A place I’ve never been, and always wanted to go – but I almost forgot to plan it into the trip! Good thing I didn’t, because in many ways it was the highlight of the vacation.
Historic and modern, Nashville is full of striking architecture
As you may remember, the object of this journey was to see mountains, and I had decided to spend Monday afternoon in Nashville on my way back home. At the last minute, I re-arranged the itinerary, putting me in the Music City on Thursday and Friday instead – all the better for music appreciation.
In all, I was in, I think, six different music venues, and heard more bands play than that, which right there made it all worth it – living as I do in an area where you’re hard pressed to find one band playing on a Friday night! I highly recommend both Roberts’ Western World on Broadway
Robert’s Western World is a classic dive honky-tonk on Broadway, still specializing in PBR and hotdogs, and the classic country offerings on their small stage add to the ambience. We came here first, tried a couple other spots, and then came back for their foot-tapping sounds and unpretentious style.
and the Grand Ole Opry, if you want the classic country experience. If you want more modern country, or don’t like country at all, the city still has plenty to offer. Nashville is without doubt a musical destination, its tunes suiting its geography, nestled between the hip towns of the south-east, the old-time Appalachians, the deep south, and the rural Midwest. I barely scratched the surface, and look forward to going back to hear more!
Langhorne Slim and the Law was one of the smaller, not-really-country bands that I checked out, in this case in an upstairs bar packed full of college students.
The Grand Ole Opry live radio performance was a wonderful experience – even better than I expected it to be! We saw about ten acts in two hours, and they each included some personal anecdotes of their musical career. Lady Antebellum “headlined,” but I loved the oldest performers the best! Act more quickly than I did, and you won’t wind up with this obstructed view…
There is plenty to do in Nashville if you don’t want to listen to live tunes (but… why would you go there if you don’t like music?). Historic buildings, sports teams, a lovely river, shopping, plenty of bars, barbecue joints (or hot chicken – that’s a big thing down there). The downtown area is very walk-able; the touristy area is really only a few blocks square, but outside of that are some fun shops and restaurants, too. Looking at all of the offerings, I was struck that it would be a fun place to visit with children, though in mid-October we saw more bachelorette parties, family reunions, and anniversaries. However, remember that I was only there for 36 hours – and everything I saw had to do with music!
The Johnny Cash Museum had only opened months before we went, and although it was well-done, I didn’t feel that it was worth the hype… or the price of admission. If you’ve read or heard much about Johnny Cash (heck, even liner notes would be enough), you’re not going to learn too much here. I did think it was neat to see his hand-written letters, his official papers, and his stage costumes. They also went a little more in-depth on his later, less-public life, which was interesting. There were multiple kiosks with mini screens and headphones, so that you could watch videos of some of his stage or television appearances. We got in there in the morning, before there were many others inside, and within a half hour it had gotten too crowded to be comfortable, which leads me to believe that it would not be any fun at a busier time of year.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame has been on my list for some time, and the museum attached to it is really amazing. It takes the visitor from the very beginnings of “country” music, with folks coming out of the hills singing harmonies, dancing to jug bands, or strumming true folk songs on guitars, though the modern day with its diversity of sub-genres. It does a great job of balancing the evolving music, the social forces that popularized or altered it, the distinctive showmanship of the genre, and the values espoused by its performers (whether the gold-plated automobiles or their pious devotion). It combines text, videos and recordings, glass-case displays, and beautiful architecture. My only critique is that there is not much that is interactive, so kids may get bored before you do. The ticket is good all day, so if I had it to do over again, I would go in the morning for an hour or so, then walk around and eat lunch, and come back to digest the rest. As it was, it was tough to take it all in at once, and I almost missed checking out the Hall itself.
Though the city was busy for the weekend, I found crowds to be mostly manageable, in the middle of October. It is possible that I wouldn’t want to be there in a weekend in a more popular travel season. Another lesson learned was to make my hotel reservations online as soon as I found something I wanted. Waiting only made it too late to reserve the place I wanted online, and when I got there in person I had to pay almost twice as much for the same room. On a positive note, I did make sure to get tickets to some shows, so I had some entertainment planned out, and I recommend that, as well. I can’t wait to get back to Nashville again, and would love to hear your thoughts on not-to-miss sights and sounds in town!