If you ask my wife what her favorite kind of music is, she will say “LIVE music”. More than the genre, any music performed in person sounds so much sweeter and powerful. We’re on our second trip of the year with a stop in Music City USA – Nashville, Tennessee.
If country music isn’t what you usually listen too – and it isn’t for us – don’t let that stop you visiting one of the most unique cities in America. Just as New Orleans brings jazz music to life, visiting Nashville is a cultural trip to the heart of America with a catchy soundtrack to boot.
Here are some highlights:
1. Country Music Hall of Fame
The story of America over the past 100 years is effectively told through this museum that highlights country music’s hillbilly & gospel roots. Whether you are a fan of Johnny Cash or Carrie Underwood you are going to come away with a new appreciation of the circle of country music. We spent a little more than 2 hours here, but country music fans could definitely spend the whole day.
2. Grand Old Opry Tour & Show
The weekly Grand Ole Opry show started in 1925 and remains the home of the country music sound. Located in suburban Nashville, the Opry does shows three nights a week and blends all styles of country music into one show. On the night we went, we saw Riders in the Sky, the Osborne’s (Rocky Top), Oak Ridge Boys, Parmalee, Mark Willis, and comedian Gary Muledeer. The show was broadcast live in WSM radio and was hugely entertaining.
3. Lower Broadway Honky Tonks
A night out in Nashville demands a stop in Lower Broadway and visits to a few Honky Tonk clubs (no cover charge). Here, you will find incredibly talented performers every night of the week, combining country, rock, and the blues. Even when the acts are acoustic, the atmosphere is electric – and Lower Broadway is lit up like Las Vegas.
4. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
President Andrew Jackson came to prominence in the highly chaotic early-1800s and is said to represent the best & worst of America in his time. His Hermitage plantation outside Nashville was his rural retreat before and after his Presidency. It was interesting for us to get to know his roles as a General at the Battle of New Orleans, owner of a slave plantation, author of the Indian Removal Act, and the ‘People’s President” that overturned Eastern aristocracy.
5. Gaylord Opryland Hotel
I wouldn’t typically put a hotel as a must-see stop, but the Gaylord Opryland hotel is pretty incredible. I’ve stayed at this one and the one in Orlando before, but they seem to keep getting bigger. Like a city under glass, this beautiful hotel is the largest outside of Las Vegas. Adjacent to the Grand Ole Opry theater, this is a fun splurge and really immerses you in Southern hospitality. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, I’d suggest checking out the Gaylord.
6. Nashville Parthenon
Nashville bills itself as the ‘Athens of the South’, yet it is a bit odd to see this Grecian Temple near the Vanderbilt University Campus. Like many structures originally built for a World’s Exposition, this exacting replica of the Parthenon in Athens has become a local treasure. Since we’ve been to the ‘real’ Parthenon in Greece before, I found this stop interesting. It gives you a sense of what the Parthenon- with its golden ratio – looked like. At least until they get the crumbled original reassembled.
HONORABLE MENTION: You can’t go to the South without having BBQ and we had a great plateful at Mission BBQ before the Grand Ole Opry performance at the adjacent Opry Mills Mall. The downtown Nashville Riverfront is beautiful day or night and we enjoyed a fun dinner at the Acme Feed & Seed restaurant/rooftop bar on a Saturday night. Great music inside, great views up top!
Image Credits: (c) MrFireStation.com