Photography by Terry Zinn
Many people find that a packaged tour offers the best in time and treasure management. A package tour is designed to offer the ease of small group travel and the expert knowledge offering the highlights of a particular itinerary. Package tours take the worry out of exploration, as the operators know the area offered and the fastest way to experience the survey of an area. For first time visitors, it gives an over view of the best of the area, and if the traveler finds that time at an attraction is not enough, it is a good reference point for a follow up visit. As you can tell, I find an expert package tour is a convenient holiday experience.
Adventures By Disney is a relatively new group tour operation. Disney does it right, whether it’s movies, theme parks or group tours. Recently I experienced Nashville the Disney way, with many insider and backstage visits not available to other tours and certainly not by solo travelers. Several years ago I visited Nashville, but after my tour with Adventures By Disney, I have a complete Nashville experience with many Disney extras that are memorable, educational and fun. Staying at the Opryland Hotel was a treat in itself. Every day our energized and informative tour guides, Kelley and Paola, offered extras and surprises that got us spoiled as we visited from venue to venue. Just when we thought the venue or day was complete we’d hear our guides say, “And then there’s more!”
The Hermitage, located near Nashville, was the home of President Andrew Jackson. Adventures By Disney arranged for Andrew and his wife to greet our bus, and welcome us at the traditional entry to the homestead, which is not offered for other visitors. We had an after-hours visit, complete with a guided grounds and house tour, and then there was more. We had a period dance instruction with Andrew and his wife joining in, as others in the group enjoyed wine and vintage Andrew Jackson bourbon. And then there was more. We had a hands on instruction in simple biscuit making by expert, Maryann Byrd, and then enjoyed our creations baked just for us at a catered sit down dinner in an a joining air conditioned venue. Walking back in the dark to the bus we were all more than satisfied as our departure was enhanced with a spectacle of fireflies.
Recently Nashville has added notoriety with the popular ABC television drama of the same name. Disney enhanced our Nashville adventure with a bus tour of filming locations, and a very special private concert luncheon at the famed Blue Bird Cafe. The essence of Nashville’s established and rising performers was exhibited by the intimate hour long plus performances by Leslie Satcher and Walker Hayes. We were all moved by the stories they told that inspired the creation of the songs they sang for us. This example of sincerity and the universal experiences of life, is the real Nashville sound. The clear voices and rhythmic songs were true examples of craft being raised to the level of performance art. Beyond the flash and country glamour of Nashville, the Blue Bird Cafe experience reaffirms the essence of America’s indigenous music.
A visit to Music City would not be complete without a tour of the historical Ryman auditorium and of course Disney gave us a special private tour and a chance to stand on that stage which was inhabited by the founders of country music. We entered through the stage door entrance in an alley adjacent to a bar/lounge famous as a haunt of music pioneers. And while the Ryman is a must, the new Grand Ole Opry venue is as impressive when you are able to visit the famous back stage dressing rooms, and wall of fame. But there was more!
We had a pre-show dinner in the broadcast studio where many Nashville shows were filmed which included the sound stage where the popular Hee Haw show was once produced. A catered sit down meal with wine was only briefly interrupted when instruction in line dancing was included. And to top off all of this VIP experience, we had VIP seating at that night’s Grand Ole Opry show, with a special treat for me, hearing a couple of songs by Vince Gill, a fellow Oklahoman.
The more continued with hands on poster making at Hatch Show Print, a mock station ID recording at the legendary WSM 650 AM radio station, admission to the expansive Country Music Hall of Fame, and a private visit to Music Row’s RCA Studio B recording studio where Elvis along with other legendary artists, recorded their songs beginning in 1957. We were entertained with insider stories, and with many rehearsals under our belts, we recorded our own group singing a well-known Elvis favorite, and was later presented with our own special CD of our performance.
All along our days of adventures all admission charges were taken care of by our hosts as were most meal times. We ate at Merchants’ Restaurant where we customized our own BBQ sauce, and had breakfast at popular Puckett’s Grocery. There was even a little free time for us to explore downtown Nashville sights on our own. I took this opportunity to reserve my spot for lunch at the Southern Steak and Oyster restaurant, and then took a stroll up to the historic Hermitage Hotel and the Capitol Grille, where I took in a beverage and tales of this famous watering hole.
If you couldn’t tell I was impressed with the services and thoughtfulness of the Adventures By Disney experience. Some Disney tours are for adults only while most welcome the whole family. Documents and itineraries are sent to you well in advance of your departure and should you have added questions they are easily answered by phone from your personal travel concierge. Besides state-side destinations, the company offers tours overseas and cruises as well. Tempt your travel lust by exploring: https://www.adventuresbydisney.com.