While Nashville has been touted the “Athens of the South” because of its 16 universities and colleges, 750 churches, and its full-size replica of the Parthenon, everybody around the world knows it as “Music City USA”. Nashville has earned this title largely on the backs of its country music. The city, after all, is the home of the Country Music Association, the Country Music Association Awards, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the International Country Music Fan Fair. Its famed Grand Ole Opry music radio program is the longest continuous in the United States, broadcasting live stage performances since 1925 and hosting only the best country music performers – which over the years have included the likes of Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Willie Nelson among others.
Although Nashville is the undisputed country music capital of the world, it also bleeds music of other styles. Gospel, blues, classical, and mountain music are all part of the mix of this city’s $2 billion music industry. Contemporary Christian, in particular, has been a growing segment in recent years with numerous stars like Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, and Michael W Smith headquartering themselves in Nashville. And classical music has always had a place in Nashville, confirmed by the recent opening of the Schermerhorn Symphony Centre in 2006. Even alternative rock stars like Sheryl Crow have found their way to Nashville in recent years. Indeed, the city pays no attention to musical genres. It attracts singers, producers, songwriters, and music professionals of all kinds. This is most evidently seen along Nashville’s famed “Music Row”, which is lined with hundreds of major music studios, record labels, radio stations, and production networks.
Nashville, however, is not just a city of musicians, music performances, and music-related attractions. This is a city where professional sports have a notable presence. Residents are rabid NFL Tennessee Titans fans, but also enjoy their NHL Nashville Predators hockey team and their NASCAR races held annually at the Nashville Superspeedway.
But what makes Nashville so lovable is perhaps its small-town feel within an urban setting replete with modern and cultural amenities. Surrounding the city is a beautiful countryside of lakes, rivers, rolling hills, and greenery. Within Nashville are skyscrapers, fine restaurants, world-class museums and art galleries, preeminent universities like Vanderbilt, and a nightlife scene that runs deep into the early mornings. And like other destinations in the South, the people of Nashville are hospitable and friendly.
Grand Ole Opry
Nashville’s major tourist attractions are mostly music-related. One of them is the Grand Ole Opry, which has long been synonymous with Nashville’s country music scene. Every week, live Grand Ole Opry shows are performed on stage at the Opry Entertainment Complex, which includes two theatre venues: the Grand Ole Opry House and the Acuff Theatre. The shows are also broadcast on radio and television and feature a mix of talent every week. The artists and repertoire of Opry shows have defined country music in the United States for years, and continues to do so even today. Millions of tourists come each year to see these shows in person to experience the best of contemporary country music.
Grand Ole Opry Museum
The Grand Ole Opry Museum is also located at the Opry Entertainment Complex. The museum pays tribute to the Grand Ole Opry radio show and the legendary stars who have performed in it, including the likes of Patsy Cline, Roy Acuff, Marty Robbins, Little Jimmy Dickens, Minnie Pearl, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, and Reba McEntire.
Country Music Hall of Fame
Another music “must” is the Country Music Hall of Fame at 222 Fifth Avenue South. The museum is dedicated to the finest country music performers throughout the ages. You’ll find displays of costumes, instruments, and lyric sheets, interactive exhibits tracing the careers of legendary country names, and films highlighting various country music performers. Notable Hall of Fame inductees include Hank Williams, Jimmy Rodgers, Fred Rose, Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Jimmie Davis, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Elvis Presley, and Dolly Parton among others.
Musicians Hall of Fame
The Musicians Hall of Fame is another major attraction. Unlike the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame recognizes musicians from all genres: jazz, blues, swing, country, rock, and pop. The museum features instruments played by legendary performers, as well as the actual stage from the Jolly Roger club where Jimi Hendrix used to perform regularly.
The Ryman Auditorium, built in 1892, is another worthwhile music attraction. It is a designated historic landmark that once hosted the Grand Ole Opry shows. Music and entertainment performances still take place in this auditorium in the evenings. During the day, you can tour the building and backstage area, including the Ryman Recording Studio.
Music Row southwest of downtown is Nashville’s famous music industry strip. It is the heart of Nashville’s music industry, its streets lined with myriad music-related businesses. You’ll find radio networks and stations, the headquarters of record labels, the offices of music agencies and licensing firms, and numerous recording studios and production houses. One of the highlights of Music Row is RCA’s Studio B, where hundreds of singers and bands have recorded. Another sight is the Music Row Rounadabout, a circular intersection centered by the Musica, a statue depicting nude dancers.
Music City Walk of Fame
The Music City Walk of Fame is a recently unveiled landmark of Nashville, a tribute to musicians of all genres from all over the world. It is located in Music Mile, the one-mile strip that runs from downtown to Music Row. Like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Music City Walk of Fame features stars imprinted into the pedestrian streets commemorating a musician who has contributed significantly to the music industry. Among the inducted include Roy Orbison, Wynonna Judd, Reba McEntire, and Michael W. Smith.
General Jackson Showboat
The General Jackson Showboat is a traditional paddlewheel riverboat that spans 300 feet long. It is built in the mold of the General Jackson riverboats that once cruised the great rivers of the south in the 1800s. Today, the showboat is a popular attraction among tourists. The cruise offers dining and entertainment as it sails romantically down the Cumberland River. It features a built-in Victorian theatre that presents Broadway-style music shows as well as country music performances.
The Hermitage is the grand 1837 mansion that was once the home of Andrew Jackson, who served as the seventh President of the United States. You can tour the mansion with the assistance of guides in period costumes. You can also take a wagon tour of the 1,100 acre farm and explore the historic structures, garden, and tomb of the Jackson’s wife.
The Parthenon at Centennial Park is the only full-scale replica of the Greek temple from Athens. Inside the Parthenon, you’ll find the city’s art museum as well as the Athena Parthenos, which at 42 feet high is the tallest indoor sculpture in the west.
The District is the entertainment hotspot of Nashville where the nightlife whistles until sunrise. This historic neighborhood hosts many bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, many of them tourist-oriented. With the numerous musicians in town, the clubs and bars in this area are full of aspiring country bands and singers who may one day become famous music stars. Definitely check out The District if you are into partying, as it fosters one of the liveliest nightlife in the South.