You know how you never visit the Grand Ole Opry or the Loveless or Pancake Pantry until an out of town guest makes you go? And then after you go, you remind yourself how much fun it was and wonder why you don't do it more often? Well, the holiday season at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center can be a lot like that. Go ahead and melt that icy, cynical Grinchy shell around your heart and consider taking a trip up Briley this holiday season. You know your relatives want to go, and if nothing else, it will burn up a few hours that they might instead spend asking, "Why don't you get a REAL job, 'Mr. Blogger'? " (Sorry, that might just be me.)
Here's your insider's guide to what's going on culinarily out at the Opryland megaplex during A Country Christmas:
What it is: Breakfast with Charlie Brown and Friends
What it's like: Since they're already in town as the stars of this year's ICE! extravaganza, you have the chance to join Chuck B. and his Peanuts friends for a morning of family fun in Volare's Restaurant at Gaylord Opryland in the Garden Conservatory. The whole gang will be visiting from table to table 7 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until Christmas.
Who it's good for: Nieces and nephews who are still young enough to believe but who are old enough not to be terrified by characters with humongous heads
What it costs: $24.95 for adults; $14.95 for ages 3-11; free for children under 3
Power user tip: Volare's makes some of the best food in the entire Gaylord Opryland complex, so a generic breakfast buffet should be a piece of (pan)cake for them. Expect more than you expected.
What it is: Louise Mandrell's "Joy to the World" Christmas Dinner & Show
What it's like: Barbara's little sister returns for her second year as the headliner of her own holiday show featuring multi-instrumentalist Louise and a cast of dancers and singers performing secular and sacred classics. A huge holiday spread is served family-style before the show and features a fruit and cheese platter, three choices of salads, roasted chicken and beef tenderloin pot pies with all the fixin's and chocolate bread pudding or New York cheesecake for dessert. Heck, it's Christmas...have both desserts. Dinner will be served most nights at 5 for you early birds with an 8 p.m. seating available Dec. 4.
Who it's good for: Your grandmother who still gives you a subscription to Little Angels Magazine for Girls every Christmas
What it costs: $67 for adults, $35 for children
Power user tip: Executive Chef Michael Swann put this menu together with a specific request from Louise to substitute chicken instead of turkey in the main course so that audiences don't get sleepy during her performance.
What it is: A Country Christmas on the Cumberland
What it's like: This is the new evening show that takes place Nov. 19 through Dec. 25 in the Victorian Theater of the General Jackson showboat. A cast of attractive singers from Nashville provide the entertainment with classic and contemporary songs, including "Silent Night," "Carol of the Bells," "Mary, Did You Know" and "Sleigh Ride." This three-hour cruise down the Cumberland River includes a holiday dinner featuring a "sleigh bell" salad of romaine and iceberg lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, seasoned croutons and dried cranberries. The main entrée consists of slow-roasted prime rib of beef embellished with fresh herbs, cracked pepper and sea salt and served with candied yams, au gratin potatoes, green beans and freshly baked rolls. Chicken or salmon alternatives are also available. The meal is completed with a Christmas eggnog cheesecake. Drinks from the full bar and a decent, reasonably priced wine list are available from your server. The cruise is nicely timed for you to enjoy your coffee and dessert on the deck as the steamboat makes its big turn with a view of downtown Nashville.
Who it's good for: Your rich uncle who thinks money is no object when he's traveling to Music City for the holidays
What it costs:
Adults (ages 12 and above)
Tier 1: $87.95 plus tax
Tier 2: $78.95 plus tax
Juniors (ages 4-11)
Tier 1: $57.95 plus tax
Tier 2: $52.95 plus tax
Power user tip: If you're going with another couple, save some money and sit at one of the four-tops in the mezzanine. Let your guests have the seats on the railing and they'll have the best view in the house of the show. You won't be able to see squat, but hey, the holidays are about giving. Spend your savings on one of the General Jackson's utterly incongruous rum drinks served in a coconut carved like a monkey. I'm not making that up.
So join the approximately 1 million people who visit Gaylord's A Country Christmas every year. Visit their website or call (888) 999-OPRY for reservations.