There’s no denying that the “Grand Ole Opry” is the most popular (and arguably the only) reason to go to Opryland. If you’re heading there, you should know what you’re in for and that is a country music variety show. It is the preeminent country variety show, but it is a show nonetheless, and it shouldn’t be confused with a concert. You should also know that not all country stars are members. Opry members must agree to a certain number of Opry appearances per year, which means many of the performers on any given night are local artists committed to the show (Old Crow Medicine Show), artists who might not sell out other venues on their own (Pam Tillis, Trace Adkins, or other [‘]90s country stars), or artists who are semi-retired and exclusively play the Opry (John Conlee). There are, though, still some heavy hitters who are members, including Garth Brooks. But with all of these shows, you should know that any one act will play a maximum of four songs, so it’s not tantamount to seeing any single artist in concert.
Still, the “Grand Ole Opry” is the show that made Nashville famous, and it’s country’s longest continuously running radio show, so if you’re a country music completist, you probably need to do it. In late 2003, the 4,400-seat Grand Ole Opry House got its first major refurbishment since 1974, when the program was moved from the Ryman to its current home at Opryland. Ironically, the Opry House today feels more dated and less timeless than the Ryman, and the crowds it draws are markedly older. To enjoy it, you have to just give in to the cheesy banter and Boot Barn commercials. But given the option, I’d still pick a show at the Ryman over the Opry 10 out of 10 times.