Wine Tips For The Holidays

Georgia Trend. Nov 2022.

How many times have you wandered the wine aisle at the grocery store and been overwhelmed with the selection of countless bottles? When you are scrambling to make your Thanksgiving dinner or to buy Christmas presents, the last thing you want to do is read every label and figure out which wine your guests would prefer to drink.

Thankfully, educational stores like Vino Venue in Dunwoody make it easier. Co-founded by Lelia Bryan and her late husband, Michael (who started the Atlanta Wine School in early 2000s), Vino Venue is a wine shop, tasting room, restaurant and school – all in one place. The couple wanted to create a space for those who wanted to learn about wines and taste them before committing to buying. Over the past 10 years, they expanded to offering wine and cooking classes, a wine club, and wine-themed trips to places like Piedmont, Bordeaux and California.

What makes this neighborhood wine shop different from big-box sellers is the unique collection of wines and personalized recommendations. Each week, beverage director and partner Rob Van Leer tastes more than 100 types of wines from all over the world to carefully select what goes on the shelves and in the wine club. He gets to know customers’ profiles by asking them a series of questions. An informal wine-shopping interview can last between 10 seconds to a half hour, depending on the interest of the buyer.

For this holiday season, first think about what are you cooking, who you are hosting and what is your budget, Leer advises. He says you can get quality wines at every price point, and can follow certain pairing guidelines. For example, dry, tart or sweet lambrusco from Emilia Romagna goes well with a charcuterie board. Easy-drinking sauvignon blanc, gamay and delicate pinot noir are also good with hors d’oeuvres. Champagne, Beaujolais, Burgundy and many Tuscan and Oregon wines pair with practically everything and are good to keep on hand.

A German gewürztraminer, French gamay and merlot, or Oregon pinot noir will also fare well at a turkey dinner. If you are serving a brunch of, say, cornmeal-crusted oysters, frittata, fruit and biscuits, serve something that’s cold, sparkling and has low alcohol content, like a fruity pear cider from Normandy.

Wines can also star at your cocktail party. Add a sprig of rosemary and a sliver of fresh orange to Chandon Garden Spritz. Top vibrant and sweet cognac-like Pineau des Charentes with inexpensive apple cider and cinnamon stick. Serve red or white vermouth on the rocks, with a splash of OJ or soda water, or make a classic negroni.

As the meal progresses, you can go bolder and richer, pairing French pinot noir with lamb and steak, Spanish Rioja with salmon, and fruit-forward California wine with burgers. Get a dessert wine to round off the meal or serve a glass of grande cuvée to reset everyone’s taste buds. Plan for an average of a bottle per person for a dinner party, and remember you can always drink what’s left next day!

To taste before you buy, check out Vino Venue’s 32 wines “on tap,” or attend its high- end wine tasting class on Dec 4th.

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend. All rights reserved.

Throw some color on your celebration with these Holi party ideas

Paperless Post. Feb 2022.

Play, laughter, and love are the essence of Holi, the Indian festival that marks the end of the dark and dreary winter and welcomes the bursting colors of spring. Each year, Holi kicks off the beginning of the spring growing season, and the festival is a chance to let loose and celebrate with family and friends, both old and new. Partygoers of all ages don all-white, eager to be covered in a kaleidoscope of colors at Holi parties around the world. It’s a time to blow off steam, dance like the Bollywood star you are in your heart, and indulge in delicious fried foods. What could be better?  

Because Holi is all about saying farewell to negative emotions, sore relationships, and harsh winters, it’s the perfect time to throw a technicolor party. Lucky for you, we have the most colorful Holi party ideas and the invitations to match. 

~ Continue reading on Paperless Post‘s blog...

Weekend Getaways From Atlanta

Khabar. Dec 2021 cover story.

During the holidays this winter, many people may not be ready for long distance travel. But short-distance trips are different. There are few hassles, and you don’t have to spend much for a good time with family and friends. These six fun destinations are not far from Atlanta, and they all have a lot to offer for both day trippers and overnighters.


In March 2020, the world’s borders shut down and the travel industry came to a standstill. All domestic and international trips, conferences and events were indefinitely canceled. I had just ticked off an item on my bucket list—a trip to Antarctica, which had been my 7th continent to travel to—and was about to reach my goal of visiting 100 countries. But as months went by, traveling outside the country started to look less probable.

That’s when I turned to explore more of the South, both for personal and professional reasons. Like many of us who were cooped up at home during the pandemic, I was having restless feet. My husband and I ventured on day trips around Atlanta, gradually exploring farther and staying overnight. This is when I rediscovered Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas—beyond the big cities and touristy destinations.

As we surveyed more, we saw common trends emerging in some of the smaller, previously unknown towns. More Americans were escaping big cities, seeking open spaces, leaner crowds, and friendlier communities. Families were choosing to work and attend virtual school out of their vacation homes, and thus emerged a new wave of entrepreneurs. What were once sleepy desolate towns now had renovated boutique hotels and restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs, and fun festivals to entertain all ages.

If you are seeking a relaxing time, an exciting road trip, or a new place to share with friends and family, these close-to-home destinations are worth a visit.

Chattanooga, Tennessee


My first trip after businesses reopened, in May 2020, was to Chattanooga on the border of Georgia and Tennessee. I had already seen the well-known attractions— Ruby Falls and Tennessee Aquarium. This time, I wanted to keep the social distance and be outdoors. We stayed at a cozy bed-and-breakfast overlooking the city, called the RiverView Inn, and drove to Lookout Mountain, the highest point in the area, to breathe fresh air.


The entrance fee to Rock City’s famous geological gardens had been reduced and advance reservations meant that we could walk through the narrow rock formations and suspended bridges without having to rub shoulders with other tourists. It was also refreshing to have the scenic viewpoints all to ourselves— we could freely look across seven states and take as many photos as we wanted with waterfall backdrops without feeling that we were blocking space. The animated characters, along with sound and lights, at the Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village located at Rock City are sure to please little ones, though I was equally excited to relive the storybooks I had read as a child. Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights is put up until January 2nd every year when it features a winter wonderland with one of the world’s tallest Christmas trees, twinkling lights and holiday shopping.

Downtown Chattanooga had also changed since my last visit there. The opento- pedestrians Walnut Street Bridge and waterfront areas were scattered with street artists, live musicians and food trucks to entertain joggers, bikers and walkers. Now surrounding the historic hotel, The Chattanooga Choo Choo, are a number of new bars and restaurants with outdoor seating.

Though there’s a marathon, concert, market or festival taking place practically every weekend, there’s a Holiday Market during the first three weekends in December. At the Chattanooga Convention Center, you will find over 200 local vendors selling unique holiday gifts, crafts and food.

Macon, Georgia


I had driven past Macon on I-75 South, generally heading to the beaches of Georgia and Florida. But this time around, I made a pitstop to learn about Macon.

Downtown Macon once was one of the most important cities in the South, established by famous artists, socialites and politicians. There are over 6,000 historic buildings across 15 historic districts, each telling a story about ghosts, music, people and culture. A walking tour with Rock Candy Tours oriented me to the first African American-owned Douglass Theatre, Broadway musicals at The Grand Opera House, and the tunes of Macon Symphony Orchestra— all of which are still operational. CocerStory_13_12_21.jpg

Though I wasn’t exposed to Southern rock and soul music before, I enjoyed learning about famous bands such as The Allman Brothers Band, Otis Redding and Little Richard, who all recorded their albums in Macon. Funded by Mercer University, the newly renovated Capricorn Records highlights Macon’s music history and memorabilia in a modern multi-use space.

Another must-see landmark in Macon is the Tubman Museum, the largest museum dedicated to African American history, art and culture in the Southeast, named after the American Civil War activist Harriet Tubman.

The best time to visit Macon is in March, during the annual International Cherry Blossom Festival. Over 350,000 blooming pink and white flowering Yoshino cherry trees make you feel like you traveled to Tokyo. There are also lots of performances, galas and family-friendly events during this time, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Aiken, South Carolina


Named the best small town in America by Southern Living magazine, Aiken is an elegant destination known for its arts, sporting facilities, nature and equine pursuits. The once “winter colony” of the active and restless privileged Northerners now attracts authors, artists, retirees and horse lovers from all over the country. Even the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai had his horses trained here. Plan your visit to see the spring steeplechase in March, derby matches in May, Christmas crafts markets in November, and Festival of Trees held through the month of December.


Spring is the best time to bike through one of America’s largest urban oak forests, Hitchcock Woods, and stroll through the scenic Hopeland Gardens. Stay and dine at the historic Willcox Hotel, where the esteemed guest list includes Winston Churchill and Harold Vanderbilt. I, for one, was fully enchanted by the lovely streets lined with magnolia and oak trees, the romantic alleys, and the leisurely pace.

Americus, Georgia

Rarely do you expect to dine next to billionaires and past presidents while on vacation, but in Americus you never know who is sitting around the corner. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter lives a few miles down the road (in Plains, Georgia) and is often seen dining at Rosemary and Thyme Restaurant, located at the 125-yearold Victorian-style Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel in downtown Americus. The opulent hotel has changed hands several times and undergone millions of dollars in renovations, establishing itself as an iconic model for a downtown that’s being slowly restored.


The owners, Sharad Patel and his family, have hosted the Carters too. After reopening, Patel named his best oval suite after the most famous local resident—the Carter suite. He has added the Indianspiced cilantro grouper to the menu and will happily create spicy dishes (his signature is lamb) upon request.

Nearby in Plains, you can visit Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm, his former campaign headquarters, and Plains High School. In the evening, watch The Nutcracker ballet at the Rylander Theatre, or simply “porch” with a glass of 13th Colony Southern Bourbon at Floyd’s Pub overlooking Lamar Street. The Windsor often hosts New Year’s eve gala dinners, overnight holiday packages, and murder-mystery dinner theaters.

For a fun ride, board the 1949 vintage cars on the historic SAM Shortline Railroad. This exciting journey stops at Archery, Plains, Americus, Leslie, Georgia Veterans State Park and Cordele. Holiday-themed trains include onboard gifts, hot chocolate and cookies with Santa.

Greenville, South Carolina


Greenville has lately become one of the fastest growing cities in the South. Having heard highly of the celebrated multi-day food and music festival event, I attended Euphoria Greenville only in its 16th year in September 2021. The annual festival gave me an opportunity to taste a variety of locally made foods and drinks and to meet a number of recently transplanted residents. The small town has attracted big name chefs and creative folks to open New American and eclectic dining establishments, and now there are well over 1000 to choose from! If you’re craving flavors of home during your visit, there are vegetarian, North and South Indian options at Saffron, Handi, India Palace, Swad, and Persis Biryani Indian Grill. Recent accolades for Greenville include “#1 Under-the-Radar Southern Food Destination” by Zagat, the “Next Big Food City of the South” by Esquire, and one of “The South’s Tastiest Towns” by Southern Living.

The revitalized downtown Greenville looks like a miniature version of a walkable big city, with urban parks, boutiques and a variety of restaurants. The Fall Park on the Reedy, with its bridge and waterfall, is small yet scenic. While strolling along the three blocks of Main Street during a weekend, you will come across families (complete with four-legged members) shopping at the morning farmers market, admiring over 100 public art displays, and listening to live music at one of the outdoor venues.

There are a number of branded hotels in downtown Greenville, including The Westin Poinsett, AC Hotel by Marriott, Hyatt Regency. But if you want to experience a Tuscanstyle getaway amidst mountains and vineyards, head to Hotel Domestique in neighboring Travelers Rest. A perfect place to stay, there’s also a 22-mile-long Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail nearby that has won awards for its biking paths.

Cashiers, North Carolina


One of the most scenic drives of my life happened to be just two hours north of Atlanta! The windy roads on Highways 64 and 107—via Highlands, Cashiers and Sylva— took me through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, dense forests, striking waterfalls, and along trout-rich Nantahala River. In October- November, the 5,000 feet high western North Carolina mountains are covered in hues of red, orange, yellow and green, making it an ideal place to go “leaf peeping.” My favorite way to enjoy the fall colors was via an easy hiking trail on Whiteside Mountain, though there are plenty of golfing, biking, fishing and boating options as well.


From the Rhodes Big View Overlook, on a clear sunny evening, I got to see a rare natural phenomenon that takes place only during two weeks in a year (in spring and fall) when the sun’s shadows cast on Cashier Valley create interesting animal shapes—turtle, mouse, dog and, eventually, a “Shadow of the Bear.”

With easy access to Lake Glenville, Gorges State Park and Panthertown Valley (called Yosemite of the East), the mountain town of Cashiers is designed for outdoor enthusiasts. But there are lovely renovated hotels—High Hampton Resort, Hotel Cashiers, The Wells Hotel Cashiers—that make for warm and luxurious basecamps.

Grab a print copy of Khabar Magazine or read it online here.

Go Nuts for Thanksgiving

Georgia Trend. November 2021.

Pecans, peanuts, pistachios, walnuts, macadamia – oh my! Georgia produces a wide variety of nuts. In fact, Georgia leads the way as the nation’s top pecan producer, growing 142 million pounds last year.

Nuts are a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, have very low sodium (if unsalted) and are cholesterol free. They are versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes. In a nutshell, you don’t have to thrive on chocolate covered nuts, praline pecans and baked goodies. This Thanksgiving, incorporate healthy and delicious nuts into your holiday recipes.

As you think of dishes to serve for Thanksgiving dinner, consider make-in-advance or ready-made walnut pesto on a crostini with feta cheese.

Larry and Beverly Willson, at one of Georgia’s longest-running nut farms, Sunnyland Farms in Albany, recommend cutting dried Medjool dates or figs in half, stuffing

them with a whole almond and topping with crumbled blue cheese, for a sweet and salty snack. You can also sprinkle on bacon bites and cayenne for an extra kick.

The Spicy-peanut party hummus recipe by Gloria Piantek was the winner of the 2021 National Peanut Month Recipe Contest. And it’s no surprise. The combination of sweet and spicy pepper relish, chipotle peppers, creamy peanut butter and mashed chickpeas, tells your tastebuds that its festive season. You can find more such recipes at the Tifton-based Georgia Peanut Commission’s website.

Instead of traditional olive oil and vinegar salad dressing, toss in pecan oil or peanut dressing. The nutty flavor gives more personality to the greens and your guests will keep guessing your “secret recipe.”

For a twist on traditional sweet potato casserole, bake a side of easy-to-grab sweet potato muffins featuring small pecan pieces. The recipe calls for the exact same ingredients – canned sweet potatoes, butter, cinnamon, milk, eggs, sugar – and some flour.

This holiday season, branch out from the traditional turkey with chef Virginia Wills’s almond crusted trout with pecan brown butter. Dress the fish with roasted almond rice pilaf or Asian cashew slaw. The recipe can be found on the Georgia Pecan Commission website.

Georgia Grown peach pecan cranberry sauce is easy to make and adds color to the thanksgiving table. It is boozy with pecan liquor, festive with cranberries and can be made in the microwave in just a few minutes. Use the leftover sauce to make hand pies for breakfast the next day. Georgia Grown partners with chefs around the state to share creative recipes like this, using the freshest homegrown ingredients.

For dessert, try a peanut ribbon cake recipe dating back to the 1970s. The already-frozen pound cake, layered with sweet, grated chocolate and chopped peanuts, can be assembled and frozen until ready to serve with whipped cream and liqueur. Take a look at the Georgia Peanut Commission’s retro recipe collection and you may discover one of your childhood favorites.

For an after-Thanksgiving treat while you trim the Christmas tree, have the kids help arrange a charcuterie plate with crackers, hard and soft cheeses, sliced salami, roasted mixed nuts and fruit jams. The plate is easy to graze on and takes further advantage of the nutty flavors of the season.

However you decide to go nuts this year, roast them first to release the oils and add more crunch. Store nuts in a zip-lock bag or airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. The lower the temperature you store the nuts, the longer they will keep.

Happy Holidays!

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

A day of thanks. Gratitude is the attitude wherever you’re from

For Creative Loafing Atlanta. November 2018 print issue. 

Before I moved to Atlanta in 1997, I had a picture-postcard image of Thanksgiving — a Caucasian family wearing plaid shirts gathered around a big table covered with a dozen delectable dishes. There was always a whole pumpkin and orange tones to signify autumn. I knew there was a cooked turkey at the center of the festive spread (though I had never seen or tasted turkey growing up in India), but that was all I knew about Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t until I was a college freshman, when an elderly couple invited me to their home on Howell Mill Road for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, that I got the full picture. They roasted a whole stuffed turkey and served creamy mashed potatoes, green beans with mushrooms, whipped sweet potatoes, tart cranberry dressing, and pumpkin pie. Then they told me the story of Thanksgiving — in the 1600s, the Wampanoag Indians taught the Pilgrims, who had sailed to the eastern coast of United States on the Mayflower, how to cultivate the land, and in appreciation, the Pilgrims cooked a “thank you” dinner. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared “Thanksgiving” a national holiday, and ever since, Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November each year, when families and friends gather for dinner. What we ate at my first Thanksgiving dinner in Atlanta are some of the dishes typically prepared (most of which I had never tasted before). My hosts asked me to say aloud what I was thankful for, and the three of us dived into my first Thanksgiving meal.

Over the next few years, I discovered a group of international orphans (that’s what we called ourselves, those who were transplants from other countries) who had a potluck dinner party on Thanksgiving Day. Most of us were single students and young professionals. Each one would bring a dish representing their country. We had a globally-inspired feast!

Once I started working a corporate job, I discovered Thanksgiving was also a long weekend and a great time to travel (except you must deal with the crowds). My friends who had moved to Atlanta from elsewhere in the U.S. were always planning a trip home over the Thanksgiving holidays. Since my husband and I had no other home in the states, we started using this opportunity to take vacations. This is when I also realized you could get a Thanksgiving turkey dinner practically anywhere in the U.S., even if you were unable to cook it yourself. I remember having “turkey and fixings” at the Universal Studios cafeteria, at a diner in Gatlinburg, even 30,000 feet in the air onboard a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta.

I also discovered people would get up very early in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving to stand in line at Walmart, Best Buy, and shopping malls for “Black Friday” deals on electronics and clothing. I didn’t see the point in waking up at 5 a.m. to go shopping, but my friends informed me they got very good deals! I didn’t quite get the concept at first. You have just finished being grateful for everything you have but feel the urgent need to go buy more stuff. The only time I indulged in this custom was when Nordstrom gave out free pumpkin pies with every purchase (and you didn’t need to come early for that, or spend a lot).

Now that I have spent more of my life in the U.S., Thanksgiving has become an important part of my American life. I have hosted dinners at my home, cooking turkeys and dozens of sides myself, and invited international students and friends who find themselves alone. The holiday is more of a reminder to be grateful, than to overindulge in food or retail therapy.

Commemorating a bountiful harvest is not a concept unique to the Pilgrims, as some version of it can be found in other parts of the world. People across Germany, Grenada, Korea, Japan, Liberia, and Norfolk Island have been known to celebrate some version of a day of remembrance — of giving gratitude for a good harvest, of counting one’s blessings or thanking the labor force — by enjoying a feast with family and friends. Many cultures have parades, carnivals, music, and dancing to celebrate abundant food with appreciation.

Other transplanted Atlantans have brought their own perspective to this holiday of giving thanks.

An English Canadian who grew up in Toronto, Fairyal Halim was accustomed to celebrating Thanksgiving as a day to give gratitude, rather than in the context of a historical event. Our northern neighbor has been celebrating the holiday long before us and has similar cooking traditions, though they celebrate it in on the second Monday in October. A U.S. resident for almost three decades, Halim now celebrates two Thanksgivings with her family — a Canadian one in October, and an American version in November.

Says Halim, “To this day, Thanksgiving remains grounded in the recognition of our immense blessings of family, friends, and gratitude for it all. It is really a time to focus on all that we are blessed with and to not take it for granted. I make a point of reaching out to family and/or friends who may find themselves alone on Thanksgiving.” She remembers hosting turkey dinners for her son’s college friends who were unable to make it home for Thanksgiving. The turkey came from a halal (slaughtered according to the principals of Islam) butcher, as Halim’s family is Muslim.

For Halim, Thanksgiving emphasizes the coming together of different people and being aware of the abundance in one’s life. “As a Muslim, I find great resonance of values that are important to me in the celebration of Thanksgiving. It is the perfect synthesis of our North American culture and religion. The concept of gratitude and thankfulness to God is foremost for Muslims. They are to be ever mindful of their blessings, to not take anything for granted, and to give thanks by saying ‘Alhamdulillah,’ meaning ‘all praise is for God.’ Thanksgiving is not limited to just one day for Muslims,” she says. “It’s is an attitude of gratitude.”

Cali, Colombia, native Cesar Restrepo came to Cleveland, Georgia, to pursue a bachelor’s degree in music. “I knew that my brothers and family living in Miami celebrated Thanksgiving, but I thought it was just a break they had before Christmas. I also knew about the special prices on pretty much everything. For me it was just a mere shopping holiday,” he recalls of his first brush with the holiday.

PREPPING: Cooking the paella. courtesy of Cesar Restreppo

PREPPING: Cooking the paella. courtesy of Cesar Restreppo

For his first turkey dinner, Restrepo was invited by a Colombian family who served him a typical American Thanksgiving dinner along with tamales, a customary dish at every Colombian holiday. He remembers taking a moment before the meal to express what each of them was thankful for, especially for the blessings this country had given them. Twenty years later, Restrepo continues the tradition with his wife and kids, cooking all day, inviting friends over, and reflecting on the good fortune they have in their lives.

“For me, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to gather with other immigrants and make them feel welcome in a country that is not ours but is kind enough to host us. It’s also an act of kindness and peace,” says Restrepo. Having grown up in a relatively poor country, he doesn’t like the extravagant feasts where a lot of food is wasted.

Content writer and blogger Lakshmi Devi Jagad moved from Mumbai to Atlanta in 2003. She, too, had no knowledge of the historic significance of Thanksgiving before arriving in the U.S., but she had heard about the incredible sales the holiday brought with it. “I believe Thanksgiving has been monetized for many years now!” she observes.

Over the years, it has become a day when she and her husband catch up with friends over a good meal and conversation, a quiet and peaceful time, Jagad says, for “a social gathering, a fun get-together, an opportunity to relax.”

Being vegetarian, Jagad must forgo the indispensable turkey and opt for an elaborate vegetable biryani, a layered Indian rice dish with saffron and nuts that is served with a side of cucumber and yogurt raita. “We prepare a huge pot of it as our version of the turkey,” she says.

Father George Mahklouf, an Orthodox priest from the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the West Bank, has also integrated Thanksgiving into his annual rituals. “Whether Palestinians, Arabs, or other immigrants from overseas coming to America, many try to follow the traditions of the country they choose to live in. I lived in Yonkers, NY, then Long Island, and finally Atlanta. Wherever I went, Arabs celebrated Thanksgiving. Why? I don’t know, though most probably see it as a gathering of family and friends.”

Mahklouf says the story of the Native Americans and the Pilgrims is familiar to him. “It reminds me of our similar Palestinian story as native indigenous people of the land of Canaan who were displaced by Ashkenazi Jews coming from Poland, Russia, and other places in the world to live in our own homes and take over our businesses and orchards.” Mahklouf, who breaks his own Nativity Fast “in order to please people (at Thanksgiving)” for a feast he never celebrated in Palestine, says his thankfulness, like Halim’s, is not limited to the holiday. “We thank God and all who do us favors, without having a special day to thank God and others.”

Thanksgiving in the U.S. has traditionally been a historic celebration, with religious overtones for many, but today it is celebrated by immigrants from around the world, regardless of their religious or cultural beliefs or ethnic backgrounds, who have chosen to make the United States their home. The holiday may have evolved from a day of giving thanks around the dinner table to include watching afternoon football games and starting the holiday shopping season, but its essence — celebrating an abundance of food after a fall harvest, breaking bread together with others, and appreciating one’s blessings — has endured over time.

~ Written for Creative Loafing Atlanta

Holiday Memories at Gaylord Opryland

CN logo

Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn., is Disneyland, a Caribbean cruise and a spectacular resort and convention center all rolled into one. It is the perfect destination for the entire family looking for a little break during the holidays. Nine acres of botanical gardens, 50,000 tropical plants, a quarter mile-long indoor river and cascading waterfalls are all maintained inside the giant atriums at 72 degrees year round. That means you can escape the chill of winter as soon as you check in.


The tropical temperature controlled resort will still give you the authentic thrills of the holiday season. In fact, Gaylord Opryland Resort’s “A Country Christmas” was named as one of the “Ten Great Places to Catch up with Santa” by USA Today; the hotel was named “The Most Christmassy Hotel in the Nation” by the Travel Channel’s Extreme Christmas; “One of the top 10 places to spend Christmas in the world by Travel + Leisure and a “Nashville treasure” by Southern Living.


With more than two million twinkling lights, horse-drawn carriage rides, acres of stunning decorations and exclusive holiday events and attractions, Gaylord Opryland offers many activities to capture the minds of the young and the old.


“A Country Christmas” runs from November 15, 2012 through January 1, 2013 and puts on a dozen shows and attractions including Lorrie Morgan’s Enchanted Christmas Dinner and Show; The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes; ICE!, featuring DreamWorks Animation’s Shrek the Halls (carved from 2 million pounds of ice); Holly Jolly Town Square; Treasures for the Holidays craft show and more.


The little ones can have interactive experiences starring favorite characters from DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc. films such as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar. The Christmassy DreamWorks Experience features the resort’s popular ShrekFeast Interactive Character Meal, “Character Passport” meet and greets, Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating, DreamWorks-themed scavenger hunt and Holiday Shrektacular street party. Now, that’s a lot more fun than unwrapping toys!


The festivities continue with Holly Jolly Town Square, a step back in time to a nostalgic 1950’s town square, complete with shops from Main Street, a holiday kids’ train, story time with Mrs. Claus at the library and live entertainment.


For adults, there are amazing restaurants, a spa, a pool, shopping and concerts. Couples can enjoy a romantic afternoon strolling along the shops at the Italian-style Magnolia pavilion, taking a boat ride down the river or watching the water fountains dance to a sound and light show at the Delta Atrium at night. Being home to country music, a number of live performances and entertainment are held daily at Opryland. Really, there is no need to leave the premises.


Deciding where to dine may be more difficult than you had originally thought. Twenty restaurants offer everything from British pub, Italian, Mexican, sushi and contemporary fast food to an upscale steakhouse that has its own sommelier and maître fromager. The food is prepared by some of the best chefs in the country and the service is exceptional.


Gaylord Opryland offers the most captivating holiday resort entertainment, decor and food in America, and the perfect venue to make family memories this season.