Nashville is the capital and largest city of the state of Tennessee, and is famous for being the centre of country music and hot chicken. That may be what everyone says about Nashville, but take a walk around some of the streets downtown and you’ll see why it has earned the name ‘Music City’. You’ll catch snatches of all different types of music from the diverse live bands and songwriters playing in the many bars and restaurants. Then comes the difficult decision; which one to pick first.
How to Get to Nashville
If you are taking an internal flight or visiting Nashville from abroad, you’ll land at Nashville International Airport which is about 15 minutes drive from the city centre. If you don’t want to hire a car or take a cab, the bus journey takes about 40 minutes to get you into the centre.
Where to visit in Nashville
If open spaces are more to your liking, there are plenty to choose from. Centennial Park is ideal for a picnic or even for some boating on the lake, and further afield you have Radnor Lake State Park with miles of hiking trails and native wilderness.
While you are in Centennial Park, you have to visit the Parthenon. In 1897, the Tennessee Centennial Exposition was held in Nashville, and because Nashville’s nickname at the time was the ‘Athens of the South’, a decision was made to build their own version of the Greek Parthenon. It is the world’s only exact replica of the original and houses a lovely art gallery and museum.
If you have hired a car, there are a few sites outside the centre of Nashville that are worth visiting to give some idea of the early years of Nashville. Being in the South, the history is dominated by the Civil War, and you can learn all about the effect this had on the area and the local population by experiencing some of the local plantations and museums.
Andrew Jacksons Hermitage, the home of the people’s president is about 10 miles out of Nashville but is certainly worth a visit. South of the city are the historic Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum, and Belle Meade Plantation, a must for any history enthusiasts. On the way back to the city, you could even drop into the zoo at Grassmere to see more than 2000 animals, from giraffe and kangaroos to tarantulas and lizards.
Back in the city, Belmont Mansion is a lovely place to visit. It is now part of the Belmont University but houses a fascinating museum in lovely grounds. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Batman Building when you are in the downtown area. Sadly, it houses AT&T not Batman, but it is certainly one of Nashville’s iconic buildings.
When it comes to eating, you have to try some hot chicken. There are many and varied places to try it in Nashville and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack can be a good place to start. Or if you fancy something to look at while you eat instead, Acme Feed & Seed has a great rooftop patio for views over Nashville.
You can’t leave before you experience Nashville from the water. You can choose from a variety of showboat cruises for a meal, a show, or just drinks as you take in the sights.
The Famous Music Scene
Nashville is all about the music though, and it would be criminal not to experience the vibrant music scene in some of the downtown bars. You can choose from cover bands to singer/songwriters, or just pop in to whichever bar takes your fancy and see what you can discover. Who knows if the bar you choose was where one of the legends of country music began their career.
You have to visit the Grand Ole Opry even if you aren’t lucky enough to be able to watch one of the greats sing there. It is one of the most famous music venues in the world, now housed at the Ryman Auditorium but it started as a radio program in 1925. It was broadcast as a weekly country music concert and became synonymous with Nashville and the greats. Stars such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline were all regulars.
Nashville is also home to the Country Music Awards, so if you are visiting at the right time of year, who knows who you might bump into on the street. The Country Music Hall of Fame is always there as a back-up though, if you don’t happen to spy any famous country music stars around. You can find out all about them here instead. Likewise the Johnny Cash Museum and RCA Studio B, both of which are evocative of a bygone era with memorabilia and memories.
Find the Best Hotels in Nashville
If you can, you should stay at The Gaylord Opryland Resort. It is quite a way outside the centre, but it is definitely worth visiting for part of your trip as it is so gargantuan. There are the gorgeous Cascades Atrium Waterfalls to explore, or Delta Island if you fancy a bit of shopping.
If you would rather be a bit more central, both Sheraton and Renaissance have hotels in downtown Nashville to make it slightly easier for you to get out and about.
Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited 70+ countries.