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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Emilee Dehmer
Middle Tennessee: Opryland Hotel Holiday Lights, Nashville
There are so many cool and exciting places in Tennessee. So many, that you might not know about them all. That’s what Go See Tennessee is all about. We’re here to tell you about places we think are neat and that you might want to visit too. It might be helpful to make a “Go and See” List, and whenever you read about a place that sounds cool, write it down, to help you remember it for the future. Ready for this week’s place? Let’s go!
Lights. Not just any lights- holiday lights, and four million of them. That’s what you’ll find when you visit the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN during November and December for their A Country Christmas event. If you’re confused as to where a hotel would even begin to put four million lights, let me rewind for a moment and introduce you to the Opryland Hotel.
The Opryland Hotel (officially named the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center) is one of the thirty largest hotels in the world. It originally opened in 1977 alongside the, now closed, Opryland USA amusement park.
This newspaper article from 1972 features articles and planning information for the
new theme park Opryland USA. The Opryland Hotel was opened to support the park.
Step inside and you’ll find a tropical, greenhouse atmosphere. The hotel houses more than 18,000 plants, a three and half story tall waterfall, and a river that flows through the different sections of the indoor gardens. You can even take a boat ride on the river! During the holiday season, the hotel transforms this space into a winter wonderland of activities and lights.
Nashville Luxury Hotels | Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (marriott.com)- An interior view of the hotel during the holidays.
Enjoyed in November and December for the past thirty-seven years, the hotel puts up over four million lights, miles of garland, 15,000 poinsettias and a 48 foot tall tree. They transform some of their restaurants into holiday themes, and have a variety of activities to take part in. You can get your picture with Santa, try out ice tubing, ice skating, or ice bumper cars! There’s so much to do, that if you stopped to try everything, it would take about 17 hours to do it all!
Nashville Luxury Hotels | Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (marriott.com)- A view of the 48 ft tall tree.
So how long does it take to put up four million lights? The answer is about four months. The gardeners start setting up the lights at the beginning of July for the trees outside. The Cyprus trees have each individual branch wrapped separately. The magnolia trees have a huge canopy of lights draped over top of them. The gardeners will even wear their Santa’s hats in the middle of the summer while hanging the lights to bring in some holiday cheer.
Emilee Dehmer- Some of the four million lights you’ll see inside the hotel.
With all their lights and attractions, it’s no wonder the Opryland Hotel has been named one of the “most Christmassy hotels” in the world. While the hotel is known for its holiday displays now, that wasn’t always the case. Back when the hotel first opened, it had to close for the holidays and the end of year because there weren’t many tourists coming to stay. This was partially due to the Opryland USA theme park also closing for the season. One day, one of the executives had the idea to create a Christmas show at Opryland USA and package the tickets to show with a room at the hotel. This was the beginning of A Country Christmas!
Emilee Dehmer- A tree made entirely of poinsettias inside the hotel.
Coming to see the lights at the Opryland Hotel is a move in the bright direction. The lights end for the season on January 3, 2021 but if you miss them this year, don’t worry! They’ll be back next year, probably with even more lights than before. One thing is for sure, the holiday lights at Opryland will be un-fir-gettable.
Emilee Dehmer- A snowman sculpture welcoming you to A Country Christmas.
Emilee Dehmer is an Educator at the Tennessee State Museum.