NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Christmas tradition for many in the Tennessee Valley is a trip to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Their annual "A Country Christmas" offers family fun year after year.
We may not have a winter wonderland here in Alabama, but you only have to go to Nashville to get the ultimate winter experience. The Gaylord Opryland's "A Country Christmas" is back, and with their signature holiday attract, "ICE!"
Whoville, Cindy Lou Who, and the Grinch, like you've never seen them before, made entirely out of ice.
"We have over 6,000 blocks of ice that arrive and each one weights 340 Pounds. and they are stacked together and carved into what you see here today, to the theme of How the Grinch Stole Christmas," said Tammy Henry, the Director of Marketing for the hotel.
In its 18th year, it is a major holiday attraction at the Gaylord Opryland.
"It's amazing. When you walk through you're taken aback to walking actually through the storybook of How the Grinch Stole Christmas," Henry said. "And you'll actually walk through each of the scenes of that story. The most popular room is where we are now, which is the slide room."
Over 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures and slides make up the attraction. And it's kept a chilly 9 degrees to keep the ice frozen until January 1st. It takes a lot of skilled hands to build it.
"Over 40 artisans come to Nashville from Harbin, China, which is the home of the International Snow and Ice Festival," said Henry.
It takes about 33 days to carve the attraction. Guests can also check out the hand-carved nativity scene.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Imagine a Broadway musical, cirque show, and a holiday spectacular wrapped in one, and you only have to go to Nashville to see it. Cirque Dreams Holidaze returns to the Gaylord Opryland's "A Country Christmas."
World class dancers, acrobats, and contortionists converge on the stage of the Grand Old Opry House, creating one dizzying performance.
"They have put so much action on the stage so that every single person, kids from one to 92, everyone has something to look at its spectacular," said Stephanie Benton, a singer in Cirque Dreams Holidaze.
Benton is a singer in the show and a Nashville native, but most of the actors certainly aren't local.
"You can't imagine some of the amazing talent we've gotten. I believe the Cirque Dreams family covers over 16 countries," she said.
The show is back after it's success last year. It offers the same family entertainment with some new additions.
"We have a fun new number that they added this year, it's called Deck the Halls, and I'm lucky enough to get to sing it," said Benton. "But it's kind of a jazzy deck the halls."
The whole show is put together in only ten days. There are over 30 performers, 20 acts, hundreds of props, and over 300 hundred different costumes.
"Every single stone, every single sequin is hand sewn on to every costume and when you look at it you're almost taken out of reality to this other world," she said.
The Cirque Dreams Holidaze show is a top attraction of the resort.
"You look out at the end of the show and people are just beaming. There's that joy of sharing such a fun Christmas experience with the family," said Benton.
The show will be on the Opry House stage until December 28th.
One of their main attractions is their opulent holiday decorations. They work hard each year to top the previous one, creating a dreamy winter wonderland.
"Trying to find the new varieties of poinsettias, trying to change up the display, see what's new. So it's a lot of Pinterest," said Megan McDugald, the Chief Engineer Horticulture and Pest Control.
McDuglad's job is to deck the halls of the nine-acre resort and convention center.
"We're trying to make it bigger and better every year, adding more lights, more poinsettias, more decor, so there's lots to see," she said.
The hotel starts decorating for the holidays in July. There are over 15,000 poinsettias and over 3.2 million different lights.
"Luckily a lot of them are LEDs, so our power bill stays under control," McDuglad said.
The resort uses 10 miles of red ribbon and 15 miles of garland. Four horticulturists string the lights, just like you would at home, but on a much larger scale.
"They stay up until January 2nd. The outside lights take about two months to take off," she said.
The thousands of poinsettias are grown locally as well as in Alabama and Michigan.
"That's the best part of my job is seeing the people's reaction especially year after year they come to take their picture at the poinsettia tree," McDugald said. "And that's what makes my job satisfying, is just seeing the look on their face as the experience Opryland for the first time of maybe several time.
The first upscale indoor/outdoor resort water attraction is coming to the U.S. and it will be right around the corner. The Gaylord Opryland in Nashville is debuting it's new attraction next month and continues to bring the holiday staples of their "A Country Christmas" celebration.
The resort boasts having something fun for everyone, and now they have something else for every season.
"From gingerbread decorating corner for the smaller children, and kids train rides, to thrilling things this year we have as part of SoundWaves which is our new water attraction that's opening. It's our new indoor-outdoor water experience that will be open year round," said Tammy Henry, the hotel's Director of Marketing."
SoundWaves fuses water and music in 111,000 square feet of indoor water and adventure activities, like a multistory water slide, surfing, rock climbing, virtual reality experiences among others.
But if you're an adult looking for a more relaxing vacation, they say they've got that too.
"There's a lot of fun for adults, we've got a mixology class on Saturdays that you can learn how to make your own cocktails at home," said Trudy Thomas, the Director of Beverage for the Gaylord Opryland. "Taste the flavors of the season, we put them with premium spirits, and just a little bit of culinary magic like a chef would in the kitchen."
There are twelve different pop-up bars around the resort all serving holiday menus. As well as different holiday shows.
"We have ice skating. It's an indoor rink. It's an 8,000 indoor rink. and we also have live performances with championship skaters that will be throughout the day during the holidays," said Tammy Henry.
Something Fun for Everyone
Over a million guests will make their way to the Gaylord Opryland hotel this Christmas season.
"We put so much work into this event that once it opens and your ability to see the families and the friends and the groups that are coming through and just the looks on their faces," said Tammy Henry, the Director of Marketing. "It just brings a new way through our own eyes of looking at this and making sure that we're not taking it for granted during the holidays our selves."
The 35th annual "A Country Christmas" offers something for just about everyone.
"There's the scavenger hunt that's throughout the hotel. There's the Delta boat ride, it tells the twelve days of Christmas. Outside there carriage rides that you can see the Christmas lights as well as the nativity scene," said Megan McDugald, the Cheif Engineer Horticulture and Pest Control.
The popular Cirque Dreams Holidaze show is back for another year.
"Even if you don't celebrate Christmas there's something about that joy of giving that just really comes to life when you see the audience at the very end," said Stephanie Benton, a Cirque Dreams Holidaze Singer. "And I don't remember a single show last year that we didn't have a standing ovation at the end of the show. And that just kind of takes our breath away."
The resort also has their signature ice attraction and plenty of music.
"We also have the Trace Adkins dinner show for the first time this year. He'll be singing songs from his album The King's Gift," said Tammy Henry.
She said they also train rides, and of course visits with the man himself, Santa Claus. The Gaylord Opryland's "A Country Christmas" is open until January 1st.