Known as the “Music City,” Nashville is a hub for country music. Even if you are like us and not fans of Country and Western music, you can enjoy the bustle of Broadway Street’s honky-tonks, the fun, but somewhat kitschy show of the Grand Ole Opry, and the overarching culture of music that pervades the city.
But Nashville is much more than music. While we had been in Nashville several times before, we continue to be surprised at how the sleepy town that we discovered a long time ago has turned into a dynamic downtown crowded with dozens of modern, 30-50 story high-rises, a large convention center, sports arena, and concert venue.
Off-Broadway Sights, Entertainment, and Things To Do
Even we, however, cannot live by music and alcohol alone. Lunches, dinners, and museums got us out of the bars for at least short periods and allowed us to explore some nearby historic sites and neighborhoods. Nearby historic neighborhoods now serve as entertainment venues.
The several-block stretch of 2nd Avenue that has several 19th-century buildings now serves as home to a number of honky tonks, blues clubs, and western goods stores. Nashville Cowboy (now closed), for example, offered a huge selection of $400 cowboy boots as part of an unusual Buy One, Get Two Free offer.
The historic block was the original center of the city’s printing industry. It emerged as Speakeasy Central and the home of gambling dens and other underground endeavors during Prohibition. It is now home to bars, restaurants, and music clubs.
Ernest Tubbs Record Shop
The shop has been operating since the 1940s. It offers several scarce vinyl LPs, in addition to CDs.
Built as a railroad station in the late 1890s, today it is a hotel with a magnificent lobby.
The custom house was completed in 1877. The red brick Victorian-style building has a tall clock tower and ornate details. Today it is an office building.
Completed in 1859, the neoclassical-style building is Tennessee’s seat of government.
The War Memorial is in front of the State Capital. The neoclassical building with grand columns houses the Tennessee State Museum which highlights the military contributions of Tennessee residents. It also includes an auditorium.
Master woodblock print carvers created the letterpress print shop in 1879. Since its founding, it has designed and printed many of the most famous concert posters for country and popular music concerts.
Outside of Nashville’s City Center
Some of our dinners and lunches took us to a couple of neighborhoods outside the city center. Not surprisingly, both have long and strong music traditions.
- The Gulch District, literally on the other side of the tracks from downtown, has long served as a venue for bluegrass music. While several clubs and quirky boutiques are still operating, the area has seen a dramatic resurgence over the last few years and now serves as a base for stylish condo towers, hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and a block-long mural.
- Music Row is a multi-block neighborhood that is home to the city’s recording industry with studios for dozens of country record labels from Columbia, Decca, RCA, and BMG. RCA Studio B, which is open for tours (which we did not take), has a particularly storied history. Known as home to “The Nashville Sound”, it has cut records for the likes of Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, and Dolly Parton.