By Doug Hansen
Nashville, also known as Music City, is a vibrant destination that captures the heart and soul of the American South, from its rich musical heritage to its growing food scene. My wife, Sharen, and I recently spent four days here seeing for ourselves why this is one of the top tourist destinations as well as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. One of the first lessons we learned was that Nashville offers much more than just the country music scene.
Our first stop had to be Nashville’s musical heart, Lower Broadway, where live music of every genre spilled out onto the street in an aural deluge. Live music blasted through the open windows, a surprisingly diverse potpourri of genres ranging from steel guitar twang to heavy rock.
Throughout the day – and especially at night – a contagious energy permeated the air as visitors flowed between competing venues. Even on a weeknight, Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge Food & Drink and Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk were dancing.
The nearby Country Music Hall of Fame pays tribute to the genre’s greatest artists, featuring exhibits that showcase the evolution of country music. A visit here is a journey through time with an in-depth look at the roots and influences that have shaped the Nashville sound. Some not-to-be-missed exhibits are Elvis Presley’s gold-plated Cadillac and Web Pierce’s 1962 Pontiac with chrome six-shot pistols for the door handles, a shiny Winchester rifle on the hood and horns large steering wheels that appear above the front grille.
No visit to Nashville is complete without a pilgrimage to the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. With its rich history and exceptional acoustics, the Ryman has hosted legends such as Presley, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. The actual Grand Ole Opry is also a must; is the longest running live radio show in the world. We decided to enhance our visit with a behind-the-scenes tour, which felt like pulling back the curtains to see the Wizard of Oz.
The newly constructed National Museum of African American Music is another must. Numerous photo exhibits and hands-on exhibits reminded us of the tremendous impact on American music that African-American musicians have made.
On Music Row, historic recording studios and record labels were nestled among chic boutiques and cozy cafes. At the historic RCA Studio B, a guide led us through the studio where more than 35,000 songs have been recorded by artists such as Elvis, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and many others.
The best way to learn about the music here is to see shows by the musicians who abound in Nashville. One option is in the Listening Room, where we heard five young performers sing original songs, play their guitars and a keyboard, and share insights about their journey in the music industry.
On a bus tour, we left the bustling city scene and passed through various Nashville neighborhoods and parks, including Centennial Park, with its full-scale rendition of the Parthenon and an imposing 42-foot-tall replica of Athena , one of the best of ancient Greece. famous statues.
Nashville is also known for its vibrant street art scene, and the trendy Gulch neighborhood boasts some of the city’s most Instagram-worthy murals. Here we found cafes, galleries and the Frist Art Museum. Housed in a former US Post Office building, the museum houses an excellent collection of modern art.
Nashville’s food scene is as diverse as its music. For breakfast, Biscuit Love served a Southern-style breakfast paired with delicious homemade cookies and pastries. For a lesson in community involvement, we had coffee and rolls at Humphrey Street, which helps local youth learn work skills and discipline.
Next to the Ryman Theater, we found the Assembly Hall Food Hall, located above the Fifth & Broadway complex and offering 30 artisanal restaurants, nine bars, two full-service restaurants and several stages with live performances.
Dicey’s Pizza served delicious Chicago-style pizza and local beer, and as an added bonus, across the street was a giant guitar, at least 25 feet long and 15 feet high, with bold letters that said “Nashville”—a perfect selfie spot.
We enjoyed dining at the popular Martin’s BBQ Joint, with great food and an open roof. The Black Rabbit, housed in an 1890s building, had a sophisticated menu and an eclectic drink list, including a Hot Lips Houlihan with jalapeno tequila and grapefruit juice.
Our tour of the Nashville Craft Distillery, which produces and sells whiskey, gin and other craft spirits, took us into the production area and educated us on the intricacies of the fermentation and distillation process. We enjoyed a tasting and left with a clear understanding of the difference between bourbon and whiskey.
Nashville is a city that transcends its musical roots to provide a diverse and enriching experience for every traveler. From the Honky Tonk Highway to the many flavors of its culinary scene, Music City beckons with open arms.
WHEN TO GO
The Nashville Visitor Information Center is a valuable resource when planning your visit to the city. Visit them in person at Fifth Street and Broadway (across Bridgestone Arena) or online at www.visitmusiccity.com.
Doug Hansen is a travel writer and photographer in Carlsbad, California. See more photos and articles at www.hansentravels.org. To read features by other Creators Guild writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Guild website at www.creators.com.
Photo: on Unsplash