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my buick bucket list trip: gaylord opryland, part 1

Opryland overview

Inside — yes, inside! — Opryland.

After leaving Parnassus Books and picking up some donuts for the road, we headed to Gaylord Opryland, which we had been looking forward to since the beginning of our Buick Bucket List trip.

We’d already stayed in three different hotels in three nights – all fun, all very different – and now we’d be spending two nights here, which was great because the place is enormous and it would take longer than that for us to be able to find our room every time. Not kidding.

Opryland bridge

Opryland is a world in itself, with more than nine acres of indoor gardens and almost 3000 guest rooms. It’s all encased in a Hunger Games-like atrium which is filled with waterfalls, lush landscaping and thousands of exotic and tropical plants. It’s so beautiful, it’s easy to forget you’re still inside.

Opryland waterfalls lush

We dropped off our bags in our room, which was in the Delta section of the hotel and had a fantastic balcony where we would end up spending an inordinate amount of time. It’s important to remember what section you’re in because you will get lost. Over and over again. And you will laugh and enjoy the challenge because everyone else is lost, too. In fact, it becomes a real bonding experience among guests.

We were advised to keep an eye on the carpet, which was different for each section of the hotel. The Delta carpet was red so once we saw that, we’d know we were in the right place. We found the whole experience hilarious.

Opryland carpet

We thought it would be nice to take a boat tour – yes, there is a quarter mile river running inside Opryland – so we could learn more about the hotel. I definitely recommend this as a great way to explore and get a fascinating history lesson.

Opryland boat launch area

Our tour guide told us some amazing stories about the Nashville flood and how the hotel manager had thankfully made the unpopular but ultimately life-saving move to evacuate everyone early to be on the safe side. Just look at this red line, showing how high the flood waters came.

Opryland flood line

She also explained how, when the hotel was re-built, they sent out small Jack Daniel’s bottles (this is Tennessee, after all!) to every state in the country plus cities around the world to fill with water from their rivers. It was all poured together, representing 1700 bodies of water, and it flows beautifully and peacefully.

We loved this idea! And, apparently, so do many fish, including one the staff lovingly refers to as “the shark” because it usually has a fin above the surface, almost waving.

Opryland water

The boat ride was so relaxing, we could have floated around, admiring the scenery, all day.

Opryland L&M boat

But it was time for dinner. There are more than a dozen restaurants in Opryland and, after going through menus and “ooh”-ing and “ah”-ing a lot, we decided on Jack Daniel’s. You know, when in the South …

It was a great decision, although we did worry that it could be a problem because Michael has recently become a vegetarian and we were smack in the middle of barbecue heaven.

And I do mean heaven. Our waitress, Danielle, suggested we start with the pulled pork quesadilla which I immediately agreed to. I ordered ribs and Michael ordered a Caesar salad, explaining his situation.

Within minutes, Chef Jared was out of the kitchen.

Opryland Chef Jared and Danielle

“You can’t just have a Caesar salad here!” he chided him, telling him he would happily make him something special. When Michael said he didn’t want to put him out, Chef Jared looked at him and laughed. “I’m a chef,” he said. “I like to make different dishes.” (Important note: Chef Jared said he would do this for anyone who had any kind of dietary restrictions so don’t ever feel shy about asking.)

So while I was happily eating this

Opryland quesadilla

Michael was happily eating this!

Opryland soup

And then, Chef Jared brought out a portobello mushroom creation that was so delicious, Michael asked him if he would come home with us. I nodded, eagerly, because my mouth was full of ribs and a honey roll was poised to be next.

Opryland meal

Although we were so full, they could have rolled us out of there like one of those Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels, we, of course, ordered dessert because, well — banana pudding cream pie.

Opryland banana pudding cream pie

We’re not stupid.

Chef Jared asked us where we were eating tomorrow night — a question that seemed unfathomable after we had just stuffed ourselves. He suggested we eat at Ravello, where his mentor was the Chef, and we immediately agreed to make a reservation.

As we waddled out of the restaurant, we realized we were right in time for the nightly Fountain Show.

Opryland purple fountain

Opryland green fountain


Opryland - L&M blue fountain

With water splashing 85 feet high to colored lights and music, it was beautiful and a perfect ending to a perfect day — and only a prelude to what would follow tomorrow.


  1. What a wonderful trip! It must have been something else having the chef go out of his way to please you guys! And the food looks amazing!

  2. These are some gorgeous photos. I love taking vacations and visiting locations where there is so much to see and so much to experience.

  3. You did so much on your trip! I have always wanted to visit that area and I love living vicariously through you.

  4. I had no idea that Opry Land was so big. 9 acres is huge. Now, you have made me want to go too!!

  5. Wow that place is gorgeous! I would love to visit someday.

  6. Wow, that is a stunning hotel! I’d love to visit even if I wasn’t staying for a night or three.

  7. Wow, kind of a mini Las Vegas. I had no idea! And the BBQ!

  8. Nashville’s one of those cities you will leave a bit of your heart in – and be totally fine with that. What an experience you guys had there. Thanks for taking us along!

  9. Wow this looks so gorgeous! It must have been an awesome trip, I love that waterfall photo!

  10. Thanks for the vicarious vacation! I’ve been immobilized with a broken toe, so the only adventures I can go on are the ones I read about. LOVE the photos. You surely know how to live.

  11. Jennifer Williams says:

    That looks amazing, I really want to visit there one day. It looks like you two are having a fabulous time on your trip.

  12. The food pics were totally unfair to my stomach! Looked like you had a marvelous time. Where next??!

  13. What a blast from the past! The Opry! Minnie Pearl and Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty and Dolly…..not like that anymore, I guess!

  14. Who knew??????????

  15. i would have gained five lbs because i would have eaten it ALL!

  16. I would be in heaven surrounded by all those indoor waterfalls! So jealous! I am definitely adding this to my extensive travel bucket list!

  17. I love taking photos and blogging about the places we go, it’s such a nice memory to share with others and you can look back years later and say “awee” and remember the good times you had. Great pictures, looks like you are having a great time!!

  18. That southern hospitality is such a breath of fresh air isn’t it? Love the continuation of this awesome bucket list trip! Traveling with a purpose my friend!

  19. Wow. I am so impressed. I want to be there. You are seriously making me add Opryland to my places to visit list.

  20. I’ve wanted to visit there ever since I saw it on 19 Kids and Counting! Looks like a great place to go!

  21. Are you still in that damn Buick?! Good thing it’s comfy! I don’t know anyone who has done as comprehensive a tour of that area as you have. I must say it’s intriguing me a lot! I just might have to head that way next year.

  22. Lois I. Van Dahm says:

    All this and donuts too! You’re a” hon” after my own heart!

  23. It looks like you had such a fun trip. I remember when Opryland wasn’t what it is today. And being from MS and living in PA, I miss the South.

  24. It is hard to leave a good balcony, I’ll give you that… and it’s rare to find one!! Everything here looks fantastic!

  25. Wow, I had no idea! I really want to visit now!

  26. I have always wanted to go there! Looks like you guys had a great time too. Can’t wait to make fun trips like these with my hubby in days to come. 🙂

  27. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    I am sitting here salivating over the food. That barbecue looks beyond amazing. Opryland sounds awesome! I would love to visit someday.

  28. I have heard such awesome things about this place. It is gigantic!

  29. Man that Buick has given you miles of great discovery!
    What an amazing trip
    I would be happy as Michael eating that too
    Love the JD bottle river story

  30. What a beautiful place, the food looks amazing!

  31. Wow what a gorgeous sounding place! I love the light shows beautiful.

  32. What a fantastic trip. Made me wish I was there. Love the Jack Daniels water story and had to share with my husband – big Jack Daniels fan. We may have to consider it for our next vacations

  33. What a great trip! It’s more than a hotel, it’s a destination! And, it looks gorgeous! However, the photos of the food…I almost licked my screen!

  34. Sounds like a really great place to stay and the food looks yummy!

  35. wow what a beautiful place and the food looks amazing.sounds like you had a wonderful time.

  36. That looks like such a neat place. My husband stayed there for a conference once and said it was a massive place. We’ve visited the Gaylord Texan several times.

  37. Wow, What a place to visit! This is simply breath taking from these photos! Can’t wait to read more about it!

  38. I am so impressed with this place! The water and light show are both awesome features.

  39. Oh, how pretty! We have a Gaylord here in Orlando, too, but I think yours has more!

  40. I’ve already pinned this! I’m going to Charleston for my anniversary and I’ve been really looking forward to it. Now I’m jealous! Looks like a fall vacation!

  41. Wow. Neat place. Loos like such a magical experience.

  42. What an awesome trip. I love the photos you shared!

  43. This looks and sounds like it was an amazing trip.

  44. Oh, oh, oh, I have stayed here! I was at Blissdom when it was here! Loved that hotel. So glad you had a good time!

  45. I have never heard of this place before. However, I want to go visit now!

  46. Your Buick Bucket List trip is getting better and better every day. That fountain show truly looks like the highlight of the evening. Nice pics. 🙂

  47. What an amazing trip! I’d love to visit there someday.

  48. What a fun place to tour. Not only was the scenery just gorgeous, the food looked amazing!

  49. Wow. It is GORGEOUS in there! I had no idea it’s so pretty. I’d love to visit one day!

  50. That food looks absolutely amazing and I loved that you received special attention from the chef. I loved the story regarding the collecting of water from all the state. That is or was a great idea.

  51. How fun! What a great place to visit. Thanks for the fieldtrip!

  52. Gosh, i’ve literally drooled on that soup, haha!

  53. Amanda Love says:

    The photos are beautiful and I would so love to go here. I’m so happy that you’re enjoying your bucket list trips.

  54. What a beautiful place, the food also looks amazing!

  55. Oh my gosh, what a beautiful place for a getaway! It looks like you had such an incredible time 🙂

  56. This looks like an amazing place to go and spend a bit of time!! Beautiful!!! That bread pudding! The picture made my mouth water!

  57. I got lost in there every single time I go, but it’s a place worth getting lost in. It’s really magnificent!

  58. Wow! What an amazing place! I haven’t been to hotel this cool! And the food looks delicious too!

  59. That area looks very nice, I have never visited there. The food looks yummy!

  60. That looks like a really nice get away. The food looks amazing

  61. How beautiful!! Honestly I love places that feel like you are part of nature. I am actually scheduling a trip you go “glamping” soon! Glamorous + Camping. It looks really fun. You get massages and facials and then sleep outside in a tent. Love it!

    • Lois Alter Mark says:

      We went “glamping” in Africa last summer and it was amazing! More glam than camping, which is just how I like it. Have fun and can’t wait to hear about your trip!

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