Apprehension grips me as I watch my young daughter climb onto a boogie board amid the rushing waves. I’ve just witnessed full-grown adults wipe out on their surfboards in this same spot. But the up-tempo country tune playing in the background and the lifeguard standing by remind me that she’ll be fine. I cheer as she rides the powerful waves that don’t stop, eventually tumbling off with a big splash and coming up soaked and laughing. She gives a thumbs-up as her sister steps up for her turn on the Crowd Surfer, one of the rides here at SoundWaves, Gaylord Opryland Resort’s new $90 million water experience.
SoundWaves comprises more than four acres of water attractions. Its year-round indoor experience opened last winter, while the outdoor section debuts this May. Only resort guests may access SoundWaves, so the crowd is manageable.
There’s something for every age, including rapid and lazy rivers; an activity pool with an obstacle course and basketball hoops; a wide rock wall behind a waterfall; a water tower (decorated with 4,000 live plants!) that leads up to multiple slides; kids’ splash areas with play structures; a wave pool; and an adults-only indoor pool, bar, and lounging area. Even in winter, guests may sunbathe indoors, thanks to the balmy, 84-degree temperature and a special roof that allows UV rays (bring your sunscreen).
Gaylord Opryland opened in 1977 as a 600-room property for small meetings and leisure traffic from the old Opryland theme park (now Opry Mills shopping area), but has since grown to become the largest non-gaming resort in the United States with more than 2,800 rooms. Upon arrival, guests are given a map to find their way around the massive property. Just exploring the complex is entertainment enough. The Garden Conservatory is gorgeous, with a stunning atrium that houses more than 10,000 plants and flowers. The Cascades Atrium, where we’re staying, has twin four-story waterfalls that lull us to sleep each night. The Delta Atrium—where the convention facilities are located—even has an indoor river with a boat tour and a nightly fountain show. Gift and clothing shops, the largest spa in Tennessee, and nineteen restaurants and bars make it unnecessary to leave the hotel, but if you want to explore Nashville’s hotspots, just catch the hotel shuttle downtown.
SoundWaves plays on the hometown vibe with music- or concert-themed names for each ride or attraction. Case in point: the Crowd Surfer. After my girls are through riding the waves, we grab large tubes and float along Down Tempo, the lazy river with a cave and waterfalls. When my husband takes the girls to ride the Stage Dive body slides, I head up to Status Cymbal, the bar at the adults-only area on the third level. I order a Standing Ovation—the signature cocktail with rum and pineapple—and find the perfect spot in an oversized lounger. I put my feet up and listen to Keith Urban’s “Never Comin Down” while watching the fun below.
Gaylord Opryland Resort, 2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville, Tennessee • 615-889-1000 • gaylordopryland.com
While You’re There
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum still shines from its $100 million expansion five years ago. Hear interviews with Emmylou Harris, see glitzy costumes worn by Taylor Swift or The Judds, and marvel over the massive wall of gold and platinum records by country’s biggest stars. Don’t miss touring Hatch Show Print, one of America’s oldest letterpress shops that created concert posters and handbills for Elvis Presley and countless Grand Ole Opry greats.
This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Southbound.