Nashville Lights Up the Holidays

The season glitters and shines twice as brightly at Opryland hotel, the Music City's biggest resort.
Wanda McKinney

Rockettes and reindeer. Dancing bears and wooden soldiers. These are the ingredients of a memorable holiday getaway. And you don't have to head north to enjoy a Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The high kickers have sashayed down South to Nashville's famous Grand Ole Opry House for a seasonal celebration--and it's quite a show.

You'll have a toe-tapping big time with the Rockettes when you spend the holidays at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. When I say big, I'm talking super-size, jumbo, you-can't-imagine-how-big big.

Wandering a Winter Wonderland
"Are we in the Delta?" one lost lady asks her male companion, who looks as if he could use a cup of Christmas cheer. "I don't know," he says, staring at a color-coded hotel map. "Have we passed the poinsettia tree already?" They keep searching as they wander through a mammoth indoor fantasyland. Millions of dazzling lights, 35,000 poinsettias, and a 141-foot-tall tree welcome visitors to "A Country Christmas," one of the largest holiday extravaganzas in the South.

Nine acres of indoor gardens beckon under glass roofs. A good way to get your bearings is to take a boat ride. You can float ¼ mile through the Delta (the newest section of the complex) and learn more about the world's largest hotel and convention center under one roof.

"All the Presidents since Nixon have stayed here," says the boat captain, as he indoctrinates guests on where to dine and shop. He points out where people throw money in the fountain and make wishes. "They probably wish they knew where their hotel room is," he says, smiling. And with 2,881 guestrooms, a good-luck coin might be money well thrown.

Deck the Acres of Halls
The holidays make a perfect time to visit this behemoth beauty of a hotel. Although always 71 to 74 degrees inside, you'll feel a chill when you pop into the "Fantasy In Ice" exhibit, where carvings and sculptures fill a frigid room. Afterward, warm up with the "Linda Davis Family Christmas Dinner Show," another staple offered at the hotel, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Don't miss Gaylord Opryland's nightly English "Yule Log Ceremony," complete with trumpet heralds and a choir. Then just wander some more. All the lights, fountains, and decorations turn the hotel into an enormous Christmas present. Giant snowflakes and mechanical figures are around every turn. Elves and gnomes perch on rocks and near waterfalls. Reindeer poise to fly.

For your last minute shopping needs, take in "Treasures for the Holidays," the annual crafts, antiques, and art show. Or discover outlet shopping at its absolute finest with more than 200 shops at Opry Mills, within walking distance of the hotel.

Top it all off with a night at the Grand Ole Opry, returned to the venerable Ryman Auditorium for the holidays. You'll leave with a jingle in your step and a "ho, ho, ho" in your heart.

Tinsel Time in Tennessee
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center: 2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214; (615) 889-1000, 1-888-677-9872, or www.gaylordopryland.com.

Holiday specials: Holiday packages are available on weekdays and weekends through New Year's. Rates: start at $290 per person and include two- or three-night accommodations and tickets to "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" starring the Rockettes, "Fantasy In Ice," the "Linda Davis Family Christmas Dinner Show," the General Jackson showboat breakfast or luncheon cruise and show, and "Treasures for the Holidays" arts and crafts show.

Gaylord Opryland's Delta River Flatboat Ride: $5.

Ryman Auditorium: $7.39, self-guided tour. Grand Ole Opry: shows held at the Ryman during the holidays on Friday and Saturday night. Admission is $21.71-$25.40. Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers Christmas Concert is December 17. A Sanders Family Christmas is December 5-22 on selected dates. For more information visit the Web site at www.ryman.com.

This article is from the December 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.