Now that you know where to stay and eat while visiting Nashville, what are you going to do with the rest of your time? Here are a number of great suggestions for whether you are traveling alone, with friends, with your family, or if you just need an escape from the doldrums of a work conference.
If you are staying downtown, you will be in walking distance of many great attractions. During the day, visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which traces the evolution of the genre, from its folk roots to contemporary crossover. Museum displays include Elvis Presley’s shiny Cadillac, Bill Monroe’s mandolin, and a plethora of guitars. Stop in at Hatch Show Print, which is one of the country’s oldest letterpress operations. I found the posters to be great keepsakes and souvenirs.
The historic Ryman Auditorium is also located downtown, and a short walk from the Country Music Hall of Fame. Once the Union Gospel Tabernacle, it became a performance space in the early 20th century, and was the home of the Grand Ole Opry for over three decades. The biggest stars in country music have graced its stage, and they continue to do so.
The Tennessee State Capitol, built in 1845, as well as the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park are also located downtown and worth a visit. The Park boasts an outdoor museum of state history, as well as a 200-foot wide map of Tennessee.
For more grown up fun, the honky tonks lining Broadway are a must. My favorites include Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, The Stage, and Legends Corner. Those under 21 are allowed in the honky tonks before 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. if the little ones want to tag along. The most popular venues typically have lines to get in at all hours of the day.
I’d be remiss not to mention Lonnie’s Western Room – a bar popular with the local college kids and one that I may have visited once or twice as an underage undergrad. Late night karaoke sessions and buckets of beer are the norm in this dark, smoky, and classic establishment.
If you are a craft beer fan, visit Yazoo Brewing Company, a microbrewery operating since 2003. Tours of the brewery are available and is a fun excursion for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
If you have a car, and I recommend that you rent one, at least for a day, venture one mile west of downtown Nashville to my alma mater, Vanderbilt University. The campus is a national arboretum, and is just gorgeous to walk around. While in the area, stop at my favorite Nashville restaurant, SATCO, or for the best pancakes around, the famous Pancake Pantry.
Across the street from Vanderbilt is the Parthenon, located in Centennial Park, which is a full scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens. The Parthenon serves as the city of Nashville’s art museum. The focus of the Parthenon’s permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists donated by James M. Cowan. Additional gallery spaces provide a venue for a variety of temporary shows and exhibits.
In a strip mall located about 20 minutes south of downtown is The Bluebird Cafe, famous for being the place where Garth Brooks was discovered. Up-and-coming singer-songwriters as well as music stars perform at this listening room, usually sitting in the center of the audience and taking turns with tunes.
While not included on my list of places to eat, if you have a car, a trip to The Loveless Cafe for its world famous biscuits gravy and other southern staples is a must. On your way back downtown, stop by Belle Meade Plantation, a historic mansion plantation whose grounds now function as a museum.
Nashville has no dearth of things to do, no matter your interests. I’m happy to make more recommendations – just reach out!