This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy for more information.
When my birthday rolled around in July, we were ready to get out of town for a few days. After examining a few possibilities, we settled on Nashville. Besides a quick stroll downtown a few years ago, I hadn’t been since I was a teenager. When I discovered that I could get tickets to the Grand Ole Opry on my birthday, I knew what I had to do: We’d be launching my next trip around the sun with Nashville’s historic show.
Country Music and Me
I won’t lie; I’m not a huge country music fan. I can look at some acts in the past with nostalgia; I remember road trips with my family as Johnny Cash, Elvis, or the Everly Brothers played on the radio. And I love some of the big names over the years–Dolly, Patsy, Loretta, The Judds, and Alabama. If you’re my age, you lived through the big 1990s boom of country music with Garth, Reba, Brooks and Dunn, and Trisha. But, I don’t tune my radio to the country stations. And I couldn’t name a hot up-and-coming new artist…well, I couldn’t name one before our night at the Opry. But more on that later.
Some History of the Grand Ole Opry
If you’re not familiar with the Grand Ole Opry, this is the radio show that was originally broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Though it had a few other homes before, the Ryman became synonymous with the Grand Ole Opry until 1974.
Country music’s stars and stars-to-be aspired to perform on the stage of the Ryman in front of a live audience as well as over the airwaves on WSM. Not only is it an honor to play at the Opry, but it’s the dream of many performers to become part of the Opry family by being nominated by a current member, and ultimately, inducted by the Opry. When the new Opry House was built, part of the floor of the Ryman was used at the new Opry stage–a circle downstage center where the artist stands to perform. Many artists are emotional the first time they perform there.
If you’re not a big country fan and think maybe you wouldn’t enjoy a Grand Ole Opry show, you may want to reconsider. There are several acts, and each one only plays three to four songs. It’s a large beautiful venue, and if nothing else, you may just appreciate the history of the show and what it means for these performers to play in “the circle.” If you have time for the tour of the Opry House, the show would be the perfect way to end that experience, though they have some tours after the show, too. If we had more time, I would’ve done that tour. Something for next time!
Arriving at the Grand Ole Opry
When I visited Nashville as a teen, the Opryland theme park was still a thing. We visited the Opry and the General Jackson Showboat as part of our Nashville experience. Now, the theme park is gone, and a nice shopping mall, Opry Mills, is across the street from the Opry. We let Kristin pick the place for dinner, and she chose the Rainforest Cafe in Opry Mills. So, if you’re looking for a fun place for kids to eat, it’s nice to know that Opry Mills has a Rainforest Cafe. They also have other restaurants and a food court, so eating at Opry Mills before the show is not a bad plan.
We found parking at the Opry Mills parking lot across from the Opry. There is paid parking available, but you may be able to park where we did and not have to pay. It depends on how popular that particular show is and what time you arrive at the Opry. Our show was at 7:00 p.m., and we were at the entrance by 6:00 p.m.
Be prepared to go through a metal detector, and bags and purses will have a quick search. Our tickets were on the AXS app on my phone, so we could just show the tickets from my phone at the door.
We went to the gift shop before heading upstairs to our seats. We wanted to be sure we had plenty of time to look around. It’s a great one, and I’d recommend checking it out.
You’ll get a stamp on your hand so you can come back inside the Opry House proper. Before they lock the outside doors, you can access the shop without attending an Opry show or tour. Of course, we had to get a magnet. I loved this sign at the register.
We also grabbed some water and popcorn for the show. I don’t know if we can see a show without popcorn.
I was surprised that they had some hot and cold food items available. I guess they won’t let you go hungry at the Opry! There was also a full bar at another location on the mezzanine.
The Grand Ole Opry Show
Our seats were in the mezzanine. We bought our tickets the day before, and we got a reasonable price. The seats are assigned, so you don’t have to worry about getting there early to stake out your spot. If you don’t feel it’s too risky, you may be able to score seats the day of that would’ve been $20 less per person than ours were.
Our show began with The Gatlin Brothers, who I was familiar with. They even played the two songs that I knew by them along with two others. As the show started, we realized that we were in the midst of highly professional performers. It’s not that we didn’t know this, but to see them perform in person–wow! We’ve seen shows in Branson, Missouri, and they are great, but this…this is another level.
It’s probably worth noting here that we don’t attend a lot of concerts because most of the time, we’d rather use our funds to visit a place and explore. Just FYI.
Also note, you can see Larry Gatlin standing in that circle, that little piece of the Ryman that now is a part of the current Opry House. You can also see some of the members of the Opry house band that accompanies acts as needed.
The next group on the line-up that I recognized was Riders in the Sky.
They were a lot of fun, and I’d see a whole show with them.
Others in our show that night were Chase Bryant, Jake Hoot, and Hannah Ellis. One notable performer was Don Schlitz. He’d joked that we, the audience, had no idea who he was. And he was right. Until he started playing all the hits he’d written for other artists: “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “The Gambler,” and “When You Say Nothing at All.” The place turned into a singalong!
One performer made me an instant fan–Niko Moon. I’d never heard of him or his songs, but now I can’t stop playing his music in my car.
His laid-back vibe and musical fusion of styles have completely won me over. Now, I’m following him on social media and on his email list! He was my favorite act of the night.
Somewhere along the way that night, there was a 15-minute intermission. Even with a line out the door, we were able to use the restroom and have plenty of time to return to our seats.
The last performer of the night was the headliner–Ricky Skaggs. Since it was Sunday, he played more of his slower gospel-type Bluegrass instead of songs we were more familiar with. He’s an amazing performer, though, and it was fascinating to watch.
The End of the Night
When the show was over, we were able to exit to the outside directly from the mezzanine. This was a great crowd-control measure, and we easily walked to the mall parking lot and to our car. We didn’t have to wait too long to make our way out of the lot and back to the highway to get to our hotel–Best Western on Music Row.
We had a great time, and it was the perfect ending to a great birthday! If you’re still on the fence on whether you should see a show, I’d say, give it a shot. We only knew a couple of the performers and a handful of the songs, but I’ll never forget that night at the Grand Ole Opry. And who knows? You may just discover the artist that will dominate your playlist for the foreseeable future!
Click below to read about some of our other adventures:
Boone Hill Plantation–Charleston
I would love to visit the Grand Ole Opry. But I didn’t know that until I read your post! If I go to Nashville I am going!
What a fabulous experience and great way to celebrate your birthday at the Grand Ole Opry!
We have not visited the Grand Ole Opry as we love the Ryman! The Opry is on our bucket list. When we lived in Nashville, it was during the height of the pandemic and shut down. We will be back, though! Nashville is Lisa’s thing!! It is great that you saw Ricky Skaggs; he is fantastic. Lisa has seen him once, and he is from the next county over in Kentucky, where she is from.
I hope to go back to Nashville soon! There are still a few things I’d like to see!
SUCH RICH HISTORY! So cool! What a cool experience!
The Grand Ole Opry is a must visit in Nashville. So iconic!
The Grand Ole Opry sounds like so much fun! And I’m amazed you could get reasonably priced tickets the day before!
I’m not a huge Country fan either but still want to go to the Grand Ole Opry for the experience. Sounds like a great birthday treat!