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Music City Holiday

Festive decorations, concerts, and other events light up Nashville.
By Cheré Coen

Nashville, with its rich Southern history and multi-cultural heritage, owns a special charm. For the holidays, the city–America’s country music epicenter–lights up, adding one more reason to visit Nashville. There are plenty of holiday activities to choose from, plus many year-round attractions are dressed up this time of year.


Above: Nashville’s symphony has a gorgeous new home downtown that includes a choir loft to accommodate 146 singers. A variety of holiday music will be presented there in December. Nashville Symphony photo

In Title: Top: Gaylord Opryland Resort decks its halls–and everything else–for holiday guests. Gaylord Hotels photo

Below: A holiday tradition for many, the Rockettes® will star in a new holiday production in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry. MSG Entertainment photo


Around Opryland

Gaylord Opryland Resort (AAA Three Diamond) goes all out with its annual event, A Country Christmas that runs from Nov. 16 to Jan. 1. This year, Grand Ole Opry star Lorrie Morgan performs songs from her Merry Christmas from London album, among other hits, in Lorrie Morgan’s Enchanted Christmas Dinner and Show.

Families will not want to miss the ICE! exhibit featuring DreamWorks’ giant ice display, Shrek the Halls, that tells the story of Shrek attempting to create the perfect Christmas with disastrous results. Artisans travel from China every year to transform 2 million pounds of ice within the Opryland Events Center into the amazing walk-through exhibit that includes 20-foot ice slides. Dress warmly because its gets cold inside the exhibit.

The Opryland Resort, with approximately 3,000 rooms and nine acres of indoor gardens and waterfalls, dresses up for the holidays, and photos with Santa, carriage rides, the 1950s Holly Jolly Town Square, holiday train, and much more are part of the fun.

The famous Grand Ole Opry is located next to the hotel, and the Rockettes® return to this venue for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular®. This year, a new 3D movie experience shows Santa in New York City, but the highlight continues to be the Rockettes® performing the legendary Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and the living nativity.

During the holidays, the Grand Ole Opry show returns to its roots at Ryman Auditorium downtown. Starting in 1925 on the radio as WSM Barn Dance, the show was renamed the Grand Ole Opry in 1927 and went on to become one of radio’s longest and most popular shows. The Opry moved in 1943 to Ryman Auditorium and remained there for nearly 31 years before relocating into a larger space at Opryland.

Visitors get a unique chance to witness the show on the stage where country music greats, such as Minnie Pearl, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash performed. Elvis Presley even appeared on stage for one night in 1954.

The Opry will be at Ryman Auditorium for several shows from Nov. 2–Dec. 29, and will feature special guests.

You can always go downtown

Downtown Nashville celebrates the holidays beginning with the 60th Annual Nashville Christmas Parade on Dec. 7. The fun begins with the mayor’s tree lighting at 6:30 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. parade.

In addition to the Ryman Auditorium, another great performance space is the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC). Here, the Tennessee Repertory Theatre will present A Christmas Story from Dec. 1–22. The play is based on the motion picture and humorist Jean Shepherd’s memoir of growing up in the Midwest in the 1940s.

The Nashville Symphony’s new $123 million concert hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, includes almost 2,000 seats on three levels, a massive custom-built organ, and a choral loft that can accommodate 146 chorus members. What better place to experience G.F. Handel’s Messiah, which will be performed Dec. 20–22.

Other holiday events at Schermerhorn include Home for the Holidays on Dec. 13, where audience members are invited to sing Christmas favorites, and A Spirit for the Holidays on Dec. 22, a theatrical production with the Magic Circle Mime Company that concludes with another holiday sing-along. Joy, an Irish Christmas, will be at symphony hall on Dec. 23.

“Spirit for the Holidays is a great way to experience the symphony in a childlike way,” said Laurie Davis, Nashville Symphony publicist, adding that it’s perfect for ages 3–12. “It’s a narrative program, and it covers all the holidays.”

Pre-event activities for the Dec. 22 event include story time, an instrument petting zoo, and a chance for visitors to become conductors, Davis said.

Historical holiday fun

If downtown is your base camp for the holidays, The Hermitage Hotel (AAA Five Diamond), built in 1908 as Nashville’s first million-dollar hotel and named for Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage estate, makes for great holiday ambience. The lobby and dining areas are romantic any time of year, but are specially decorated for the holidays.

History comes alive in Nashville and nearby Franklin during the holidays with yuletide decorations, special activities, and re-enactors in costumes.

Adelicia Acklen was one of the city’s wealthiest residents, inheriting wealth from both parents and three husbands. Her Belmont Mansion is beautifully decorated at Christmastime and includes special events such as the holiday meals served in the Grand Salon on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and the free Christmas concert on Dec. 10 that concludes with traditional carols.

Andrew Jackson’s estate, The Hermitage, is a National Historic Landmark consisting of more than 1,000 acres. Inside Jackson’s home, nearly all of the furnishings are originals, and visitors can take in the beautiful holiday decorations.

The town of Franklin celebrates history in many forms, from Carnton Plantation and its role in the Civil War’s Battle of Franklin, to the 15-block downtown that is a National Register Historic District.

Historical homes, churches, and businesses open their doors for the annual Carter House Candlelight Tour on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, beginning at the Carter House, 1140 Columbia Ave.

The town’s annual Dickens of a Christmas, a free street festival with volunteers dressed as characters from Charles Dickens’ novels, will be Dec. 8 and 9 at Main Street and Public Square. There will be horse-drawn carriage rides, musicians, Victorian foods, and a “Town Sing” around the Public Square Christmas tree at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

With its varied attractions, events, and accommodation choices, you’ll sing the praises of a holiday getaway in Nashville.

Cheré Coen is a contributor from Lafayette, La.

Nov/Dec 2012 Issue


For more information, contact the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau at; for information about Franklin, visit the Williamson County Convention and Visitors Bureau at

Before you visit Nashville, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

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