Nashville is a booming city. With its burgeoning neighborhoods, overflow of restaurant and live music venue choices, Music City should be at the top of everyone's travel list. If this is your first or thousandth time to Nashville, here are a few must-do suggestions for every traveler.
1. Learn of Nashville's music influence
Sure, Nashville is commonly known as Music City, but did you ever wonder why? Go back in time to this city's roots at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum which covers country music's start and continuation. From the first note sung to the guitars that provided the music to legends and rising stars in the industry, you'll get a well-rounded education on Music City's music footprint. Also, check out Ryman Auditorium, also known as the Mother Church of Country Music, and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum which is the only museum in the world to honor the musicians and instruments who played on the greatest recordings in music history.
2. Explore the neighborhoods
Once you've had a taste of downtown, mosey to some of Nashville's pockets of cute boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. In the Gulch, you'll find delicious menus of a variety of fare from street tacos at Saint Añejo to succulent steaks at Kayne Prime or grab a drink at Whiskey Kitchen.
(Draper James, Credit: Leslee Mitchell)
3. For the foot-stomping country music scene
The show that made country music famous can be experienced as it makes its way live through the airwaves on 650AM/WSM. Take a backstage tour at the Grand Ole Opry (celebrating its 90th year in 2016) and you may just brush elbows with the stars. It's bustling activity and many times you can catch artists doing their vocal warm-ups before heading on stage to sing for hundreds of thousands year-round. After the show, kick up your heels on Lower Broadway among the honky tonks where live music flows into the streets.
4. Beyond country music
If country music doesn't fit your music tastes, check out Nashville's other venues around town. Exit/In hosts Buckethead, David Bazan, The Fall of Troy, Swans, and Steve Gunn & the Outliners throughout the summer. Mercy Lounge hosts Noise Pollution, Black Pistol Fire, and more. The Cannery Ballroom hosts the Turnpike Troubadours, Us The Duo, The Wombats with Coast Modern and others throughout the year.
If you want symphonic music, head to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center where you can hear the GRAMMY Award-winning Nashville Symphony perform Mahler, Beethoven, Bach, John Williams and more.
5. Connect with Nature
Need some fresh air? Nashville's close proximity to lakes, rivers, and greenways are endless. Pack a picnic and spend a day at Radnor Lake State Natural Area, a 1,200-acre park with six hiking trails that make you feel as if the city isn't a mere half-hour away. Other parks include Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks, Sevier Park, and Centennial Park which is home to a replica of the Parthenon (including a full-scale statue of Greek goddess Athena).
6. A History Lesson
Visit presidential homes like Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage where you'll find, what many historians claim, the best preserved early U.S. presidential home. More than 16 million visitors have made this their stop since it opened in 1889. Belle Meade Plantation was the site of a skirmish during the Civil War Battle of Nashville. You can see bullet holes in its pillars as a result of the fray. Also, find out why Belle Meade also holds significance in the thoroughbred industry.
7. Getting cultured
(Nashville Ballet, Credit: Heather Thorne)
From national tours of Broadway musicals at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to a graceful performance of Cinderella by the Nashville Ballet, if you want a night filled with the arts, Nashville has you covered. Browse the artistic elegance of some world-class work at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Take in a play, spoken word concert, or an artwork installation (or all three) at OZ Arts.
8. Fill your belly
All that exploring works up quite an appetite. Thankfully, Nashville's known for a few classic things: like barbecue, farm-to-table restaurants, and hot chicken. Find all three at a variety of restaurants including, but definitely not limited to Peg Leg Porker for barbecue, The FarmHouse which uses nothing but local farm meats and produce to create authentically local meals, and fire-in-your-mouth hot chicken at Prince's Hot Chicken.
9. Child's Play
Kids of all ages have a blast exploring space, weather, biological history, and the science behind how everyday items work at Adventure Science Center. The Nashville Zoo is currently expanding in large ways as they just opened their new Entry Village and have plans to soon open the new Rhino exhibition. Keep an eye out for more Zoo additions.
10. Your summer music scene
Finally, every summer Nashville is the place to be. Make plans to attend music festivals like CMA Music Festival (June 9-12, 2016) and Live on the Green (Aug. 11,18,25, 2016 and Sept. 1-3, 2016), free community concerts by the Nashville Symphony, Zoovies at the Nashville Zoo, and one of the largest fireworks displays for July 4th in the nation. Nashville provides the Soundtrack of summer and it's all Made in Tennessee.