Confession time: I grew up in the Huntsville area and lived here most of my life. But up until now, I had never spent any time at Gaylord Opryland or Opry Mills in Nashville. As a kid, Opryland was the epitome of an awesome vacation to me, but I had never explored its current-day legacy as a parent. When Opry Mills invited me just a couple hours north from Huntsville to experience it as a family destination for my own kids, I was floored!
What to Do at Opry Mills
Learn How a Radio Show Built a City
Downtown Nashville is known for its infamous honky-tonks, hot chicken, and rich country music history, but I was excited to learn more about how all that came to be in the first place. The origin of it all? The Grand Ole Opry.
To share the Opry’s history is to share the story of country music and a unique piece of American culture. First broadcast as a radio show over 90 years ago, it introduced the masses to the genre of country music. The show launched the careers of countless musicians and the Music City sprang up as the first major city in the United States to form a metropolitan government.
Today, the Grand Ole Opry House is still the heart of Nashville. Even if you’re not a country music fan, you can’t help but get swept up in the excitement of a show! It’s still broadcast on 650 AM WSM and performed in a lively radio-show style that entertains all ages. Every night is a different lineup, and features a great mix of classic country, bluegrass, and today’s stars. We saw Tanya Tucker sing Delta Dawn, and Riders in the Sky croon some of their cowboy songs (little Toy Story fans would love them!). The same show we saw also featured a performance by Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne on the hit show Nashville!
The bottom line, if you go, don’t skip a Grand Ole Opry Show.
Shopping & Attractions Inside Opry Mills
The Opry Mills area has recovered completely since the flooding in 2010, and they’ve added so much more for families to do since then!
Madame Tussauds, Nashville
A brand new attraction to Opry Mills is Madame Tussauds wax museum, and this one has a special twist. Unlike other locations, you won’t find any sports figures, actors, or politicians in this Madame Tussauds – here it’s all about the MUSIC! You’ll find your favorite American musicians and get to interact with lots of hands-on activities throughout the museum. Help Bruce Springstein write some lyrics, rock out with Reba McIntyre, sit at the piano with Stevie Wonder – I’ve never seen American music history come to life so well before!
There’s also a Regal Cinema 20 and IMAX Theater as well as a Dave and Busters in the mall for more entertainment options.
Shopping is high on the list of things to do, and Opry Mills has several retailers we don’t have in Huntsville. The LEGO Store is a must for little (and big!) brick-heads, and the Disney Outlet can provide your princess fix. There’s a great mix of outlets and retail stores – a Kate Spade & Old Navy Outlet, a giant Bass Pro Shops, and clothing stores like Tilly’s & Torrid. Opry Mills now has a Smith Creek Moonshine Distillery & Tasting Bar if sampling some peach moonshine is up your alley.
Where to Stay & What to Eat
Gaylord Opryland Resort
If you’ve never been, it truly is a wonderful place to get lost. The Gaylord Opryland Resort is like a small city unto itself – in fact, it’s the largest non-casino hotel in the U.S. The best part? It doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside – there’s always something to do at this resort with kids year-round!
- 9 acres of indoor gardens and waterfalls
- Over 50,000 tropical plants inn their gardens
- 2,888 rooms in four different styles of lodging
- A European-inspired spa
- 18 restaurants, pubs, & cafes
- 3 swimming pools for family fun
- Delta Riverboats that wind down the indoor river
- Daily & nightly indoor fountain show
- Seasonal & holiday attractions year-round
Good Eats at Opry Mills
Since the Gaylord Hotel and Opry Mills are right next to each other, there’s no shortage of places to eat, including some restaurants your kids will be VERY excited about.
A dining destination for animal-loving kids! Enjoy a meal with elephants, monkeys, and other tropical rainforest animals. You can even share a chocolate volcano for dessert! Read our Parent Review before you go.
Imagine eating really good seafood while surrounded by a 200,000-gallon tank, home to a wide variety of fish, sharks, stingrays and more! They offer a great kid’s menu and even have a Mystic Mermaid show on select days & nights.
Be transported to a German biergarten, complete with a live Oompa band, and tasty traditional German food. Fall is the perfect time to go enjoy their sausages, giant pretzels, schnitzels and strudels!
Nashville is a great place to bring the family for a Fall Break road trip. There’s plenty to do with kids in the Opry Mills area alone, and you have the added benefit of not having to drive for hours and hours to get there from Huntsville! Before you go, be sure to stop by our friends at Nashville Fun for Families to see what’s going on.
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Huge thanks to Opry Mills for hosting me for my stay in Music City! Compensation for this post was provided by MP&F Public Relations. Opinions expressed here are my own.
Stephenie has worked with and around books and authors for over 12 years, both at retail booksellers and public libraries. She is a rare Huntsville native, mother of two high-energy boys, wife of one, and eerily addicted to community volunteering. When she's not being the Managing Editor for RCM she likes to stalk her favorite authors online, cook with way too much butter, and also manages to conduct freelance marketing and PR work.