Granted, a hotel visit isn’t your normal Nashville Fun for Families excursion, but the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is most definitely not your average hotel. So you may be asking…
What is there to do at Gaylord Opryland?
There are nine acres of indoor gardens complete with multiple waterfalls, restaurants, an indoor boat ride, dancing fountains, seasonal activities available to the public, and lots more to explore. You can experience them all without spending the night.
Is there free parking at the Opryland Hotel?
If you simply drive up to the Opryland hotel, you will have to pay for parking in the lot for overnight guests. But to visit for a few hours, just drive through the Opry Mills Mall parking lot toward the Regal Cinemas entrance and leave your car in a free space outside the Gaylord Events Center.
This is the same area you will want to park in if you choose to go to Explore ICE! when it opens annually in November for the holidays. Walk through the gate to the left of the event center and follow the walkway under the green awning.
It takes you to a side entrance in the Delta area of the hotel.
Once you are in the hotel, take your time to walk through the different gardens. Consider trying out one of the different restaurants, and just enjoy the different environments. It is a great place to visit and walk around when it is too hot or cold to be outside.
How to Navigate inside the Hotel
Recently, Gaylord hotels released an app with an interactive map for all of the Gaylord hotel properties. It will give you turn by turn directions inside the hotel. If you have never been inside, it is definitely worth downloading this tool to your phone. Click here for a link to both the Android and iOS app.
The Areas of the Gaylord Opryland
Explore the Delta
This is where you’ll probably have the most fun visiting the Opryland Hotel. The Delta covers half of the nine acres of indoor gardens. There are various attractions including the Delta Riverboat Tour, the Aqua Fountain Show, and the International Waters Fountain Show in the Delta Atrium.
The hotel is great to visit anytime of the day, but if you arrive late afternoon you can catch the evening dancing fountain shows.
We timed our excursion to the hotel to arrive around 4 pm and started our visit in the Delta enjoying the very pleasant 68 degree (year round) temperature and the lush plant life.
This area is slightly inconvenient for those with strollers. There are elevators, but they aren’t necessarily where you would want them to be as you have to walk past several sets of stairs before reaching them.
If you come in through the back entrance to the Delta, turn left and walk past the Riverboat dock and you will find elevators (D6) that will take you up to the main level on Delta Island.
The elevators will get you from the lower ground level to the first floor where you can access the main island in the Delta Atrium.
Once in the main island you can shop and enjoy dinner including kid friendly burgers, pizza, frozen yogurt, and fountain shows set to music.
Pizza and Burgers for All
Depending on when you go, you should be able to get great seats in the restaurant area overlooking the fountain. Grab your seats and send a member of the family for burgers or pizza.
The burgers are great quality at Stax. You have your choice of 4 toppings as part of the price and the fries are perfectly cooked as well. Stax does combos and, for the parents, will even serve beer or wine.
The Pizza from Paisano’s Pizzaria & Vino is huge and thin. One slice is plenty for a meal. We get the Express Combo meal and split it.
It is a little more than a fast food restaurant but then you get great quality food, along with the fun factor of sitting in a wonderful atmosphere with waterfalls, a fountain show, and live plants while still being indoors tucked away from whatever the Nashville weather happens to be doing outside.
If you are in the mood for a snack rather than a meal, Delta Delight Frozen Yogurt is also on Delta Island. You can also grab a pastry or sandwich from the Delta Marketplace.
Free Dancing Fountain Shows
We ate our food watching the Aqua fountain show. The music beats, the water rushes, the crowd watches in delight as the fountain bursts into action at 6 pm.
The noise volume from the intensity of rushing water might startle little ones initially but they should get over it quickly; ours did. We were there on a Sunday night and the crowds were fairly thin for this show.
The fountains perform all day, so you can see them if you visit at lunch. However, the music and lights can only be seen in the evening.
Indoor Riverboat Tours
The Delta Riverboat Tour takes you on a nice gentle ride around the four and half acres of gardens and waterfalls. It takes about 15 minutes and is powered by an all electric flatboat which is guided by a rail in the water (only 2 feet deep).
The tour guide provides you with some knowledge about the hotel and how it expanded over the years and points out some interesting features within the gardens.
You will see the high water mark reached by the 2010 flood, the largest chandelier in TN and if you are lucky , the resident ducks.
In case you miss it on the tour do remember to look up; the atrium is covered in seven football fields of 250 pound glass panels.
Even though it has a glass roof it might be the safest place in town should a storm arrive – the glass panels are rated to wind speeds of 140 miles an hour and golf ball sized hail.
When the boat tour was over we made our way back to the Delta Island to the fountain area to catch the 7 pm International Waters Fountain Show.
We decided to try and find our way downstairs so we could see the fountains from ground level. With a stroller this proved interesting.
We ended up finding the relatively well hidden elevator to the Water’s Edge restaurant. We navigated the tables and went alongside the water to the fountains. If you use the app I mentioned, look for elevator D5.
Having made the effort to get there we weren’t disappointed. The music seemed louder. The water effects bigger. The kids were clearly having fun on this family outing.
Our son figured out he could run and slide along the ground where the fountain had flung water out of its immediate enclosure. And our daughter danced to the music.
By now we had managed to spend over four hours inside just one section of the hotel and it was clearly time for little ones to get to bed.
The Learning Log
On your way out, be sure to stop at the learning log. The exhibits change depending on the season. It is always educational and worth crawling through to see what is hidden inside.
As I mentioned there are other areas of the hotel to visit; Cascades, Garden Conservatory, Magnolia, and even the main lobby is worth a quick look albeit more for the parents at the sheer opulence of the place.
Between the Delta and the Garden Conservatory is the Conservatory Cafe that serves sandwiches, salads, desserts, and Starbucks. It is another great spot for a quick lunch. Be sure to visit Bravo Gelato for dessert.
In the Garden Conservatory you’ll find a tropical garden with waterfalls. It is easy to find secluded spots where you feel like you are in your own private garden.
Close to the entrance to the Cascades is the Crystal Gazebo. If it’s not being used for a private event, like a wedding, this can be a great place for kids to run loose for a few minutes.
The Garden Conservatory is home to two patio style restaurants. Both give you the feeling of being outside on a perfect day.
Ravello serves Italian dishes for dinner. This is a great place for a date night and they even validate parking for visitors not staying the night.
Solario Cantina is the place to be for margaritas and Mexican food. The Cantina is also open for dinner and will validate parking for diners.
Cascades is one large sunny atrium that leads to the main lobby and front desk of the hotel. On one side you can find The Falls Bar and Lounge and the other side is home to Cascades American Cafe and Wasabi’s Sushi.
If the kids are dying to see fish, Cascades is where you will find them.
You will also see more water antics. There is a whole water section with jets of water jumping from one rock to another and don’t worry they are safely tucked out of kids reach so no wet clothes to take home.
The single biggest feature in the Cascades are the two waterfalls and the walkway that wraps around the falls.
You can walk behind the waterfall through a cave and see out across the entire Cascades atrium.
From here, walk back through the Garden Conservatory to see the Magnolia area of the hotel.
The Magnolia section of the building is home to several restaurants. It is also the closest entry area to Soundwaves. There is a beautiful staircase that is a great place to take pictures.
If you are in front of the stairs, look to your left and you will see a hallway. There are bathrooms located on the left side of that hall that are typically quiet and even on busy days, do not have lines.
During the holidays, there is usually a large Christmas tree made of poinsettias. The Magnolia portico doors are also the closest entrance and exit to the nativity made of lights that is displayed every year.
From here you have two choices, you can walk through the Magnolia shops past the studios for WSM (650 AM on your radio), home of the Grand Ole Opry.
If you go this way, be sure to stop and watch what is happening in the recording studio. You may catch your favorite county star being interviewed!
Alternatively, you can walk around the stairs in the Magnolia lobby and follow the hall to visit Fuse Sports Bar, Findley’s Irish Pub, and Jack Daniel’s restaurant.
Continue down the hallway and pass the restaurants. On your left you will see the Tennessee ballroom. The walls here are lined with painted murals of the Nashville area. They are definitely worth stopping to see.
Past the Tennessee section, you will find the convention center area. If you continue walking, you will end up back in the Delta where you started. Watch for the sign below to make sure you go out the same door you entered to be able to walk to your car.
It may take you several visits to fully tour the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. As I mentioned, we spent four hours just inside the Delta.
Annual Christmas and Summer Fun
Don’t miss the annual seasonal events. The Gaylord Opryland is known world wide for it’s annual County Christmas Celebration. It usually kicks off the first weekend in November and the festivities continue through to the New Year.
Summerfest celebrates all things summer! Each year is a different theme; one year was Alice in Wonderland. 2019 is focused on the Smurfs. Go on a scavenger hunt through the hotel, see family movies, and take a garden tour. Summerfest has many more activities and starts Memorial Day weekend and lasts through Labor Day.
The Gaylord Opryland hotel has become one of our favorite places to spend a hot summer day or a cold winter’s night. I’m sure once you discover all the magic inside, it will become one of your favorite places to visit in Nashville too!