Home to the Grand Ole Opry, Music Row and the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville is where country music stars are made, careers are built and legacies are preserved.
The bar-stools-to-church-pews sound track to every day small town life is rewritten daily on 16th Avenue. A few blocks away, starry-eyed hopefuls in fitted jeans sing every day from afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning on the beer-drenched stages of Lower Broadway, hoping to be discovered like Dierks Bentley or Chris Janson. Across town in an unassuming strip mall, writers drag some chairs into a circle for the evening’s writers in the round at Bluebird Café. Guests lucky enough to land reservations can dine on chicken tenders and a steady stream of chart hits, new tunes and a mass of songs too poignant to ever make it to country radio.
A week could be spent soaking up Nashville’s country music dreams, history and barbecue sauce. But if a weekend is the time limit, we’ve zeroed in on Music City’s high notes.
Sleep at Barbara Mandrell’s house
Where to stay comes down to location, location, location. And let’s be serious: budget. Guests to Music City can check into the Omni Nashville Hotel, which is connected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and has sweeping views of the city. Depending on the time of year, weekend rates can start at $500 per night. The Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown lists about $130 per night cheaper on its website and while it’s located on the other side of Lower Broadway, it’s still an easy walk to the area’s main attractions.
If the Grand Ole Opry tops the must-do list, a room at Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center might be just the ticket. Weekend rooms at the sweeping resort start at about $265. The site includes a lavish spa, live music, miles of indoor gardens, top-tier and family dining choices — and an app to help guests navigate through it.
Want to stay in a celebrity’s home? Nashville can accommodate that, too. Fontanel, located about 10 minutes outside of Nashville, used to be Barbara Mandrell’s family home. Now it’s home to The Inn at Fontanel — a luxury boutique hotel — and includes tours, hikes, onsite dining and more.
Pie or barbecue?
George Jones sang about choices and when it comes to lunch, Nashville has near limitless options. The Pie Wagon, a quaint meat-and-three located near Music Row is a popular, understated choice for managers, songwriters and publishers looking to grab some home-cooked mashed potatoes and pecan pie for a decent price in a relaxed atmosphere. On Lower Broadway, Jack’s Bar-B-Que is known for the sweetest corn, creamiest macaroni and cheese and most tender brisket. Everyone knows it, too. The line is known to snake out the front door.
Where it began
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum boasts 350,000 square feet dedicated to honoring country music’s past, present and future. The state-of-the-art, multi-level complex currently features temporary displays for Jason Aldean, Charlie Daniels and Shania Twain as well as permanent exhibitions that include artifacts ranging from clothes and instruments to automobiles and movie clips.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum closes at 5 p.m. daily. Plan ahead and get reservations for a 6 p.m. songwriter’s night at Bluebird Café. Both songwriters and artists frequently play the famed room to share the stories behind the songs they’ve written. And if Bluebird Café is full or a location more convenient to downtown Nashville is needed, checkout The Listening Room Cafe or Douglas Corner Café.
Food is served at each of the songwriter rooms, but if a more elevated dining experience is on the menu check out The Palm at the mouth of Lower Broadway. Located across the street from Bridgestone Arena, the walls of the white tablecloth restaurant are adorned with caricatures of Nashville’s most loved personalities. The menu includes porterhouse steaks, jumbo lump crab cakes, lobster and signature desserts.
From there, venture down Lower Broadway for a night of honky-tonking at an array of Nashville’s beloved bars and celebrity-owned establishments. Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge invites visitors in for a “holler and swaller.” Legends Corner boasts a colorful outdoor mural of Nashville’s most famous entertainers. Robert’s Western World is lined with beer bottles and boots. And of course each establishment has a stage.
Country singers Alan Jackson and Florida Georgia Line recently opened bars in the Lower Broadway area, too, with more coming from Dierks Bentley, Blake Shelton and Big & Rich’s John Rich in the next year.
Check for national headlining acts at Nashville’s most popular music venues including Bridgestone, the historic Ryman Auditorium and Ascend Amphitheater.
Finish the night — or celebrate the sunrise — at the 24-hour Sun Diner with pork belly eggs benedict or a donut breakfast sandwich.
Spread Your Wings
After a waffle with peanut butter mousse, bacon and banana at Pinewood Social or the well-stocked breakfast buffet at Omni Nashville, meet up with Songbird Tours at 11 a.m. — reservations required. The inside of a tour bus has been renovated to include a stage and stadium seating. While the bus tools through Music Row and past celebrity homes, a tour guide points out country music landmarks while hit songwriters entertain the audience in the down time. The songwriters answer questions, tell stories and will even pose for selfies with bus patrons.
After the tour, make the short trip back to Lower Broadway to check out the Johnny Cash Museum, the George Jones Museum and visit the gift shops in between.
Grand Ole Opry
Make an early dinner reservation at Jonathan Waxman’s Adele’s and then hop on the interstate toward the Grand Ole Opry House near Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Each week, the Opry holds a number of shows spotlighting up-and-coming talent like 13-year-old Tegan Marie, country stars including Chris Young and Carrie Underwood and long-time members such as Bill Anderson, Vince Gill and Jeannie Seely. Visitors can even plan ahead, take a backstage tour and bump into the celebrities after country music’s most famous radio show.
Cap the night on that end of town at Nashville Palace, a rustic honky tonk with a rich history, a well-stocked bar and plenty of country music.
Brunch like a country super star
For those who have wondered what it’s like to eat like a celebrity, Florida Georgia Line’s FGL House can answer the question. The menu is described as Southern style with California flair and includes recipes that duo’s chef prepares for them on the road.
FGL House offers Sundaze Brunch that includes chicken and waffles, short ribs in an iron skillet and plenty of mimosas and bloody marys. But, it’s only available on Sundays.
For more information on suggested destinations:
Grand Ole Opry: 1-800-SEE-OPRY; www.opry.com
Country Music Hall of Fame: 615-416-2001; countrymusichalloffame.org
Bluebird Café: 615-383-1461; bluebirdcafe.com
Omni Nashville Hotel: 615-782-5300; omnihotels.com/Nashville
Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown: 615-259-2000; sheratonnashvilledowntown.com
Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center: 615-889-1000; www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center/
Fontanel: 615-724-1600; fontanel.com
The Pie Wagon: 615-256-5893; thepiewagon.com
Jack’s Bar-B-Que: 615-254-5715; jacksbarbque.com
The Palm: 615-742-7256; thepalm.com/Nashville
Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge: 615-275-4329; tootsies.net
Legend’s Corner: 615-248-6334; legendscorner.com
Robert’s Western World: 615-244-9552; robertswesternworld.com
AJ’s Good Time Bar: 615-678-4808; ajsgoodtimebar.com
FGL House: 615-961-5460; fglhouse.com
John Rich’s Redneck Riviera: redneckrivieranashville.com
Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row: dierkswhiskeyrow.com/nashville-tn
Blake Shelton’s Ole Red: olered.com
Bridgestone Arena: 615-770-2000;bridgestonearena.com
Ryman Auditorium: 615-889-3060; ryman.com
Ascend Amphitheater: 615-999-9000; ascendamphitheater.com
Pinewood Social: 615-751-8111; pinewoodsocial.com
Songbird Tours: 615-236-6094; songbirdtours.com
Johnny Cash Museum: 615-256-1777; johnnycashmuseum.com
George Jones Museum: 615-818-0128; georgejonesmuseum.com
Adele’s: 615-988-9700; adelesnashville.com
Nashville Palace: 615-889-1540; nashville-palace.com
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