Nashville Vacation Travel Guide
From old-world charm to the new frontiers of Southern-style, from high culture to hot chicken and honky-tonks, Nashville is a greatest-hits package few other cities can top.
Nashville sits in the heart of Tennessee, just a four-hour flight from Los Angeles and a two-hour flight from New York City.
Nashville also sits at the heart of some of the greatest music
ever to hit the airwaves of America.
From lonesome cowboy blues to boot-scooting’ boogies, since the earliest days of vinyl Nashville has produced a never-ending stream of country classics.
Today, music makers and music lovers of every genre make the pilgrimage to Music City USA, hoping to experience magic called The Nashville Sound.
But visitors soon discover the city’s magic extends far beyond music.
Nashville’s soundtrack began with the sound of axes and falling timber, at Fort Nashborough.
Battling displaced Cherokee and fierce winters, there was little time for fiddle playing. But over the decades Nashville grew into a prosperous city that embraced the arts, becoming the state capital of Tennessee in 1843.
Nashville’s early prosperity was fuelled by the plantation and slave trade.
Call into Historic Travellers Rest, the estate of Tennessee founding father, John Overton. Wander the grounds, where the doleful work songs of slaves still hang heavy in the humid air.
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Then explore the home, where the merry strains of Camptown Races
once filled the parlour where Overton entertained friend and
neighbour, Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president.
In the 1800s, a long, bumpy buggy ride separated the two friends.
Today it’s just a short drive from Travellers Rest to The Hermitage, the opulent plantation home and final resting place of President Jackson and First Lady Rachel.
But the real Queen of Tennessee’s plantations is Belle Meade.
Explore the remaining 30 acres of an estate which once stretched for miles, where the slave quarters and rocking chairs look as though they were vacated only yesterday, and where the mansion’s columns still bear the scars of battle.
The uneasy social fabric of the plantation era was torn apart by the Civil War.
Climb to the ruins of Fort Negley, built by runaway slaves and free black men, this Union fort played a decisive role in the Battle of Nashville and helped pave the way to emancipation.
Visit the Tennessee State Museum and learn more about the city’s role in the Civil War, and how it rose from the ashes to become the Athens of The South.
By the beginning of the 1900s, Nashville had flowered into a
sophisticated metropolis filled with fine civic architecture,
colleges, and befitting its classical aspirations, a full-scale
replica of the Parthenon.
In 1911 Nashville rolled out the first automobile entirely designed and manufactured in the South.
Named after the ancient Greek footrace, the Marathon Motor Works
created beautiful roadsters and tourers which were in demand all
over the globe.
The former motor works are also home to boutique stores, such as Antique Archaeology.
The dusty offspring of the American Pickers television series, this is the place to find a one-of-a-kind souvenir salvaged from the barns and garages of Tennessee.
To see the South’s most iconic motorcar, head to Cooter’s Place, a museum dedicated to the Dukes of Hazzard.
Parked outside is one of the few surviving General Lees, one of the 300 Dodge Chargers that were jumped, rolled, and wrecked during the hit television show’s six-year run.
But of course, it wasn’t Nashville’s motor cars that caught the world’s attention, but the driving rhythms of its banjos and steel guitars.
Step into The Mother Church of Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium. For country diehards, a tour or concert at this former downtown tabernacle is as close to heaven as it gets.
In 1943, a one-hour country music show, The Grand Ole Opry, was broadcast live from the Ryman, reaching living rooms as far away as Canada.
In 1974, the show’s popularity forced it to relocate to a larger, modern venue. Today, The Grand Ole Opry House is the home to the longest-running radio broadcast in US history.
Take a backstage tour of the change rooms, watch a live radio interview, and then sit back as country stars gather ‘round a hallowed circle of timber, cut from the Ryman’s original stage.
Just steps from the Grand Ole Opry House is Nashville’s Madame Tussauds.
You won’t find movie or sporting stars here; these waxworks is a celebration of the giants who shaped American Music.
The celebration of music continues back downtown, at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.
From the Steinway which added the heartache to Stand By Your Man, to the bass which put the lowdown into Motown, this is the place to get close to some of the world’s most revered instruments.
Just a fifteen-minute walk away is a monument dedicated solely to the country’s brightest stars, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Featuring a mind-boggling collection of photographs, costumes, instruments, and automobiles, this is the ultimate ride through country music.
Follow the scent of fresh ink downstairs to Hatch Show Print, a letterpress print shop that’s been posting a unique blend of colour and style onto Nashville’s walls for over 100 years.
The Museum is also the custodian of RCA Studio B, where artists like Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Dolly Parton laid down some of their biggest hits.
Nashville features smaller museums dedicated to individual artists too.
Walk the line down 3rd Avenue to the Johnny Cash Museum, an intimate tribute to the life and times of The Man in Black.
Once you’ve been schooled in the history of country music, it’s time to enjoy some! From the Johnny Cash Museum, it’s just a one-minute boot scoot to Lower Broadway.
Join the stream of happy music lovers on the Honky Tonk Highway and catch the country stars of tomorrow.
Step through the purple doors of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, one of the original Broadway honky-tonks.
Late owner, Tootsie Bess, embodied the family spirit of Nashville’s early music scene, feeding struggling up-and-comers while evicting rowdy patrons with a well-placed jab of her hatpin!
Right across the road, don’t miss the honky tonk which
celebrates the life, suits, and automobiles of Nudie Cohn, the
tailor who put the rhinestones into country’s flashiest suits.
If Nudie’s gives you the urge to go the full Glenn Campbell, you’ll find plenty of outfitters studded along Broadway too.
Now there are some folks, who just can’t warm to country.
If that’s you, don’t despair, take the ten-minute walk to Printers Alley, where you’ll find Nashville’s hottest blues and jazz.
After a 3am finish on Broadway Music or Printers Alley, there’s no better way to kickstart the new day than with a late breakfast at Pepperfire, where you’ll quickly discover why Nashville is the hot chicken capital of the world.
Once you’ve mopped the sweat from your brow, take a wander
through the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
From Lower Broadway, mosey north along the Fifth Avenue of The Arts, checking out the historic sites and galleries along the way.
On Broadway’s southern side, spread your wings and explore the upmarket stores and quirky boutiques of the Gulch.
Then cross the tracks and enter the weird and wonderful world of Jack White’s Third Man Records, a music store like no other.
Grab a rental bike and take the half-mile ride through 12 South, where a new breed of chefs and designers are redefining southern style.
12 South is also home to some rockin’ street art, including the city’s favorite mural.
When it’s time to slow the tempo, Nashville’s downtown offers plenty of riverside parks and green spaces.
On the city’s southern outskirts, be serenaded by wind and water amid the 55 artful acres of the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens.
While nearby at the Radnor Lake State Park, wrap yourself in a cloak of dappled green and birdsong as you follow the six miles of forest trails.
When the sun gets low in Nashville, all trails lead back downtown. Pull up a chair at one of the roof-top bars, or just take in the views from the Pedestrian Bridge and enjoy the skyline of a city so full of surprises.
Nashville is more than just the world capital of country music.
When it comes to history, hospitality, style, and plain old good times, Nashville is home to some of America’s greatest and most enduring hits.
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