Travel in TN: Grand Ole Opry- Nashville
Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville, TN
I told y’all that I was determined to see, do, and experience more in my own state this year, and that includes right here in Nashville! We’re currently one of the hottest tourists destinations in the country, so there are obviously some fun things to do here, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t take full advantage of all our city has to offer.
Sometimes it takes an out-of-town friend visiting to prompt you into action, which is exactly what happened in this case. Back in April, my friend Libby and her mom took a little road trip from Chicago to Nashville, and we had plans to get together for a low key dinner on a Tuesday night of their stay.
Sinema selfies before a night at the Opry
That afternoon she texted saying that they had a wild hair and were going to buy tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and wanted me to join them. I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely gung-ho about going– I’m not a huge country fan (gasp!) –but this was Lib, the same person that got me on a Pedal Tavern a couple of years ago. Enough said?
Turns out that in addition to their normal 7 pm showtime, the Opry also has some 9:30 pm shows on occasion, and that’s what they were able to get tickets for. That meant that we were still able to keep our reservation for Sinema, indulging in a delicious dinner beforehand. (which naturally meant lots of bathroom antics as we tried to get the perfect #SinemaSelfie)
Keith Urban and Blake Shelton at the Opry, April 2017
While I’d been in the Opry house in recent years for some holiday shows, it had been a very long time since I’d been to the actual Grand Ole Opry. Like, maybe 25 years??? So to be quite honest, I didn’t remember that much about it and I was probably a little too young to appreciate it way back then.
Well, now that has all changed.
Just hearing the Del McCoury Band, Montgomery Gentry, and Keith Urban perform that evening was a treat, but the icing on the cake was the surprise guest. Midway through the show, out onto the stage strode the always charismatic cutie, Blake Shelton. While I don’t know a single Blake Shelton song, the energy in that room was amazing as he performed, and right then I knew I was hooked for life.
Vince Gill at the Opry, September 2017
Since that night in April, I’ve now been to the Opry three more times. That’s a total of 4 times in 7 months. Do you think that’s a record for a girl that just a few short months ago readily claimed that she was “not a country fan”?
I’ve heard John Conlee sing Rose Colored Glasses, Henry Cho perform stand up comedy, become a fan of Brothers Osborne, discovered the lovely Carly Pearce, and been entertained by the banter between Trisha Yearwood and Brenda Lee.
And that’s not all. There was Vince Gill, Darius Rucker, Kelsea Ballerini, Charles Esten, Easton Corbin, Runaway June, Jeannie Seely, Mike Snider, Jamey Johnson, Bill Anderson, and the always incredible Alison Krauss. That’s still not everyone I’ve seen, but at least it gives you some idea. There’s truly nothing else like it. Each Opry performance is made up of official Opry members and guest artists with a broad spectrum of styles.
Date night at the Grand Ole Opry- we got to go on stage!
Founded in November of 1925, the Grand Ole Opry originated as the “WSM Barn Dance” in the radio studio of National Life & Accident Insurance Company, and wasn’t given it’s current name until late 1927. (Side note: this fact should dispel the myth that I hear often in my day job at Goo Goo — that the Goo Goo Cluster was named for the Grand Ole Opry – GOO. Great story and we love the association, but Goo Goos were invented and named in 1912!)
The longest running radio broadcast in US history has changed venues a few times. They quickly outgrew the studio at National Life and moved to what is now our Belcourt Theatre in Hillsboro Village, then to Dixie Tabernacle in East Nashville before spending a few years at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville. In 1943, the Opry moved to what is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music”, the Ryman Auditorium, where it stayed until 1974.
Backstage Tour of the Grand Ole Opry
Then the brand new Opry house opened a few miles East of downtown, adjacent to Opryland theme park (RIP). This new facility provided ample parking, almost double the capacity of the Ryman, and air conditioning. (which luckily the Ryman also now has!)
When you visit the Opry, you should definitely take advantage of one of their three tours. They offer a daytime tour, a post-show tour, and a VIP tour where you actually get to stand on the stage as the curtain goes up.
Looking out from backstage as Charles Esten performs at the Opry
On one of my visits, I even got to stand center stage in the circle of wood that was removed from the Ryman Auditorium when the show moved from that historic venue in 1974. As anyone who has heard me sing can attest, this will most definitely be the closest I’ll ever come to performing at the Opry.
Trisha Yearwood, Opry Goes Pink, October 2017
So when should you go to the Opry? Honestly, any time. With anyone. For me it’s been a spontaneous fun night out with a girlfriend, a date night with my husband, a special experience with a large group of friends as the Opry “went pink”, and a Ryman adventure with my kiddo.
Date with the Kiddo at Cafe Lula before the Opry
Perhaps my favorite of all my visits this year was the one earlier this month with my little guy, and it had nothing to do with who was performing (although I do love me some Allison Krauss). Not only was it Archer’s first Opry performance, but it was also his first visit to the Ryman, and he was SO excited.
For the winter months, the Grand Ole Opry moves to its old home, the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville to free up the Opry house for holiday themed performances like the Rockettes and this year’s Cirque Holidaze (which we also recently attended).
Kiddo’s first visit to the Ryman!
Before the show, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at Cafe Lula, which is attached to the Ryman Auditorium. If you’re looking for a quick bite before a show there, this is a great option, particularly with kids. It’s a fast casual setting, where you order at the counter and they run the food out to your table. The menu is even pretty healthy — we ordered rotisserie chicken, the vegetable of day (broccoli), and smoked gouda mac & cheese. Okay, so maybe that item wasn’t the healthiest, but it was certainly delicious. As was our dessert, which was perhaps THE BEST peanut butter cup cookie I’ve ever had!
In fact, I may need to run over to Cafe Lula this week and grab one more of those before I embark on Whole30 in January ;-)
The Ryman Auditorium
For the show, we had great seats down on the main floor, just a few feet from the stage. Of course, we only stayed in those seats for about 40 minutes before my extremely energetic 5 year old date was ready to explore.
I get it, kid. I’d want to see what was up that big staircase too if I’d never been!
Date with the kiddo at the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman
So we watched part of the show from our seats, part of it while standing in the balcony, and then listened to some from the foyer as Archer checked out every nook and cranny. He even gave the ushers a little show as he tried to outdo the Opry Square Dancers with his own dance moves. Thankfully they were entertained and not annoyed.
The Grand Ole Opry has shows every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night, so if you’re traveling in from out of town, plan your visit accordingly. Ticket prices range from $40 -$99, and you can purchase those here.
If you’re a local and haven’t yet experienced the Opry, seriously – GO. This local gained a whole new appreciation for our city’s country music history over the last few months and now consider myself something I never imagined I would: a die-hard Grand Ole Opry fan!
Ryman Auditorium, December 2017
Thanks to the Grande Ole Opry for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are 100% mine!