Visiting Nashville can be an experience of a lifetime and for country music fans, it’s almost a rite of passage. Whether it’s your first, or your fiftieth, making the trip can be an awesome experience. The Country Music Chicago team had the opportunity to visit Nashville in late September, our first time since the inception of Country Music Chicago, and we wanted share our “best bets” of the trip. We’re looking forward to returning to Nashville to explore and report on even more.
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The Grand Ole Opry & Opryland
2802 Opryland Drive, Nashville
In relation to country music, the Grand Ole Opry and Nashville are downright synonymous. Rooted deep in Nashville’s, and country music’s, history the Grand Ole Opry has evolved from a radio broadcast program, started in 1925, to the ultimate country music live-entertainment experience that pays tribute to both country music’s past and present. Still broadcasting today on WSM, the Grand Ole Opry program is the longest running radio program in America.
From Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley and Josh Turner to George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Charlie Daniels the Opry has a long, long list of members who regularly perform.
The Opry has changed homes over the years and it is now located approximately nine miles Northeast of downtown. Visitors will find it snuggled with the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Opry Mills Mall and some other area tourist and dining attractions.
Be sure to catch a show, times and program themes vary so check with the box office for ticket information or visit opry.com for upcoming shows and event information. Don’t forget to swing by the Opry Museum when you visit.
For dining options, John A’s Nashville Palace is located across the street from the Opry. Great food and live entertainment. nashvillepalace.net
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
222 Fifth Ave. S, Nashville
Located in downtown Nashville, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has become a 130,000-square-foot interactive tribute to all things country music. From the early beginnings to Elvis and Johnny Cash to Garth Brooks and everything in between, the Museum offers visitors a state-of-the-art learning experience. The exhibit space covers three floors so visitors should allow for plenty of time to explore. We recommend the audio walking tour and don’t forget to check out the Museum’s gift shop located on the 1st floor.
A recent addition to the Museum’s ticket is the Historic RCA Studio B tour. Located on Music Row and accessible by Museum bus, the guided tour covers the actual studio where many of country music’s finest recorded albums over the years, including Elvis Presley and Dolly Parton. Tours depart daily from the Hall of Fame and Museum. Make sure you opt for this; it was well worth the extra admission. In addition, it was a great way to get a quick glimpse of Music Row.
The Ryman Auditorium
116 Fifth Avenue North, Nashville
Just north of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is another piece of historic Nashville real estate. The Ryman Auditorium has been the host of some of the biggest names in music over the years and was even the home the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974. Even today, the Ryman still serves as a downtown concert and event venue and often hosts Opry special engagements. Self-guided tours of the facility are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
– Lodging –
Union Station Hotel
1001 Broadway, Nashville
Our accommodations were at the Wyndham Union Station Hotel located on upper Broadway, just a few blocks from the downtown entertainment district. As the name suggests, the building, once served as Nashville’s main train station. Today, it’s one of Nashville’s premier hotels and in the rooms, you would never guess the building was over 100 years old.
Like most downtown hotels, visitors should prepare for valet parking but guests typically do not need to leave much because they’re close to the action.
Entertainment District & Broadway Ave.
Along Broadway Ave, visitors will find souvenir, leather goods, music shops and bars down “the strip”. By day, the streets are busy with tourists and shoppers and by night, the co-mingled honky tonks are playin’ it live and loud. While it would be easy to spend several hours walking along the strip, there are a few must-stop shops along the way.
Don’t forget to peek into the Sommet Center, as it is the current home of the annual CMA Awards and the host of many other large events and concerts including the Nashville Predators NHL hockey team. The large spire building attached to the center is a Nashville visitors center, great place to grab some brochures and chat with the welcome hosts. It’s across the street from the Nashville Convention Center.
Ernest Tubb Record Shop
417 Broadway, Nashville
As most record shops across the U.S. have gone to the wayside, Ernest Tubb’s is still alive and very vibrant. Located on Broadway Ave, this palace of hard-to-find traditional country and bluegrass music quickly became a group favorite. Hours very, check before you visit. They also have a second location in the Opryland area. Ask for a mail order catalog!
The nightlife experience in downtown Nashville is second-to-none. While it can be a bit touristy it’s quite a vibrant scene. From the Wildhorse Saloon to Legends Bar, the spirits, dancing and music flow freely.
120 2nd Ave. North, Nashville
Live entertainment venue/restaurant/bar located just off Broadway on 2nd Street. Host of many music acts and boasts a very large dance floor (3,300-square-feet) with regularly scheduled dance lessons. (You could compare this to Chicago’s Joe’s Bar minus the dancing)
428 Broadway, Nashville
For most, Legends is the first bar they’ll see, or hear, as they approach the strip. Known for its live music, this corner bar is located next to the Ryman Auditorium at 5th and Broadway. Just as the name suggests, album covers of some of the biggest names in country music are splashed on the walls and just outside of the bar you’ll frequently find tourists taking pictures with the iconic oversized tribute guitar.
412 Broadway, Nashville
Just down the way you’ll find The Stage. (excuse the rhyme) As the name suggests, this bar boasts some great live music from some of today’s hottest up-and-coming and named acts. By the way, it’s not uncommon to rub shoulders with your favorite country music star here.
…and many, many more.
There are tons of great entertainment and attractions in Nashville, far more than we could explore in three days. This is just a small sampling of the possibilities. We would love to list them all but the true experience comes from being there.
Have an Nashville experience you want to share? We would love to hear your stories, tips and photos. Please comment, upload a photo or email [email protected]