Cedar Creek (Nashville), TN - Events of Wednesday, June 26, 2014
During our visit to Nashville in 2012, we went to the Ryman Auditorium and learned about the history of the Grand Ole Opry. Click here to read about our visit to the Ryman. By the late 1960s, the Grand Ole Opry had outgrown its home in the Ryman Auditorium, and the promoters were looking for a new, more modern, larger venue for the stage and radio show. In 1974, a new Grand Ole Opry House was opened about 9 miles east of downtown Nashville.
A hotel was built on the same tract of land to support the new Opry House. The hotel, which originally had 590 guest rooms, opened in 1977. In 1984, more guest rooms and a garden conservatory containing 10,000 plants were added. In the following years, the number of guest rooms was increased and so was the size of the conservatory. Today, the Gaylord Opryland Hotel has 2,881 guest rooms and suites, 9 acres of indoor garden space, and 600,000 square feet of meeting, conference and exhibit space.
It's not often a hotel becomes a tourist attraction, but this one has. Visitors can roam the gardens, watch water fountain shows and even take cruises on the Delta flat-bottom riverboats. Although admission to the conservatory is free, we found out when we tried to visit there when we were in Nashville last year there is a charge of $21 to park. We decided to pass. We think nothing of paying $10 to $15 a person to see a botanical garden, but somehow we balked at having to pay to park.
We decided to bite the bullet this year and pay the parking fee so we could see the conservatory. That is, we decided we were willing to pay to park until Margery found a website called Nashville Fun for Families.com. The website tells how you can park for free at Opry Mills Mall next door to the hotel and walk to a side entrance of the hotel. We decided to give it a try.
On Wednesday morning, we headed to the Opry Mills Mall. We drove past the movie theater to far northern end of the mall parking lot. Sure enough, there were several dozen other cars parked there, and there was a walkway to the left of the Gaylord Event Center just like the Nashville Fun website described.
We followed the walkway past the front of the Event Center, went under the green canopy, and ended up at the Delta entrance of the hotel. See the link to Nashville Fun for Families above for more detailed information on how to get from the mall to the hotel.
The hotel has several conservatories, the largest of which is the Delta Conservatory where we entered. Inside, the place was bustling with people, many of whom appeared to be attending conferences.
The Delta Conservatory is also the newest conservatory, and it is the location of the flat-bottom riverboat ride. The electric-powered boats follow a rail under the two-foot deep water. The scene below looks almost identical to the San Antonio Riverwalk except for the color of the boat. The boats in San Antonio are red, white and blue.
The hotel has at least half a dozen sit-down restaurants as well as a 8 or 10 snack bars, hamburger stands, pizza joints and ice cream shops. Many of the restaurants have scenic locations right along the water. The photo below of one of the restaurants also looks like it could have been taken in San Antonio.
The fountain below is the location of a daily water shows at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. The water and lights dance to music.
The conservatories have many waterfalls and fountains. The following photos show just some of them.
We strolled through the conservatories for almost an hour and a half. The entire hotel is somewhat of a maze, but there are maps all over the place to help you figure out where you are.
The area of the hotel where the convention center is located has a number of meeting rooms surrounding a large lobby. The lobby is lined with murals painted by T. Max Hochsteller depicting scenes from Nashville in the 1880s and 1890s. The artist chose that time period because it was far enough after the Civil War that Nashville had recovered from the war and was prospering. Smaller scenes depict things like Belmont Mansion, which we had just seen on Monday, and Ryman Auditorium. The largest scene across the entire end of the lobby is a Nashville street scene.
From the Convention Center, we made our way back to the Delta Conservatory where we first entered. We crossed one of the bridges to Delta Island, which is encircled by the flat-bottom riverboat ride. The island is the location of several snack bars and gift shops. The buildings on Delta Island look like they are from New Orleans.
We stopped for a tourist photo outside the Opry Shop, which sells country music CDs, T-shirts and other souvenirs of the Grand Ole Opry.
Speaking of the Grand Ole Opry, it is located on the eastern side of Opryland Mall. We passed it on our way to the hotel. After making our way back to the car from Delta Island, we decided to stop and have a quick look around the Opry.
The Opry has shows almost every evening. They also have backstage tours both in the afternoon and after the evening shows. We may consider a backstage tour on a future visit, and maybe even a show.
On our way back to the motor home, we made a stop at Hobby Lobby for Margery to pick up some craft supplies. There is a Qdoba Mexican Grill a short distance from Hobby Lobby, so we headed there for a late lunch. We had grilled chicken burritos that were delicious as usual.
Back at the motor home, we relaxed the rest of the afternoon and evening. The plan was to leave the Nashville area on Friday. We'll tell you where we headed in our next post.