Lo and behold- Nashville is one of them!
Day #10,479: Truth be told, the first stop on our road trip from Memphis did not begin quite so magically. Let it be known that The Old Country Store in Jackson, TN has extremely poor taste in home decor.
Luckily, things quickly took a turn for the better as we drove into Music City limits.
I equate Nashville with the Grand Ole Opry and the country, bluegrass, and gospel music that it’s featured for more than eighty years. The Grand Ole Opry somehow goes beyond mere “music” into “national legend” territory. It began as a Saturday night radio show in 1927, and you can still get tickets to attend the broadcasts today.
Sadly for us, the Grand Ole Opry House itself is closed for renovations around the holidays. We really had to work for even a glimpse of the building, which was hidden by landscaping and scaffolding for renovations.
The Opry House is just one part of the huge Gaylord Opryland Convention Center & Resort, which was- to put it lightly- jaw-droppingly amazing. (Simmer down- I also got Level-10 Excited over the awesomeness of a real man named ‘Gaylord Opry,’ but turns out it’s the name of a hotel chain.)
The main entrance of the Convention Center is an experience. Every tree in sight had donned its gay (Lord?) apparel.
The front lawn was so spectacular, there were even carriage rides offered around the perimeter- although the horses & I both agreed it was far too cold for that nonsense.
Somehow, the inside of the Resort was even more holiday-tastic. We were met at the front door with a 2-story poinsettia tree!
The hotel portion of the resort is so massive that it’s separated into giant buildings, each of which has an equally giant atrium in the middle with water features, trails, and landscaping.
Mr. M & I were particularly excited to discover a bedazzled topiary giraffe; giraffes have held a special place in our heart since we randomly decided to have a giant plush giraffe serve as the ‘mascot’ of our wedding.
It is standard practice to have a wedding mascot, isn’t it?
One of Opryland’s atriums had a bona fide lake in the center, where we watched a water fountain show choreographed to hymns. The hymns were not so easy to sing along with for us heathens, but it’s clear Gaylord’s mission is to put the Christ back in Christmas… (Needless to say, there are no token menorahs, either).
Just as we were ready to head back out into the cold, Mr. M got a phone call from one of our very best friends whom we’ve known since high school- he’d gotten engaged to his wonderful girlfriend! It was the best Christmas gift we could ask for.
Not ready for the evening to be over, we decided to check out the Grand Ole Opry’s original home, Ryman Auditorium, which still stands in downtown Nashville and hosts the Opry’s musical performances during the winter months.
I may not be a fan of most modern country music, but I LOVE bluegrass. (I do believe this started when one of my best friends in college tried to get me to join his jug band as the washboard player. A story for another day.)
Around the corner from Ryman Auditorium is Broadway Street, which is chock-a-block full of country western music clubs & rockabilly bars.
Not-yet-known banjo players and future country stars sing on street corners, spontaneous hoedowns ignite inside, and you’ll find yourself inexplicably tempted to buy a pair of cowboy boots. (“Of COURSE these will still look crazy-cool back home!”)
There was no better way to cap off our chilly evening in Music City than with the “Around the World Hot Chocolate” we saw advertised just up the street. Mike’s Ice Cream Shop on Broadway St serves up close to thirty different flavors of hot cocoa inspired by places around the world.
I’m not sure what makes some places so magical around the holidays.
That It Factor is something more than just lights and music- although these definitely help lend a little extra sparkle.
Like the Grand Ole Opry herself, there’s no denying Nashville has star quality.
Details of the Day:
Unexpected Eats in Nashville: I had stalked Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles (in the Belmont/Hillsboro area) for a looong time, and when I knew we were headed to Nashville, it was the first (well, second- the Grand Ole Opry sits second to no popsicle) To Do on my list.
Grand Ole Opry and The Ryman Auditorium: The Opry House offers daytime and post-show tours when they’re open (Feb to Oct). The Ryman Auditorium- an old Evangelical meeting house- hosts musical performances year-round.
Remember to bring your own food or eat before heading over to the Gaylord Opryland Winter Wonderland. Bottled water was selling for like, $5 a bottle, and feeding a family of four would be unimaginably expensive. Don’t get screwed at Christmas. On the upside, just wandering through is completely free!
A Little Honky Tonk: Can’t squeeze a trip to Nashville anytime soon? Pandora’s “Western Swing” music channel is the next best thing: it always has me wishin’ I had more barn dances & moonshine in my life. And cowboy boots wouldn’t hurt, either.