch read of the cave, purchased it sight unseen, traveled to the Ozarks and, with his two daughters, opened what he called Marvel Cave to public tours in 1894.

By the 1920s, the cave was a well-established attraction, and tourists could get there by road or by hiking from a nearby train stop.

In 1946, the Herschend family, vacationing from Chicago, fell in love with the attraction and the area and leased Marvel Cave from the Lynch family. And in 1960, the Herschends opened the village they called Silver Dollar City, complete with a blacksmith shop, a general store, an ice cream parlor, a doll shop and two authentic 1800s log structures.

Fall shoot Silver Dollar City

Since then, the theme park has seen more than 80 million guests, has grown to cover more than 110 acres and is home to thrill rides that exist nowhere else in the world. It’s employed more than 40,000 people, won national and international tourism awards and produced Broadway calibre shows like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Dickens Christmas Carol.”

The only thing Silver Dollar City couldn’t do in 2020 was celebrate its 60th anniversary as the blow-out, year-long event that had excitedly been planned. Covid-19 kept the park from opening as scheduled last March and delayed the first day of the season until June 13. A new $23 million water ride, Mystic River Falls, opened July 21, but without the fanfare that had been expected for the “tallest drop on a water raft ride in the Western Hemisphere” and a “one-of-a-kind rotating, four-platform, eight-story lift.”

WildFire is a high-flying, multi-looping, cobra-rolling coaster that travels at speeds up to 66 miles per hour and features a vertical drop of 15 stories, followed by five inversions including a full loop, cobra roll, corkscrew and high-speed spiral. (Courtesy Photo/Silver Dollar City)

The ride and the area surrounding it — which includes Rivertown Smokehouse BBQ and a new Cinnamon Bread Bakery — were “a culmination of years of guest feedback,” Brad Thomas, president of Silver Dollar City Attractions, said then. “The only place on the planet to experience this ride is right here at Silver Dollar City. Mystic River Falls is packed with unique thrills that the family can enjoy together.”

And that, says Thomas now, turned out to be the key to surviving a pandemic.

“I think 2020 has given folks a longing to spend time together, to have fun, to laugh and to celebrate good times,” he says. “Our recent research shows that folks are longing for things that are found at Silver Dollar City — our craft demonstrations, our mild to thrill rides, our music festivals, our food and our humor.

In 2021, “many of our guests will experience their first rides on Mystic River Falls,” he adds, saying the adventure “really features four experiences on one ride: a thrilling river ride, the lift tower that slowly rotates the boat upward, the thrill of the elevated channel ride and then the world-famous drop back into the river.”

Take a leisurely 20-minute ride through the beautiful Ozarks on Silver Dollar City’s Frisco Silver Dollar Line. (Courtesy Photo/Silver Dollar City)

That doesn’t mean all the changes from covid-19 have been washed away.

“As part of our pandemic protocol, we operated at 50% attendance capacity in the 2020 season,” explains Lisa Rau, director of publicity for Silver Dollar City. “We found that travelers were, indeed, looking for outdoor family options — and by creating more outdoor stages and activities, we were able to provide that getaway.

“We believe what we did worked well, and the protocols, including limiting capacity at the park and on rides, currently are scheduled to continue for 2021, minus the need for reservations. We will still require masks, practice social distancing and other measures found in detail at”

The $26 million, record-breaking Time Traveler roller coaster features three inversions — the most ever on a spinning coaster, including a 95-foot tall vertical loop — and two launches that send riders to unprecedented speeds. (Courtesy Photo/Silver Dollar City)

With outdoors as the new “in” destination, Silver Dollar City has added a brand new event, Street Fest, which begins in April, following Spring Ride Days, Rau says.

“This event will have lots of unique performers and music throughout the ‘City.’ And we also adding new ‘Tasting Passports’ for Street Fest in April and Bluegrass & BBQ in May that offer tasting throughout the park.”

“Our food team has developed an incredible list of new menu additions that will only be available during Street Fest,” enthuses Thomas. “However, some of these items taste SO good, that I’m guessing they may show back up at the City at some point in the future.”

What Thomas and Rau agree on is this: “Every spring, as Silver Dollar City opens for the season, there is excitement in the air,” Thomas says. “But this year, our employees and guests seem even more excited.”

“And with the of challenges of today, we have only become stronger as a leadership team and as a culture park wide,” adds Rau, “determined to always provide great entertainment.”


Opened in 2020 at a cost of $23 million, Mystic River Falls includes the tallest drop on a water raft ride in the Western Hemisphere and a one-of-a-kind rotating, four-platform, eight-story lift. (Courtesy Photo/Silver Dollar City)


Silver Dollar City

WHEN — Opens March 17

WHERE — Branson, Mo.

COST — Season tickets start at $128




SDC 2021 Festivals

Spring Ride Days — March 17-21; March 24-28; April 2-3; & April 10-11: Spring Ride Days includes performances by After Grace, Saturdays & Sundays, March 20-April 11; Adelaide, Wednesday-Friday, March 17-April 9; Lindley Creek, March 17-April 11; and Prince Ivan, March 17-April 11.

Street Fest — New April 17-May 2: With performances by concert cellist Elena Bosworth; precision card thrower Rick Smith Jr.; the Diabolo Diva, Maria Wolf; teeter board performers We Flip Entertainment; steel drummer Ken Arnsbarger; bike stunts by the Zemen Duo; one-man-band Eric Haines; two-time National Buck Dancing champion and fiddler Hillary Klub; Professer Wes Weasley & His Amazing Theremin; and juggling unicyclist Mike Bliss. A new Tasting Passport will also be offered, including turkey wings, fried ravioli nachos, fry bread, Belgian waffles, waffle cones with sweet & sour pork or orange chicken and Minute Maid whip.

The Magnificent Wave Carousel, located in the Grand Exposition area of Silver Dollar City, sends riders swinging up and out on a 40-foot flight above the treetops for arguably the most breathtaking view of the Branson theme park. (Courtesy Photo/Silver Dollar City)

Bluegrass & BBQ — May 14-31: With performances by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, May 14-15; Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road, May 14-15; Kenny and Amanda Smith Band, May 20; The Trailblazers, May 22-23; Route 3, May 29; and more to be announced. A new Tasting Passport will also be offered, including funnel cakes, kettle corn, waffle cones, a tater twist dog, fried corn on the cob, pulled barbecued pork and more.

Summer Concert Series — Taking place at Echo Hollow and featuring Classical Mystery Tour: A Tribute to the Beatles’ Abbey Road, June 4; The Best of ABBA, June 5; Contemporary Christian artist Mack Brock, June 11; and Vertical Worship, June 12.

Moonlight Madness — Featuring Chris Tomlin, July 24; Eastern Heights, July 25-Aug. 8; Gazebo Street Dance with Prince Ivan, July 24-Aug. 8; and Mad Science, July 24-Aug. 8.

Southern Gospel Picnic — Aug. 27-Sept. 6: With the Hoppers, Aug. 27; the Whisnants, Aug. 28; the Booth Brothers, Aug. 29; Triumphant Quartet, Aug. 31; Jeff & Sherri Easter, Sept. 1; Gold City, Sept. 2; The Guardians, Sept. 3; Karen Peck & New River, Sept. 4; The Isaacs, Sept. 5; and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Sept. 6.

Country Music Days — With Collin Raye, Sept. 10; Blackhawk, Sept. 11; and more to be announced.

Crafts & Harvest Festival — Coming in October.


Categories: Family Friendly