What To Do In Nashville, Tennessee

by | May 26, 2018

What to do in Nashville Tennessee Travel Tips

Looking for travel tips on what to do in Nashville, Tennessee?

Nashville is an exciting city both day and night. There is a large variety of attractions to see and do in this great city. You will be spoilt by choice. Here are a few best tips to do in Nashville. Tick these ones off your list and enjoy this fabulous city.

The Ryman Auditorium

The Ryman  was established in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. In 2001 it was named a National Historic Landmark in Nashville. Thomas Ryman, a Nashville business man and riverboat captain attended a religious revival here. History says, after hearing the evangelist preacher Sam Porter Jones sermon, Ryman converted on the spot. He went on to raise the neccessary funds to build a permanent place for Jones to preach. Seven years on, Union Gospel Tabernacle opened and in 1904 on the death of Ryman, it was renamed the Ryman Auditorium.

Colourful History

The building has served as a venue for a wide variety of events including religious revivals, operas, ballets, musicals, jazz recitals and political debates. Lula Naff, a successful business woman of her era managed the performance hall. She attracted a stellar line up of talent including Mae West, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope and Rudolph Valentino. In 1943, Naff signed a contract to rent the Ryman on Saturday nights for a popular live radio program which was later known as the Grand Ole Opry. 

Over the next three decades, the building gained nationwide recognition as the ‘Mother Church of Country Music’ and rarely had an empty seat. Other pioneering performers graced the Ryman such as Patsy Cline and Hank Williams.

Bluegrass Music Started Here!

Bluegrass music was first heard from the Ryman stage. Bill Monroe and his “Blue Grass Boys”, first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 1939 and soon became one of the most popular touring bands to emerge from Nashville’s WSM studios.

nashville tennessee

New Beginnings

In 1974, the Opry outgrew the Ryman and moved to a new purpose-built building. The future of the Ryman was uncertain. However, after a huge public outcry, the building was left standing. Twenty years on, after a major renovation the Ryman reopened, welcoming a diverse line-up of world-class entertainment to its stage.

Today’s Backstage Tours

The one-hour backstage tour through the dressing rooms is dedicated to the legends and rich in musical history, interesting stories and historic facts.

Photographs don the corridors of the big names who have performed on stage like – Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, James Brown, Katherine Hepburn, Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl to Garth Brooks and Keith Urban. After the guided tour, you are free to roam the auditorium, read the information boards, admire the costumes and memorabilia that have been preserved for over a hundred years.

Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country-music concert in Nashville, Tennessee. The WSM Barn Dance radio show began on the night of 28th November 1925, when Nashville radio station WSM announcer, George D. Hayintroduced fiddle player, Uncle Jimmy Thompson as the first performer on a new one-hour show.

The name Grand Ole Opry came from a play on words after the announcer said “For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera.  From now on, we will present the Grand Ole Opry.” The catchy name stuck, and the radio show adopted the Grand Ole Opry as it official title in 1927.

Radio Lives On

What began as a simple radio show is today the longest running program, broadcasted live around the globe. The Opry, an American icon and the number-one attraction in Tennessee, it is an entertainment extragganza showcasing country music legends, superstars and new stars. For aspiring country artists, getting to the Grand Ole Opry is a dream of a lifetime. The Grand Ole Opry has launched countless country music careers and led the way for Nashville to become Music City that it is.

Progressive Traveller's Grand Opry Experience

These Country Music artists performed at the concert I attended: – Jeannie Seelly – Walker McGuire – Terri Clark – Collin Raye  – The Isaacs  – Tracy Lawrence – LOCASH  – Joshua Hedley 

Grand Ole Opry Tours: For tour and ticket information click here

Fans flock to Nashville to see the foundation of where Country Music began. The list of current Grand Ole Opry members includes such stars as Keith UrbanDolly Parton  Loretta Lynn, Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood, all of whom return regularly to sing on the same spot, a round, 6-foot piece of oak wood at centre stage from the original Ryman stage.

Grand Ole Opry House is located a short drive from downtown Nashville. The auditorium holds approximately 2,500 people and rarely has an empty seat. The Tuesday night performance I attended commenced at 7:30pm to a full house.

For the Opry schedule and tickets click here

Each performer typically sang three songs, mostly in the country music genre. Joshua Hedley was a stand out for me with his songs ‘Let’s take a vacation‘ and ‘Mr Jukebox.’  He is very talented, great presence on the stage and I expect we will be hearing more about Joshua in the years to come.

In between introducing each performance, the radio announcer promoted commercials and sponsorships.

Bars, Live Music and Broadway

The main music street in Nashville is Broadway. The bars are pumping out music day and night, cocktails and beers are flowing, and everyone is in party mode. Colourful neon signage adorns the streets enticing you to come in and kick back. In a back alley, we met a muso who invited me into Tootsie’s Orchid Bar to watch him and a couple of other talented guys play. The band’s guitarist who is also a Professor would in between sets ask people in the audience where they were from and launch into interesting facts about their city.

Coyote Ugly Saloon Bar

My son’s fiancé Skye, challenged me to dance on the Coyote Ugly Saloon Bar like she had. I am happy to say, I ticked that box!  The Stage Bar (back on Broadway) has a large rooftop bar with some good cityscape views and the action on the streets below. I really don’t think anyone would be disappointed with any bar in Nashville

Cocktail Bar and Restaurant

Every city I visit, I research for the hidden gems in the suburbs; places few tourists would know or have ever heard about. I look for quirky coffee houses, cool rooftops and elegant cocktail bars with beautiful décor and unusual architecture. During a whiskey / bourbon tasting at Green Briers Distillery, I asked our guide, whether he could recommend a cocktail bar that only locals frequent. He suggested Sinema Bar and Restaurant, the former Melrose Cinema.

Siena is not located in a flashy area but I assure you this place is gorgeous and ticks all the boxes. It’s two stories with a restaurant, bars, private dining rooms, various cosy seating areas surrounded by gorgeous fittings, fixtures and luxury finishes. The Sinema ladies’ bathroom is popular for selfies – check out the Sinema Instagram page and you will see why.

Nashville Music Museums

The Johnny Cash Museum  and Country Music Hall of Fame are a must. The Patsy Cline Museum is located above the Johnny Cash Museum however an additional ticket is required. Unless, you are a true country music fan, there will be artists at CMHF that you will have never heard of but that’s the fun of learning new things. Allow about 2 hours at JC Museum and at least 4-5 hours at CMHF.

Parking can be expensive in downtown Nashville. Download the ‘Parking Panda‘ App to search and compare all available parking options for your destination in advance. Another travel saving tip – hotels outside of the city are often much cheaper, include free continental breakfasts and parking. The money you save can be used to catch Lyft or Uber (by the way Lyft was cheaper in Nashville) and a few more yummy cocktails.

Made for walking—Johnny Cash’s boots

What to do in Nashville: Best Finds

After researching the best coffee in Nashville, I found Dunns Brothers Coffee downtown and  Steadfast nearby in Germantown which you should also check out. Germantown exudes charm with its gentrified Victorian buildings, trendy boutiques, restaurants and cafes. Nearby Germantown is the Nashville Farmers Market with vendors offering seasonal produce and a eatery of cuisines. Bicentennial Capitol Mall Park featuring skyline views is adjacent to the markets with a Tennessee’s timeline wall, monuments for the history and music buffs.

Steadfast and Barista Parlor were similar quality to what we have grown to expect in Australia.

The Parthenon

Greece Comes To Nashville

The Parthenon is a full-scale neoclassical replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The building was erected in 1897 as the centrepiece of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in Centennial Park Today, the Parthenon functions as an art museum and events centre surrounded by a large park just west of downtown Nashville. The ‘Athens of the South’ was originally made of wood, plaster and brick and not intended to be permanent however due to its popularity and cost to demolish, the Parthenon stayed standing after the exposition. Twenty years after the exposition, the weather-beaten Parthenon fell into disrepair and in 1920, a project to rebuild the landmark in cement commenced on the same foundations. The rebuild was finally completed by 1925 and the interior in 1931.

Nearby Chattanooga

For those who have access to a car, I would highly recommend a day and night in Chattanooga. Chattanooga is located 2 hours southeast of Nashville, but I have included it what to do in Nashville.  Chattanooga was made famous by the song ‘The Chattanooga Choo Choo’. It’s the 4th largest city in Tennessee with beautiful parks, museums and restaurants. Station Street has a good selection of restaurants, a brewery and old train terminus where you will find the Chattanooga Choo Choo train. Other things worth checking out are: Ruby Falls, Lookout Mountain, Tennessee Riverpark, the pedestrian Walnut Street Bridge / Hunter Museum precinct which is spectacular during the day and especially beautiful on sunset.

You know, traditional country music is something that’s going to be around forever.

George Strait

American country music singer, songwriter, actor, and music producer.

If you enjoyed What to do in Nashville Tennessee check out my other USA Posts. Below are a couple:

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