Nashville is a wonderful city. No, really. Still feels very small town but has all the things you want in a city: a deep and interesting history, music, a fabulous skyline, great food, music, plenty of culture, music, major sporting events, a delightful nightlife. Did I mention the music?
They call it Music City for a reason.
They also call it the Third Coast. Nashville is home to a thriving music industry. Take a drive down Music Row to check out the recording studios and you’ll see what I mean. (You can also drive around the roundabout on Demonbreun and groan at that ugly statue.) Sure, Nashville is the home of country music, but please—don’t assume that’s the only music you’ll hear in Music City! You can certainly hear plenty of country music if you’d like, but in point of fact, every musician wants to play Nashville, because the audiences here are pretty sophisticated, musically speaking. (And that’s just for starters.) Here are the suggestions I make to music fans:
- Station Inn: a bluegrass music venue that I take anyone and everyone to. Check the website for specific events but the house band is superior. Because Nashville.
- RCA Studio B: it’s historic, and everybody from Elvis Presley to Gillian Welch has recorded here. It’s also the only studio that offers a tour, which you start at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
- The Bluebird Café: You can’t go wrong at a songwriters-in-the-round club like the Bluebird. (Here are some other options.)
- Grand Ole Opry: It’s a rip-roaring good time (honest). You must buy tix inn advance; and on show night, start early: the traffic is terrible.
- The Ryman Auditorium: This is THE place to see music in Nashville. If you can’t see a show, take the tour.
- The Nashville Scene: Back in the day, an important part of every Thursday was my picking up a copy of the Scene, our “alternative” newspaper. Now you have the Internet. Excellent local journalism but will also help you find a show in a smaller venue if you can’t get tix to the Ryman. 🙂
- Honky-tonkin’: And you can always just cruise Broadway. Everybody should go honky-tonkin’ at least once! Robert’s Western World is an excellent choice. Here’s a link for some other suggestions; here’s another.)
- The Nashville Symphony and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center: Gorgeous building, love the symphony. Great community outreach. ’Nuff said.
- Hatch Show Print: After you’ve bought your tix for the Ryman, stop by Hatch Show Print and pick up a poster of the show as a souvenir.
- Pancake Pantry: Not too far from Music Row, the Pancake Pantry is the second office to a lot of music industry folks. You never know who you might see. 🙂 Just go early to avoid the crowd.
There’s inspiring history here too.
Nashville has a rich history dating back more than 200 years to Fort Nashborough, built on the banks of the Cumberland River in 1779. It was the sixteenth state admitted to the union, gained the “Volunteer State” nickname when it sent hundreds more men than asked for to the War of 1812, and is the site of the home of a US president. (Tennessee has sent three presidents to Washington: Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson.)
- The Hermitage: It’s a president’s home, y’all, and it’s right here in Nashville. (Andrew Jackson.) If you like house museums, and I do, it’s a must-see. Because US president.
- Tennessee State Capitol and archives: it’s a gorgeous building on a beautiful piece of land. Be sure you walk around behind and stroll the Bicentennial Capitol Mall. It’s spectacular.
- Nashville Public Library: While you’re downtown, drop in to the Nashville Public Library to visit the Civil Rights Room for another look at history.
- Belle Meade Plantation: The tagline here is “Time made still; history made real.” The land for this plantation was purchased in 1806.
Art and culture abound.
As if the music weren’t enough, there are galleries, craft fairs and festivals, and more than a dozen colleges and universities in Nashville, all of them historic, including Vanderbilt University; Belmont University; TSU; Fisk University; Meharry Medical College; Lipscomb University; Trevecca Nazarene University; and Watkins College of Art, Design, & Film. Here are my must-sees:
- Belmont Mansion: I can’t say it any better than the website—“The largest house museum in the state, the second largest antebellum home in the South, and one of the few nineteenth century homes whose history revolves around the life of a woman.” It’s brilliant.
- The Parthenon: Built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial (it’s located in Centennial Park on West End Avenue), the Parthenon is a full-scale model of the original in Athens—and it’s my number-one favorite thing in Nashville, hands down. You should at least drive by.
- Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art: A beautiful house and grounds. I have yet to actually make it inside Cheekwood because the sculpture trail and botanical gardens are so lovely.
- Frist Center for the Visual Arts: Located in the old post office in a gorgeous 1930s Art Deco building (and right next door to the Union Station Hotel, a visual treat itself), I find myself in the Frist several times a year. Love it.
Bottom line? It’s just cool.