What’s the Difference Between Ryman Auditorium & Grand Ole Opry?

Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry may be two different buildings, but they have a lot of shared history. Both iconic places have served as homes to the Grand Ole Opry radio show and have played an important role in the popularity of country music. In fact, Nashville might not be the Music City it is today without the influence of these two venues. While they’re closely related, the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry have some key differences.

Ryman Auditorium vs. Grand Ole Opry: Are They the Same Thing?

No, Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry are not the same thing. However, they do have a long and storied history together. Keep reading to learn how these music landmarks are related, how they’re different, and how you can experience them today.

What is the History of Ryman Auditorium?

If you think the Ryman is simply another music venue in downtown Nashville, think again. This building is hallowed ground in music history. It’s the place where bluegrass music was created, where some of the world’s most talented musicians got their start, and it’s a catalyst for country music’s popularity across the U.S. Of course, that was almost not enough to keep Ryman Auditorium from being wiped completely off the map.

The Ryman Before the Grand Ole Opry

The Ryman was the brainchild of Captain Thomas G. Ryman. In 1885, after he attended a tent revival in Nashville led by evangelist Sam Jones, Ryman felt inspired to dedicate his fortune to building a church called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. The church opened in 1889 and hosted services by Jones and others, as well as lectures and community events. When Ryman died in 1904, the church was renamed Ryman Auditorium in his honor.

The Ryman During Grand Ole Opry

In 1943, the Grand Ole Opry radio show, which had been on-air for about a decade, was running out of space. Ryman Auditorium became the show’s new home, projecting the Grand Ole Opry and country music stars like Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff into living rooms across the U.S. The Grand Ole Opry performed from the Ryman Auditorium stage each Saturday night for more than 30 years, earning the Ryman the nickname The Mother Church.

The Ryman After Grand Ole Opry

In the 1970s, it was decided that the Grand Ole Opry needed its own permanent home and so the Grand Ole Opry building was constructed. The show moved from Ryman Auditorium in 1974, and with an undetermined purpose and future, the Ryman fell into disrepair in the years that followed. At one point, the building came perilously close to demolition, but a team of musicians and Nashville residents banded together in the nick of time to save the historic site. Rather than being erased, the Ryman was restored and now stands proudly today as an active music venue, a living museum, and an icon of Music City.

Touring the Ryman and Grand Ole Opry

Today, both Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry welcome guests for tours. Experience the history of these sites for yourself and get the full story of the important role they played in music and the development of Nashville. Both locations offer a variety of tour options to fit what you’re looking for.

Why Tour the Ryman?

A tour of the Ryman gives you unmatched access to one of Nashville’s most famous landmarks, offering not only free reign of the venue itself but a chance to visit its variety of exhibits. Each tour starts in the Soul of Nashville theater with an immersive video taking you through the Ryman’s nearly-130-year history. Then tour the exhibits and see memorabilia and photos from performers over the decades. Visit the Hatch Show Print Gallery to see autographed posters designed in Hatch’s signature, hand-printed style, and take a souvenir photo on the Ryman stage.

Schedule a backstage tour led by a Ryman Auditorium guide to see behind the scenes. Or, to explore at your own pace, book a self-guided tour. Each option gives you access to this world-renowned venue at an affordable price.

Why Tour the Grand Ole Opry?

The Grand Ole Opry is the true home of country music and one of Nashville’s most-visited tourist destinations. Walk in the footsteps of country music’s biggest stars and learn about the show that made country music famous. Each tour starts in the Opry’s custom-built theater as it comes to life with music, special effects, and archival video footage. Then, an Opry guide will show you behind the scenes, exclusive photos, and the famed artist entrance. You may even have the chance to stand on stage in the wooden circle where nearly every Grand Ole Opry performer has stood.

Book a daytime backstage tour or a post-show tour, which gives you backstage access right after that night’s Grand Ole Opry performance ends. 

Touring Both via the Essential Country Duos Tour

Get the best of both worlds by visiting these two historical sites on one ticket. The Essential Country Duos Tour gives you an in-person tour of Ryman Auditorium and a guided backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry on the same day for one low price. There’s no better way to gain a full understanding of the history of music in Nashville.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Did the Grand Ole Opry Move Away From the Ryman?

The Grand Ole Opry moved to the Opry house in 1974 because it was determined the show needed its own, permanent home. Ryman Auditorium was home to the Grand Ole Opry for more than 30 years, from 1943 to 1974.

Is the Grand Ole Opry Ever Still Held at the Ryman?

Yes, the Grand Ole Opry is still held at Ryman Auditorium on select dates throughout the year. Check out the Opry at the Ryman schedule to see upcoming shows.

How Far is the Ryman from the Grand Ole Opry?

Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry are located about 12 miles apart in Nashville, approximately a 20-minute drive.

Could You See Both Ryman and Grand Ole Opry in a Single Day?

Yes you can see both Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry in one day. Each tour takes around one hour to complete, so it’s easy to visit one location in the morning and one in the afternoon. Book the Essential Country Duos Combo Package to see both venues in a single day for one low price.

How to Get From the Ryman to the Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman are located just over 12 miles (a 20-minute drive) from each other in Nashville. The Ryman is located on 5th Ave. downtown; the Opry is accessible from TN-155 near the Opry Mills Mall and Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center on Nashville’s northeast side.

If You Could Only Visit One… Which Should You Choose?

Both the Ryman and the Grand Ole Opry have played a significant role in country music, and both have their own unique story to tell. If you’re a lover of history and music of all genres, the Ryman is a can’t-miss with its 130-year story and influence in rock, hip hop, bluegrass, and indie music, as well as country.

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