Nashville is a booming city. With its burgeoning neighborhoods, overflow of restaurant and live music venue choices, Music City should be at the top of everyone's travel list. If this is your first or thousandth time to Nashville, here are a few must-do suggestions for every traveler.
1. Learn of Nashville's music influence
Sure, Nashville is commonly known as Music City, but did you ever wonder why? Go back in time to this city's roots at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum which covers country music's start and continuation. From the first note sung to the guitars that provided the music to legends and rising stars in the industry, you'll get a well-rounded education on Music City's music footprint. Also, check out Ryman Auditorium, also known as the Mother Church of Country Music, and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum which is the only museum in the world to honor the musicians and instruments who played on the greatest recordings in music history.
2. Explore the neighborhoods
Once you've had a taste of downtown, mosey to some of Nashville's pockets of cute boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. In the Gulch, you'll find delicious menus of a variety of fare from street tacos at Saint Añejo to succulent steaks at Kayne Prime or grab a drink at Whiskey Kitchen.
(Draper James, Credit: Leslee Mitchell)
3. For the foot-stomping country music scene
The show that made country music famous can be experienced as it makes its way live through the airwaves on 650AM/WSM. Take a backstage tour at the Grand Ole Opry and you may just brush elbows with the stars. It's bustling activity and many times you can catch artists doing their vocal warm-ups before heading on stage to sing for hundreds of thousands year-round. After the show, kick up your heels on Lower Broadway among the honky tonks where live music flows into the streets.
4. Beyond country music
If country music doesn't fit your music tastes, check out Nashville's other venues around town. Exit/In hosts bands like Buckethead, David Bazan, The Fall of Troy, Swans, and Steve Gunn & the Outliners throughout the summer. Mercy Lounge hosts groups such as Noise Pollution, Black Pistol Fire, and more. The Cannery Ballroom hosts music genres produced by bands like Turnpike Troubadours, Us The Duo, The Wombats with Coast Modern and others throughout the year.
If you want symphonic music, head to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center where you can hear the GRAMMY Award-winning Nashville Symphony perform Mahler, Beethoven, Bach, John Williams and more.
5. Connect with Nature
Need some fresh air? Nashville's close proximity to lakes, rivers, and greenways are endless. Pack a picnic and spend a day at Radnor Lake State Natural Area, a 1,200-acre park with six hiking trails that make you feel as if the city isn't a mere half-hour away. Other parks include Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks, Sevier Park, and Centennial Park which is home to a replica of the Parthenon (including a full-scale statue of Greek goddess Athena).
6. A History Lesson
Visit presidential homes like Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage where you'll find, what many historians claim, the best preserved early U.S. presidential home. More than 16 million visitors have made this their stop since it opened in 1889. Belle Meade Plantation was the site of a skirmish during the Civil War Battle of Nashville. You can see bullet holes in its pillars as a result of the fray. Also, find out why Belle Meade also holds significance in the thoroughbred industry.
The significant impact Nashville had on the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s can be learned when traveling along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which leads you to sites like the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library and Fisk University. Hear the stories and see the progress of foot soldiers who led the charge for equality among all races in the United States.
7. Getting cultured
(Nashville Ballet, Credit: Heather Thorne)
From national tours of Broadway musicals at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to a graceful performance of Cinderella by the Nashville Ballet, if you want a night filled with the arts, Nashville has you covered. Browse the artistic elegance of some world-class work at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Take in a play, spoken word concert, or an artwork installation (or all three) at OZ Arts.
8. Fill your belly
All that exploring works up quite an appetite. Thankfully, Nashville's known for a few classic things: like barbecue, farm-to-table restaurants, and hot chicken. Find all three at a variety of restaurants including, but definitely not limited to Peg Leg Porker for barbecue, The FarmHouse which uses nothing but local farm meats and produce to create authentically local meals, and fire-in-your-mouth hot chicken at Prince's Hot Chicken.
9. Child's Play
Kids of all ages have a blast exploring space, weather, biological history, and the science behind how everyday items work at Adventure Science Center. The Nashville Zoo is currently expanding in large ways as they just opened the Expedition Peru: The Trek of the Andean Bear exhibit and have their sights set on developing the African Savannah and Village and the African Forest exhibits in the coming years.
10. Your holiday soundtrack
Finally, Nashville is the place to be for unforgettable, year-round music festivals, especially during the holiday season. Don't miss family-friendly activities during Gaylord Opryland's A Country Christmas like a special Christmas show performed by Grammy Award-winning country star Trace Adkins, ICE! featuring Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas carved from 2 million pounds of colorful ice, Cirque Dream Holidaze with music, costumes and new aerial acts, tubing, ice skating and more. Take the family to Cheekwood Estate & Gardens during Holiday LIGHTS for, not only 1 million lights illuminating the gardens, but also carolers 6-9 p.m. each night, live piano music in the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Santa, real reindeer, gingerbread house decorating and a s'more pit. Wrap up 2018 at Jack Daniel's Music City Midnight: New Year's Eve in Nashville. Grammy Award-winner Keith Urban will headline the show with performances by Grammy Award-winner Peter Frampton, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Devon Gilfillian, Caitlyn Smith and Judah & the Lion.