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Welcome to Music City! Now that you’ve waited patiently by the bag carousel, stepped into your Uber and checked-in to your hotel (of course, this is all under the assumption that you are not driving into town or staying at an Airbnb or with a friend. You get the picture) you might want to use your first day to take a leisurely stroll around town, grab a bite, and just feel the exhilaration of being in a new place where everything you come across is a like a tiny surprise ready to reveal itself to you.
As your stay extends, we’ve outlined some must-see attractions and places to satiate your appetite and have packed enough fun-filled activities that, quite honestly, you may not be able to get to all of them! Either way, you are on the cusp of your Nashville adventure so get pumped and get to know this great city!
“They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.” The lyrics to the song were intended to describe New York City’s Broadway, but the same applies for that famous stretch of road known as the Honky-Tonk Highway. This is the center of the live-music scene in Nashville and it really pops with energy and color at night. Neon is king out here and the signs for AJ’s Good Time Bar, Robert’s Western World, and The Stage are among the most recognizable signs that you are in the heart of Music City!
As grandiose and marvelous as the best-selling country music giant it’s named after, this is a next-level rooftop bar experience. If it’s spacious you’re looking for, it’s hard to beat this venue for sheer size alone. Of course, if there’s a party going on and a live band in full swing, the square footage has been known to decrease somewhat. Besides the great entertainment and grub, you’ll enjoy unobstructed views of the Cumberland River, Nissan Park where the Tennessee Titans NFL football team plays, virtually all of downtown, the “Ghost Ballet for the East Machineworks” art sculpture on the river, and Riverfront Park. If you want to feel engulfed by Music City, you can hardly find a better place.
It’s a new day and you feel as fresh as a daisy. In the next 48-hours, you will really begin to explore Nashville and its history after purchasing a 2-day ticket for an Old Town Trolley Tour! This top-ranked, TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winning, Hop-Off Hop-On sightseeing tour delivers the very best of Nashville. As one of the most important enclaves of music recording and composing in the world, you’ll get to see the places where the giants of music have weaved their magic. You’ll also get to see manicured public spaces and parks and hear the rich history behind them. The Hop-On Hop-Off option allows you to disembark and re-board at any of the designated 15 stops during their hours of operation so you can enjoy the city at your own pace! The following list, with the exception of the restaurant recommendation, can be accessed via the trolley.
Featuring over 350,000 square feet of state-of-the-art galleries, retail stores, education classrooms, archival storage, and special event space, you will be immersed in the history and sounds of country music as you stroll through this famed attraction. Elements built into the architecture remind one of musical instruments such as the curvaceous exterior wall made to look like a piano’s keyboard. At night, it’s quite a sight to behold!
While the centerpiece of Centennial Park is the full-scale replica of the ancient Greek Parthenon, the urban green space is the setting for a duck pond and a large lawn for enjoying picnics and playing games. The park’s band shell hosts a variety of children-friendly performances, including puppet shows and outdoor movies. Several festivals held at the park, like the annual Arts and Craft Show, have hands-on demonstrations that kids will love. Metro Parks and The Nature Conservancy have partnered on a new initiative called “If Trees Could Sing,” a set of 18 web videos with Nashville music artists talking (and sometimes singing) about the importance of tree conservancy.
The George Jones Museum chronicles the hardscrabble childhood, career, and
escapades of this legendary performer as well as his religious conversion and sobriety later in life. Artifacts and quirky memorabilia abound as they depict his honky-tonk lifestyle. This includes a replica of the green John Deere lawn tractor that the entertainer drove 8 miles to a liquor store
because his brother-in-law hid his car keys.
The expansive multi-million-dollar complex honors the talented behind-the-scenes individuals who provided the backing tracks and vocals to some of the greatest recordings of all time. The facility boasts a 68,000-square-foot exhibition space that now houses the galleries and displays and hosts a special event that welcomes the newest inductee into the Hall of Fame every year. Items on display include recording industry artifacts and memorabilia from the decades since the 1950s. A collection of session musical instruments used to record many classic hits is of special interest. A unique item on display in the museum is a Wm. Knabe and Co. baby grand piano that was used by John Lennon to compose the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”
HERMITAGE CAFE – This shoebox-shaped, whitewashed building with writing all over it is not hard to find. This is where Nashville goes for classic diner fare morning, noon, and night (especially after a night of carousing and howling at the moon!) This is no-frills, honest cookery the way it was intended to be with offerings such as chop steak, burgers, Po’ Boys and even a fried bologna sandwich!
Now that you’ve become a Nashville expert and have been given the key to the city, here are some other cool things to do and see, some of which may ring familiar to you from the tours you’ve just taken. These are in no specific order so feel free to get creative and mix and match however you’d like for each specific day. At the bottom of the list, you’ll find our picks for eating Nashville.
Widely considered the heart of Nashville’s entertainment industry, Music Row is a historical district located southwest of downtown Nashville, Tennessee that is home to numerous businesses related to music, predominantly recording, publishing and production of all the genres that call this city home such as country, gospel, rock, pop, bluegrass and even classical. The area was immortalized in a Dolly Parton song from 1973 called “Down on Music Row.” The famous RCA studios where Elvis Presley recorded his largest and most successful body of work is located here. You’ll visit Owen Bradley Park, a green space named after the man who opened the very first recording studio in Nashville back in 1955. For music lovers and music history buffs, this is the “promised land!”
Located south of downtown, the Gulch is a renovated, historic neighborhood that features upscale restaurants, fashionable boutiques, and vibrant entertainment venues. It attracts locals, college students, and visitors. The area is also home to Two Old Hippies, an eclectic retailer offering a variety of hipster and vintage clothing and musical instruments. While the walls are lined with memorabilia, the store’s centerpiece is a converted VW microbus. Two Old Hippies contains “The Vault,” a multi-purpose 3,000 square foot space that was a bank vault in its former life, is used as a studio space for photo shoots and audio recording.
The Art Deco-style Frist Center for the Visual Arts displays works by local, state and regional artists and features national and international exhibits. The center is housed in a former post office that was completed in 1934 as part of the Public Works Administration. Architectural details, including fluted pilasters and stone eagles, blend classical elements with national symbols to create a style known as Grecian Moderne. Listed on the National Register, the marble building was repurposed as the Frist Center in 2001. Encompassing 24,000 square feet of gallery space, the non-collecting museum showcases traveling collections from around the world.
For a piece of Civil War history and a study in antebellum architecture, Nashville’s Belmont Mansion is a fascinating attraction. Completed in 1853 by Adelicia Hayes and her second husband Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen, the 20,00-square-foot, Italian villa style mansion rests on 177 acres of land adorned with elaborate gardens.
A truly gorgeous walkway over the Cumberland River when crossing between East Nashville and Downtown Nashville, you may encounter a couple on an engagement photo shoot and plenty of folks like yourself looking for the most creative way to capture the skyline. ABC’s “Nashville” featured this bridge against a radiant sunset in a previous episode. The iconic Batman building (AT&T building) looms prominently from this vantage point. If you’re coming from downtown, take a pit-stop at Crema and get a cup of Joe to add a little pep to your step.
If you’re a country music fan, this journey through superstar Johnny Cash’s life is something you won’t want to miss. The Johnny Cash Museum is just a short walk from Riverfront Park, located in the heart of downtown Nashville, and is home to the largest and most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world. There are videos, shows, clothing, letters Cash wrote, his military papers and much more. Be sure to grab a coffee, pastry or sandwich at the café and pick up unique Johnny Cash gift items at the shop.
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Hatch Show Print has grown from creating handbills for tent revivals headlined by Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, in the late 1800s to posters announcing the latest headline acts. They are highly regarded for their signature letterpress style. The work celebrates American history, entertainment, and southern culture. Guests can tour the print shop and see these unique works of art roll off the presses and a gallery containing many of the shop’s famous prints. While visiting the workshop, you can even try your hand at designing and printing your own poster.
Opening in 1974, the award-winning Station Inn is considered to be one of Nashville’s premier venues for bluegrass music. Notable artists to perform at this world-famous bluegrass mecca include Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, and Reba McEntire. The no-frills atmosphere is the backdrop for concerts and impromptu jam sessions by up-and-coming artists as well as established performers. The Station Inn features drinks, snacks and live acoustic music every night. A Swedish fan gave the Inn the massive cowbell hanging over the bar, which is rung after a well-received performance.
The backdrop for the CMT reality series “Can You Duet,” the world-famous Wild Horse Saloon, is a 66,000–square-foot country western-themed bar, restaurant, dance club and concert venue. Located downtown and housed in a converted historic warehouse, the three-tier entertainment space invites guests to enjoy award-winning Southern smokehouse cuisine and great music. The top two tiers overlook the large dance floor. You can learn the latest dance steps during free nightly lessons before heading out on the largest dance floor in Tennessee. The stage hosts a variety of acts from different musical genres.
Founded in 1947 by Grand Ole Opry star Ernest Tubb, the music store is a one-stop shop for country and bluegrass sheet music, records and memorabilia. This charming store offers a wide variety of works by contemporary and classic artists. The store is famous for stocking obscure and forgotten musicians as well as their ability to locate hard-to-find releases. With its creaking hardwood floors and walls lined with autographed photos, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop is an essential stop for people interested in Nashville’s rich homespun cultural legacy.
Marathon Motor Works was a turn-of-the-century Nashville-based automobile manufacturer. The company’s former factory, built in 1881, is a National Historic Landmark. The building has been repurposed to house a variety of commercial and event spaces as well as design studios, workshops, and galleries. The four-building complex features several architectural styles. Unique retailers in Marathon Village relay a taste of Americana and Southern traditions including Antique Archaeology, a store run by Mike Wolf who is one of the hosts of the History Channel television show “American Pickers,” and the Green Brier Distillery, a renowned Tennessee whiskey distillery.
The oldest restaurant in Nashville serves up stick-to-your-ribs staples like fried green tomatoes, heritage breed steaks, crab cakes and many more traditional and quintessentially southern favorites!
Executive chef Kirstie Bidwell cooks up one of Nashville’s consistently most impressive brunches. Try the breakfast pot pie or the “Benedict cornbread-batch” with pastrami pork belly and red pepper jelly!
They say nothing worth having is easy and the same goes for breakfast at this wildly popular place. If you’re willing to brave the lines at this establishment with three locations throughout the city, you will be rewarded with some of the best, home-made comfort grub in Music City. As the name would suggest, the biscuits here are formidable and, of all the yummy pairings they serve with them. The East Nasty, a biscuit with a piece of golden fried chicken thigh, aged cheddar, covered in sausage gravy is a crowd-pleaser.
Plan ahead by making a reservation at Tandy Wilson’s essential Nashville restaurant, or roll the dice and dine at the bar. Sunday suppers are a Nashville treasure. You can never go wrong with a belly ham pizza, a whole trout, or whatever small plates they’ve cooked up. Oh, and how could we forget one of pastry chef Rebekah Turshen’s standout desserts!
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When you get your hands on The Peach Truck Cookbook, you’ll get recipes like this one from @myfavoriteplum. Rebekah is the pastry chef at @cityhousenashville and we can’t get enough of her creations. • This Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Macerated Peaches is heaven in a bowl. • Preorder your copy at the link in our profile! 📷 @eliesajohnson
If you’re curious about delving into the ever-expanding dining scene in this progressive city, make room in your belly for the highly-skilled, farm-to-table fare in this trendy spot. The most important element that binds the menu together is fire. Upon entering, you are greeted with a view of the completely open kitchen and wood-burning hearth where flames kiss all the food before it leaves for the dining room. Imagine a fast-casual bistro from the American South and you’ve got Pelican & Pig.
Yes, it’s a sizable list (It’s not our fault Nashville is so awesome!) so don’t worry if you can’t get through it all (but try really hard anyway!) Hope your rhinestone dreams come true in Music City and y’all come back real soon!