I never see my wife now that we’re working together all day in the same place but on different floors and miles away in thought, so it was a nice excuse to plan a date night at the Opry, country music’s iconic radio show performance and get the VIP treatment, naturally, for research.
This post was last updated in January 2022.
Where to stay in Nashville
If you’re coming to Nashville specifically for the Grand Ole Opry, you might want to stay at Opryland Resort or out along Briley Parkway where the Opry House is located. But if you plan to explore Nashville for a weekend, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental closer to downtown.
Take a VIP tour at the Grand Ole Opry
Now, I’d been to the Opry House before when I took my family as they were visiting a few years back—they’re also country fans, but more of the bluegrass and folk song lilt—and then again to see Carrie Underwood perform at the Opry at the Ryman, its wintertime residence.
This visit, however—a date night at the Opry on Valentine’s Day no less—we got to see where the majority of performances are held and explore the backstage areas where hundreds of upcoming country music artists have wiped sweat off their palms and earned their chops.
My first time ever stepping foot in the Opry House was a solid two years before I’d even lived in Tennessee; we were back in Nashville doing research for one of Kristin’s book projects and stopped in right after the Opry was hit by the great flood of 2010.
I’ve always been a big country fan after my formative years of working as a painter in California with a boss that only allowed twang on the radio. As such, I’m rather partial to 90’s country like Travis Tritt, Joe Diffie, Mark Chesnutt, et al so it was quite a treat to see a show at the Grand Ole Opry House along the banks of the Cumberland River knowing how wrecked she had been after the flood (though they fixed her right up and had her open just six months later!).
Being part of a live radio performance is fascinating, and the fast pace of each event keeps the night interesting. Incredibly, and this still kinda blows my mind, the Opry has been broadcasting weekly radio shows since 1925! Wat? Who does that?
Country does that, folks. It seeps into your bones and vitalizes our American reality, one in which we care deeply for each other with our flaws and endearing character and allow ourselves to express an unbridled joy at living here in the United States, in the heartland, striving for personal glory, God, patriotism, reveling in the outdoors, strung instruments and a twangy tune mixed with a little bit of exhaust, gunpowder and ethanol, and maybe a side of lace fringing.
Should you go to the Opry if you’re not a country fan?
Absolutely. Whether you can rattle off country’s greats in one breath or have never been to a single country show, you’ll enjoy the Opry experience, I promise. Prior to living here, I guess I always had a biased opinion on the overall feel for country but that’s changing rapidly because it’s not one to be put in a box. I mean, there is a box, but it’s become looser and more inclusive than ever.
There’s incredible sound coming out of Nashville these days that explores spoken word, a little bit of rap, rock and blues, all standing on the shoulders of historical greats. It can be overwhelming to process all of this variety, but the Opry is a good place to get a handle on a wide sample. On this night, we saw eight different sets, with Lucie Silvas, John Osborne, Ricky Skaggs, Easton Corbin and my favorite set of the night, a legendary bluegrass family, the Del McCoury Band.
I love all music that’s sung with heart. In fact, there’s very little art that I don’t appreciate if it comes from that place inside that sings true, rings true and strikes an inner chord that harmonizes with the human condition. Live performances almost always veer in the direction of authenticity because the crowd is right there, in your face, to let you know whether they are feeling you, man.
Watching the Opry show from the side stage
To cap the evening, we hung out on the side stage VIP area where I simply observed the oiled machinery of music at the Opry. A musician dragging up a standup bass appears out of nowhere, waiting in the wings for Easton Corbin to finish his three-song set is also Ricky Skaggs surrounded by sound guys with radio earpieces, set managers and artist families, all chattering like we were in the cafeteria line on a cruise ship about to disembark to a well-known location.
Lights, shadows, murmurs, smoke, laptops, hardwood, brass, drum leather, cowboy boots and tight bubble butt jeans, rolled up sleeves and checkered patterns ironed and tucked into a belt buckle, rhinestones and silver stars all humming along to that same classic tune, country music.
Thank you for another great night with this girl, Opry!
A wee bit of Opry history
The Opry has seen many homes in its 92 years, from the National Life Building where it held its inaugural broadcast in 1925 to the neoclassical War Memorial Auditorium to the Ryman to its current home, where it’s been since 1974. It can hold 4,400 attendees, and on any given night you’re promised a smattering of musical talent with eight acts minimum taking the stage throughout the two-hour-long broadcast.
When to go to the Opry
From February through the end of October, Opry shows take place every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday at the Opry House in East Nashville (with Wednesdays added to the mix in summer months). During winter—from November through late January or early February—the Opry moves to its other home, the historic Ryman Auditorium, which seats half the audience size as the Opry House.
Inside tips to visiting the Grand Ole Opry
Want to visit backstage, see the glitzy dressing rooms, glimpse where Garth collects his fan mail and maybe even catch your favorite artist in passing? Sign up for a VIP tour, which goes both before and after the show. You have a couple different tour options on most days: a daytime backstage tour or post-show backstage tour.
Where to sit at the Opry
Chip Esten, aka Deacon Claybourne on the previous ABC hit show Nashville, once told Kristin that there’s no bad seat at the Opry, and I’m inclined to agree. For our date night at the Opry, we sat in section 4, row G, right smack in the middle, and it was the perfect spot for capturing some money shots with our camera (yes, photography is allowed at Opry shows, a rare treat).
He’s right: Any seat in the whole Opry house is great, and you can’t go wrong. Obviously, if possible, the closer the better on the ground floor, but you’ll still feel immersed in the crowd and enveloped by the Grand Ole Opry spirit whether you’re up front or in the higher balcony seats.
Prefer the balcony? Excellent. We’ve sat up there in the past, too, and it was just as fun as being on the floor.
For more Nashville trip ideas check out:
- Planning a Nashville Bachelorette Weekend
- Bachelorette Reboot: Planning a Nashville Party
- How to Celebrate a Birthday, Nashville Style
- Eat + Drink Nashville: The Best Restaurants & Bars
- The Ultimate Nashville Vacation
- Nashville Neighborhoods: SoBro + Rutledge Hill
- Nashville Neighborhoods: The Best of the Gulch
- Our Nashville Urban Adventure