If you’re in Music City, Tennessee the must-see attraction is the Grand Ole Opry, and the place to stay is Gaylord Opryland Hotel (which has been called the Grand Ole Opry Hotel by some!) The two go together like PB&J…and they make a great pair for kiddos, too! The boys and I visited over a weekend; we knew we’d enjoy it…we didn’t know we’d love it this much!! Here’s how (and why) to take your family.
The Grand Ole Opry
When I was young, I recall my parents playing Country Music almost continuously. In the summer months, I would lounge on the floor in front of our huge 1970’s style speakers, singing along to Crystal Gayle, Reba McEntire, Randy Travis…I knew all the words.
Even if you aren’t a Country Music fan, you still have to appreciate the influence of Country on Rock and Roll. Think about it: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis…they grew up on Country, too! And that, my friends, is why everyone – everyone – should head to the place “where country comes home.”
The Backstage Tour Is A “Must”
We started our adventure by taking a Backstage Tour of the Opry! I highly recommend this; it’s a super way to understand the history of the museum and the artists that play here regularly.
The boys and I posed for a photo on the treasured eight-foot circle of hardwood taken from the Ryman Auditorium and placed center stage at the Opry House. Wow! That circle has graced the souls of over 200 members and all-time greats, from Hank Williams and Patsy Cline to Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
We also saw a marker along the wall reminding passersby of the 2010 flood that closed the Opry for five months, while country’s new permanent home was restored. You’d never know it survived such devastation – it’s as good as new.
We got a peek at the entrance that artists use when visiting. (They have a special parking place, but they have to move the cones themselves to get it in. “Keeping them humble” our guide said!) The walkway includes a sweet statue that was given by Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon (aka Minnie Pearl) who made her debut at The Opry.
We also learned about the Opry Post Office, saw the dressing rooms (we loved the Johnny Cash room!!) and learned a great deal about the members – especially how passionate they are for the beloved Opry. It’s much more than a music venue…it’s an experience to be treasured.
If your kids are over 12 years (or your on a date night/girls night) then consider the VIP Tour! You’ll take the basic backstage tour like we did, but you’ll finish the night by watching the show from the seats on the stage!
5 Things To Know About The Concert
After the tour, we ate a quick snack and then headed back to the Opry for the first show of the evening. I know that picture above is a little blurry because of the low lighting, but I had to share. Elliot said, “Take my picture with this guy.” (It was bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds.)
When I showed him the picture he grinned from ear to ear, and exclaimed, “I did the thumbs up because this place is just GREAT.” That, my friends, is a bona fide endorsement!
Ours were not the only kids – it’s a very family-friendly venue, with easy restrooms, snacks, bench seating and more. Here are five things to know about the concert to help you feel comfortable bringing your own family.
Every Seat Is Great. 4,400 seats fill the theatre – that’s 1 million people hearing over 6,000 songs each year! From the front to the back, and the floor to the balcony, every seat in the house is great. It’s a cozy venue that makes it feel like a “living room” concert more than a grand arena…intimate and warm, with a terrific line of site.
As a mom, I also really like the bench seating (as opposed to folding chairs.) The boys were able to snuggle me, lean on me, sit in my lap…I even saw a young girl in the aisle over from us that was sprawled out on the bench asleep. It sounds small, but it’s a big deal!
You Can Take Pictures. You are welcome to take as many photos as you want during the tour and the concert! (Be sure to tag them #Opry) So don’t be shy about snapping a photo of an artist you love, of the dressing rooms on the tour…and don’t forget about the outside with the oversized acoustic and electric guitars.
You’re Live On The Radio. My kids thought this was the coolest thing. If you don’t already listen, then be sure to check out a show on the radio before you go. Each show is streamed live at 650 AM WSM, via Opry.com, on Sirius XM Satellite Radio (Saturdays), and also via the free Opry App.
While you’re there live, point out to the kids the radio announcer (he’s got a spot Stage Right) and commercial breaks. In an age of “everything digital” it’s fun to be on the production side of the radio show.
There Are A Lot Of Short Sets. Unlike a “regular” concert with an opening band and a featured guest, there are many short sets at the Opry. When we visited there were 10 performers. Each group of performers played two songs – except the feature guest, who played three songs.
I think this really made a difference in the ability of my kids to sit through the entire show with rapt anticipation and excitement. Things on stage were always changing…the oldest loved reading the program as each artist changed…the type of music changed each time, from classic country to bluegrass to folk to new country.
There Are Plenty Of Drinks And Snacks. Kids need food – always. It’s like a rule of nature. At the Opry there are plenty of snacks and drinks available for the littles (and adult libations as well.) My boys had popcorn, a hot dog, nachos…the list goes on. It’s also easy to slip in and out of your seat for food and bathroom requests.
Special Opry Opportunities
Take the tour, see the show…anytime is great. BUT here are a few events to keep in mind for a special experience!
Opry Country Classics. Held at the Ryman Auditorium from March 9 to May 25 and September 21 to October 26, Opry Country Classics features a celebrity host sharing great stories and songs, guests singing their own hits as well as timeless favorites by the likes of Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash, and a Spotlight Artist headlining the show with several of his or her memorable classics.
Winter with the Opry. During the winter months each year, the Opry moves back to its most famous former home, the Ryman Auditorium.
Opry Birthday Bash. In October 2017, the Grand Ole Opry will celebrate its 92nd birthday. Each October, the milestone is recognized by a two-night celebration, which include a birthday cake, a special birthday concert, backstage tours, free music in the Opry Plaza and more.
Complete Your Opry Experience at Gaylord Opryland Resort
What makes the Gaylord Opryland Resort the ideal place to rest your head during a visit to the Grand Ole Opry is its proximity. The parking lot of the Opry can get pretty crazy at night, but you don’t have to worry if you’re staying at Opryland….it’s right next door with a walking path that leads you directly there.
In addition to that, Opryland Hotel is just AMAZING! It holds 9 acres of indoor gardens, with waterfalls, winding paths, gorgeous greenery and surprises at every turn. You won’t want to leave (well, except to head to the Opry!)
7 Things You Shouldn’t Miss At Gaylord Opryland Resort
The Delta Riverboat Ride. The best way to see the waterfalls, flora and grand scenes is aboard the Delta River Flatboat Tours. You’ll take a loop around the Delta section of the resort, while hearing a bit about the history of the hotel and how its gardens are maintained. It does cost extra, but it’s worth it if you ask us! The boys LOVED it!
You can also see the International Waters Fountain Show and Aqua Fountain Show 2x each per day, and these water-dancing wonders are free to watch.
A Room With An Atrium View. We were spoiled with an Atrium View room, and I can’t imagine visiting any other way. Our view overlooked the Garden Conservatory (just like those two cute boys above.) If you aren’t lounging on the balcony floor, you can rest in comfy chairs with a table…we had snacks out there one evening, people watching the entire time. At night, we opened the doors and lounged in the bed, taking in the sound of the waterfalls.
The Breakfast Buffet. There are multiple restaurants in Opryland Resort, including a spectacular brunch spread at American Cafe (with waterfall views, to boot!) I enjoyed an omelet station, fruits and muffins, hot food like bacon and eggs and oatmeal…and more! The boys ate off the kids menu, picking French toast with a side of fruit and warm syrup. Two thumbs up from both of them.
We also had sushi at Wasabi’s, and burgers and shakes at STAX – also delicious. There is also a steakhouse, a pizzaria, a Mexican restaurant, Italian restaurant, a sports bar, tavern, gelato and yogurt shops…the list is endless (and yummy!)
A Walk Under The Waterfall. The Cascades waterfall stands at 3.5 stories tall – and you can walk under it! Take a look at the video above and see us glimpsing through the windows at the falling water.
There are other waterfalls throughout the property. I couldn’t find an exact number, but I’m going to guess there are about a dozen. What a fun scavenger hunt that would be!
The Pools and Spa. If there’s a pool, my boys are going to find it! At Opryland there are THREE. We visited right on the cusp of Spring, so it was too cold for the outdoor pools….but we made a splash in the Relache indoor pool.
All the pools are heated and come with towels. I really appreciated that there were lifeguards on duty at the pool, too.
The indoor pool is near the spa. Since 365Dad wasn’t with us, I didn’t get to partake, but I did read up on it. There are a number of treatment options (even kid’s options!) There is also an option for paying a day rate and just enjoying their facilities.
The Night Time Views. Whatever you do, don’t miss the resort at night. The fountains are lighted up, the lamp posts shine bright, and every nook and cranny is transformed. It’s gorgeous.
After we walked the entire hotel, we enjoyed the night time lights even longer with a glass of wine (and apple juices!) from the atrium balcony of our room. I just couldn’t get enough.
The Deals. Finally, before you book your room, check out the Deals section of their website. You’ll find out how to save on weekends, during special events, and via special packages!
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