Denver residents now have a choice of two new direct-flight vacation destinations to and from the Mile High City. Norwegian Air launched flights from Denver International Airport to Paris in April, an event that saw assorted city officials flying to the City of Lights — many of them on high-priced flights rather than the budget airline. Last week, the airline revealed that it will not be offering that route from November 1 until spring, a revelation that did not prevent Denver City Council from considering at $4 million incentive deal for Norwegian.
But at least Denver has a consolation prize: Branson, Missouri, the Paris of southwest Missouri and the Oklahoma/Arkansas tri-state area.
On June 13, the good folks of Branson offered the "Branson wave" as they greeted Frontier's first direct flight from Denver (no Denver airport officials were aboard, perhaps because of criticism over the Paris trip expenses, perhaps because of...Branson). The welcoming committee threw an Ozark Mountain "Tail" Gate party, complete with Branson entertainers, food, games and prizes. “It is an honor to welcome Frontier Airlines and the first customers to BKG,” said Jeff Bourk, executive director of the private Branson Airport. “Without good, affordable air service, people need to work really hard to get here. Frontier Airlines changed that today.”
Paris vs. Branson: How do the two direct-flight vacation options stack up for Denver residents? We've put together some head-to-head match-ups that should help you with your travel plans. Good luck, and wherever you end up, send us a postcard.
5. The Louvre vs. the History of Fishing Museum
Yes, the Mona Lisa is at the Louvre. And yes, yes, so are a lot of the paintings and sculptures that you might have seen in that Art History course you were forced to take because blah-blah-blah-Humanities this and yadda-yadda-yadda-well-rounded-education that. And, sure, they made that great Tom Hanks movie about the Louvre, and everyone loves Tom Hanks, right? But can you feed a family on great art? Nope. And is the Louvre easily accessible, with plenty of parking, right next to the Tanger Outlet Mall? Again, non. The History of Fishing Museum isn't just the tenth-best museum in Branson; it's also devoted to the piscine arts, and even the French would agree that fish make good eating — and therefore that fishing is a noble pursuit. Sorry, Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace. The History of Fishing Museum has us hooked.
4. Street Mimes vs. Yakov Smirnoff
Let’s face it: Neither of these are exciting options. But who's more annoying? On the one hand, you don’t have to pay the Parisian street mimes if you don’t want to. On the other, Yakov Smirnoff (whose show, Make America Laugh Again, is a major Branson attraction) doesn’t accost you on the street and pretend that he’s giving you an imaginary flower.
3. Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur vs. The Promised Land Zoo
Both cities celebrate the history of religion: Paris has a plethora of famous churches and cathedrals, and the ossuaries in its legendary catacombs. Notre Dame Cathedral, with its literary hunchback, and Sacre Coeur, inspirationally located at the summit of Montmartre, attract the spiritually devout and the history-minded alike. Now, add to that cool animals and biblical verses on signage around their cages, and you have something close to Branson’s Promised Land Zoo, where (we can only assume) even the resident sloth is born-again. (It must be tough to be both Christian and named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins.) Remember Genesis 1:25: And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that crawls upon the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good, and decided to charge to see them: $18.95 for adults, $10.95 for children 12 and under.
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2. The Eiffel Tower vs. the Branson Ferris Wheel
When it comes to attractions with a bit of altitude, the contest really depends on how we’re measuring the experience. If it’s just sheer height, the Eiffel Tower is the clear winner at over 1,000 feet tall, whereas the Branson Ferris Wheel tops out at only 150. Both are lit up brilliantly in the night sky, and both dominate the skyline of the city they call home. But can you “ride” the Eiffel Tower? While eating cotton candy? Sadly, that landmark has no real amusement-type appeal.
1. Fine French Cuisine vs. Dolly Parton’s Stampede
If you’re a foodie, then you’ve probably heard of restaurants like Le Meurice, the grand and utterly French three-star Michelin establishment that is whispered about in reverent tones. But you may not be aware of Branson’s Dolly Parton’s Stampede, billed as “The World’s Most Visited Dinner Attraction,” which not only offers a four-course meal with a whole rotisserie chicken, a slab of pork loin, soup, corn on the cob, potatoes, biscuits and dessert (vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, of course), but does so in the stands of a 35,000-square-foot rodeo arena. Does Le Meurice offer unlimited refills on your drinks? Probably not. Two entrees per person? Definitely not. A 32-horse extravaganza that features a not-at-all-worrisome “friendly North and South competition”? Mais non!
We love Paris in the springtime (which is when Norwegian will restore its full schedule). But this weekend, it's Branson...and Frontier seats are still available.