I knew Nashville was called The Music City, and half a dozen people have described it to me before, but after traveling there recently I feel it's certainly something you need to experience for yourself.
While I am sure there are some great family-friendly itineraries, this is not one of them! This is your guide to a parent's getaway or girls' trip fun in Nashville.
In my particular case? This was a sibling's getaway. We made the most of it by soaking in as much of Nashville as we could, from the live music to the incredible eats.
Where to stay:
Check out The Graduate. A funky, yet luxe, four-star property, that looks as if Dolly Parton may have decorated it herself. If you can't stay there, at least visit their rooftop restaurant and bar, or get on stage at their animatronic karaoke bar.
What to see and do in Nashville:
There is so much to see and do in Nashville depending on your interests. Here are six highlights:
1. Honky Tonk Highway
The No. 1 thing to do in Nashville is just absorb all the music. Pretty much every downtown restaurant, bar, coffee shop, and storefront, between Lower Broadway and 2nd Avenue, hosts live music from open to close with little to no breaks, and NO COVER CHARGES. Here you will find the famous Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Acme Feed and Seed, Nudie's Honky Tonk, and dozens of country star namesake establishments. At 10 a.m. you can walk outside and hear anything from Jolene to Respect blaring through the streets. There's nothing quite like it.
And it isn't just country music. In fact, Nashville's musical history is deeply rooted in all different genres, and you can hear them all being played by the most talented local artists. Carl Wockner, for instance, took requests from the crowd for musical mash-ups. I was blown away by his ability to combine Taylor Swift's Trouble, with Eminem's Lose Yourself. The result was nothing less than a musical genius.
Traveler Tip: Carry lots of singles to tip musicians and make song requests.
2. Stop by Wildhorse Saloon for free line dancing lessons
Half-hour sessions are available throughout the day and night, Wednesday through Sunday — no reservations needed.
3. Go off the beaten path
As you can imagine the bars on Honky Tonk Highway can get extremely crowded. Avoid the crowds by visiting Printers Alley between 3rd and 4th Avenues instead. Slip into Alley Taps or Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar. I assure you the acts in these places will not disappoint!
4. Look up!
Look up, and you won't be able to miss the "Batman Building." This skyscraper is widely known as the "Batman Building" as it was completed in 1999 to be an iconic design that happens to resemble the mask of the Dark Knight.
5. Take a tour
There are so many tours to choose from, and most can be accessed via the Old Town Trolley Hop On Hop Off Trolley tour.
- Check out The Johnny Cash Museum. Did you know Johnny Cash recorded all the way up to the day he died in 2003?
- The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
- Cooter's Place Museum is free for all you old Dukes of Hazzard fans.
- Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tour
- Music Row - Music Row is a quaint neighborhood where numerous well-renowned music studios are situated. However since local ordinances would not allow changes to the aesthetic of these historic buildings, they look like cute, residential, bungalows that all the greatest music legends, including Elvis and Willie Nelson, just so happened to have recorded in.
6. Visit the Bluebird Cafe
If you've marathon watched the show Nashville, you know The Bluebird Cafe, and you know it is a must. The Bluebird Cafe is a "listening room" located in an unassuming strip mall just outside the downtown area. What makes The Bluebird special is its intimate, attentive, audience and acoustic performances by songwriters who may be behind some of your favorite hits, as well as up-and-coming singer-songwriters. Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks are among many to have been discovered here. A show at The Bluebird Cafe may be considered a religious experience as indicated by the church pew seating in the back. Tickets range between $10 and $15.
Where to eat:
The food in Nashville is amazing! Here are four great spots we visited:
- Try the Sweet Potato Pancakes with a side of Candied Bacon at The Pancake Pantry. Add some cinnamon cream syrup to your coffee! You may have to wait in a line to get in, but it'll be worth it.
- Savor the Cherry-Smoked Wings and the Deep-Fried Brownie Sundae at Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant, with live music accompaniment of course.
Head to the Assembly Food Hall for your choice of more than thirty eateries and bars plus a great rooftop deck and three performance stages. You'll find Prince's Hot Chicken Shack among the many options. Prince's is the birthplace of the south's hot chicken craze. As legend has it, the original recipe, was concocted by the girlfriend of Thorton Prince as revenge for his infidelity. However, rather than choke, he loved every bite, and his family has been serving it up for generations since. You can choose your spice level between 1 and ten. I chose a level 2, and that was plenty spicy for me!
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint has it all from pulled pork and brisket to Red Neck Tacos and amazing potato salad. Grab some free moon pies on your way out.
Fun Fact: Goo Goo Clusters, a chocolate-covered combination of nuts, caramel, and nougat that you'll find all around Nashville, (and the first combination candy bar ever made in the United States), got their name from the Grand Ole Opry. They make a great souvenir!
Where to park
Parking in Nashville can be expensive, (and that's coming from a Chicagoan.) If you must park downtown, I recommend downloading the SpotHero app.
Debra Flanagan is the publisher of Macaroni KID Chicago Northside.