Nashville has been a popular destination with country music fans for years, but this fast-growing southern city with a rich history, booming food scene, and wave of attractions has so much to offer, there’s something for everybody.
It definitely lives up to its name as “Music City” with the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and “Honky Tonk Row.” Those aren’t the only music options, however. More than 150 live music venues offering all types of music are spread throughout Nashville. Look for street signs in the shape of a guitar pick noting “Live Music Venue.”
Some of the more popular spots for first-time visitors include the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ole Opry. The Country Music Hall of Fame (http://countrymusichalloffame.org/) covers the history of country music and many of its greatest artists, as well as showing its influence on other genres. One exhibit through the end of 2017 tells the story of how Bob Dylan surprised both his fans and record label when he came to Nashville in the 1960’s to record with a group of session musicians called “the Nashville Cats.” It also recounts his friendship with Johnny Cash. The Grand Ole Opry has weekend shows and some during the week depending on the time of year. Check the schedule ahead of time for show dates. (http://www.opry.com/)
The Ryman auditorium (https://ryman.com/) , originally built as a church, served as the home of the Grand Ole Opry for 31 years, before the Opry moved out to its current location in 1974. Self-guided and backstage tours highlight the stories of the many music legends such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and others who performed there. Although it was closed for years, the Ryman later reopened and serves as a music venue again today.
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Most places offering live music along “Honky Tonk Row” open at 11:00 every morning and continue until 3am the next morning. The bands play for tips, so there are no cover charges. There’s something pretty special about walking along a street in the middle of the day and hearing the call of a steel guitar, a fiddle, or favorite song from a window. It’s a family friendly environment, so kids can also go inside and enjoy the music up until 6pm. Some of the more famous places like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (where Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and others got their start) and Legends, are definitely worth a walk through just to see the old photos and memorabilia covering the walls.
Two of Nashville newest attractions are the Patsy Cline Museum (on the second floor of the Johnny Cash Museum) and Madame Tussauds at Opry Mills Mall. The Patsy Cline Museum (www.patsymuseum.com) honors one of the greatest female voices in country music more than fifty years after she died in a plane crash. The museum collection includes a number of personal items, offering insight into both her short career and life as a devoted wife and mother. Madame Tussauds (www.madametussauds.com) has more than four dozen wax figure ranging from George Strait and Loretta Lynn to Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, and more. Unlike its other attractions around the world this one focuses solely on music and allows visitors to get up close and personal with its wax figures. Music plays throughout and the photo ops are endless.
Thanks to its former designation as the “Athens of the South” because of its many colleges and universities, Nashville has the only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon (http://www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Parthenon.aspx . Inside, there’s a 42 foot tall statue of the Goddess Athena. Covered in eight pounds of gold, she’s the tallest indoor statue in North America.
Several historical sites outside the downtown area worth visiting include President Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Home (http://thehermitage.com/), Belle Meade Plantation (http://bellemeadeplantation.com/), and Civil War sites in the town of Franklin (south of Nashville) (http://boft.org/).
Marathon Village (http://www.visitmusiccity.com/visitors/neighborhoods/marathonvillage) offers a little bit of history and a whole lot of shopping. Old buildings that once housed productions lines for the Marathon car built between 1914 and 1918 now house an Antique Archaeology store (made famous on “American Pickers”), two distilleries, a winery, a Jack Daniels General Store, Harley Davidson store, jewelry store, coffee shop, Bang Company candy store, and much more. There’s even a chance to catch a glimpse of four of those old marathon cars behind the glass just across the street.
Nashville has some 39,000 hotel rooms, along with Bed and Breakfasts, RV campgrounds, and Airbnbs. The Renaissance Hotel, currently the city’s tallest hotel, is within walking distance of the downtown, as are many others. For lodging options go to http://www.visitmusiccity.com/
When it comes to mealtime, there are plenty of great places to eat in Nashville. Check out the hot chicken at Prince’s or Hattie B’s, barbecue at Jack’s or Peg Leg Porker’s, or one of the many fine dining restaurants like 404 Kitchen or Adele’s. For one of the hottest places for breakfast or brunch head to Biscuit Love and be sure to try their Bonuts (biscuit donuts). Be ready, you will likely have to stand in line. But, as with most things in Nashville, it’s worth the wait.
JUNE 8th – 11TH: CMA MUSIC FESTIVAL, VARIOUS VENUES THROUGHOUT DOWNTOWN NASHVILLE
The annual CMA FESTIVAL brings thousands of country music fans together with their favorite artists for live concerts, meet & greets, autograph signings, and much more. Lower Broadway (Honky Tonk Row) is blocked off to provide space for stages and vendors. Evening concerts are held at Nissan Stadium. Some events are free, others require tickets. For ticket and information visit http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-music-festival/
JULY 4TH: MUSIC CITY CELEBRATION, RIVERFRONT PARK
This free, family friendly July 4th celebration features live music with Chris Young, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others, along with one of the largest fireworks displays in the country set to live music with the Nashville Symphony. For more information go to http://www.visitmusiccity.com/
JULY 8TH:CONCAFAF GOLD CUP SOCCER, NISSAN STADIUM
Taking place every two years, the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football) Gold Cup celebrates the best in soccer. For the first time ever, Nashville will host two Gold Cup games this summer. The first game features the USA team versus Panama. For tickets visit: http://www.concacaf.com/category/gold-cup/tickets
AUGUST 21st: SOLAR ECLIPSE, CITYWIDE
When the first solar eclipse sweeps through the United States August 21st, Nashville will be the largest city in its path. Special events and activities to be announced as the city gears up for the once-this-once in a lifetime celestial event.