Written by Klaire Howerton
Posted by Mark Ruda
Silver Dollar City – The History of Branson’s Biggest Attraction
You would be hard pressed to find a person who has not, in some form or fashion, heard of the famed and legendary Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. Every year, millions of visitors pass through the Silver Dollar City gates – from the surrounding local area, from across the United States, and abroad. The real draw of Silver Dollar City isn’t just the world renowned roller coasters, or the food, or the shopping – it is the combined effect of all of that, the uniqueness of it. From the mountains of the Ozarks rises a city full of history and heritage, combined with modern day theme park rides and bluegrass – and who wouldn’t want to see that? So where did Silver Dollar City come from? How did it get to where it is today? Read on for a little park history!
To understand the history of Silver Dollar City, you must first understand the history of the Herschend Family, and Herschend Family Entertainment, for they were the genius behind one of the world’s most popular theme parks. The Herschend family story began with Hugo and Mary Herschend and their two sons, Jack and Pete. The family vacationed to the Ozarks from Chicago, Illinois and they were enthralled with the beauty and heritage of the area. In 1951, the Herschends’ began to sink their roots into the Ozarks – that year, Hugo obtained a long term lease (ninety-nine years, to be exact) on the well-known Marvel Cave.
After Hugo’s passing in 1955, Mary and her sons made continued improvements to the cave such as electricity, walkways and eventually a cable train to take guests up and out of the cave after the tour. The popularity of Marvel Cave continued to grow, and more and more people flocked to the carven attraction in Branson. A small replica frontier town was built outside the cave entrance to entertain visitors while they waited in line – to boost attendance, the town was named ‘Silver Dollar City’ and a silver dollar was distributed to every guest; the hope was that the folks who had received the coins would spend them and tell other folks where they had come by them. The idea was a hit, the Herschends’ fell into the theme park business, and Silver Dollar City was born.
Today, Herschend Family Entertainment owns twenty-six theme park enterprises in ten different states – including Dollywood, The Harlem Globetrotters, Adventure Aquarium, Dixie Stampede, White Water and of course, Silver Dollar City. The park has come a long way since passing out silver dollars, and is now home to record breaking wood coaster Outlaw Run and innovative coasters like WildFire and Powder Keg, as well as holding dozens of live entertainment shows full of stars throughout the year, selling hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of handcrafted items, and continuing to break ground in the theme park industry.
Now that you know the history behind this unique theme park, get your tickets or season passes to visit Silver Dollar City today! It’s sure to be an experience to remember.