Nashville

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Overview

The sounds of Nashville are calling. With more than 13.5 million visitors in 2016, they’ll tell you exactly why Nashville is Music City.

If you’re a music lover, get ready to experience the best in music history. Nashville is home to the Ryman Auditorium where some of best singers in country music have graced the stage, from Minnie Pearl to the legendary Johnny Cash. Today, it plays host to a new generation of aspiring and established music makers.

Of course, no visit is complete without a stop at the Grand Ole Opry, the world’s longest-running radio show and stage show. See where legends like Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette have performed and where current chart toppers like Lady Antebellum and Carrie Underwood continue to pack the house. Don’t forget about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum where you can learn how the city took centre stage as the place where music is created and played.

There are also a few surprises to be found in Nashville. Sports fans can watch the NHL’s Nashville Predators take to the ice in the fall, winter and spring or see the NFL’s Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium, a 69,000-seat venue. If you’re looking for fun and fitness for yourself, check out Nashville Shores, perfect for the whole family. Hailed as the city’s number one family attraction, the waterpark offers a 25,000-square-foot wave pool that generates five different wave patterns – some with waves as high as four feet. The park also features slides, beachside swimming and a great children’s play area. There’s also a 30,000-square-foot lounge and food deck, perfect for making your visit a full-day adventure.

A great way to experience the heart of Nashville is through the Music City Circuit, with blue, green and purple buses transporting guests through downtown’s best retail and restaurant areas. Best of all, it’s free of charge and operates each day until 11 p.m.

Nashville is also home to the best in Southern hospitality, with its warm and friendly people. You can even taste it in the abundance of great local cuisine – and some of the best fried chicken you’ll find in the world. Dig in!

Airport served by: BNA

Destination basics

Get ready to experience the sub-tropical climate of Tennessee. Visitors in the winter months will enjoy mild, cool winters in Nashville. Light snow – never more than 23 cm (9 inches) – touches down and frames the city in a picturesque wonderland where you can still explore downtown and everything the city has to offer. January temperatures rarely go below freezing, with averages of 3 C (37 F).

Spring brings rain and the most in unpredictable weather. With warm and cold fronts coming together, thundershowers are prone to occur during this time. Remember to pack along a rain jacket if you plan to explore the area throughout the day.

Visitors in the summer can expect hot and humid temperatures. With monthly averages of 26 C (79 F) in July and August and moderate humidity for a city located in the Southeastern U.S., it’s the perfect weather to enjoy one of Nashville’s outdoor concerts.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Nashville, TN

People who visit Music City for the first time are always surprised by the lack of public transportation. Like many large cities in the Mid-South, Nashville has spread out, taking over land from plantations and farms and now covering a large area that limits the ability to walk from one district to another. Granted, there are a few public bus routes and many taxi companies, but Nashville is a lot like Los Angeles: people here like to drive. There are more parking lots downtown than office buildings, and yet parking remains at a premium. If you arrive by plane, your first step should be to rent a car. Don't depend on public transportation—it's just not a dependable or convenient option.

The one exception to this overriding need for a car is if you plan on spending most of your time downtown. It's a short walk from tourist-friendly Second Avenue to famed Printers' Alley and all parts in between.

Downtown
Begin your visit Downtown and visit Puckett's Nashville for lunch. Next, stroll along Second Avenue and take in the sights. Downtown is famous for its music venues, and every storefront is part retail outlet and part performance hall. There are more specialty shops and cafes than you can visit in a week, and each features some kind of live music. Nowhere else can you shop for shoes while listening to a local band play a version of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart."

In the early days of the city, all of the printers were located on Printer's Alley. This section of downtown takes up three city blocks between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Today there aren't many printers turning out playbills and newspapers, but there are museums and shops for visitors to explore. Some of the most prominent attractions here include the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Music City Center are also located here.

The West End/Music Row
The West End of Nashville is home to Music Row. If you have any interest in country music or the music industry, this is a place where you should spend at least a day. Every major recording label in the United States has an office here. Record companies here typically work out of renovated homes and warehouses. The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting, which is the reason a lot of artists are choosing Nashville as the place to record their next projects. Some of the best recording studios in the nation share real estate with the record companies on this famous street. Stand outside Quad Studios and see what famous musical artist walks out the door.

Two blocks from Music Row on West End Avenue lies Elliston Place. This is one of Nashville's trendy neighborhoods. Small homes and cafes typify the tenants of the area. And then there's the Elliston Place Rock Block, a block-long section of Elliston Avenue that is home to six of the loudest nightclubs in town. This is not the place to go if you are interested in quiet conversation—this is where you go to listen to great country music and party into the wee hours of the night.

The West End is also home to Vanderbilt University, one of the nation's finest private universities and the alma mater of former Vice President Al Gore. The lush and expansive campus provides much-needed green space in Nashville's West End area, as well as opportunities for visitors to enjoy collegiate sporting events, art museums and symphonic concerts. The Parthenon, a museum in Centennial Park, and the historic RCA Studio B, are also located here.

The Gulch

An upmarket neighborhood and also one of Nashville's most historic districts, The Gulch is a cool Nashville spot that hosts some of the hippest hotels in the city, along with a host of historic buildings and luxury boutiques. The 404 Hotel and the Thompson Nashville are some of the most well-known hotels in the area. This neighborhood, located on Nashville's south-west fringe, is also known for iconic music venues such as the Station Inn and the Mercy Lounge. The Union Station Hotel, an erstwhile railroad terminal, and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is also located here.

East Nashville

This whimsical neighborhood, like the rest of its counterparts, is also brimming with a vibrant energy that attracts scores of music enthusiasts and hip hordes to its leafy locality. Located to the east of the Cumberland River, this lovely neighborhood hosts a fantastic culinary scene that is unrivaled in the city, with some of the best restaurants and cafes like this unique restaurant, scattered across its bonny streets. There is also much art to be seen, seeing as that East Nashville is home to Five Points area, a renowned hub for street art. Not to be missed are other superb attractions like the Shelby Park, the Nissan Stadium, and the legendary stretch of the Fatherland Street, home to a plethora of bars and cafes.

Hermitage

This far eastern neighborhood that lies a little outside of the city proper, was named after The Hermitage, the residence of former President Andrew Jackson that lies within its boundaries. Although this district is part of the larger metropolitan area, it is considered a suburb of Nashville city. It is a partly industrial neighborhood, lined with an array of retail stores and corporate offices, although a few suburban houses dot the streets as well.

Outside the City

Brentwood
South of Music City lies the suburb of Brentwood. This is where the affluent live and where corporations have been relocating over the last decade, meanwhile escaping the congestion of downtown traffic. Brentwood offers the best shopping in town with large shopping malls and a number of factory outlet centers. However, Brentwood also suffers from poor public transportation. You will be lucky to even find a bus, much less catch a ride on one. This is definitely a place where you should drive your car.

Franklin
A little further South is the historic town of Franklin. One of the oldest towns in Middle Tennessee, Franklin is famous for its numerous antique malls and neighborhood cafes. A drive down Main Street is like driving through a Norman Rockwell painting. This is typical small-town U.S.A., filled with history and charm and friendly folks who are always willing to offer directions or tell a tall tale or two. After 200 years, Franklin has retained its quiet Southern charm.

Opryland
If you arrive in Nashville via the International Airport, you will be in the Opryland area. For many, this is the final destination, and with good reason. For decades, the district around the Opryland theme park kept the city of Nashville alive. Music City owes a great deal to the now defunct amusement park that was once home to the Grand Ole Opry, the world-renowned country music venue. The Opry drew millions of visitors every year, and the area surrounding it grew up rapidly. Today, the theme park has been turned into the largest shopping center in the South, Opry Mills. The Opry still stands and still offers the greatest in Country Music entertainment.

As you might have guessed, there is a lot of music in the Nashville, Tennessee's Music City. Everywhere you turn, an aspiring singer is performing his or her latest work or a classic country favorite. The performances are not limited to honky-tonks and music halls, though. Take a stroll down Second Avenue and you will see up-and-coming stars singing their lungs out from the front stoops of clothing stores, from the display windows of specialty shops and from the small stages constructed in the backs of restaurants. Music put Nashville on the map, and music is where we will start.

Music
Country Music is King in Nashville. If you hear a country song on the radio, it's virtually certain it was performed, recorded and mixed right here. You can hear your favorite songs and see your favorite artists perform virtually anywhere in Nashville, but there are a few tried and tested venues that stand out.

The Ryman Auditorium was the first home of the Grand Ole Opry show. Today, the radio show has moved, but there is still something special about the Ryman. Originally a church, this building's most famous visitors were not pilgrims on a religious journey, but rather country singers like Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton. Although the big name stars now perform in the new Grand Ole Opry House, you can still hear great live music at the Ryman nightly. Country, blues, pop and jazz musicians take the stage to honor the past and look to the future. The Grand Ole Opry House is the venue for the biggest names in country music. The Country Music Awards (CMAs), country music's version of the Grammies®, are presented from this stage each year.

The Bluebird Cafe has been the starting point for many of today's top names in country music. Aspiring stars from Nashville and beyond take to this stage, and with good reason, as record company executives frequent the establishment looking for the next big star. For the wannabe country sensation, playing at the Bluebird is almost as big a thrill as playing at the Grand Ole Opry. You will hear Nashville's best here.

The CMA Music Festival is the biggest and most popular country music festival in the United States. This five-day festival draws over one million visitors to the city each June.

Sports
For decades, the people of Nashville cried out for professional sports teams. Finally, the powers that be have heard their cries, and franchises of both the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have been brought to Music City.

The Tennessee Titans and the Tennessee State Tigers play home games in the modern Nissan Stadium. The stadium is state of the art and is quickly becoming known as the NFLs loudest stadium, thanks to the legions of fans who have waited patiently for a professional football team.

Hockey fans will love the bone-crushing action of the Nashville Predators. The 'Preds', as they are known, play at the Bridgestone Arena.

Museums
If music and sports are not for you, perhaps you will enjoy one of the city's many museums. From fine art to local history, there is a lot to see and learn in Nashville.

The Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art features several galleries in one location, a 1920s mansion built by the prominent Cheek family. The mansion sits on 65 acres of beautifully landscaped property and houses a museum of fine art, a contemporary art gallery, gardens and more.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum features over 3,000 exhibits, including the gold records (plaques commemorating a million sellers) and stage costumes of the early country stars. You'll learn about the origins of country music, what made it so popular and how it maintains its fierce following today.

In 1835, President Andrew Jackson built the beautiful Hermitage for his beloved wife; the home is now a popular site for visitors to Music City. Everything has been perfectly preserved and restored to its original state. You will see what life was like in the early 19th century as you roam the halls of the immense home. Stroll through the tulip gardens, which were planted for the former first lady, and honor the memory of the late president as you pass the memorial to him and his wife.

The Tennessee State Museum recounts the history of this iconic state, and chronicles events from pre-colonization to the Civil War, while the quirky Johnny Cash Museum gives you a peek into the life of this legendary music idol through diverse exhibits and photographs. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, housed within a beautiful Art Deco building on Broadway, hosts a melange of visual art exhibitions.

Theaters and Cinemas

Nashville, a veteran soldier of the arts, is home to a splendid bunch of historic and intimate theater venues. From the Tennessee Performing Arts Center that hosts theatrical productions across its multiple stages, to the Nashville Repertory Theater with its lovely regional plays, and the Nashville's Children Theater, the city has several options to choose from. For contemporary and experimental plays, stop by at the Oz Arts Nashville.

The Belcourt Theater, a splendid historic venue dating back to 1925, is tucked away in the Hillsboro Village District, and plays everything from first-run movies and classics, to indie flicks and documentary films.

Outdoor Recreation
The natural beauty of the Tennessee hillsides is the area's greatest resource, and you can enjoy it via one of the many state parks in or around Nashville. If you enjoy hiking, biking, swimming or boating, you owe it to yourself and your family to stop by one of these magnificent facilities.

Built to commemorate Tennessee's 200th birthday in 1996, the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park features a granite rendering of the state map and a 95-bell carillon amongst other attractions. If you can pull yourself away from the beauty of these two, you will find a number of walking trails and picnic areas.

For true nature-lovers, Lawrenceburg's Davy Crockett State Park is worth the two-hour drive. There, you can lie in the sun while the sounds and sights of nature lull you to sleep.

At the Warner Parks Nature Center, you will have a chance to experience the ecological diversity of Tennessee first hand. Take a hike on the more than 10 miles of trails, listen to lectures on environmental concerns and conservation, or take part in a guided tour of the wildlife preserve. Protecting the environment is the focus here, but this is also a top-notch outdoors facility meant to be enjoyed by you and your family.

Music City may have earned its fame through country music, but eating here is every bit as much a "foot-stomping" good time. You can find virtually every type of food imaginable, from a spicy lunch at a Mexican cantina to a romantic dinner at a French bistro. The requisite tourist restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe are on Second Avenue, but they are certainly not the kings of the strip.

As delicious as the food tastes, the real joy of dining in this city is the exceptional service you receive everywhere you go. Folks in the South do things differently. There is a slow and easy style to everything here, and that includes the restaurants. You will seldom find an establishment that does not greet you with a smile and a handshake. Reservations are a courtesy, not a requirement. Servers are actually interested in serving rather than just achieving a large gratuity. From fast food to more upscale fare, you will quickly discover the intangible quality that makes dining in Nashville different from anywhere else.

Downtown
Popular local establishments, such as Merchant's Restaurant, offer relief for diners who can't stomach another high-priced cheeseburger. There are also plenty of Mexican eateries to get your taste-buds jumping with a touch of spice, including Bajo Sexto and Cerveza Jacks’.

West End/Music Row
If you haven't had enough of traditional southern favorites, Hog Heaven is the place to go for authentic, mouth-watering barbeque or Arnold's Country Kitchen for the best cream-filled pies. Don't miss Elliston Place Soda Shop for that old-fashioned, small town appeal.

Brentwood
Just outside of Nashville, Brentwood offers many good dining choices whether you're staying there, or just want to get a little ways out of the city. If you're in the mood to watch a show with your dinner, Shogun Japanese Steak & Sushi serves up hibachi style meals with flair.

Opryland
Many tourists make it out to Opryland to take in the Grand Ole Opry, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and the massive Opry Mills, so it comes as no surprise that numerous fun dining options abound in this area. Cock of the Walk makes its business catfish, any way you want it, so don't miss this requisite Nashville meal. A fun themed eatery is Aquarium Restaurant in the Opry Mills, where you can dine as if you're on the bottom of the ocean.

Nashville

State: Tennessee

Country: United States

Nashville by the Numbers
Population: 679,000
Elevation: 597 feet / 182 meters
Average Annual Precipitation: 47 inches / 119 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 7 inches / 18 centimeters
Average January temperature: 38°F / 3.3°C
Average July temperature: 80°F / 26.7°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT -6 (GMT -5 Daylight Saving Time); Central Standard Time (CST)

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 615; 629

Did You Know?

Nashville is home to the only exact full scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville is the longest continuously running live radio program in the world. It has been on the air weekly since 1925.

Nashville is nicknamed Music City. Presidents Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk called Nashville their home.

Orientation

Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and lies next to the Cumberland River. It is about 250 miles (402 kilometers) from Atlanta, Georgia and about 860 miles (1384 kilometers) from New York City.

According to archaeologists, the first residents of what is now known as Nashville were the Mississippi Indians. This agricultural society left behind significant evidence of their existence, including some exquisitely painted pottery. However, after 400 yrs they disappeared, leaving historians and archaeologists divided on the reasons for this. Some believe the culture evolved into a nomadic society and simply moved to another region. Others believe they fell victim to a plague of some type, or were massacred by another Indian tribe, such as the Cherokee or Chickasaw, who would later make this area their home.

The first European visitors to the area were French fur traders, who arrived around 1720. These traders prospered along the banks of the Cumberland River. The first English settlers ventured here in 1779. Led by resourceful pioneer James Robertson, they built a primitive fort and named it Nashborough after General Francis Nash, a hero in the United States Revolutionary War. (A reproduction of that first settlement can be seen at Fort Nashborough.) The new town was part of the state of North Carolina and soon became a hotbed of activity. Some 60 families, led by John Donelson, moved southwest from the colonies and began farming the fertile soil of the Cumberland Plateau. In 1784, the town changed its name to Nashville, and in 1796 Nashville and the surrounding area broke away from North Carolina and declared statehood. Tennessee became the 16th state of the union, and Nashville was its capital.

In 1860, there were rumors that the southern states were planning to secede from the United States. Southern plantation owners depended heavily on the slave labor. The northern states condemned slavery and demanded that the government abolish the practice. Tennessee, a border state, was reluctant to join the secessionist movement and voted to remain loyal to the Union. However, pressure from neighboring states, along with a strong desire to determine their own destiny, caused the citizens to reconsider. When the first shots of the war were fired in Charleston, South Carolina, the decision was made to join the Confederacy. In 1861, the Confederate States of America, or CSA, was formed. Jefferson Davis would become its president. The divisive war lasted four years and left an indelible mark on Nashville's history.

Fort Donelson was constructed on the banks of the Cumberland River in order to protect the city of Nashville from northern aggression. Fort Henry was erected further west on the Tennessee River in order to defend Middle Tennessee. The Union armies struck with surprising force, and the small band of Confederate soldiers was no match for the better-equipped, more experienced northern troops. Both forts fell in only three days. Confederate forces retreated, and the mayor of Nashville surrendered the city on February 25, 1862. The Union wasted no time in reclaiming the city and set about the task of building forts of its own. Fort Negley, the largest, was the center of military operations in the Western theatre. President Lincoln appointed Andrew Johnson as governor of Tennessee and charged him with reestablishing its citizens' loyalty to the Union. Most Tennesseans were reluctant to pledge loyalty, but were convinced by threats from Johnson that failure to pledge loyalty would result in losses of property and freedom.

The Union occupation wasn't a quiet one. Confederate troops routinely raided the city and attempted to regain control. On December 15, 1864, a final campaign was staged to recapture the city. The Battle of Nashville was fought for two days and resulted in victory for the Union army and the near devastation of the proud city. General Hood and his Confederate soldiers were forced to retreat, and the city of Nashville was decidedly in the hands of the Union army.

Governor Johnson was elected vice president in 1865 and left Tennessee for Washington, DC. After the assassination of President Lincoln, Johnson assumed the presidency and saw the war end on April 9, 1865. The business of reconstruction kept the citizens of Nashville busy for many years. As the Union armies returned to their homes, Nashville turned its attention towards reclaiming its Southern heritage and found support from its neighboring states. The United States was one nation again, but the wounds would take decades to heal, and the scars would last even longer.

As the city of Nashville was rebuilt, the population grew once again. Riverboats and barges chugged up and down the Cumberland, opening up the city to trade. Industry developed, and the farming communities died away. The new source of commerce was manufacturing goods, not growing crops. By the beginning of World War II, the manufacturing industry was booming, and when the United States entered the war, the city retooled its plants to build military equipment and artillery. After the war, heavy industry saw a decline. Financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies took the lead in building the city's wealth. Today, Nashville depends on its service and tourism economies rather than on manufacturing.

In the 1930s, Nashville began playing a new song. Country music was a hybrid of European-rooted folk music and African American spirituals. Fiddler and songwriter Roy Acuff was the first real country music star and hosted the wildly popular live radio broadcast, Grand Ole Opry. Country music gained popularity throughout the country, and people everywhere tuned in to NBC radio to hear the latest tunes.

The 1950s were the real heyday of country music, though. Artists such as Hank Williams wrote songs about life, love and loss, and the message connected with listeners. The recording studios on famed Music Row were filled with aspiring singers and songwriters hoping to make their mark. By 1960 the city was earning a reputation as the center of the country, pop, and blues recording industries and became known as the Music City. Today, the early pioneers are remembered in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which also features exhibits on new country megastars such as Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, who found their success right here in Nashville.

Nashville is a vibrant city. It is the home of Fortune 500 companies such as First Tennessee Bank and telecommunications giant BellSouth. It is also home to professional sports franchises like the National Football League's Tennessee Titans and the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators. Nashville's growing arts community has gained national recognition with the works of Norris Hall, and the city will always be the home of country music.

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