Making [Sound] Waves at Gaylord's Opryland Hotel
You’ve probably heard of SoundWaves, the new indoor water park attraction at Opryland Hotel that’s been open for a few months now. I can’t lie, I was bummed (and annoyed) to find out that the only way to go is to also rent a room at the hotel…..so you know what? We did just that. (Smart move, Gaylord, smart move.) We packed up our kids, drove out Briley Parkway, and had ourselves a little slumber party. And we had a damn good time.
I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been to Opryland Hotel in a loooong time. I went when I was younger, to see the holiday lights or when we had family visit from out of town, but as an adult, I’ve been out there so few times I can count on one hand. So honestly, just to go to the hotel was actually pretty cool, and to see it through the eyes of my 5-year-old daughter was even better. She loved the lily pads with the koi fish in the big pond in The Atrium, and any opportunity to make a wish is a big ol’ pro in her mind, so the more fountains, the better. As an adult, you can’t help but marvel at just how expansive and intricate the inside of the hotel is. With plants from climates and regions all over the world, to a river comprised of water from our beloved Cumberland (cough cough) and other waterways across the globe, it really is a magnificent treasure to our area.
*Fun Fact: Did you know that in 1996 Gaylord sent out 2-ounce bottles of Jack Daniels all over the world, and had 1700 bottles returned to them with water from different bodies of water, which they then blended into the canal that runs through the hotel? Pretty wild, huh?
Anyhow, back to SoundWaves. The modern, white expansion feels light years away from the elaborate hotel; it’s got a minimalist, Scandinavian vibe that I really actually dig. To access the park, you must first walk down a wild and crazy hallway, decorated with an ocean scene. It builds all sorts of anticipation! At the entrance you just scan your bracelet Disney World style, and you’re in!
Upon first entering, I encourage you to just stop and take it all in. Immediately to your right you’ll see a staircase that leads to an adults-only floor and directly ahead lies a banister over which you can look down onto the fun. (Full disclosure, we didn’t make it to the adult floor since we were at the park with our kids...so I can’t tell you anything about it. But I imagine it’s loungey and has alcohol, so that’s enough for me!) Down below in all its glory, sits a double “Flowrider” -- a surfing simulator -- which we didn’t get to try, but seemed very popular, and a large, bean-shaped pool, which is the focal point of the expansion. The pool itself somehow feels a bit sectioned, with an area for basketball, an area for “frogger” (a game where you can hold on to the ropes above you and jump from lily pad to lily pad to get to the other side), an area for swimming and socializing, and finally a large waterfall that kids seemed to love swimming through and hanging out behind.
Past the pool and up another set of stairs, you’ll find another area ideal for small children. With an 18-month-old in tow, this is where I was camped out most of the time! There is a splash pad type area that funnels into a little wading area (where the water is about a foot deep) with different water features for the kiddos. My 18-month-old, who is a bit of a cautious guy, was especially enamored with this area. Once his big sister showed him how to use it, he even ventured down the little slide nearby and ended up having a ball! The area also features small moveable rocking horses, so you can either rock inside out of the water or out of it if your little one wants a break. Small Adirondack chairs (as well as mama bear size chairs) line the area, too.
Just over from that area but also for the littles was an area pretty perfect for my 5-year-old. More of a “water playground” of sorts, this entire area sits in about two feet of water, with various nozzles and hoses spraying the stuff, as well as a large bucket that would fill up and dump over every 30 seconds or so. Stairs to different levels and a waterslide made this area the perfect place for Vivian to play to her heart's content and we didn’t have to worry about her safety, which is a win in my book!
Back downstairs, flanking the main pool, are two river features. One is the lazy river, in which you grab a tube and float along, while the other is more of a rapids scenario in which you get pushed through without a floating device. Both were fun, though much shorter than other “river” features I’ve ever been on at other parks. But, you could go around as many times as your heart desires, so I could make it as long or as short as I wanted.
Towards the back of the rapid river feature are the stairs to the water slides. There are two slides that you use an inner tube with and two you don’t. Kids must be at least 42 or 48 inches tall, depending on which slide, and I think I would call them “smile and laugh” slides more than “feel your stomach drop” slides, you know?
Overall, my main takeaway for SoundWaves is that the indoor water park is definitely fun, and it seems to be built for kids of all ages to have a good time — but is certainly not made for the thrill-seekers of the world to check off their list. If you go there expecting to have your bathing suit blown off, you’ll be disappointed. If you are like me and you want to have some fun without feeling the stress of worrying about your kids or your bikini top coming off while you go down the slides, this is the place for you.