Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • The Gaylord Opryland hotel has re-opened after flooding in Nashville, Tennessee, forced the landmark’s closure this spring.

    And its grand re-opening festivities happened during the season that the Gaylord Opryland does best – Christmas! I stopped by the Gaylord Opryland on a drive through Nashville recently and checked out some of the Christmas decorations that adorn the hotel’s atriums. There are hundreds of poinsettias, and millions of lights.

    The resort calls its holiday events “A Country Christmas.” This season, the celebration continues until Jan. 2, 2011. It includes:

    ICE! – A walk-through exhibit in a building chilled to 9 degrees. ICE! is an environment carved completely out of 2 million pounds of ice by artisans from Harbin, China. This year’s ICE! pays homage to the Christmas TV special “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

    SNOW! – New this year, SNOW! is an outdoor winter wonderland made out of – you guessed it – snow. There’s a snowman building area, a place to make snow angels and a snowball throwing range. You can make s’mores and even see some live reindeer.

    The Radio City Christmas Spectacular – This show straight from New York City features the famous Radio City Rockettes. It is performed in the Grand Ole Opry House and features classic Rockettes holiday numbers such as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.”

    Louise Mandrell’s “The Gift” Christmas dinner and show – This show features Louise Mandrell and her band doing Christmas music, choreography and comedy, along with a dinner of Christmas favorites. I grew up watching the Mandrell sisters on TV and pretending to be them with my two sisters. I was always Louise.

    Outdoor Nativity – You can listen to the Biblical Christmas story and watch a light show at one of the most elaborate outdoor nativities I’ve ever seen.

    Breakfast with Kris Kringle – Meet Kris Kringle and Topper from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” during these special breakfasts in Solario restaurant at the Gaylord Opryland.

    It’s not too late to plan a holiday getaway to Nashville. You can still get tickets to these events, and there are package deals that include A Country Christmas events and a stay at the Gaylord Opryland.

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  • If you find yourself in a hotel room over Christmas this year, here are some tips on making your hotel room feel a little more like Christmas. My nephew also joins me to talk about his special Christmas “job.”

    Want to submit your own holiday travel tip? Send us a link to your video and we’ll post it here on

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  • If you’re looking for a place to see Christmas lights in Evansville, Indiana, head to Garvin Park, where 61 light displays are set up as part of Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights.

    My family checked out this Evansville Christmas tradition on a visit to Indiana over the weekend. We loaded the kids up in the car – but not before getting in our PJs and serving up a round of hot chocolate with whipped cream AND marshmallows.

    The Fantasy of Lights is a drive-through exhibit. There is an admission fee of $7 per car or $10 if you have a minivan-full, and it all goes to the local Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center.

    The light displays are all pictures and holiday scenes, most sponsored by local businesses. I especially liked the ones where the businesses got creative and sponsored a display that reflects what they do. There was a bicycling Santa representing a cycle shop, and a local builder had a group of elves building a house.

    Fantasy of Lights also has Christmas music playing on an FM transmitter, so you can use your car radio to hear the soundtrack as you drive through.

    It took about 25 minutes to wind through the displays in the park, and it was a very fun way to end a day spent with family.

    Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights is open nightly through January 2, 2011, at Garvin Park in Evansville. Hours are 5 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

    When the weather is clear, you can also park the car and get a horse-drawn carriage ride through the light display for $30.

    Be sure to check out the video my family made of our Christmas lights adventure at the top right of this page.

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  • My friend and fellow Gadling contributor Heather Poole has posted a great video for all you moms out there getting ready to take young children to the airport this holiday season.

    In the video, a very cute 4-year-old boy discusses his experiences with airport security in the “Fifty-hundred” times he has been to the airport. He’s obviously a veteran traveler, and what he has to say about airport security procedures is funny, and yet very accurate.

    I recommend showing this video to your kids. It should help put them at ease about what they might encounter at airport security, and it will certainly help them know what to expect.

    Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube.

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  • The Gaylord Opryland Resort re-opened this month after the spring floods in Nashville forced major renovations at the hotel.

    I got a chance to stop by and check out the new look earlier this week. If you don’t know much about the Gaylord Opryland, calling it a “hotel” doesn’t really do it justice. It’s a giant complex – the largest non-gaming hotel in the country — and besides the guest rooms and convention space, there are four atriums, more than a dozen eateries, shopping, nightclubs and even a river.

    As for what’s new inside following the grand re-opening, the Cascades Lobby has been totally redone. Where it was rather traditional, the feel is now clean, modern and elegant. Glass mosaic tiles frame the rotunda area in the center of the room. The seating is done in warm orange, green and neutral tones.

    I love the obelisk lamps and chandeliers at the registration desk.

    The centerpiece of the Cascades Lobby is now this gorgeous blown-glass sculpture by Ludek Hroch, named “Resurgence.” It features dozens of blown-glass flowers in jewel tones.

    The plaque beneath the sculpture reads:

    “Flowers are our companions throughout life’s journey, our inspiring and faithfully returning friends. This exuberant creation’s infinite colors and shapes, representing a range from buds to full blossoms parallel the unlimited resurgence and rebirth of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.”

    There are also some new dining choices open at the Gaylord Opryland, including Ravello, which offers Italian entrees like braised veal shank and pork tenderloin braciole, along with inventive pastas likes a sea scallop and sweet potato ravioli.

    And The Falls bar, which is next to these gorgeous falls in the Cascades atrium, has also been redone.

    If there were one thing at the Gaylord Opryland that I would have said needed an update, it would have been this lounge. It rotated and had a 1980s “fern bar” feel when I visited about a year ago. The update has really done this scenic area of the resort justice – the bar no longer rotates, and it now has a much more modern, upscale feel.

    But after all the new, I just had to see if my old favorite place at the Gaylord Opryland was still the same. I used to visit Nashville each Christmas season with my family, and we would come to the Opryland Hotel to stay and take in the Christmas decorations.

    That was many renovations and additions ago, and you check in on a totally different side of the resort now. But I still remember walking into the hotel and seeing a grand staircase directly in front of me. My mom would pose my sisters and I for a picture on that staircase, which was usually swathed in Christmas garland.

    I worried that the renovations might have changed this area, but there it was – in the Magnolia Lobby, just as I remembered.

    Check out my Gaylord Opryland review for more on this Nashville, Tennessee hotel.

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