It is evening in Nashville and there’s only one place to be – Broadway, in the heart of the city. Among all the places to visit in Nashville, this at the top of the chart. The sun has barely gone down but the street is buzzing. Bright and colorful blinking electric sign boards beckon, vying for attention. The street is busy with traffic, dropping off patrons, while the pavements on either side are crowded with nattily dressed people, with a generous sprinkling of cowboy boots and hats.
From every open doorway, loud, catchy music spills onto the street. Inside, people are crammed around the bar and the stage area, loudly cheering the performers. This is Broadway on a typical evening, the city’s ultimate entertainment street and incredibly seductive at that.
Filled with honky-tonks (the name given to bars with live country music in the southern US as well as the genre of music itself), Broadway is where all the action is in the evenings and is among Nashville’s top tourist attractions. I go hopping from one honky-tonk to the other and stop at such classics as the brilliant-purple Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, then The Second Fiddle and, later, Honky Tonk Central.
But there’s so much beautiful music, that I stop briefly at several more in between.
Nashville wears the epithet of Music City rather comfortably, especially where country music is concerned. But it’s not just all Broadway. A plethora of bars and clubs across the city are popular with budding and talented singer-songwriters. Then there’s the sprawling Country Music Hall of Fame, one of the largest museums devoted to music, with an enviable collection of melodies and a research center as well.
There’s also the RCA Studio (where many greats, from Elvis Presley to Dolly Parton, have recorded) which gives a lowdown on the recording process. The cherry on top is Grand Ole Opry, a two-hour live radio show experience in an auditorium. It is here that country greats such as Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and Keith Urban often perform, alongside new and budding talent.
And yet, Nashville is not just about music. There are plenty of places to visit for the tone-deaf as well. In fact, it comfortably wears its several other epithets . It is called the Athens of the South for its range of educational facilities. Interestingly, there’s another connection to the Athens reference. There is a life-size, jaw-dropping replica of the Parthenon in Centennial Park, standing amidst greenery and a beautiful lake. It is one of the biggest Nashville tourist attractions.
Nashville is also called the Hot Chicken Capital and the title seems about right with all the lip-smacking fried chicken, in several varieties and degrees of hotness. I tasted some at Martin’s Bar-B-Que and at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, and I can vouch that the title is apt. For a more elevated dining experience, Geist on Jefferson Street is the place, with stylish American fare and delicious cocktails.
Nashville is also a quintessential southern city, filled with parks, rolling lawns and wooded areas. At Belle Meade Plantation, a 19th-century revival style mansion sits amidst 5,400 acres of greenery and stables. A reminder of Nashville’s and the region’s history, the plantation also produces its own brand of fine spirits.
Speaking of spirits, Nashville’s reputation as the land of country music is only countered by its penchant for brews of all hues. From Prohibition-era moonshine to craft brews, the city has them all, and are interesting places to visit. Moonshine is still around as a nod to its history, but the city also has an astonishing number of distilleries producing a vast variety of liquors – from beers and ciders to bourbons and whiskies, including potent, absinthe-type spirits. From Nashville Craft Distillery to the historic Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery, distillery-hopping is a worthwhile pursuit for fans of spirits.
After all this, it was only logical to end the trip with a visit to the Frist Art Museum, housed in a marble building, all of which was formerly Nashville’s main post office. The post office, now reduced to a branch of the main one, has been since relegated to the west end of the building. The museum is one of the top Nashville tourist attractions for those inclined towards the fine arts. Its changing shows provide an invaluable glimpse into the life and work of artists from everywhere.
Nashville leaves the visitor with a lasting impression. There’s music of course, always playing in the background, but it is also the city of colorful images and a smorgasbord of experiences. Perhaps a better epithet for Nashville is ‘siren.’ Much like the mythical creatures, the city manages to gently lure and then irrevocably ensnare the soul.