Tennessee is the place to be if you love country music. And Nashville is not the only place to go to hear that steel guitar. Travel the state from end to end, and you’ll find terrific music everywhere.
Nashville is called Music City for a reason, especially for fans of country music. It’s impossible to list every place in town with a country act, but here are a few of the best. You have to start with the Grand Ole Opry, where the brightest stars in the country galaxy perform night after night. Next stop: the “mother church of country music,” the Ryman Auditorium, which used to house the Grand Ole Opry. After the show, head to the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, a live radio show where you can see it all happen in person.
For a night on the town, visit the famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and a few other stops in the famous musical showcase, The District. Take in the fun of the Wildhorse Saloon, known as much for its food as its music and dancing. And be sure to visit the Nashville Palace. Like so many Nashville night spots, you never know who might drop in.
Round out your Nashville visit with a trip to the Musicians Hall of Fame ad Museum for an inspiring look at the musicians and session players who made their mark on music history. And don’t leave town without paying your respects, and maybe hearing some great music, at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where you can take tours, shop, eat, see a musical demonstration, sit in on a songwriter session or hear a concert in the intimate Ford Theater.
In Memphis, be sure to visit the Center for Southern Folklore and Cafe, where you can enjoy the tours, noon concerts, exhibits, films and more. You never know what you’re going to hear at the Hi Tone Cafe or the beautiful Orpheum Theatre, but some of the recent country-influenced acts to play there include Junior Brown and the North Mississippi Allstars.
In the Tri-Cities area, start off your trip with a visit to the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Museum in Bristol, where you can also hear live music on Thursday nights. The Down Home in Johnson City is a landmark for country and bluegrass music.
Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are hot spots for country music, with a large number of dinner theaters and family-friendly entertainment venues. And of course, Dollywood has music galore, with stage show, street performers and more. Just down the road in downtown Knoxville, you can take the Cradle of Country Music Walking Tour and learn about its history from pioneer ballads to rockabilly. While you’re downtown, take in the live noon shows at the Knoxville Visitor Center, the WDVX Blue Plate Special, where you can hear all kinds of country, bluegrass, roots and Americana acts for free.
In Chattanooga, head downtown to the Chattanooga Market, located in an old foundry, where you can shop, eat and hear some good music, including interesting country acts. While the flavor tends to be bluegrass at the Mountain Opry, on Signal Mountain, there’s still some great old-time acoustic music to hear.