Nashville is not just a “music city”. Find something new to love with each visit. | Travel

First of all, you don’t have to love country music to fall in love with Nashville. Granted, it won’t hurt if you’re a fan of torch and twang, but Tennessee’s #1 destination offers something for everyone: attractions like its famous zoo and the Grand Ole Opry, at Lane Motor Museum, with its quirky collection of (mostly tiny) cars and endless local and upscale clubs and restaurants.

Nashville, in addition to being Tennessee’s largest city, is also its biggest tourist attraction. Around 16 million visited in 2019; while those numbers dropped drastically during the peak of COVID in 2020-2021, they rebounded nicely. Everywhere we went on our recent spring getaway, things were happening – be it a restaurant or a museum.

It had been nearly a decade since I had visited Nashville, and it seemed even more touristy and popular than ever. There were families, couples, children and many bachelor and bachelorette party attendees walking around the town. Whatever draws you to Nashville, it’s a city that seems determined to give you a good time.

Known worldwide as “Music City”, Nashville is, indeed, the heart of the country music industry and also home to some of the best players and pickers in the world. You’d be hard-pressed not to find music to your liking in Nashville: in addition to traditional country, there’s everything from jazz to classical to blues, found in venues ranging from dirty honky-tonks to classic music halls.

After settling into our chic (and centrally located) boutique hotel, The Bobby, we enjoyed a fantastic welcome dinner with friends at his newly opened restaurant, Union Tavern. Run by celebrity chef Ryan Poli, this casual fine-dining restaurant offered everything from pork belly with cilantro-lime vinaigrette to tagliatelle puttanesca with serrano ham, capers and olives. There’s also a fun rooftop bar.

We decided to start our visit with what turned out to be an ideal overview of the city via a one hour Gray Line bus tour. Not only did it provide us with a decent ‘lay of the land’, but it also presented many attractions that we would explore later – and one that we only managed to see from the bus, the city’s famous Parthenon. . Built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition of 1897, it is an exact replica of the Parthenon in Greece, complete with a 42-foot-tall statue of Athena inside. But why, you may be wondering, is this southern city home to such a marvel? Because Nashville, with its emphasis on higher education and home to many colleges, is sometimes still referred to as the “Athens of the South.”

Nashville’s skyline is impressive, with the so-called 33-story “Batman Building” dominating the scene. The official name is AT&T Building and it is the tallest structure in the state of Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.

Yes, our adventures in Nashville have been varied and many. In fact, there’s just too much to see and do in four days, but we gave it a try. We did our best mostly on foot, but no worries – Uber and Lyft are easily accessible in this beautiful, bustling city. The city’s most striking building is also the tallest: the 617-foot-tall AT&T Building, commonly referred to as the “Batman Building” due to its resemblance to the superhero character’s cowl.

Here’s a look at some of the highlights of our spring getaway – all of which we recommend to first-time visitors to Nashville:

A trip to the Ryman Auditorium. The 1994 reopening of the 2,362-seat Ryman Auditorium — which hosted the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974 — gave downtown Nashville a welcome boost, and there are now plenty of shops and restaurants nearby (check out family-run Hattie’s B’s if you’re craving some fantastic fried chicken – complete with a super-hot version humorously dubbed “Shut the Cluck Up”). Built in 1892 as a church tabernacle, The Ryman eventually morphed into what would become an international phenomenon, a still-running radio show dubbed the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry, which got its start during World War II, introduced the world to legends such as Patsy Cline, the Carter family, Minnie Pearl and Hank Williams. While dubbed “The Mother Church of Country Music”, The Ryman was sadly outdated and decaying by the early 1970s. And when the Opry moved to its new location (Opryland, 20km away) in 1974, the Ryman sat empty for years. But in 1994, a multi-million renovation project returned this National Historic Landmark to its original splendor. Now a popular concert hall, it has hosted everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Harry Styles. Open daily for tours, we loved exploring the large amount of memorabilia from various musicians who played there.

The Country Music Hall of Fame is worth at least a two-hour visit; that is, if you are a country music fan. Inaugurated in 1964, the museum has one of the largest musical collections in the world. Everything is on display here, from Elvis’ white Cadillac to country rock pioneer Gram Parsons’ marijuana-embroidered suit. Visitors can learn about country’s early roots and its connection to Celtic music and even modern rock ‘n roll – don’t forget: even the Beatles covered songs by Carl Perkins. There are always special exhibitions; we particularly enjoyed “Kacey Musgraves: All of the Colours,” which chronicles the Texas-born star’s evolution from child singer and yodeler to award-winning recording artist. You can completely lose yourself in this place, and time here is well spent.

The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, located in the city’s historic Municipal Auditorium, is dedicated to the musicians – sometimes famous and sometimes uniquely talented – who played on some of the most popular recordings of all time. There is a 9,000 square foot interactive exhibit, “The Grammy Museum Gallery”, where visitors can learn about all aspects of the music industry – from writing songs to playing instruments , registration and engineering. We loved the special exhibit on Jimi Hendrix, who played Nashville clubs as a backing musician during the early years of his career. There are countless instruments on display, including the Stratocaster that Hendrix played all those decades ago in Nashville clubs. This museum is a real gem for any serious music lover.

The National Museum of African American Music, which opened in 2021, is the only museum in the United States to showcase more than 50 musical genres and styles created or influenced by black Americans – including spirituals, jazz, gospel, hip-hop and more. There is a short introductory film included before exploring the galleries; don’t miss it.

The Johnny Cash Museum, which opened in 2013, and the Patsy Cline Museum, which opened four years later, are housed in the same building, just off Broadway (where most of the town’s rowdiest honky-tonks are located). . Shannon and Bill Miller, who founded the Cash Museum with the full support of her family, were able to pay their respects to Patsy Cline – who tragically died aged 30 in a plane crash in 1963 – after the death of her husband, Charlie Dick in 2015, leaving behind an extensive collection of Cline’s personal effects – ranging from private letters to stage costumes. It’s a poignant tribute to an iconic talent.

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, housed in the city’s former art deco General Post Office, is another cultural attraction worth exploring. In addition to its ever-changing exhibits, there’s often also free live music in the spacious lobby of the 1934 building. A special exhibit, “Alma W. Thomas: All Is Beautiful,” explores life and art of this famous black artist, known for her colorful and abstract paintings. It runs until June 5.

·If you fancy something a little more elegant, catch a performance by the Nashville Symphony. For the past 15 years, this acclaimed orchestra has called the magnificent $123 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center home, known for its remarkable acoustics and distinctive architecture. We were lucky enough to attend the “Police Deranged” show with former Police drummer Stewart Copeland where he changed well-known hits from the 70s and 80s with the help of the symphony and three very vocal singers. talented. It was exciting, to say the least.


The Nashville Symphony offers everything from classical music to creative performances, like this one with Police drummer Stewart Copeland. Photo by Nicole Pensiero

On our last night we saw a show at the famous Grand Ole Opry. Located about a 15 minute drive from the city center this was a real highlight. The performance is broadcast live and features a mix of music and comedy. I was very impressed with the soaring voices of the family gospel group, The Isaacs, and longtime Opry member Mandy Barnett, who shot to fame as a teenager playing Patsy Cline in “Forever, Patsy.” I wasn’t sure if the Opry could live up to the Ryman (where I had seen a show many years ago), but the acoustics were amazing; you could literally hear a pin drop.

We had so many fantastic meals during our time in Nashville that it was hard to keep them straight. “Music City” is also a popular “foodie” city, so whether you fancy a barbecue or an upscale restaurant, you’ll find it. Some of our favorite spots included the rooftop bar and restaurant, Denim, located on the 21st floor of The Joseph hotel. One evening we stopped at the fun and laid back Red Headed Stranger for taco appetizers and at nearby Audrey’s for cocktails. Named after her maternal grandmother, Audrey is James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock’s third opening in Nashville since the summer of 2020. Any day now, he’s set to open June in the same building, a gourmet restaurant with a unique tasting menu format focused solely on Southern cuisine.

We also enjoyed a great meal at FOLK, named by enjoy your food as one of America’s Best New Restaurants in 2018. It’s a pizza-centric but rather stylish place, with plenty of other delicious choices on the menu too. We also enjoyed a fantastic meal of kebabs and other delicacies at the Kurdo-Turkish restaurant Edessa. (Nashville, we learned, is home to the largest Kurdish community in North America). If you’re looking for real home cooking, head to Arnold’s Country Kitchen. Considered one of Nashville’s most iconic “meat and three” joints, you’ll get a generously proportioned meal of one meat and three hearty sides. The atmosphere here is extremely laid back and the food downright delicious.

I’ve decided that Nashville is the kind of tourist town that, like New Orleans and San Francisco, you can visit again and again and always find something new to love and remember with each visit. No doubt we will be back.

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Nicole Pensiero is a freelance writer from South Jersey and a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association.

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