A Holiday Tradition Returns With New Décor, Shows & Attractions
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of Gaylord Opryland Resort.
Crews at Gaylord Opryland Resort worked hard to bring the magic of the North Pole to Music City as they prepared to open the hotel’s 34th annual A Country Christmas celebration, which began on November 10.
This year, the resort hung more lights than ever, bringing the total to more than 3 million Christmas lights. Teams worked several hours each day since July to make sure the holiday lights were up for A Country Christmas, presented by FUJIFILM INSTAX, taking place November 10 through January 1.
“The holiday magic this resort creates every year is astounding, and we cannot wait for visitors to enjoy the newest holiday decorations and entertainment at our 2,888-room resort and its nine acres of indoor gardens,” said Gaylord Opryland General Manager John Adams. “The many months of preparation are well worth it when we see families making holiday memories with us.”
The resort’s signature holiday attractions—ICE!, presented by Pepsi, returns with A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz. The beloved holiday story will come to life in 2 million pounds of colorful, larger-than-life ice sculptures. Kept at nine degrees Fahrenheit, the exhibit is hand-carved by 40 master artisans from Harbin, China, who use their artistry to create favorite scenes with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and friends, plus multi-story ice slides. If you can’t get enough of the Peanuts gang, enjoy an interactive breakfast you and your family won’t soon forget at Breakfast with Charlie Brown & Friends.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze lights up Nashville for the first time, November 18 through December 27 at the Grand Ole Opry House featuring never-before-seen performances, over 300 costumes, 20 of the world’s best acts, original music and seasonal favorites in a multi-million-dollar stage wonderland. Hailed by “The New York Daily News” as “a delicious confection of charm, sparkle and talent by the sleigh load,” don’t miss this must-see Broadway musical, new cirque adventure and family show wrapped in one Broadway World declares “the perfect holiday gift.”
Diamond Rio’s Holidays & Hits Dinner Show will bring lighter-than-air harmonies to Gaylord Opryland, November 17 through December 25. The Grammy Award-winning six-man group has sold more than 10 million albums, earning three platinum and five gold records. With their hit, “Meet in the Middle,” they became the first group in the history of country music to have a debut single reach No. 1. The band was awarded Opry membership in 1998 and has received Top Vocal Group honors six times from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
The Build-A-Bear Workshop experience lets guests make their very own furry winter friend-a-cuddly, cute polar bear plush, designed exclusively for Gaylord Hotels that can be personalized with cozy winter clothing and accessories. For even more fun, families may work together to solve the Build-A-Bear Workshop Scavenger Hunt to gain a “beary” special prize.
Santa’s favorite lady will make an appearance again this year in Cookies with Mrs. Claus. Cozy up by the fire and delight in some milk and cookies while Mrs. Claus reads an enchanting Christmas tale.
No need to endure the cold for a lovely yuletide glide! Gaylord Opryland takes it up a notch this year with a 6,000-square-foot indoor ice rink in the spectacular Holiday Hall. While there, guests may also hop aboard the Opryland Express kids’ train, stop by the Gingerbread Decorating Corner, presented by Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas, or take a whirl on the Santa’s Spinners tea cup ride!
For heart-pounding thrills, guests may head outdoors and brave the hills of the resort’s extreme snow tubing hill covered in 1.5 million pounds of real snow or enjoy a carnival style game to test guests’ aim at Santa’s Snow Throw.
Of course, A Country Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a visit from Santa, who will be stopping by to give guests an opportunity to have a treasured Christmas photograph taken—whether they have been naughty or nice.
Holiday festivities also include carriage rides and holiday cruises on the General Jackson Showboat along with free activities—the Brightest Star Fountain Show and the Outdoor Nativity with an audio rendition of the Biblical story.
I had an opportunity to visit with Jenny Barker, Public Relations & Marketing Director of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Below are excerpts of our conversation:
VIP: Why do so many people visit Opryland during the Christmas holidays?
Jenny Barker: Opryland is a unique destination any time of the year. When you add holiday decorations it becomes magical. This is our 34th A Country Christmas celebration. Over the years generations return. Now we are seeing grandparents and their children and their children’s children. When the hotel closed during the Nashville flood in 2010 people sent us Christmas cards and photos they had taken 15-20 years ago asking us to please re-open!
VIP: Do you increase the number of lights and number and types of holiday decorations each season? Do you have a different theme each year?
JB: We have over 3 million lights this year, more than ever. Teams began working on decorations in July. We try to keep a good number of returning traditions and we offer new events each year. It’s a delicate balance. This year we brought two new shows—Grand Opry House and Diamond Rio show. We have about 700,000 more decorations than last year!
VIP: What is new this year?
JB: Cirque Dreams Holidaze lights up Nashville for the first time November 18 through December 27 at the Grand Ole Opry House. We have ICE! every year, but the theme changes every year. Last year it was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This year it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. It is a family affair.
VIP: Talk about the ice rink in the Ryman Exhibit Hall.
JB: It is a 6,000-square-foot indoor ice rink in the spectacular Holiday Hall in the Ryman Exhibit Hall. It will be a hub of festivities including cookies with Mrs. Claus, a train ride, indoor ice skating rink that is 6000 square feet and for the first time ever, John Wayne the Genuine Article is a new exhibit with never-before-seen memorabilia. This exhibit will be up from December 17 through New Year’s Day. While there, board the Opryland Express Kids’ train, stop by the Gingerbread Decorating Corner or take a whirl on the Santa’s Spinners tea cup ride. One thing that returns every year is ICE!, our signature holiday attraction.
VIP: Will your restaurants offer a variety of holiday cuisine during the Christmas holidays?
JB: Most of them have holiday menus and Christmas Day brunches. We offer holiday prix fix menus in Cascades American Café across from the twin waterfalls; Ravello’s, an Italian restaurant; and Old Hickory Steakhouse in the pink antebellum mansion with the Library Bar. There are more than 20 restaurants and bars within the resort. Visit www.gaylordopryland.com/diningevents.
VIP: Tell our readers about Opryland’s New Year’s plans.
JB: For the first time we are offering BIG NIGHT NASHVILLE!, a very big party taking place in the hotel. This will be a ticketed event with overnight packages available. For details visit www.bignightnashville.com.
By the Numbers
- 3 million holiday lights
- 1 million visitors to the resort during the holidays each year
- 15,000 poinsettias
- 15 miles of green garland
- 10 miles of hand-tied, red ribbon
- 48-foot-tall Christmas tree
- 1.5 million pounds of real snow on snow tubing hill
- 2+ million pounds of ice for signature ICE! attraction
- Nearly 7,000 giant blocks of colored ice
- 40 ice artisans from Harbin, China
VIP: Do you have personal favorite holiday attractions and/or decorations at Opryland Hotel?
JB: For me it is the Garden Conservatory, our smallest atrium, but it is the most packed with plants and we hang giant guitars and music notes, which give guests a sense of Music City.
VIP: What’s new on the outside lawn of the hotel?
JB: We have a slightly new configuration of cypress trees with individually wrapped branches, giant magnolia trees wrapped in lights, a large flagpole that looks like a giant Christmas tree and the nativity scene. A team of 4 horticulturalists work from July until November hanging lights. After the holidays they will work until March or early April taking lights down and in the months between they check the lights. It is a year-round job.
VIP: Santa told me you have BIG plans for your holiday celebration next year. Tell me about these plans.
JB: We are making way for a $90 million luxury waterpark that will open this time next year!
What to Know
A Country Christmas has been hailed as one of the “Ten Great Places to Catch up with Santa” by “USA Today”; ‘The Most Christmassy Hotel in the nation” by the Travel Channel’s “Extreme Christmas;” one of the top 10 places to spend Christmas in the world by “Travel+Leisure”; and a “Nashville treasure” by “Southern Living”. For information on tickets and packages visit www.ChristmasAtGaylordOpryland.com or call (888) 677-9872.
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, located at 2800 Opryland Drive in Nashville, Tenn., is the flagship property of Gaylord Hotels, part of the Marriott portfolio of brands. The 2,888-room hotel offers “everything in one place”—diverse dining options, a full-service spa, top-notch entertainment, on-site shopping, an award-winning golf course and more. For more information, visit www.GaylordOpryland.com.