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Resort Spotlight: Gaylord Opryland Resort

By Nancy Schretter, Editor

Love the thought of vacationing in a tropical environment, but would rather travel closer to home? If so, take the kids to Nashville's Gaylord Opryland Resort for your next family vacation.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is the largest non-gaming property in the continental United States. Fresh from a $270 million renovation, this huge resort wows its guests with huge glass atria lobbies, its own quarter-mile indoor river complete with boat rides, towering waterfalls, huge pools, lush tropical plantings, and much more.

The majority of the resort's attractions are completely enclosed under nine acres of glass - eliminating many of the weather worries involved in family vacation planning. Best of all, Gaylord Hotels will feature character interactions with Shrek, Po, and other popular DreamWorks characters through their new DreamWorks Experience for kids and families.

A River Runs Through It

The Gaylord Opryland Resort is made up of several huge hotel wings. Guests move seamlessly from one to the other via soaring glass atria lobbies filled with waterfalls, 85-foot water fountains and loads of tropical foliage - the kind you'd expect to see in the islands. My favorite? The Delta Atrium, located in the center of this palatial hotel.

The four-and-a-half acre Delta is home to a number of the resort's fast-food restaurants set in the center of the indoor Delta River. The hotel's meandering artificial waterway has opened twice: once during its original christening in 1996 and the other quite recently as part of its grand re-opening after Nashville's massive flood. Water samples from over 1,700 rivers throughout the United States and the rest of the world were emptied into the Delta River - an interesting fact to tell the kids. Parents and children will enjoy taking Flatboat rides along the waterway and taking in the views while having lunch at one of the kid-friendly eateries on Delta Island. Watching an 85-foot stream of water shoot up from the fountain here is amazing.

Each of the resort's wings has a theme. The Magnolia dining and retail area gives guests a flavor of the Old South, complete with a lovely double staircase reminiscent of plantation homes featured in Gone With The Wind. This lobby is also the resort's entertainment district featuring Fuse, the property's newly renovated nightclub.

Kids will love the huge three-and-a-half story waterfall, bridges and dancing fountains (complete with laser light show set to music) in the opulent Cascades Atrium. More than 8,200 different tropical plants can be found here - and even bananas, oranges and coconuts if you're lucky. The Garden Conservatory features over 10,000 lush plantings set in a Victorian garden under an acre of glass. Meandering walkways allow families to stroll and admire the exotic plants. All of these areas are wonderful for kids to explore.

The Gaylord Opryland Resort contains over 2,880 guestrooms – providing many options for family getaways. The hotel's guest rooms all have updated furnishings including queen beds with pillow top mattresses, plush linens, refrigerators and wireless Internet access. Connecting rooms and spacious suites are available for families who want to spread out. Accommodations with fabulous atrium views are available at the Gaylord, but musical events and other activities could make these problematic if your children have trouble falling asleep. For those who enjoy the sounds of water, however, the fountains and waterfalls will lull you to sleep. If you want to be close to the pool or have other specific interests, talk with the hotel's reservations staff to select the location that's best for your family's vacation.

Amenities Abound

Think of the Gaylord Opryland Resort as a huge entertainment complex, filled with restaurants, shops, pools, and a multitude of areas for activities, leisure and distraction. The hotel is a great choice for parents who want to enjoy amenities such as championship golf and a world-class spa, while still providing entertainment for their kids. There are also loads of mouthwatering dining options here as well.

The Old Hickory Steakhouse Restaurant and Jack Daniels are two eateries perfect for guests who enjoy a fine steak or delicious Southern barbecue and are good choices for a parents' night out. Call the resort's concierge at least 24-hours in advance to line up a babysitter. Solario offers authentic Mexican dishes and the Cascades American Café is a good choice for breakfast or a relaxing lunch. Those who want to experience a taste of Southern Italian cuisine without leaving North American shores should head to Ravello, a newly opened restaurant featuring menu selections from Campania, Italy. Pizza lovers will enjoy Paisano's Pizzaria and the create-your-own-burgers at Stax are excellent.

Of course, water venues are mandatory for family vacations - and Gaylord's three pools provide the perfect settings for family fun. Both the Magnolia and Cascade pools are large outdoor water spaces. In keeping with its theme, the Magnolia outdoor pool area has a lovely fountain and brook winding towards the pool and kids' wading pool. Refreshments and an outdoor eating area are located close by. The Cascades area has two pools and a poolside bar and grill. No matter what the weather brings, families can head to the 25-meter indoor Relache pool for some water fun. For the golfers in the family, Gaylord Springs Golf Links' 18-hold Scottish links-style course could be the perfect place to spend a relaxing morning or afternoon.

Some guests may choose to relax a different way - at the hotel's 27,000-square-foot Relache Spa. This award-winning spa features 12 treatment rooms, a 3,500-square-foot fitness center, and a wide variety of massage, facials, body therapies, and other treatment options. The spa allows guests to choose from a variety of scents for their body treatments and service here is outstanding.

Those seeking a bit of retail therapy won't be left out at the Gaylord Opryland, as there are more than a dozen distinctive boutiques and retail outlets under the hotel's roof. Moms can check out the fashions and jewelry at Amelia's Boutique, Savannah's, Alexander Kalifano and The Perfect Tee. Kid's clothing, toys and games are available at Sunny G on the Delta Island, while cowboys and cowgirls at heart will want to visit Cowboys & Angels for some of their posh country wear. Stores like Bushels & Baskets, The Opry Shop and Signature offer guests the chance to take home mementos and a little Southern delight from their stay at the resort.

The DreamWorks Experience

As part of Gaylord Entertainment's recently announced strategic alliance with DreamWorks Animation, families will be able to party with Shrek, Princess Fiona, Po, Alex, and other characters from the popular "Shrek," "Kung Fu Panda," and "Madagascar" films. These live interactive experiences will include character breakfasts, newly-themed Christmas holiday events, poolside activities during the summer, private birthday party options, festive parades, and more.

Vacation packages featuring "DreamWorks Experience at Gaylord Hotels" will go on sale in July 2011. The experiences will become an active part of the Gaylord Opryland's programming in November 2011 and are expected to be very popular. If your children have their hearts' set on getting together with Shrek and his many friends, make sure to make your reservations well in advance.

Music City USA

Of course, a visit to the Gaylord Opryland Resort wouldn't be complete without checking out some of what Nashville has to offer. The hotel is located right near the Grand Ole Opry House, the home of the show that made country music famous. Opry performers include the top names in country music, such as Carrie Underwood, Vince Gill, Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley and others. The Ryman Auditorium, known as the Mother Church of Country Music, is also just a stroll away. If your family loves country music, this The Family Travel Network story will tell you more about how Nashville got its 'sound.'

For a trip back to the days of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, take the kids for a ride on the General Jackson Showboat. This 300-foot paddlewheel riverboat is one of the largest in the country. Both mid-day and evening cruises are offered and live country music shows are performed in the showboat's huge, two-story theater.

For more ideas and information about what to do with your family in Nashville, make sure to read this article on The Family Travel Network.

If You Go:

  • For more information about the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, visit the hotel's website at www.gaylordopryland.com or contact your favorite travel agent.
  • The resort offers some incredible holiday events, such as the "A Country Christmas" celebration. The resort goes all out for these events with decorations featuring 2 million holiday lights and one-of-a-kind attractions such as ICE! and SNOW! For more information, see the resort's website. These holiday celebrations bring more than one million visitors to the resort every year, so make your reservations early.

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