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Chris Faulkner
The Nashville Zoo set an attendance record in 2011 because of characters like this.

Already full of group tour behemoths, Nashville to add even more life

2012 Group Tour Media Article,
March 19, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As a Southern group tour destination, Nashville is a rare breed.

Of course, its musical culture and heritage are second to none. We’re talking about the home of the Grand Ole Opry and its former home, Ryman Auditorium, the “Mother Church of Country Music.”

Now, mix in top-notch attractions such as the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Nashville Zoo, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art and the Tennessee State Museum and that’s when Nashville’s entertainment scope becomes vividly clear.

Well, there is soon to be a new giant casting its shadow in this tourism hotspot.

Gaylord Entertainment and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Company are teaming up to develop a 114-acre family entertainment zone adjacent to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center.

The first phase is to include a roughly $50 million water and snow park, with a late 2012 or early 2013 groundbreaking date planned. The park opening is slated for summer 2014.

The park is to offer a mix of water activities for the summer and snow activities for the winter.

“I’m so excited about this opportunity,” Parton said. “I am confident that partnering my Dollywood Company with a great company like Gaylord will create something truly special.

“We’re all working on new types of entertainment to do in the daytime and nighttime for the whole family so we bring new folks to the area year-round.”

With such a monumental project on the horizon, perhaps it is tempting to wait on planning a Nashville tour until this project takes shape.

Yeah? Well, why wait?

Nashville is loaded with many established attractions that have withstood the test of time and continue to draw throngs of visitors. They’re bound to make you want to bring groups back on their own merit.

For example, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere has long been a visitor favorite. In 2011, it set an attendance record by drawing 648,034 people. The zoo this month was to open “DinoTrek,” a new exhibit featuring 16 animatronic dinosaurs in a hidden forest of the zoo.

“Dinosaurs are one of the great mysteries of our time and are very popular with both kids and adults alike,” said Rick Schwartz, zoo president.

“We believe this unique exhibit will certainly help to further increase our attendance and bring new visitors to the zoo in 2012.”

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