With more than 100 people moving to Nashville every day, Music City is officially hot. ‘Nashvegas’ is seeing a tourism boom, with hundreds of new hotel rooms due to come online in the next two years. And despite a flurry of locals renovating their spare rooms and garages, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bargain on Airbnb.
More hipster less cowboy
In Nashville, you’ll see more man buns than cowboy hats. Cowboy boots are popular but optional. And not a gun to be seen except the six-shooter door handles and rifle on Webb Pierce’s 1962 Pontiac Bonneville at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The flashy Pontiac was once owned by the man who invented the Rhinestone Cowboy with his signature bedazzled Nudie Suits. ‘Rodeo Tailor’ Nudie Cohn designed Elvis’ gold lame dazzler and dozens of showstoppers for everyone from Porter Wagoner to Gram Parsons. (Elvis’s gold lame suit is now in its spiritual home – Graceland).
Nashville is called Music City for a reason
Music City has America’s most collaborative and vibrant music scene. Some say there are only two types of music in Nashville – Country. And Western. In reality, Nashville is home to regular rock festivals, and the urban and pop scenes are exploding. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center has ballet, opera and repertory theatres.
And if you think Country music is not your thing, you still must take a stroll down Broadway to see and listen and partake of a cocktail in a plastic cup. Broadway has rockers in the honky tonks and jazzmen on the street.
The Country Music Hall of Fame
You haven’t been to Nashville if you haven’t been to the Country Music Hall of Fame (CMHOF). This museum is home to one of the most carefully curated collections of music history anywhere in the world. Chronicling the folk roots of country music to the genre’s current hit makers, the museum is a treasure trove of all things bluegrass, traditional, Americana and more.
Shania Twain – the top-selling female country artist of all time, was recently featured in a major exhibition. Shania’s bizarre back story reads like a country song, while the costumes and memorabilia glitter and shine.
Also at the CMHOF, ‘Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City‘ tells how Bob Dylan surprised record executives and fans alike when he came to Nashville in 1966 to record Blonde on Blonde. He employed some of the city’s most extraordinary studio musicians on the album. Soon other artists came to town to record, and Nashville was put on the world stage.
The Johnny Cash Museum
The ‘Man in Black’ helped make Nashville the music capital through his collaborations with other musicians and his ground-breaking TV hit – the Johnny Cash Show. The Johnny Cash Museum is a Nashville highlight for all music fans.
The son of sharecroppers became part of the Million Dollar Quartet alongside Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins. As one of music’s most influential songwriters he is the only person to be inducted into the Rock, Country and Songwriter’s Halls of Fame.
Meat and three is a thing. Especially when ordering Barbecue or Hot Chicken, you must always order three sides. Biscuits and gravy, Mac ‘n cheese, beans, collard greens and fries are the usual suspects.
Chicken is nearly always hot – Prince’s & Hattie B’s are the go-to’s for this particularly Nashville favourite. Expect a line outside Hattie B’s, as the relative newcomer is popular all day long. The soft drink and sweet tea refills are welcome to soothe that cayenne burn.
Yes, you will be asked for ID to buy a drink, no matter your age. On Broadway, Acme’s menu is burgers and sushi, and the rooftop is one of the city’s best spots to take in a brew with a view.
Monell’s serves family style, and as their tagline goes, ‘enter as strangers and leave as friends’. Breakfast here starts with sweet cinnamon rolls and biscuits and culminates in bacon, fried apples, scrambled eggs, country ham, cheese grits, corn pudding and skillet fried chicken. Seriously.
If you have time to sleep …
SoBro Guesthouse is just a few minutes away from the buzz of Lower Broadway but it’s peaceful with all the comforts of home. From plush bathrobes to record players with ’70s LPs and a fully equipped kitchen, SoBro is a place to call home – if only for a while.
You have to give the hotel an extra star for a whistling kettle for that early morning cuppa and sweet-smelling C.O. Bigelow amenities in the bathroom. With two large LED televisions and a queen size sofa bed, the one-bedroom suites are ideal for 3 or two couples. The mobile self-check-in is a breeze.
Book a Club Level suite at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel for the full luxury experience. The Concierge Lounge serves a simple but delicious complimentary continental breakfast. And after a busy day, wine or beer with elegant hors d’oeuvres in the evening.
The Premium King rooms are spacious with a work desk and connectivity panel, a sofa bed and a sumptuous marble bathroom. More like a small apartment, it’s nearly a chore to drag yourself away to fit in more sightseeing.
One of Music City’s hottest neighbourhoods, 12South is home to stylish stores, hip coffee shops and suitably southern homes. For coffee all ways, drop into Frothy Monkey Coffeehouse. For a quick lesson in how to dress like a southern lady, Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James is serious A list.
Franklin Farmers Market is Tennessee’s first producer-only farmers market and is a Saturday ritual for many Nashvillians. Local farmers, artisans and producers come together every weekend for one of the finest farmers’ markets you will ever experience. From Ellie’s Old Fashioned Doughnuts to Adam Turtle’s Earth Advocates Research Farm, there is something for sweet tooths, vegans and the food-curious.
Next-door is the Factory at Franklin. Built in 1929, the complex was once home to the Dortch Stove Works and later the Jamison Bedding Co. Much of the original features, architectural details and machinery parts have been preserved and the buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The fascinating Artisan Guitars is home to handcrafted guitars, mandolins and ukuleles. There isn’t an official ‘No Stairway to Heaven’ policy but always ask before you strum.
For more on Nashville: http://www.visitmusiccity.com
Liz Bond was a guest of Visit Music City, SoBro Guesthouse and Loews Vanderbilt.