What to do, see and eat in the Music City

Feb. 26, 2016

Live music can be enjoyed nightly in more than 130 venues, with many of the famous honky tonks off Broadway.

Music has been the heartbeat of Nashville since its founding in 1779. While you are in town, you will find plenty of musical offerings, of course, along with unique eats and shops scattered throughout the city.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo Credit: Joel Carillet/Signature/iStock

Music roots

Even before the Ryman Auditorium became the home of the Grand Ole Opry for three decades, it hosted John Phillip Sousa and the Vienna Orchestra to earn itself the nickname "Carnegie Hall of the South." The venue would go on to host Katharine Hepburn and Bob Hope, among other stars. The Opry, the country’s longest running radio show, still takes the stage every week at the Ryman or Grand Ole Opry and continues to give rise to country music stars.

Today, Music Row’s recording studios, record labels and other music businesses line 16th and 17th Avenues South. You can discover songwriting talent and hear the stories behind the music at the Bluebird Cafe or The Listening Room Cafe, and the Tin Pan South Songwriter’s Festival welcomes more than 300 such acts at venues around the city. Live music can be enjoyed nightly in more than 130 venues, with many of the famous honky tonks off Broadway.

The city welcomes more than just country stars, too. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, R.E.M., Jimmy Buffett, Taylor Swift, Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi, Alabama Shakes, Ed Sheeran, Meghan Trainer and Michael Bublé have come to record music, and Kings of Leon, The Black Keys, Sheryl Crow, LeAnne Rimes, Faith Hill and Kelly Clarkson make their homes in the city.

A full-scale reproduction of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, is located in Nashville’s Centennial Park. Photo credit: inhauscreative/Signature/iStock

Also downtown near the Music City Center, you will find United Record Pressing, one of four remaining vinyl manufacturers in the country that has pressed records for artist including Lionel Richie and Christina Aguilera.

Outside of music, Maxwell House Coffee was developed by the manager of the Maxwell House Hotel in 1892, and Nashville native Oprah Winfrey became the first female and first African American in Nashville to be hired as a news anchor.

What to do, see & eat

While you are in Nashville, be sure to try a Goo Goo Cluster, a combination of peanuts, caramel, marshmallow and milk chocolate made by Standard Candy Company. Also, don’t miss hot chicken, a dish that originated at what is now Prince’s Hot Chicken when a woman suspected her boyfriend of cheating and put extra pepper in his fried chicken.

If shopping is your thing, you will find boutiques and antique stores in neighborhoods such as 12South, Hillsboro Village, East Nashville and Germantown. Local eateries offer authentic flavors among the shops as well. In Hillsboro Village, funky coffeehouse Fido is Taylor Swift’s favorite and serves breakfast all day, while Pancake Pantry offers 21 different kinds of flapjacks alone.

The Ryman Auditorium on 5th Avenue North has hosted the Grand Ole Opry, as well as stars John Phillip Sousa, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope and many more. Photo credit: Dave Newman/Essentials/iStock

For southern home cooking, find country ham, grits, okra, catfish and pork chops at Loveless Cafe for breakfast, lunch or dinner. For an authentic meat and three cafeteria, Arnold’s Country Kitchen downtown will deliver fried chicken, fried green tomatoes and collard greens to boot.

If you want to take in some sites, here are some Nashville must-sees:

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Find exhibits on the legends of country music from the past and today. While you are there, tour RCA Studio B where Elvis recorded more than 200 songs and Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison and others left their mark.

The Parthenon The only full-scale reproduction of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece, resides in the city’s Centennial Park. It also houses an art gallery and museum.

Grand Ole Opry House Catch a performance of the Grand Old Opry on Tuesday, Friday or Saturday night and see which country music stars make guest appearances.

The Johnny Cash Museum. Photo credit: legacy1995/Essentials/iStock

Johnny Cash Museum The most comprehensive collection of the artist’s memorabilia resides here, along with an exhibit on the Legends of Sun Records, such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts The museum offers temporary exhibits from local, regional, national and international sources. Its Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive art-making stations.

Belle Meade Plantation Step back in time and tour this thoroughbred horse farm that is the city’s largest and wealthiest private estate. The site was founded in 1807 with 250 acres and now spans 5,400 acres and boasts a large carriage collection inside its stables and carriage house, along with an on-site winery.

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art This 55-acre site features 11 gardens with horticulture diversity along with a collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative pieces in its Museum of Art.

Editor’s Note: The information in this article was adapted from visitmusiccity.com.

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