Opryland USA was an amusement park located in suburban Nashville, Tennessee. It operated seasonally (generally March to October) from 1972 to 1997, and for a special Christmas-themed engagement every December from 1993 to 1997. During the late 1980s, nearly 2.5 million people visited the park annually. Billed as the “Home of American Music,” Opryland USA featured a large number of musical shows along with typical amusement park rides such as roller coasters, carousels, and the like.
Opryland amusement park equipped a number of live music with typical amusement parks like riding a roller coaster, merry-go-round and the like. Opryland also contains nine themed attractions, most of which feature a motif based on the different types of American music. Some of them namely the Opry Plaza and the Hill Country. Opry Plaza is the main entry and exit point of Opryland. Opry Plaza there are three main gate of the Park.
Opryland USA Theme Park Plaza
The majority of the Opry Plaza sits outside the gates, meaning it can be accessed by guests with tickets or not. Opry Plaza there are also attractions of sensation, but is actually home to the ticket booth garden, as well as theater, Roy Acuff Grand Ole Opry Museum, Opryland Hospitality Center, South of the Cumberland River Cottage life, WSM-FM studio, and the Studio Theatre of the gas lamp TNN. Opry Plaza is connected to the hill country, Doo Wah Diddy City, and parking.
Opryland USA, was part of an over all resort (The Opryland Hotel, Convention Center, etc…) and showcased different musical attractions. It was also home to some of the then Nashville Network television shows (anyone remember Crooke and Chase?). During the summer months, this small park was a big draw for the area and just a really fun place to go. It was steeped in a spiritual vibe and something you just couldn’t put into words.
Doo Wah Diddy City, while an original part of the park, was not given its theme until the late 1970s. Though its name implies doo-wop, this area celebrated pop music and rock and roll, beginning with their origins in the 1950s. It was home to the Little Deuce Coupe teacups-style ride, the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster (originally called Timber Topper), and a Skyride station offering one-way service to New Orleans Area. The section featured a dual-sided theatre called the Jukebox and the Flip Side, which was removed in 1992 to make way for Opryland’s new centerpiece, the Chevrolet-Geo Celebrity Theatre. Doo Wah Diddy City connected to Opry Plaza, American West Area, and Grizzly Country.
In addition, there is the Hill Country is themed around the bluegrass music and is designed to resemble the region of Appalachia, United States. Hill Country State Theater featuring Bluegrass guitar & Martin. The main attraction of the Hill Country is a Dulcimer Splash log ride. Grinder’s switch Train Station is also located in this area, providing round-trip to El Paso in areas of the American West. The hill country is connected to the Opry Plaza area and New Orleans.
Opryland Theme Park Nashville TN History
The genesis for a theme park in Nashville was the desire for a new, permanent, larger and more modern home for the long-running Grand Ole Opry radio program. The Ryman Auditorium, its home since 1943, was beginning to suffer from disrepair as the downtown neighborhood around it was falling victim to increasing urban decay. Despite these shortcomings, the show’s popularity was increasing and its weekly crowds were outgrowing the 3,000-seat venue. Organizers were seeking to build a new air-conditioned venue with a greater capacity and ample parking in a then-rural area of town, providing visitors a safer and more enjoyable experience.
WSM, Inc. (a subsidiary of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, later NLT Corporation), the operator of WSM-AM-FM-TV and the Opry, purchased a large tract of riverside land (Rudy’s Farm) owned by a local sausage manufacturer in the Pennington Bend area of Nashville, adjacent to the newly constructed Briley Parkway. The new Opry venue was to be the centerpiece of a grand entertainment complex at that location, which would come to include the theme park and a large hotel/convention center.
The theme park opened to the public on May 27, 1972, well ahead of the Grand Ole Opry House, which debuted nearly two years later, on March 16, 1974. The park was named for WSM disc jockey Grant Turner’s early morning show, “Opryland USA”, itself a nod to the stars of the Grand Ole Opry. However, despite the obvious connection to country music, the park’s overall theme was American music in general; there were jazz, gospel, bluegrass, pop, and rock and roll-themed attractions and shows in addition to country. Opryland’s focus was more on its musical productions rather than its rides and other attractions.
Beginning in 1980, Houston-based insurer American General began purchasing blocks of NLT stock, eventually becoming NLT’s largest shareholder and setting the stage for an outright takeover. However, American General was not interested in NLT’s non-insurance businesses and opted to sell off the WSM division, which included WSM-AM-FM-TV, The Nashville Network, the Grand Ole Opry, the then-decrepit Ryman Auditorium, Opryland Hotel, and Opryland USA. Unable to acquire television and radio assets due to FCC ownership restrictions of the time, American General influenced NLT to sell WSM-TV to Gillett Broadcasting (operated by George N. Gillett Jr.), which bought the station on November 3, 1981 and changed the station’s callsign to WSMV (officially modified to WSMV-TV on July 15, 1982).
By 1982, the takeover was complete and American General began approaching companies such as MCA, Marriott Corporation and Anheuser-Busch about a possible sale of the remainder of WSM, Inc. While many of the companies showed interest in one of the assets, such as the theme park alone or the radio station, none was willing to buy the entire complex. American General began to feel that the only way to sell WSM, Inc. would be to split it up into separate entities.
Shuttering and demolition
The 1997 “Christmas in the Park” season was billed as a “last chance” for Nashvillians to see Opryland, though only a small portion of the park was open for the season, and many of the larger attractions were already being dismantled. The park closed permanently on December 31, 1997. In early 1998, the park’s remaining merchandise, signage and fixtures were offered to the public in a parking lot tent sale.
All five roller coasters and many other large attractions were sold to Premier Parks. The Hangman was relocated immediately to Marine World in Northern California, where it became known as Kong. The remainder of the attractions were moved to a field near Indianapolis, Indiana, where the company was prepared to revive the dormant Old Indiana Fun Park. Those plans were soon scrapped when Premier Parks purchased Six Flags and adopted its corporate name. The pieces of Opryland’s attractions sat rusting in the Indiana field until 2002, when the site was sold to become a nature preserve. By 2006, the site was cleared. Some of the flat rides were sold for scrap metal, while the fate of many of the larger attractions remains unknown. However, in 2003, The Rock n’ Roller Coaster was reassembled at Six Flags Great Escape in Queensbury, New York, where it became known as Canyon Blaster. One of the Wabash Cannonball’s cars also appeared at a park in Belgium as part of a Halloween display.
The Opryland Themepark site was cleared and paved into a parking lot for Opry Mills and the Grand Ole Opry House by July 1999, while construction of the mall took place primarily on the site of the themepark’s parking lot.
Opry Mills opened May 12, 2000, under the ownership of Mills Corporation (later acquired by Simon Property Group). Gaylord Entertainment initially had a minority stake in the new shopping center, but later divested it. When the arrangements for the future of the Opryland property were made public in 1997, Gaylord announced its intentions to construct a new entry plaza for the Grand Ole Opry House with shops and restaurants, as well as a public marina and entertainment complex at Cumberland Landing (the General Jackson’s port). However, these plans were abandoned as Gaylord focused less on entertainment and more on its hospitality assets.
The long low concrete levee wall which once separated the park’s New Orleans, Riverside and State Fair areas from the Cumberland River is still a part of the mall grounds, and visitors who enter the mall property from the McGavock Pike entrance can still view remnants of the graded railroad embankment which once supported the tracks of the park’s short-line railroad.
2010 Tennessee floods
The Opryland site was flooded in early May 2010, after two days of torrential downpours in the Nashville area caused the Cumberland River to overflow its banks.
Gaylord Opryland, the Grand Ole Opry House, and the General Jackson were closed for several months and all reopened in late 2010. The Grand Ole Opry Museum has remained closed, though the building underwent remediation following the flood. The fate of its contents is unknown. Opry Mills became entangled in a legal battle over flood insurance payout (which, as of March 2015, is ongoing), stalling its flood repairs for several months, and fully reopened on March 29, 2012.
As of July 2016, the Grand Ole Opry House, Roy Acuff’s former home, and the building that once housed the Grand Ole Opry Museum are the only theme park-era structures remaining on the property. The Cumberland Landing building was relocated from the gates of the theme park to the riverbank upon demolition of the park. It was vacated following the flood and remains out of use, but is still standing.
Opryland Hotel In Nashville TN
Discover the best of Nashville from our Opryland hotel
Experience the finest in Southern hospitality at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Premier Opryland hotel offers guests an unforgettable getaway with all the excitement and energy of Music City under one spectacular roof. Located only 10 minutes from the airport and featuring an extraordinary selection of dining, shopping, recreational activities and entertainment, there’s never a shortage of things to do at our resort.
After unwinding at Relâche Spa & Salon, practice your swing at Gaylord Springs Golf Links, make a splash at our indoor or outdoor pool, hit the gym at the state-of-the-art fitness center, or explore our nine acres of lush, indoor gardens and cascading waterfalls. 700,000 square feet of flexible event space accommodate meetings, conferences, weddings and receptions of all sizes. Following a day of Nashville fun, return to deluxe accommodations with modern amenities. Book today and come experience why Gaylord hotel is in a class of its own!
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, formerly known as Opryland Hotel, is a large hotel and convention center located in Nashville, Tennessee. It is owned by Gaylord Hotels, a division of Ryman Hospitality Properties (formerly known as Gaylord Entertainment Company), and operated by Marriott International. It is the largest non-casino hotel in the Continental United States outside of Las Vegas.
On October 26, 2001, Opryland Hotel Nashville was rebranded as Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center (or Gaylord Opryland, for short), taking its name from its corporate parent. Company officials at the time stated that the “Opryland” branding was strong to Nashville (and Texas, initially), but did not fit with projects in other parts of the United States. According to a 2003 press release, Gaylord Opryland planned to build a 5,000-seat amphitheatre on the site in the near future, but those plans seem to have been abandoned in favor of a convention center expansion.
On January 19, 2012 Gaylord Entertainment announced a new partnership with Dolly Parton’s The Dollywood Company to build a new water and seasonal snow park on acreage the company owns across Briley Parkway from Gaylord Opryland. The $50 Million Phase 1 of the overall project was expected to open in Spring of 2014. On September 28, 2012, Dolly decided to withdraw her partnership in the new Nashville theme park.
Gaylord Opryland Resort
Nashville was voted Destination of the Year – It’s the best of Nashville from one spectacular resort! From lush atrium gardens, unique dining, and poolside fun to live music and entertainment – all just steps from the Grand Ole Opry and minutes from downtown Nashville. Discover your next Nashville family vacation at Gaylord Opryland Resort.
SummerFest at Gaylord Opryland
Take a short trip to BIG summer fun and discover exciting things to do with kids in Nashville, TN. Nine acres of indoor gardens set the stage for a Nashville vacation to remember with SummerFest events inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. From fun family entertainment and culinary events, there are plenty of activities for all ages to enjoy!
Jungle Riverboat Cruise
The sights, sounds and stories of the jungle come to life on a safari cruise on the resort’s ¼-mile-long indoor river.
Friday & Saturday: 4-9pm
- Price: Adult (12 and up) $12.00* | Child (4-11) $10.00* | free with paid adult for ages 3 and under
- Location: Delta Riverboat Dock (Delta Atrium)
Mowgli’s Mission Scavenger Hunt
With a jungle map and special LED pendant in hand, solve a series of clues and test your navigational skills on this interactive adventure through the resort. Complete the quest and receive a commemorative prize.
- Times: Daily
- Price: $12.00* per guide/prize
- Location: Cascades Lobby
Guided Hotel & Garden Tour
Learn more about the history of the resort and its fascinating flora during a 45-minute guided tour of our nine acres of indoor gardens.
- Times: Daily at 3pm, 4pm and 5pm
- Price: $5.00* per person (ages 4 and up) | free with paid adult for age 3 and under
- Location: Magnolia Lobby
Junior Chefs Camp
A Gaylord Opryland chef will teach Junior Chefs how to make their own pizza with handmade dough, delicious sauce and salad with balsamic dressing. Max of 12 kids per class.
- Times: Sundays, Noon-2pm
- Price: $34.99* per child (ages 8-16)
Includes instruction for one (1) Junior Chef, a personal chef hat, apron and lunch for each Junior Chef, plus two (2) guests at 1pm. Additional lunch guests are $14.99* per person.
- Location: Ravello
Gaylord Springs Golf Links
Gaylord Springs Golf Links, designed by former U.S. Open and PGA champion Larry Nelson, has earned its place among the nation’s best golf courses. The 18-hole, par-72 course has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout the years while offering championship outdoor Nashville entertainment.
For Overnight Stay Guests: Receive a discounted club rental with purchase of a round of golf. It’s time for another round—another round of golf, that is! Plan your next golfing trip to Nashville and enjoy a round of golf and hotel accommodations, including transportation to Gaylord Springs Golf Links.
Improve Your Game. Highly qualified and trained teaching professionals are the perfect complement to the state-of-the-art facility equipped with advanced diagnostic equipment.
Award-winning service paired with breathtaking natural surroundings make The Clubhouse at Gaylord Springs Golf Links the ideal setting for an array of unique and personalized events for 10 to 300 people.
The first-class customer service, award-winning facility and beautiful, but challenging, golf course will make for a golf event that is second to none.
Gaylord Springs is a public course, open for all golfers to enjoy. Course fees include cart rental and practice range privileges.