Winston Aldworth is the Herald's Travel Editor.

Staying at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Winston Aldworth checks in to the vast Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, in Nashville, Tennessee..
The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, in Nashville, Tennessee.

Location: The Gaylord is a 20-minute drive from downtown Nashville.

The "Gaylord"? Seriously? Yep. The check-in staff don't even bat an eyelid as they say the name. "Welcome to the Gaylord, sir!" "They'll have you in a Queen in no time," an hilarious colleague assured me before my trip.

Price: You can get a nightly rate with Expedia from $435. Cheapest deals are from February to July.

How big is the place? Huge. Any bigger and I'd advise leaving a trail of breadcrumbs.

There are 3000 rooms, more than 2800 staff and a small boat that sails around doing sightseeing tours of the interior - seriously. A boat. Inside a hotel. I had to drop something off at a travel buddy's room; the woman at reception assured me our rooms were "in the same area". After 10 minutes of wandering through hallways, I figured she meant we were "in the same state".

One of the things Kiwis find most fascinating about visiting the US is the mad scale of everything. We come home raving about the meal portions, the roller coasters, the malls, the waistbands and the highways. This joint is definitely of the ilk. I sat on my interior-facing balcony, gawping in wonder at the sheer mad scale of the place.

There are four giant atriums, each bearing more in common with a geodasic dome on some future Martian landscape than any hotel I've ever known. Amid streams, waterfalls and abundant rainforest plantlife, there are bars, restaurants and cafes galore.

Check-in experience: Slick. Later during our stay I passed reception as several hundred attendees for a bakery conference arrived. The foyer had the efficient hum of a well-run airport check-in area.

Atmosphere: The bigger hotels get in America, the more likely they are to be hosting conferences. Which is all well and good, but a conference crowd tends to suck the life out of a place.

My room: I was in 5014, an inward facing suite with a weird-shaped bathroom and a brilliant balcony looking down on the first of the atriums. It made for pleasant gawping.

The bed: Worked for me.

Food and drink: There are Irish bars, pizza joints, half-decent coffee spots and proper sit-down restaurants galore. But the hotel is missing a cracking opportunity to host amazing live music. We're in Nashville after all. (That said, it's so vast, I'd possibly missed a 10,000-seater concert venue behind the gym.) How about dudes playing the guitar on random corners?

Sport and recreation: I burnt plenty of calories walking the hallways, but made time to hit the indoor pool for a few lengths. A young lifeguard was on duty as I arrived at 4.30pm.

His split-shift day of sitting in a chair waiting for someone to drown had started at 5am.

"How many people have been here?" I asked. "You're the fourth swimmer I've seen," he said. Poor bastard.

Contact: marriott.com/hotels

Final word: A remarkable place. No one does big like America. Anyone who frequents the States will appreciate the hardcore people-watching opportunities; at this gargantuan joint you can simply enjoy the place-watching.

- NZ Herald

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