For a heady dose of holiday spirit, dive into Opryland.
1 of 6Mary Margaret Chambliss
I’ve heard that you can see the Great Wall of China from outer space. At Christmastime, I bet you can also see Gaylord Opryland. It sparkles with megawatts of lights, fun, and merriment. But you don’t have to be shot into orbit to enjoy the view of this Nashville treasure. Make the easy drive to Middle Tennessee and delight in this perfectly luminous getaway.
2 of 6Mary Margaret Chambliss
Dining and Shopping
You have many options for meals in the huge Gaylord Opryland complex. For a fine-dining experience, try Old Hickory Steakhouse. Indulge in a rich lobster bisque, perfectly cooked filet mignon, and crème brûlée. Water’s Edge Marketplace Buffet, located in the Delta Atrium, is a more casual venue. Graze among 60 different stations, filled with everything from pasta and salads to meats and vegetables. You can also grab a quick meal at Stax Burgers or Paisano’s Pizzaria & Vino, both on the Delta Island.
For a nighttime dose of high-octane fun, go directly to the new Fuse nightclub, with rave reviews and visiting luminaries such as Kid Rock and Kim Kardashian. If you need festive duds, check out the shopping at Gaylord Opryland, such as Amelia’s or Savannah’s, both featuring dressy and casual women’s clothing.
Opry Mills, the outlet mall just down the road, offers some of the best shopping opportunities, with winning Tennessee stores such as The Gibson Showcase and The Apple Barn Cider Bar & General Store. The Disney Store Outlet and Build-A-Bear Workshop also mesmerize, while standbys such as Nike, Gap Outlet, and Tommy Hilfiger Company Store are perennial favorites. The on-premises Rainforest Cafe or Johnny Rockets are ever popular refueling spots.
3 of 6Mary Margaret Chambliss
It’s the 25th year the resort has provided a Santa’s bagful of activities and entertainment. The decorations begin going up in July for A Country Christmas, and the festivities run from mid-November until the holidays end. During that time, enjoy delights such as carriage rides, photos with Santa, the Hall of Trees, and the Treasures for the Holidays Craft Show. Just admiring all the lights, poinsettias, and “faux-piaries”―animal-shaped topiaries―will get your inner Rudolph aglow.
The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes high-kick from the Grand Ole Opry stage. Wear your Christmas sweater and jeans while you watch them―everyone else does. For a memento of your visit, add glitter and sparkle to a fragrant miniature holiday house at Gingerbread Corner. Special events also include Louise Mandrell’s “Joy to the World Christmas Dinner & Show,” as well as a Winter Wonderland that includes a train ride for little ones. Near the hotel, board the General Jackson showboat for a dinner cruise on the Cumberland River.
4 of 6Mary Margaret Chambliss
The One Must-See
Many holiday activities raise your spirits; one really promises to chill you out. Most of you have read or seen How the Grinch Stole Christmas! But you haven’t had the ultimate Dr. Seuss experience until you meet the green grump carved in ice. Put on a parka―loaned to you upon admission―and enter ICE!, a frozen world located in the Gaslight Theater. The attraction will be back next year, but this is the last time you’ll see the Grinch and Who-ville, carved by Chinese craftsmen from huge, brilliantly hued blocks of ice. There are even frigid sliding boards to try. Afterward, leave the 18-degree area, and grab a cup of hot chocolate in the adjoining gift shop. Are you smiling yet?
5 of 6Mary Margaret Chambliss
• Horticulturists start hanging the 2 million lights on July 9.
• Inside you’ll find 15,000 poinsettias.
• Fifteen miles of green garland and 10 miles of hand-tied red ribbon festoon the property.
• Gaylord Opryland’s tallest Christmas tree stands 40 feet high in the Delta Atrium.
• Forty artisans from Harbin, China, arrive in October to handcraft almost 2 million pounds of ice into sculptures for ICE!
6 of 6Mary Margaret Chambliss
Tips From a Repeat Oprylander
Our Food Executive Editor, Scott Jones, makes a yearly holiday pilgrimage to Gaylord Opryland with his family. Here are his suggestions to best enjoy your visit.
• Go into the trip with eyes wide-open. The Christmas holidays are Gaylord Opryland’s busiest time, so just relax if things don’t go exactly as planned.
• When you arrive, valet parking can take a very long time. (It’s not uncommon to wait 30 or 45 minutes; I’ve waited an hour before.) Two options: Have your family hop out of the car and head inside, while one person waits, or skip the valet parking altogether and save a few bucks.
• If you have young kids, head to the Delta Island restaurants near the indoor boat tour that loops around the Delta Atrium. It has all the players your kids will love. You’ll all be more relaxed, and it will be easier on your pocketbook.
• Call ahead to make sure all the advertised activities are still happening. Sometimes event details can change.
Gaylord Opryland Resort: 2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214; www.christmasatgaylordopryland.com or 1-888-999-6779. Special holiday packages, including accommodations and tickets to several attractions, begin at $335 for a two-night stay.
"Weekend: Nashville" is from the December 2008 issue of Southern Living.