Editor’s Note: This article was prepared before the serious flooding of May 2010. Please call ahead to be sure your destination is operating normally.
Think Nashville, and of course you think music. But Nashville’s not just about country and Christian music. The sounds of pop, rock, bluegrass and folk are all being played and enjoyed in large venues and small honky-tonks throughout the area. What may come as a surprise is the vast array of other attractions and activities that this exuberant city has to offer. Stroll through a beautiful botanical garden, take the kids for a fun day at the zoo, watch a professional sports team, experience a piece of history, or see and make art at an art museum. Nashville makes good on its promise to be the Music City, but maybe it should be called the Magic City, because from dawn until well after dark, it seems like something magical is always happening.
There are dozens of accommodations to choose from in and around Nashville. If you’re looking for the lush atmosphere of a grand old hotel, you’ll want to reserve a room at The Hermitage Hotel (1-888-888-9414). Renovated and restored in 2002, the hotel is listed as one of the Top 100 Hotels by Travel & Leisure Magazine and no wonder. It exudes beaux arts opulence, with a magnificent lobby highlighted with marble and stained glass.
Union Station – A Wyndham Historic Hotel (615-726-1001) offers you the chance to spend the night in an historic landmark. The Romanesque Gothic railway terminal, constructed in 1900, is now an upscale hotel with 125 chic rooms. Each room is unique; some have ceilings stretching 22 feet high and large, arched glass walls that overlook the magnificent lobby, once the main hall of the railroad station.
If you’re traveling with your family, consider the Embassy Suites Nashville – Airport (615-871-0033). It offers plenty to keep the kids entertained, with an indoor pool, game room and tropical atrium. Other nice perks are the in-room refrigerators and free breakfast buffet, which help you stay within your budget.
Close to The District area of Nashville, there’s the Renaissance Nashville Hotel (615-255-8400) on Commerce St. It’s just a block from Ryman Auditorium and connects directly to the Nashville Convention Center.
If you’re lucky enough to have a hefty travel budget, you may want to splash out at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center (615-889-1000). This immense facility has 2,881 guest rooms, including 174 suites and 757 garden atrium view rooms overlooking massive indoor gardens. It is a tourist attraction in itself, so if you can’t afford to check in, you can still have fun exploring its elegant lobbies, magnificent waterfalls and lush atriums. During the holidays, you’ll delight in the marvelous light displays and ice sculptures. The Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center is located near the Grand Ole Opry and Opry Mills Mall, and is just a short drive or riverboat cruise to downtown Nashville.
Downtown Nashville is easily navigated on foot. In fact, walking is a great way to soak up the architecture of the city. Stop by the Visitors Center in the Gaylord Entertainment Center and pick up a copy of the Nashville City Walk brochure. This brochure tells you how to follow the green line painted on downtown sidewalks for a self-guided historical walking tour of the city. As you walk the route, look for informative plaques and green metal silhouettes of various notables from history.
It’s easy to get to Nashville by car, since the city lies at the intersection of several interstate highways. Or you can fly into Nashville International Airport. It’s served by many airlines and is conveniently located just a few miles east of downtown. Amtrak and Greyhound also provide transportation to the Nashville area.
Once you arrive in Nashville, renting a car is simple to do, since most of the major car rental firms have locations at or near the airport, along with some locations in the city. Taxis and limousines are also available for hire.
If you’re looking for a different way to take in the sights, you could consider a riverboat cruise. For instance, the General Jackson Showboat (615-458-3900) is a 300 ft. paddlewheel riverboat that offers food and entertainment while gently gliding down the Cumberland River.
Set among the rolling green hills and lovely rivers and lakes of Tennessee, Nashville has long been known as The Music City and the capital of country music. Tennessee’s capital city is growing quickly and has now surpassed Memphis in size, but this sophisticated city still knows how to provide visitors with a friendly welcome.
If you’re tuned into country and Christian tunes, a visit to Nashville is a must. But even if you’re interested in other musical genres, Nashville can accommodate you, with hundreds of musical performances weekly. (To find out more about live music venues, check online at visitmusiccity.com/music/
Music not your thing? No worries. This vibrant Tennessee metropolis offers plenty of other attractions and activities to spark the interest of both adults and children, from shopping and dining to museums of science and the arts, major league sports teams to theme parks, and an unusual zoo that provides a behind-the-scenes view of the animals.
Today’s Nashville shines as a cultural leader, thanks to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (615-782-4000) and the presence of more than two dozen colleges and universities in the greater Nashville area, including Vanderbilt University, two medical schools, two law schools, and six graduate business schools. Many of the schools house private art galleries.
Nashville has four distinct seasons yet offers mild temps year-round, so visiting in any season ensures comfortable conditions for seeing the sights. Summer is the height of tourist season.
Pre-planning is important when visiting Nashville, and you should make your hotel and car rental reservations before leaving home. If you wish to attend the Grand Ole Opry (615-871-OPRY) or the CMA Music Festival, you’ll need to purchase tickets well in advance.
For help along the way, Nashville offers two convenient visitor centers: one in the lower level of the U.S. Bank at Fourth Ave. North and Commerce, and another inside the Bridgestone Arena (formerly the Sommet Center) at Fifth Ave. South and Broadway.
Experience the long and colorful history of country music at The Country Music Hall of FameÒ and Museum (CMF) (615-416-2001), 222 Fifth Ave. South. The CMF is both a museum of country music and an international arts organization. In 2001, the CMF moved into a spectacular, $37-million building on the west bank of the Cumberland River, right near the Ryman Auditorium. Here you can experience live and recorded music performances, video clips, public programs, a museum store, live satellite radio broadcasts and on-site dining, all designed to thrill you with the country music of today and educate you about its roots, dating back 200 years.
The CMF’s Hall of Fame Rotunda pays tribute to the renowned musicians inducted into the Hall of Fame, including Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride and so many more. When planning your trip to Nashville, check the calendar of CMF programs at countrymusichalloffame.org.
No visit to Nashville would be complete without a visit to the Grand Ole Opry. What began as station WSM’s radio show, Barn Dance, in 1925 is now a live-music extravaganza that showcases both country music legends and contemporary stars. The show is broadcast on TV, but hundreds of thousands of music lovers flock to the Opry complex each year to experience the excitement of the show as it happens, hoping to witness the likes of Trace Adkins, Vince Gill or Carrie Underwood in action.
For concerts by today’s top performers, including Celine Dion and Bruce Springsteen, plus sports events and more, the Bridgestone Arena (615-770-2000) is the place to go in downtown Nashville. This 20,000-seat facility, which covers three blocks at 5th and Broadway and connects to the city’s convention center by a tunnel, is also the place to watch Nashville Predators home games, plus everything from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra to the Harlem Globetrotters. The Bridgestone Arena also hosts the CMA Music Awards every fall.
Another must-see is The Music City Walk of Fame, located on Nashville’s Music Mile. The Walk of Fame pays homage to people from all musical genres who have made a significant contribution to the music industry, including Reba McEntire, Roy Orbison, Emmylou Harris, John Hiatt, Wynonna Judd, Jimi Hendrix and many others.
The Ryman Auditorium (615-889-3060), former home of the Grand Ole Opry, is a National Historic Landmark located in the heart of downtown Nashville. Although it has its roots in country music, The Ryman offers today’s visitors a variety of musical performances, including rock, alternative, gospel, classical, jazz, bluegrass and musical theatre. You can also take a self-guided tour of the historic building.
Nashville’s live music venues are too numerous to list, but a few popular spots include B.B. King’s Blues Club (615-256-2727), Wildhorse Saloon (61-902-8200), Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and The Tin Roof (615-313-7103).
Keep the kids happy with a stop at the Nashville Children’s Theatre (615-254-9103), ranked by Time magazine as one of the top five children’s theatres in the country.
Or visit the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere (615-833-1534). Their unique All Access Expedition Tours let you and your youngsters get up close and personal with the animals. In addition, the zoo’s Jungle Gym playground is the largest community-built playground in the country, with more than 66,000 square feet for sliding, swinging, climbing, crawling and exploring.
Kids and adults alike will appreciate the more than 60 interactive exhibits and engaging programs of the Adventure Science Center (615-862-5160). Here, visitors can discover how science and invention affect their daily lives while having fun learning new things. The Center also houses the Sudekum Planetarium, which, with its 60 ft. dome, is one of the largest in the nation.
For a close-up look at the works of artists from around Tennessee and around the world, take a culture break at the family-friendly Frist Center for the Visual Arts (615-244-3340). It offers 24,000 square feet of gallery space and also welcomes would-be artists of all ages to the ArtQuest Gallery. Here, individuals can participate in fun ArtQuest activities at 30 hands-on stations.
A great place to have a picnic is on the grounds of Cheekwood. Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art (615-356-8000) is located at the former Cheek estate, built in 1932. The Cheeks made a fortune after investing in what later became Maxwell House Coffee. They then hired New York residential and landscape architect Bryant Fleming to design a magnificent estate on their property in West Nashville. He built them a limestone mansion and created extensive gardens designed after English formal gardens of the 18th century. Today, Cheekwood sits on 55 picturesque acres and is home to a 30,000 sq. ft. museum that showcases world-class collections of American and contemporary painting and sculpture, English and American decorative arts, and traveling exhibitions.
If your idea of a good time includes retail therapy, you’re going to love Opry Mills. This mall of 200 outlet stores, with Nike, Gap Outlet and Old Navy, also includes about two dozen restaurants and a movie theater. Opry Mills is located on the Opryland grounds, between Two Rivers Parkway and McGavock Pike. It borders the Cumberland River and is within walking distance of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The mall is about seven miles from downtown Nashville.
About 15 miles south of Nashville, in Franklin, lies CoolSprings Galleria (615-771-2128). This enclosed mall is anchored by five department stores, including Macy’s, Dillard’s and JCPenny. It includes more than 165 specialty shops plus a 500-seat food court.
Nashville has so much to offer, chances are, it’s going to exceed your expectations. And with five dialysis facilities to accommodate your treatment needs, you don’t have to let your kidney disease get in the way of having a wonderful time.
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