by Katy Koontz
Is Opryland a resort or an attraction? The answer is yes. With more than 2,800 guest rooms and three enormous garden atriums under nine acres of glass roofs, the Gaylord Opryland Resort is definitely one of Nashville’s most popular sights — to the tune of two million people each year. Originally opened in 1977 as a fancy hotel built to resemble an old Southern mansion, Opryland has undergone a series of major expansions, each time adding a new atrium with more guest rooms. The sprawling resort is now the largest non-casino hotel in the continental U.S. and claims a whopping ten percent of the total number of hotel rooms in Nashville.
The resort made headlines in May of 2010, when record rainfall caused the adjacent Cumberland River to flood, leaving part of the building under 10 feet of water. Opryland closed for six months for repairs. Clean up crews pumped 71,280,000 gallons of water out of the resort in three days. When the doors re-opened just before the start of the holiday season later that same year, Opryland had a whole new look, including a new lobby, hundreds of renovated guest rooms, and several new restaurants, bars, and nightspots.
In addition to the Magnolia area (the original area of the hotel), Opryland offers three spectacular atrium sections, each with a variety of shops, bars, and restaurants. The centerpiece of the Cascades atrium, just off the lobby, is a thundering three-plus-story twin waterfall surrounded by some 8,000 tropical plants. Adjoining the Cascades area is the Garden Conservatory, designed to resemble a Victorian-style garden. Here, lovely narrow paths meander around garden beds that show off more than 10,000 tropical plants (including 60-foot-tall palm and banana trees). The newest of the resort’s three atriums is the Delta, with its somewhat spicy New Orleans/French Quarter ambiance, complete with a river ambling through it and a central island with a variety of interesting shops.
Our Editor Loves
- Three swimming pools (2 outdoor and 1 indoor)
- Indoor flatboat river cruises
- Live broadcasts daily of WSM radio (nation's oldest country music station) from a glass booth on the ground floor
- Water Parks
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Opryland has a dizzying total of 2,881 guest rooms. The traditional guest rooms are very similar, except for one distinction -- those with garden-atrium views look out over one of the three atriums and are the most popular. Most of the rooms with atrium views feature small, furnished balconies that afford expansive views of Opryland's great indoors, although those on the lower floors pretty much look right into the gardens.
Although all three atriums are truly splendid, the Delta is perhaps the most convenient for families because it contains the most family-friendly eateries, including a burger place Stax, a Paisano's Pizzeria, and a Haagen-Dazs. The Sunny G -- a great kids' shop selling t-shirts, unusual toys, educational books, and various souvenirs -- is located on the island in the center of the Delta atrium. The Delta is also home to the flat boat ride, Opryland's resident live ducks, and the nightly fountain shows, and it's also the location of the resort's family theme parties. However, if being near one of the pools is important, you'll want a room in the Cascades atrium or the Magnolia section of the hotel.
All Opryland's guestrooms include refrigerators, high-speed wireless internet, hair dryers, irons and ironing boards, an in-room safe, cable TV, coffee makers, and bottled water. Cribs are supplied free upon request.
Opryland's 174 suites range from 400-square-feet to 4,800-square-feet and include living rooms and optional connecting bedrooms. Five are categorized as presidential suites, the largest of which has a formal dining room, a catering kitchen, a den, and five bathrooms!
The resort is beautiful and we visit it every year for the last 6 years on Veteran's day and nevered had a problem until this year. I make reservations between July NLT September every year. This year when I checked out they charge me almost 70 dollars more and said because the rate I reserved it under was no longer available as of 1 Oct 19. When I log in my members account it shows the rate I reserved it for but I was charged at checkout a different rate and was told to take it up with military, they are the ones that changed the rate???? When I called the 1800# for verification, I was told they don't know why I was told that or why the rate I was quoted was not honored and I was given an incident # and told I will have an answer 3-5 days. I also verified my reservation on 5 Nov...so how was the rate changed on the 1 Oct. The explanation did not sound right and to be told that alot of people who used that rate had the same problem is unacceptable. It ruin our yearly visit and I will not stay at the resort again. Although it was a 70 dollar difference and I would have probably still made the reservation.... the explanation is what is not sitting well with my family and to just add a different rate at checkout is kind of shady and that is the only reason for the poor rating.
Stayed here for a business convention. This is my 2nd stay at this location. I have to say, it’s still one of the prettiest hotels I’ve ever stayed at. The inside is just so lush and relaxing. This time, I got an inside balcony room and got a great view!!
Exploring the resort's three atriums will be the first thing your kids -- and you -- will probably want to do. And there's plenty to explore. In Cascades, be sure to take the elevator or climb the steps to the skywalk, an elevated walkway that will take you through the atrium and even through a passageway behind the atrium's multi-story twin waterfalls. In the Garden Conservatory, the winding paths and their quaint footbridges lead you to a grand gazebo and behind another waterfall that's considerably smaller than its Cascades cousin, but fun nonetheless. In the Delta, look for the resident ducks along the quarter-mile-long river and climb aboard a flatboat for a short guided cruise on the world's longest indoor river. The fountain in the Delta erupts in a colorful choreographed water show set to music four times each night, on the hour starting at 6 p.m. It is well worth taking the time to sit and watch. The climax is an 85-foot geyser that reaches for the dome in the roof. During busy times, you may want to get there a little early so you can find a seat.
Opryland offers three pools -- an outdoor pool in the Magnolia area and an outdoor pool as well as an indoor pool that are part of the Relache spa and fitness center in the Cascades area. While there is no specific kids' pool, the Magnolia pool area also features a wading pool for younger guests. Each of the two outdoor pools include a bar and grille where you can get a drink or informal meal. The indoor pool includes a designated lap lane, an open area for older kids and a large, heated whirlpool.
Family Theme Parties
Opryland offers several family theme parties throughout the year, including celebrations for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, and Father's Day, as well as Memorial Day and Labor Day family pool parties. These events include music, crafts, and games for kids age 12 and under and are available only to families who buy packages specifically designed to include the theme parties.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Opryland offers a family-oriented SummerFest, with a different theme each year. One year, for example, the theme was entertainment, and the resort offered nightly, free line dancing lessons, Rock Band's country version, free country music Xbox competitions, live country shows on the resort's General Jackson Showboat, and the chance to rent a Gibson or Epiphone guitar for the day. VeggieTales events were added last year to SummerFest for the youngest of guests. SummerFest also includes a Kids Eat Free program at most resort restaurants, allowing kids 11 and under staying with an adult at the hotel to eat free.
A Country Christmas
Probably the most popular time to visit Opryland is during the Country Christmas celebration from mid-November to New Year's. For starters, two million tiny white lights turn the atriums into a magical landscape, and 1.5 million pounds' worth of wonderfully whimsical themed ice sculptures are on display. The event also features outdoor carriage rides, the Living Nativity with sound and lighting effects, and shows by the Radio City Rockettes, who perform at the Grand Ole Opry House next door to the resort.
General Jackson Showboat
In the grand tradition of riverboats, this 300-foot paddlewheeler plies the Cumberland River and offers music-themed cruises with a meal and a show. The General Jackson operates year-round, but the main season (when cruises are daily) is March through December. Both the buffet meal and the show offered as part of the lunch cruise is fairly informal, while the dinner cruises offer a sit-down meal with table service and a more elaborate show in a fancy two-story Victorian theater. The General Jackson doesn't offer a specific kids' menu, but the entrees are generally kid-friendly and food is served family style.
Opryland has more than a dozen different restaurants and eateries, most of them family-friendly. During the summer, kids under age 12 who are staying at the resort with at least one adult eat free in most restaurants. Although Solario, Opryland's new Mexican restaurant, is the only resort restaurant with a separate kid's menu, most of the others readily fix kids' fare (including chicken tenders, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, pizza, or just about any other kid favorite you want) upon request. Opryland does provide high chairs and crayons at the table.
This new "upscale casual" restaurant in the Garden Conservatory atrium offers all the usual Mexican dishes (nachos, quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, etc.) with informal patio seating. Your server will make the restaurant's signature guacamole right at your table. The restaurant's kids' menu features smaller portions of the adult entrees. Always open for lunch, and dinner, and during busy times, may also be open for buffet-style breakfast.
Cascades American Cafe
This cafe in the Cascades atrium off the lobby, also considered "upscale casual," has a great view of the atrium's grand twin waterfalls and offers both a seafood menu as well as a farm and garden menu. Fare changes seasonally, but some of the perennial options include crab cakes, creamy shrimp and grits, Gulf triggerfish, and beef bistro filet. Breakfast options include eggs Benedict, chicken-apple sausage links, and Nutella French foster that is very popular with kids. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
At this informal eatery on the Delta atrium's island, you can design your own burger or chicken sandwich. You choose the bun, the meat, the toppings, and the cheese -- and how much of each you want. The combinations are endless. Open for lunch and dinner.
Paisano's Pizzeria & Vino
Paisano's is a casual pizza joint, also located on the Delta atrium's island, that serves Tuscan-style pizza and such Italian dishes as fettuccini alfredo, lasagna, tortellini, and calzone. Moms and dads can also order wine or beer with their meal. Open for lunch and dinner.
Findley's Irish Pub
Located in the Magnolia section of the hotel, Findley's is a friendly little pub with authentic pub grub, including a ploughman's plate, chicken livers, pork pie, potted chicken, and an English pub breakfast. Younger diners will find favorites like macaroni and cheese, fish and chips, roasted chicken, and hamburgers. Live music, usually Irish folk music, is provided every night. Open for lunch and dinner.
Right across the way from Findley's in the Magnolia area is Opryland's newest restaurant, Jack Daniel's. The fare here is strictly Southern, with an emphasis on Tennessee favorites, like hickory smoked pork barbecue, chili, and fried catfish. Live bluegrass bands play nightly. Always open for dinner, and during busy times, may also be open for lunch.
This coffee shop just around the corner from the reception desk by the Cascades atrium offers gourmet coffee, croissants and sandwiches -- a good choice for a quick and simple breakfast or a light lunch.
Planning & Tips
All about the Extras
Opryland offers several different shuttle buses. Free shuttles go to the adjacent Opry Mills mall and the nearby General Jackson showboat and Grand Ole Opry House. Additional shuttles between the resort and the airport or between the resort and various downtown locations charge a fee. A Hertz rental car desk is also available in the Cascades lobby.
Sitters provided by an outside agency that works with the hotel can be arranged through the concierge.
Opryland's 3,400 square foot fitness center offers cardiovascular machines, circuit training, and weights. You can also sign up for a personal trainer or group fitness classes. The hotel's indoor pool is adjacent to the fitness center and offers lanes devoted to lap swimming.
Adjacent to the fitness center and indoor pool, Relache offers a variety of massage and salon services as well as steam and sauna rooms. Tennessee's largest spa, Relache also offers special seasonal treatments. Although spa treatments are available only for those age 18 and older, the salon services include the princess manicure and pedicure, wiggle worm haircut, and princess up-do for children. Open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Both the Delta atrium and the Magnolia section of the hotel have necessities shops, which stock toiletries, health and beauty aids, packaged snacks, Nashville and Opryland souvenirs, and magazines and books. In addition, the Delta atrium is the home of Sunny G, a kids' shop with t-shirts, toys, educational books, and souvenirs.
The Art of Smart Timing
There really isn't a bad time to visit Opryland. A Country Christmas (from mid-November to New Years) is the highlight of the year at the resort and is the most popular time to visit. Often, grandparent getaways are offered during the holiday season. Summer is also a good time to visit because it's not nearly as crowded and also offers special events for families.
Opryland is within a ten-minute's drive of the Nashville International Airport. The resort offers an airport shuttle that averages $40 per person per round trip. Children under age 4 ride for free. Shuttles run every 20 to 30 minutes, and reservations aren't necessary.
For Mom and Dad
For a kidless night out, Opryland offers a ton of options. First, consider the Falls Bar in the Cascades area for its magnificent view of the twin waterfalls. The Conservatory Bar, in the Garden Conservatory atrium, features an Enomatic wine system that allows you to order upscale wines by the glass instead of requiring you to buy the whole bottle, allowing you to sample several choices.
Opryland's fine dining restaurants include the new Ravello, which features upscale Southern Italian cuisine, and the Old Hickory Steakhouse. Reservations are strongly encouraged.
For nightlife, head to the Magnolia area of the hotel to catch some live music and dancing at Fuse, a late-night dancing hotspot. Tamer options for live music in the same section of the hotel include Jack Daniel's (for bluegrass bands) and Findley's Irish Pub (for Irish folk music).
If you want to leave the hotel for some fun but don't want to go all the way downtown, the Grand Ole Opry is located right next door to the resort. The resort's shuttle will take you there without charge. The Opry offers shows every Friday and Saturday night, plus Tuesdays and Thursdays from March through December.