What To Do In Nashville Tennessee
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.
Auditorium’s 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.
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 Opry Live Performance Tours
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.
Country Music Fans
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 Urban, Dolly 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
In between introducing each performance, the radio announcer promoted commercials and sponsorships.
Nashville 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
Nashville Music Tours and Downtown Attractions
The Johnny Cash Museum and Country Music Hall of Fame are a must. 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. Nashville Downtown row or music strip is buzzing day and night. Stop by one of the colourful bars playing live music and feel the real Nashville vibe.
Nashville Downtown Parking
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.
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.
Greek Parthenon in Nashville
Looking for fun free things to do with the kids in Nashville? Head to Parthenon or one of the other great parks and playgrounds on offer in Nashville. Plus check ‘Free Things to Do in Nashville’ video below created by Free Tours by Foot below
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.
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.
Nashville Airport Car Rentals
Skip the queue at the airport rental counter and book unforgettable cars from Rentalcars.com Luxury cars, people movers, hybrids, compact sedan and wagons. Rentalcars is my go to car rental search engine and they offer great insurance and 24/7 Roadside Assistance.