Think Nashville is just for banjo-strumming hillbillies? Think again!
While Nashville is home to great music – of every genre, I might add – it has also earned the reputation as being tops in Christmas spirit by the Travel Channel, thanks to the Gaylord Opryland Resort’s A Country Christmas.
We know it’s January, but please don’t think of this post as late. We prefer to think of it as very, very early. Want to give your child a magical 2011 Christmas? Then read on!
Where to stay
Why, the Gaylord Opryland Resort, of course. You can choose to stay downtown, with its quick access to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and honkytonks, but I suggest staying onsite at the Gaylord, as it’s a truly memorable experience.
Heads up though: if your family doesn’t like crowds, the Gaylord Opryland Resort is not for you. At 2,881 rooms, the Gaylord is one of the largest hotels I’ve ever seen. It’s so large, in fact, that it houses its own convention center. Cool stats: during the Christmas season, the property is decorated with 200,000 lights, 10 miles of red ribbon, and 15,000 poinsettias. Need to divert the kids? Just tell them to start counting!
A visual and engineering marvel, the Gaylord feels like a theme park. Onsite you’ll find four restaurants, eight fast-food outlets, 10 cool stores, and three themed room sections: the Magnolia, the Delta, and the Cascades. My recommendation: the Cascades, with its lush garden conservatory, from which you can “hang” out amid the foliage – at a constant 71 degrees – from one of 757 room balconies that perch around the atrium.
There’s something very delish about sleeping with your balcony door open to the sound of a pounding waterfall. We enjoyed breakfast goodies and late night munches on our little balcony, feeling like spies as we peered at people through the plantings.
Where to catch the Christmas Spirit
Okay, let’s get to what makes the Gaylord Opryland so special during Christmas. In no particular order: ICE!, SNOW!, and the Rockettes! More info can be found on all of them at ChristmasatGaylordOpryland.com.
ICE! This wonderful spectacle, goosepimply good (literally!), includes room after room of more than 2 million pounds of ice (kept chilled by two 200-ton chiller units) hand-carved by 30+ artisans brought over from China in October to create this yearly event.
The 2010 Christmas display featured sculptures from the classic holiday special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. The Gaylord is so far mum on the theme for Christmas 2011, but they promise it will be as equally spectacular. One cool aspect: your child is given his or her own parka to wear while inside ICE!, which is a good thing, as it’s a nippy 9 degrees in there! Careening down the ice slide was fun for all, but my frozen fingertips thanked me profusely for wrapping them around a lovely cup of hot cocoa as soon as we exited.
SNOW! If you live in a part of the country that rarely sees snow dumps, this activity will thrill your kiddos. As I happen to live in a city with world-famous ski resorts, however, the real draw was the chance to see the live reindeer. Make it a game to try to find Rudolph – then take in the other family fun: the snow maze, snowball tossing range, and then build your family snowmen and igloo.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes. How smart of the Gaylord to incorporate this fabulous show into its Christmas celebration. The Rockettes are, in a word, amazing. Santa, of course, is a big part of the show, as are Mrs. Claus and the elves. There’s also a lovely nod to the Nativity scene at the end. It’s hard to decide which part we liked best: the Rockettes’ synchronized choreography, or getting eyeballed so directly by the camels that strutted across the stage like true divas.