There are five Gaylord resorts located across the U.S. in the following destinations: Nashville; Kissimmee, Florida; Aurora, Colorado; Grapevine, Texas; and National Harbor, Maryland.
As you might suspect, they have the guest rooms, pools and fitness centers that you’d find at any other hotel, plus a number of extras you’ll only get at Gaylord properties. That’s because Gaylord resorts are so much more than stereotypical hotels. They’re an experience.
Each resort is a destination unto itself, so much so that you don’t have to venture out of the resort for food, festivities and fun. There are some things you’ll want to know before you go, though, so you can make the most of your visit and save a little money in the process.
Here are six tips to keep top of mind when planning a stay at a Gaylord resort.
It’s more than a hotel: It’s a destination
Gaylord resorts are designed to celebrate the culture, heritage and natural landscape of the parts of the country where they are located.
For example, near Walt Disney World at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, you can observe local flora and fauna — including gators — in the resort’s 4.5-acre glass atrium and dine on fresh seafood in a life-size sailboat. Meanwhile, at Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, the massive atrium houses replicas of Lone Star State landmarks like the Alamo and the San Antonio River Walk.
Each resort features distinct theming, but there’s always one thing all the resorts have in common: You can spend hours strolling the meandering paths in the atriums while you explore the caves, waterfalls and gardens.
In and around those signature atriums, you’ll also find so many shopping, dining and entertainment options that you may forget to leave the hotel during your stay. Each Gaylord resort has multiple restaurants, including pizza joints for casual meals, sports bars where you can grab a bite to eat while you watch the big game and fine dining establishments for date night. You can also get your morning caffeine fix at the on-site Cocoa Bean coffee shop, which serves a full Starbucks menu.
Between meals, you can shop for souvenirs with local flair, visit the full-service spa, go for a swim at the water park or participate in seasonal holiday activities.
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You can book with (or earn) Marriott Bonvoy points
Gaylord hotels fall under the Marriott umbrella of brands and, therefore, participate in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. That means you can earn and redeem Marriott Bonvoy points for stays at any Gaylord hotel.
Just as if you paid with cash, points pricing varies based on the date and room type. In general, pricing at Gaylord hotels starts at around $300 or 40,000 points per night. You can sometimes find pricing closer to $200 or 32,000 points per night if your dates are flexible, but nightly rates can climb above $500 or 60,000 points during holidays and special events.
Marriott Bonvoy members get other perks at Gaylord hotels, too. Silver Elite members and above receive a points bonus and late checkout, and Gold Elite members and above also receive a complimentary room upgrade (subject to availability). When you visit during one of Gaylord’s seasonal events, Marriott Bonvoy members often have access to exclusive offers that include bonus points and room and ticket discounts.
Related: The complete guide to earning Marriott elite status with credit cards
Earning Marriott elite status requires at least 10 qualifying stays per year, but you can fast-track your way to Marriott elite status to reap some of the aforementioned benefits by having certain cards. For example, cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card will net you automatic Gold Elite status (enrollment is required).
Rooms with an atrium view are worth the added cost
Most Gaylord hotels have rooms with balconies that look out over the atriums. The only exception is Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, which instead offers select rooms with mountain views. You’ll need to reserve an atrium view room at the time of booking to guarantee you wake up to views of the serene indoor gardens below.
Atrium view rooms will typically cost between $70 and $100 more per night than a standard view room, but this is where that complimentary room upgrade for members with at least Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite status comes into play.
There’s no guarantee that an upgrade will be available, but if you are willing to take the risk, you can book a standard view room and cross your fingers and toes for an upgrade to an atrium view room. It may help to call a day or two before check-in to make the request by phone and have the customer service agent add a note to your reservation.
There are special offers to take advantage of
If you are looking for extra perks or discounted rates, always check the hotel’s website and social media pages for special offers. These offers vary by location and time of year, but you may see discounts of up to 50% off room and special event ticket packages (like Gaylord’s signature holiday event, Ice!).
Related: Frozen fun: 7 tips for experiencing Ice! at Gaylord Hotels this Christmas
Other specials may include complimentary breakfast, daily resort credits, spa treatments or water park access (the latter is only applicable at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, where water park access is not included in the cost of your stay).
Each resort has a year-round water park or pool
Speaking of water parks, each Gaylord resort has an on-site pool or water park that is open year-round. Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center and Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center have outdoor water parks, while Gaylord hotels that aren’t located in states where the temperatures are conducive to being outside any time of year have indoor-outdoor water parks or pools that can be enjoyed no matter the season.
Related: 12 hotels with the best lazy rivers to beat the heat and float away
With the exception of Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, which only has an indoor pool and an outdoor sun deck, Gaylord water parks are some of the best hotel water parks around. You’ll find large splash structures for kids, lazy rivers, slides, pools and more.
Only Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center has a separate entrance fee for visitors, including guests. At this resort, you’ll need to book a package that includes water park admission to avoid paying when you arrive. Water park admission is included in the cost of your stay at every other Gaylord property.
Summer and major holidays are especially fun times to visit
If your schedule allows, you’ll get the most out of your time at a Gaylord hotel when you visit during one of the brand’s seasonal events.
During the winter holiday season, you can build gingerbread houses, take photos with Santa, explore the Christmas trees and decor in the atrium and visit a festive walkthrough experience made entirely of ice that’s aptly named Ice! Halloween ushers in lots of spooky (but kid-appropriate) activities, including trick-or-treating and monster dance parties. And around Easter, you can meet the Easter bunny, decorate cookies and participate in a spring-themed scavenger hunt.
Summer is a particularly fun time, too, as the Gaylord properties host a “Pirates and Princesses” event with adventure-oriented activities for kids.
Even if you can’t make it during one of these special events, there’s always a schedule of activities around the resort like atrium light shows, movie nights, animal encounters and more. You can ask for an activities schedule at the front desk, but you’ll likely find a QR code in the lobby or your guest room with a link to view what’s on the calendar while you’re visiting.
We’ve shared almost everything you need to know to plan a perfect Gaylord resort stay, but there’s one thing we can’t provide: the fun. That part is up to you, but luckily, Gaylord makes it easy with ample activities, delicious dining and beautiful scenery. The only thing that’s missing is you.