Music City is booming. Direct flights with British Airways from the UK have given extra incentive to a new wave of tourists looking to see a different side of the USA to the standard New York, California or Florida destinations.
One side of Ben’s family grew up in Hermitage, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. Despite us visiting previously on holiday, he has an ingrained fondness for the city that made it high on our list to visit on our travels. And so we have done. Twice, in fact.
We now have a pretty good idea of the things that make Nashville such a great destination, with a mixture of quintessential tourist experiences and some more local gems. Read on to find out more!
It’s Music City. We start with the music. Apparently, the name comes from Queen Victoria! A group of musicians from Nashville visited Blighty, played for Her Majesty and she was so delighted she asked where they were from. They told her but she replied “I don’t know where that is, but I’m going to call it Music City USA” or words to that effect. Fun times.
Anyway, music is everywhere. You can’t escape. From the world famous studios of Music Row to the Honky Tonks surrounding Broadway, there are tunes all day everyday. There’s no particular science as to which ones to visit or what to see on Broadway. Bar hopping is part of the fun, so just head in to wherever the live sounds coming from the open windows appeal to you. A lot of them are named or themed after various musicians – almost all modern country – and these tend to be the busiest. Jason Aldean’s in particular is huge, busy and fun.
For a more opulent experience, the Grand Ole Opry is our choice of the way to go. A famous radio show broadcasted live, the audience is treated to a range of artists playing for around 20 minutes each. The theme is definitely country, but diversely so: old school country, instrumental, modern country pop, it’s covered. Tickets are about $55 – a genuine bargain given the big names and the big history of the Opry.
Nashville is a bonafide foodie city. Hot chicken is the predominant export – tourists flock to Hattie Bs, whilst locals tend to prefer Prince’s. The BBQ food is set to rival Memphis or Kansas City, particularly down at a communal joint with craft beer such as Martin’s BBQ. But there’s also a growing number of high-end spots highlighting traditional southern cooking in a new way. Think Grits, cornbread, collard greens, catfish. A relaxed experience can be found at Butcher & Bee over in East Nashville, or try the more formal Etch just off Broadway.
There’s also a Farmers Market in Bicentennial Park!
You wouldn’t necessarily have tagged Nashville as a major sports venue, but… it is these days. The NFL, NHL, MLS all have teams in NASH, as well as a baseball team. Each of them is an experience worth checking out, but if we had to pick one to visit, it’d be the Nashville Predators NHL team. For starters, it’s a bit of a novelty having an ice hockey team in the South. Second, there is the fact they’re really, really good at hockey. And thirdly, the atmosphere – the crowd is infamously raucous, and the Bridgestone Arena is literally on Broadway so pre and post game drinks are unbelievable. The Preds and NFL team Tennessee Titans are pretty ingrained into local culture, so expect to see murals, flags, clothing everywhere. It’s cool.
Yeah, if modern Nashville is anything it is FUN. There’s genuine concern about the rising growth the city is experiencing as more and more people flock here for their travels or permanently, but it’s happening for a reason. There’s a reason it has the bachelorette party reputation too.
One of our favourite things we’ve done is the ‘Music City Pub Crawl‘ – a combination of a traditional pub crawl with a trivia twist that makes the whole thing way more interactive and bonding for regular tourists and newbies alike. The group is kept off Broadway at the slightly quieter honky tonks near the river, and the night always ends drunkenly singing karaoke with your new friends. Result.
Ultimately, Nashville is a wonderful place to visit and now is a great time. It’s bigger, busier and better than it used to be, without being so overrun that the local culture is dying. We believe in Nashville.