Tuesday morning quickly arrived... and we slept in. Our first destination was the Gaylord Opryland Resort
Logo: Is that a sunburst or a bunch of legs?
We got in the Ford Focus and took a shortcut on the way there, getting stuck behind a garbage truck.
This truck was unique because it didn't have any human help to empty the trashcans. Instead, it had a robotic arm that came off the right side and picked up the cans, dumping them into the truck. Kinda cool, but you have to wonder if it would just easier to have a guy do the same thing. After much manuevering, we drove around the truck and found ourselves entering the resort.
Much like the Tribune Company
owns everything in Chicago (newspapers
, Chicago Cubs
, etc.), Gaylord Entertainment
seems to have a stranglehold on Nashville.
To fully understand how ingrained Gaylord is into Nashville culture, you have to gain a little history about the company.
Gaylord started as a newspaper publishing company (Oklahoma Publishing) founded by Edward K. Gaylord in 1903. The company moved into radio, television, and in 1983 purchased Opryland USA -- an acquisition that provided the company the Grand Ole Opry, the Opryland themepark
, and the Opryland Hotel. Opryland USA also launched country music cable network The Nashville Network that year. The entertainment and broadcasting assets were spun off into Gaylord Entertainment, which established its headquarters in Nashville. It also launched Country Music Television
Facing a consolidating entertainment and media landscape, Gaylord sold The Nashville Network (now Spike TV
) and the US operations of CMT to Westinghouse (later becoming CBS
) in 1997. The company expanded its reach into Christian music with the purchase of Word Entertainment
. The company closed its Opryland theme park
in 1998 in the face of declining attendance and broke ground at the same site for the Opry Mills
entertainment, shopping, and restaurant complex (opened in 2000). Gaylord also purchased a Nashville Ramada Inn in 1998, (later renaming it Radisson Hotel at Opryland
Today, Gaylord Entertainment is solely a hospitality and attractions company. In Nashville it owns the Grand Ole Opry
, the Ryman Auditorium
, the General Jackson Showboat
, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
, Springhouse Golf Club
, the Wildhorse Saloon
, and part of the NHL
's Nashville Predators
-- who play, of course, in the Gaylord Entertainment Center
. (The company also runs the Gaylord Palms Resort
(Orlando, FL) and the Gaylord Texan Resort
(Dallas, TX)). No matter where you go in Nashville, you are hit with a Gaylord property! It's crazy.
We parked in the old theme park parking lot (now the lot for Opry Mills) and walked into the large hotel complex. The hotel was themed rather well, in some aspects coming close to Disney-quality.
The overall theme is that of a proud Southern mansion. There are 5 distinct areas: Cascades
, Garden Conservatory
, and the Convention Center
. Three of these areas are captured as atriums under glass.
Here are the official descriptions:
- Garden Conservatory features meticulously nurtured foliage, lush gardens and sparkling fountains
- Cascades presents a grand lobby of stately columns and fantastic indoor waterfalls
- Delta offers its version of a quaint town, waterway, and antebellum mansion
The Magnolia area is partly outside, and features a lot of classic woodwork and furnishings. It also features an outdoor pool. In all there are 2,881 rooms and 600,000 square feet of convention space, making it the largest hotel and convention structure in the world (not attached to a casino).
Amy and I explored all the atriums... very cool. They are well-maintained indoor botanical gardens. Some areas have shops and restaurants located in the themed sections. It actually reminded me a lot of the environment I used to work in at the Bradford Exchange
... we had indoor gardens like you wouldn't believe there! You can see how it would be easy to stay completely on hotel property and never leave.
We decided to ride on the Delta River Flatboats
, a scenic boat ride around a winding indoor river. It was a great way to check out the gardens and waterfalls. We were the only people on the boat, so our tour guide was pretty cool about the whole thing. It wasn't the Jungle Cruise
, but it was fun. It would be pretty fun to actually stay at this hotel sometime. I loved the fact that it wasn't square and had an irregular floorplan. Makes exploring and discovery a lot more fun!
Easy to get lost in the odd-shaped resort
After seeing everything we could possibly see at the hotel complex, we left the Music Row area and headed back to downtown Nashville!
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