Nashville: Gaylord Opryland Resort

A few weeks ago I told you about my drive across country. I knew I wanted to make Nashville more than just a late stop, like the other cities. We planned to only drive about 7 hours the day we end up in Nashville and we didn’t really have a plan for the following day. Unfortunately our plans got a little postponed.

We planned to have a late lunch in Memphis on our way from Arkansas but then somebody (this girl) locked her keys in the car and we spent the better part of an hour and a half sitting at a random gas station in the middle of nowhere. So we ended up in Memphis for dinner and three hours later we were in Nashville just in time to watch the last quarter of the Predator’s playoff game as we got ready for the night. It was a Monday night so we really didn’t know what to expect, but we ended up having an amazing time and stumbling back to the hotel at 4:30 in the morning.

So after a very unpredictable day, and a long night, we decided it would be best to stay at the resort and explore what it had to offer.

When I was looking at hotels to stop at along the way, one of my travel agent co-workers told me we had to stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. This is a man that has been around the world, twice, and he was insistent that we needed to stop here. You listen to someone like that. This Tuesday it was raining like crazy but luckily, Gaylord Opryland Hotel, just like all of the other Gaylord properties, is built around huge atrium making most of the activities in doors.

What we did:

When it was raining all day on Tuesday we were a little concerned about what we were going to do in Nashville in the rain so we decided it was probably best to spend the day exploring the resort. One of the first things we noticed when we got there was that there was a little riverboat ride throughout the Delta Atrium. For something like $10 we hoped on for a little 20 minute ride throughout the largest area of the property. Think of Jungle Cruise in Disneyland with a little bit of history about the resort thrown in there. The guide told us about how a flood ruined the entire area that we were in and they had to remodel the majority of the hotel because of it. They also sent out hundreds of Jack Daniels bottles to different countries for them to return to the resort, and that is the water that is in their river, which is pretty awesome.

After the Delta Riverboat we walked around to all of the different shops. There are shops where you can get your simple travel necessities, country music memorabilia, Tennessee honey and BBQ sauce, and even a cute little toy store. Since it was a weekday we were pretty lucky and it wasn’t too crowded.

Where we ate:

By the time we rolled out of bed, it was lunch time and we were craving greasy pub food to soak up the alcohol that we had over indulged in the night before. Findey Irish Pub was exactly what we needed. Unfortunately, it didn’t really impress our hung over hungriness but it did its job. Not sure if I’d try here again to be honest though.

When you first walk into the main entrance of the resort, you can’t miss the Falls restaurant. Set right in the middle of the Cascades atrium was the property’s lobby bar which appropriately had waterfalls falling alongside the restaurant. 3pm came around and we decided it was time for a little happy hour. The three of us split a charcuterie board, the girls had wine and I had to try their Jameson Mule. The ambiance was amazing, and it started to pick up as we sat there longer. It was a great place to just sit around, people watch, and enjoy the good food and drinks.

Before we headed out we were craving a little something sweet, and definitely a midday coffee pick me up was needed so we headed over to the Conservatory Café and Christie Cookies for some gelato and coffee. These two little cafes are right across the hall from each other and we took our gelato and coffee to a little sitting spot that over looked the Garden Conservatory.

Where we stayed:

The hotel is broken into different areas which are all named. We stayed in the largest section, the Delta. They were remodeling parts of the hotel and we ended up getting lost a few times (including 4:30 in the morning when we got home). But otherwise I liked staying in this area because we were facing the outside of the resort. Our view wasn’t so great but it was much quieter than if we were staying on the inside of the areas. All of the inside rooms have balconies that overlook the different atriums, which can get pretty noisy if you are trying to sleep in, which we clearly were that day. Also some of the atriums have little sky walks and if you are at eye level to a sky walk, people can see right into your room, which is a little weird.

This little gem of a resort is definitely worth checking out if you visit Nashville. There is so much to do and explore, we were only able to scrape of the top of what they had to offer before we had to head on to our next hotel.

CA to CT Road Trip… Days 3, 4 and 5

When I was looking for places to stop along the way for my move from Orange County to Connecticut, I really didn’t even know where to begin. It got to the point for our second night on the road where I just picked the town with the biggest font on the map. And I was I was joking even a little bit, but would you know where to stay between Oklahoma City and Nashville?

Day 3: Ft. Smith to Nashville, Tennessee

We woke up on day three in Ft. Smith, AK and what I thought would be a random town, turned out to be absolutely beautiful. This town is a Midwesterner hipster’s heaven. We woke up at our Courtyard Marriott in downtown Ft. Smith not knowing really what we drove into the night before but we did a little googling and found out that Ft. Smith had 19 murals painted throughout the town by one artist. We loved it! So we started our morning off at the brand new Ft. Smith Coffee Company which had just opened 3 weeks prior. Too cute! And then we took our coffees on a morning stroll throughout the town. Coffee in one hand, cameras in the other. We found about half of the 19 pieces of art. Definitely such a random town that I’d love to go back and visit. There were tons of restaurants, breweries and little mom and pop shops.

But we got on the road and headed toward Tennessee because we knew we wanted to have lunch at a BBQ spot in Memphis and be in Nashville by the start of the Stanley Cup playoff game, which was in downtown Nashville.

Until I locked my keys in the car at a gas station. Oh Arkansas, your people are amazingly beautiful people. Just about an hour, and small little rain storm later, we were back on the road and lunch turned into a 4pm stop in Memphis. Not going to lie, next time we will have to do a little more research on the whole BBQ stop. The food was good but definitely not what I was expecting to get in the best city for BBQ in the country. Also, the setting was not what I was expecting. I wanted picnic benches and beer, not downtown Memphis. By the way, many of the mom and pop BBQ restaurants are closed on Mondays, and guest what! It was Monday.

So moving onto Nashville, TN. We ended up stopping at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel a little later than expected thanks to our extended stay at the gas station back in Arkansas. A whole post will come later this month about this amazing hotel, but because we arrived later than expected, we debating on going out or staying at one of the many hotel bars. We were traveling right in the middle of the hockey playoffs and that Monday night just happened to be the night Predators beat the Penguins at home. So celebrating the home team’s victory a block from where the game was played definitely trumped staying at the hotel.

So we headed out to Broadway and let me tell you… this night was the icing on the cake that was our cross country adventure. We stopped at a few bars including Tin Roof, the Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar and Honky Tonk Central and really there were so many options, but besides Tin Roof which was a recommendation, we stumbling into the others. Honky Tonk Central was definitely a favorite of the night.

We ended the night eating at the Diner Nashville which is a 24 hour diner with 6 floors of amazing views of downtown Nashville. Besides normal diner food, they also had a full bar, sushi, oysters and small bites. Hello foodie lover’s paradise. Oh and they serve alcohol for 23 hours of the day, but if you’re not done with your drink at 3am they will take it from you. But don’t worry, you can order another one at 4am. That was defiantly our sign that we had to go home.

Day 4: Nashville to Knoxville, Tennessee

Yes you saw that right. We drove a measly 3 hours on day 4 simply because we were recovering from our 4am return to the hotel. Like I said, I’m going to do a whole post on this amazing resort but we spent the entire day at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort and then headed through Tennessee to Knoxville where we had a good old fashioned sleepover. We knew it was our last night of our drive and the next day would be our longest driving day so we ordered way too much pizza, got wine and watched HGTV until we fell asleep. Mellow Mushroom, for picking a random pizza place off of google, these girls who grew up on New Haven pizza were pretty impressed. My favorite was the Holy Shiitake Pie, but we also got the Loaded Potato Pie and the Great White. All of them were amazing.

Day 5: Knoxville to Connecticut

When I tell you I never thought we were going to get out of Virginia, I mean it. Ok, so we stopped at a winery for two hours for a tasting and lunch, and then also detoured onto the Blue Ridge Parkway but damn, Virginia is big! We stopped at WhiteBarrel winery in Christiansburg and it was well worth it. The wine was fantastic, food was delicious and the views were absolutely breathtaking. I had never thought of Shenadoah Valley as a place to go for wineries but was I mistaken. Definitely much smaller than the California and Oregon wine countries I am used to but beautiful. I did a tasting of just reds and loved every single one, but the Cabernet Franc was my favorite. We left with a case of wine and orders from the owner of the winery to explore the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way home.

So we took an hour long detour off of Route 81 and headed into Shenadoah National Park. Just a warning this is a super windy, narrow drive for much of it. And also there is no quick way out. This route is definitely a commitment, so if you’re in a rush I wouldn’t recommend it.

Six hours later we were finally out of Virginia and on our way straight through New York City and home into Connecticut.

This trip was the therapy I needed to spend time with my sister and best friend before heading home after seven years. We had such an amazing time and got to see so many areas of the country that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. It gave me a lot of respect for the middle of the country. I never knew how beautiful Oklahoma, Arkensas, Tennessee and Virginia were and I am so glad I didn’t just fly over these amazing parts of our country like I have so many times in the past.