It was kind of overwhelming at first. It’s a big city, there’s a lot of traffic, and Broadway (the heart of the music scene) is crazy. We adjusted our expectations, figured out how to get around with minimal stress, and ended up having a blast.
Country Music, And So Much More
Although Nashville offers more than guitars, banjos, fiddles, and heartful lyrics sung with a Southern twang, the city is undeniably the epicenter of country music. We lured our good friends and fellow full-time travelers, Beth and Perry, to meet up with us (we last saw them in Big Bend National Park) and set out together to immerse ourselves in the full country music experience.
I would never say that I’m a country music fan. But Patsy Cline is one of my all-time favorite vocalists. I get together often to play music with friends when we’re at home in Ashland or on Lopez Island, and “Walkin’ After Midnight” is one of our standards. So is “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams. And “Hickory Wind” by Gram Parsons. As I flip through my songbook, I see Alison Krause, Gillian Welch, Old Crow Medicine Show, Roseanne Cash, The SteelDrivers…apparently I like country music more than I admit.
Some of these artists fall into the category of Americana and contemporary bluegrass, but they’re all country enough to have played at the Grand Ole Opry, the venerable institution that put country music on the map.
The Grand Ole Opry
We kicked off our adventures with a night at the Grand Ole Opry. Founded in 1925, it’s the world’s longest running live radio show, and in between music sets, the announcer hawks everything from cowboy boots to Martha White flour.
From country legends to rising stars, every show is a random assortment of performers. It’s very egalitarian—famous or not, each performer is allotted three songs. We chose that particular evening because The SteelDrivers were playing—they were great. As for the rest, some were very good (Drake White was new to us), some were vintage hokey, and the audience was enthusiastic about it all. It was a fun evening, and we would do it again.
Thanks to excellent advice from blogging friends Laura and Kevin, we knew that all seats at the Opry are good. The theatre is small, the acoustics are superb, and as you can see from the photo above, we had a good view of the stage even though we were way up in the balcony.
The Honky-Tonk District On Broadway
We continued our country music immersion in the Honky Tonk District in downtown Nashville. It’s intense. Bars line both sides of Broadway, live music blares from every venue day and night, and a tidal wave of humanity cruises up and down the street. It’s probably not always that crazed. We happened to be there during the Rock’n’Roll Marathon, which brought more than 30,000 extra people to Nashville the last weekend in April. (Note to self: Check for big events before going to a city.)
We ducked into Robert’s Western World, which is considered the only “real” honky tonk on Broadway (that means traditional country music, no cover charge, and cheap beer). The crowd was friendly and the band was good, although it was hard to hear over the sound of beer bottles shattering as they were tossed into the trash bin.
The Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum
We spent the better part of a day at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and it wasn’t enough. But that’s probably because I am easily sidetracked, and there are so many glittery, fun, interesting things to get sidetracked by.
This is the place to experience the history of country music (basically, it’s what happens when you combine Appalachian folk/cowboy/blues/gospel/Irish-Celtic fiddle tunes). Every era of country music is represented, along with every country artist you’ve ever heard of (and many that we hadn’t). The costumes alone are worth the price of admission. Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors has been a favorite of country music stars since the mid-1940s, and there are some wild outfits on display.
The Hatch Show Print Shop is in the same complex as the Country Music Museum. It’s one of America’s oldest letterpress shops and has produced most of the posters for the Grand Ole Opry. It would be interesting to take a tour.
Nashville Sights Outside Of Downtown
Nashville is a very walkable city, which is always a big plus for us. We spent the better part of a day exploring outside of downtown, making a loop that included Centennial Park, Music Row, and Vanderbilt University.
Centennial Park is beautiful and a great place to start a walking tour. And of course, we wanted to see the Parthenon. It’s a full-scale replica of the original and was built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. I’ve been to the Parthenon in Athens, and this one is in much better shape. Which makes sense, considering that it was built about 2500 years later.
Our self-guided walking tour took us to Music Row, a historic district in southwest Nashville where all of the record labels, recording studios, and other businesses that serve the music industry are congregated. There’s not really that much to see, but it made for a good walk and we found some interesting bits of history along the way.
Part of our loop tour included the campus of Vanderbilt University. The campus is recognized as a national arboretum, and it’s a beautiful place to walk.
Great Food Offerings
Nashville is one of the hottest places in the country right now for innovative cuisine. We had a hard time narrowing down our choices but were very happy with delicious meals at both Etch and Adele’s. Both are walking distance from downtown.
There’s a lot more to explore in Nashville, including Ryman Auditorium (home of the original Grand Ole Opry and known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash Museums, the state capitol building, more great food, and more music—we’ll be back!
About The Campground
We stayed at Seven Points COE Campground, about 15 miles east of Nashville. It was a great home base for exploring the city and offered a peaceful place to return to at night (with fireflies!). The park is next to a reservoir, heavily wooded, and the campsites are enormous, shady, and private. Water and electric hookups, bathhouses (we didn’t use them), and decent Verizon. It’s a bargain at $22 a night, and even better at half-price with the Senior Pass.
You wouldn’t happen to be headed for Memphis next, would you? We are. We will be there for a few days, the 8th thru the 10th. If so, we’d love to meet up with you (finally)! Let us know if Memphis is in your plans.
JC & Bev, I wish we were nearby so that we could meet up with you! We were in Nashville at the end of April. (That’s one of the problems with our blog being far behind.) :-(
We would love to meet up with you…perhaps our paths will cross as we make our way across the country this fall/winter?
Nashville! What a musicians paradise!
With your lovely sultry voice, I can just see your name on the billboard.
Aww, Cyn—that’s a sweet comment! Nashville really is a paradise for musicians. It would be fun to meet you and Kyle there. Maybe we could get a gig at one of the honky-tonk bars, haha!!
I was looking forward to this post – it’s our favorite city! Your pics are wonderful and make me want to get back there. Our high school friend, Bill Miller, owns the Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline Museums, as well as Nudie’s Honky Tonk in the district. He’s also opened a couple other places that have all taken off. We call him “Mr Nashville” now :-)) We want to see a show at the Opry next time, and now I’ve added Robert’s to the list. It’s growing so fast, I’m hoping we still love it when we return.
Jodee, that is so cool that your friend “Mr. Nashville” owns museums of two of our favorite country artists—they’re both on our list for our next visit. And I put Nudie’s on our list, too.
There’s a lot to like about Nashville. We were just initially overwhelmed by the crowds there for the marathon and a huge sports event, both on the same weekend. We won’t make that mistake next time.
We had fun reliving our trip reading this wonderful blog posting. You really can paint a picture. Can’t wait for the next adventure.
Beth and Perry
We have so much fun traveling with you guys! Doesn’t matter if we’re hiking in Big Bend or listening to country music in a Nashville honky-tonk—you are the best company! Hope we can figure out a plan to meet up this fall/winter. oxoxo
Always look forward to reading your posts….we met a couple on our way south who are now in Maine touring. They live in Florida, YOU would both love them. Sure would be fun to gather all the nomads we enjoy and meet. Will see what happens after this next trip. We will be in TX mid Nov. and hopefully to Big Bend after that????? Will let you know. When will you head east?
Julie, we’re heading east at the end of November and will be in Florida by February. Sounds like we might be able to meet up somewhere—we hope so! We’ll have a lot to catch up on with all of the exotic travels you’ve been doing since we last saw you two. :-)
Love the clouds reflecting in the buildings of your header. I bet the quiet and fireflies after the city made it just right especially at that price.
Debbie, that COE park is wonderful—and the fireflies were a bonus. I only noticed the cloud reflections after the photo was downloaded, and I was happily surprised. :-)
I think we might be following your route home next March. I plugged in the Seven Points Campground to our RV Trip Wizard (my new planning tool). We are hoping the weather in March is decent for us. Also, we actually got to see a show at the Ryman when we were in Nashville back in 2007 on our way to buy our new MoHo (the one we have now) in Texas. It was a great trip. The big new Opry building was being worked on for some reason, so lucky us!
If the weather is good enough, we hope to continue north to Ohio to see some family, if not we will head back south and west. I am getting tickled about our upcoming trip, and your posts are great inspiration, for sure
Sue, I’m so glad our posts are helpful to you! Lucky you indeed to see a show at the Ryman—we would love to at least take a tour of “The Mother Church of Country Music” next time we’re in Nashville.
I need to check out that RV Trip Wizard—sounds like it might be helpful. We’re in the midst of planning our cross-country journey to Florida right now, and then we need to get started on our spring/summer 2019 plans…
Home of Appalachian folkcowboybluesgospelwesternirishcelticfiddletunes…..wow what an accurate description….no wonder we all like country when we get the full picture!!! Nashville sounds wonderful for a short burst of culture…grew up on Hank Williams and Patsy Cline songs…dance music for my parents and friends. Can’t blame you for not trying anything from a bottle marked with three XXXsss!
Love the photos of you at the piano and Eric with those big geetars! More fun on the way!
Diana, we definitely got an education in country music and gained more appreciation for it. Nashville is a fun, vibrant city and we’re looking forward to returning—just not during the marathon.
Meanwhile, we can’t WAIT to see you two! The weather is beautiful and we have lots of Lopez adventures planned. Love you guys!
I sure like those big guitars!!!
Christine, there are lots of fun things to see in Nashville, including street art, which I know you enjoy!
I am SO glad you enjoyed Nashville! I was pretty sure you would, but you just never know. We had so much fun there, but I can imagine it would be trying with 30,000 extra people. It’s a busy place with a small downtown area, so adding all those extra bodies would be overwhelming for sure. We, too, didn’t realize how much we enjoyed country music until we started digging into the city and learning more. It’s hard not to love it once you’re in such a wonderful, lively, fun town. You hit some of the best places we found and gave us stuff to add to our list for when we return, all of which makes me very happy! So, thank you for that, and thanks for the shout out!
Laura, despite our initial overwhelm (mostly because of the influx of people from the marathon and a big hockey event in the downtown arena) we ended up loving Nashville. We’re looking forward to returning, probably next spring, and have a big long list of things to do. Thanks again for the helpful advice! I figured if you liked the Grand Ole Opry (and the rest of Nashville), then it had to be good. :-)
I love Nashville and all the free music at all hours of the day. My favorite place is Tootsie’s. We’ve only been there for short three day visits. One day we will need to make a stop in the MH and explore further. You two had an awesome time.
Pam, Nashville is definitely worth at least several days. We were happily surprised at how interesting it is, and we’re looking forward to another visit. Live music at all hours of the day is a big attraction for us, too! We’ll have to try Tootsie’s next time—there are a few other music venues on my list as well.
Nashville is a place we have yet to explore. Thanks for bringing it alive for me with your words and lovely photos Laurel. I really had no idea that it offered so much. Nashville looks like a city you could spend a good amount of time visiting. I must admit that earlier in my life I would have had no interest as I was not a country music fan, but my tastes have changed over the years.
LuAnn, exploring the music scene in Nashville is fascinating, and it’s a big plus that the city is so pretty, so walkable, has so much history, and offers so many fabulous restaurants. I’ll bet you would enjoy it!
We have been to Nashville twice and have yet to get to the Grand Ole Opry.
Isn’t the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum just the best. Paul and I love country music. I spent way more time in there than Paul. Just so much to take in. Glad you had a wonderful time.
Your campsite looks lovely.
Marsha, you guys would love the Grand Ole Opry! It’s quite an experience. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was wonderful—I could have spent two days there, easily. There’s so much more to Nashville than I ever realized—we’re looking forward to another visit.
Neither of us were country songs fan either but we too had a grand time at Nashville. We only had a day there so we opted for a trolley tour and learned a lot as well. Your recent visit not only took us to memory lane but showed us parts we did not visit and you had a grand night at the The Grand Ole Opry!
ML, we enjoyed walking everywhere in Nashville (it’s a great city for walking) but we might opt for a trolley tour next time just to get more of the history of the city. Actually, I think we might do one of the pedal brewery tours—those looked like fun! :-)
Love your header picture. It’s perfect and so artistic! We stayed at the COE as well and the sites across from us were flooded out. We loved the Grand Ole Oprey and would definitely repeat the experience. We knew going in that we like country music but then we’re from Virginia not Oregon. Patsy Cline’s home town is just up I-81 from us. We got across the Mississippi at Memphis just before they closed the road due to flooding. Thanks so much for all the memories and the fantastic pictures. The Broadway Boots picture is great. Did you get yourself a pair? I think I own about 6 pair. Not much call for them on the road though I do run into line dancing every once in a while. Great shot from above at the Honky Tonk Bar. The Hall of Fame is the place to seriously enjoy all things tacky. Love Eric and the guitars. You guys really did a great tour of the city and its environs. Thanks!!
Thanks, Sherry. We had a great time in Nashville once we adjusted to the crowds! We want to return, but definitely not during the marathon. I have boots, but not cowboy boots. I still want some. :-)
I was coveting the waterfront sites at the campground, but if they might flood, then I think I’ll choose those on higher ground!