My Discoveries: Holiday Escapes

Early Opryland Christmas and a Snowbird’s Rose Parade New Year

Donna Hackler"My Discoveries" Guest Post by Donna Hackler

As a Discoveries Director with Country Travel DISCOVERIES, I’ve had the great fortune to guide hundreds of travel enthusiasts and vacationers on many scores of departures for some 30 wonderful tours arranged by the team at CTD and the former World Wide Country Tours. The diversity of destinations, local cultures and settings, seasonal experiences, and my fellow travelers makes my job one of the most stimulating and gratifying imaginable. But over the years, I’ve really come to appreciate and look forward to the special feeling and flavor of our Holiday Discoveries.

For festive warmth and sheer opulence, nothing compares to the Opryland Christmas in Nashville. The size of the Gaylord Opryland Resort, and the breadth of attractions and activities, are hard to believe. Cruise the river that courses through the hotel’s vast gardens, lush with tens of thousands of plants, afire with poinsettias. Thrill to a showcase of dazzling precision dancing by the Rockettes, exactly as you’d see them in Radio City! Visit the Ryman Auditorium, “the Mother Church of Country Music,” in the heart of Nashville, one of America’s most vital music heritage cities.

thumb Magnolia ExtWith so many options, it’s great to have everything prearranged so you can unpack once, settle in, and explore the massive resort at a comfortable pace over the four-day, three-night trip. Plenty of unscheduled “me time” is planned for discretionary activities. Enjoy amazing, stress-free early Christmas shopping among storefronts strewn with twinkling lights! Or, take advantage of the spa, sports or family amenities of the resort’s multiple hotels and activity centers.

Opryland Christmas is just a fantastic way to kick off the holiday season, to revel freely in Christmas festivity without the hectic rush of the real thing! Though no less magical, our Rose Parade Holiday discovery has a very different kind of appeal from the grandeur and glitter of Opryland Christmas. After participating in seven tours, one thing I relish is the astonishment travelers experience when they discover how wholly different the real Rose Parade spectacle is from any televised event. Experienced from the amazing street-level access we enjoy, the music echoes through your body and fragrance swirls around you in a way that is palpable and exciting.

Those who are fortunate enough to join the “Petal Pushers” pretour extension have an opportunity to actually participate hands-on in decorating one of the floats. The exhilaration of then watching your own beautiful creation glide through the procession cannot be described!

We are especially privileged to have an exclusively arranged presentation by Dr. Tommy Cairns, a long time Tournament Judge, past President of the American Rose Society, and author of The Ultimate Rose Book. The insights shared by this expert judge brings a new degree of critical appreciation for what makes a great float worthy of the Tournament title.

Sierra Madre FloatAfter a day of pomp and pageantry, or touring the glamorous sights of Tinseltown, it’s restorative to head back to our beautiful waterfront resort at Huntington Beach. For snowbirds like me, enjoying some unscheduled time unwinding on the beach by a bonfire, digging my toes into the sand, is a wonderful way to start the new year. I personally love the optional post-tour escape to Catalina Island; its gentle catamaran and tram rides, quaint villages and quiet nature preserve are just the thing to fortify me before I head back into many more long wintry days in the Upper Midwest!

Certainly, I love traveling all year around. But even then, I always look forward to my two Holiday Discoveries. It’s wonderful to be with people who seek to experience something special in an already-special season, and to share it with others.


Readings of Related Interest

Rose Parade Holiday
Escape to an Unforgettable New Year with Pomp, Pageantry and a Beachfront

Opryland Christmas
Kick off the Holidays Early in One of America’s Most Spectacular Resorts, in Country Music’s Capital City

Branson Christmas Countdown
Celebrate the Season in Song, Spectacle and Ozark Country Spirit


Note: This article originally appeared in the Country Travel DISCOVERIES Newsletter and refers to the 2013 edition of the Rose Parade and Opryland Christmas & Nashville tours. For the most current details about the stops, performances and attractions currently included on these tours, please see the updated itineraries.

Images on this page (from top): Gaylord Opryland Resort; Rose Bowl Parade Float (Sierra Madre LA Inc).


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