Today I got the music in me! And I aim to get it into all of you too because we are talking Music City USA – Nashville, Tennessee!
I recently had the pleasure of having Staci Flores, Senior Tourism Sales Manager at Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, join me to sing this fabulous city’s praises! And that she did. I am thrilled to share all of this with you – some you may be aware and some you may not be – but all very interesting destination information!
And a one, a two, a one two, three – away we go!
The Nashville Promise
Music City like so many other organizations and companies has developed a mission statement and promise, and it goes like this:
The promise of Nashville, where the music is inspired, created and recorded and performed, is to provide the ultimate musical entertainment experience celebrated through our diverse cultural entertainment offerings and presented in an authentic, unique, friendly and unpretentious atmosphere.
And Staci continued that it truly is something that they try to ingrain. Their hope is that when you come to Music City you really do feel that friendly atmosphere and feel welcome from the moment you step off the plane at BNA or get off a motor coach or jump out of your car.
The Wellness Aspect
Everyone looks at music differently. Some people like to listen to music. Some people feel that writing music is a way to release their emotions. And others love playing music. Music is therapy for the mind, the body and the soul and everyone takes it in and produces it differently. But Staci and I agree that a healthy human being is someone that can express themselves and release those thoughts and emotions – and not only through music.
Nashville has the largest songwriting community in the world. And that process from the creation of the song to its debut at The Grand Ole Opry is long and involved. For the most part, the singers, the performers, the artists – they really do give the rights to the song writers and appreciate them and their creations. And of course, some performers are songwriters as well, but some are not. But when it boils down to it – music is therapy. It is wellness for the soul and if you attend a show at the Grand Ole Opry, you’re going to feel the energy from the moment you walk in. Now of course the Grand Ole Opry is perhaps the most well-known stage for live performances but that’s just one example of the live venues in Nashville – there are over 170 music venues in the city!
Like to get your wellness fix via exercise? In Nashville can take a tour which doubles as a run. That’ right – you’ll go running and see the sights of the city and really experience all of the major pieces on a running tour. The idea was to bring together a city tour that incorporated being active and doing some type of fitness. And we all know that runner or runners in our friends’ group or in our family that will jump up at the crack of dawn and go on a run even if they’re on vacation. This tour provides them just that with three different tour options – all the distance of a 5K!
- The State Capital + Baseball Tour takes you to the Sound Stadium which is Nashville’s minor league baseball team and then to the state capital building where you will run up the stairs and get a history lesson along the way.
- The Sports + Honky Tonks Tour takes you to Nissan Stadium where the NFL Titans play, then on to the Bridgestone Arena, home of the Nashville Predators, which is their hockey team’s arena.
- The Music Row and Murals Tour goes right down lower Broadway – and Staci explained that you’re running and not necessarily having a cocktail in hand – but you’re running, listen to live music and you’re taking in all that Nashville energy!
So yeah, definitely a different way to experience a city tour! And I just love it. I think that’s super awesome and so creative and the perfect wellness activity.
Then there’s also an opportunity where you can have some amazing water experiences at the Sound Waves Luxury Water Experience at Gaylord Opryland. When we think of wellness, we think of self-care and just relaxing and taking it easy. Here you can feel the joy of going down a water slide or the relaxation of floating through the lazy river. And of course, you can enjoy the adult only level that comes complete with an infinity pool and a bar. And since Sound Waves is an indoor/ outdoor venue it doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside because it is set at 80 degrees year round inside. So yeah, you can relax and really do some self-care at Gaylord Opryland!
A Guide To Gastronomy
There certainly is lots of stuff going on food-wise in Nashville. And we all want that cultural immersion via food! One of Nashville’s signature dishes is their hot chicken and that’s an entire subject in itself! Staci explained that the hot chicken concept was created many, many years ago but it’s really blown up in the past ten years. The first original hot chicken was Prince’s Hot Chicken but if you go to Nashville now you will probably see hot chicken on any restaurant menu. It was actually created by accident by the Prince family. The story goes that further back down the line one of the uncles came home after a very late night and he had asked his girlfriend to make him something to eat before he went to bed to soak up all that alcohol. And so, to get a little revenge she decided to make the spiciest fried chicken that she could think of putting in all these peppers and hot spices – little did she know that he would love it. Years later – in the 1930’s – he and his brother recreated the recipe and opened up their first café, Prince’s Hot Chicken. Now the heat levels go from mild to what they call Shut the Cluck Up, and Staci highly recommends that even if you think you’re a heat expert, start from mild because it will blow you away! And for those of you who are not heat fans the Southern – No Heat option may be the level that you need to start at! Now, it is served over a piece of white bread to hopefully kind of absorb some of that heat but it’s definitely something where you want to work your way up the levels if you are at all curious – or scared – about starting from any specific level.
From chicken to chocolate and those oh so popular Goo Goo Clusters! The sensational Goo Goo Shop & Dessert Bar is conveniently located in downtown Nashville which is great because you can grab lunch and then go get your sweets right afterwards. The Goo Goo Cluster is the first combination candy bar in the United States. It was created in 1912 by The Standard Candy Company and the original was a mound of caramel, marshmallow nougat, roasted peanuts and milk chocolate. Today they have three types of Goo Goo Clusters that you can find in their dessert shop including a peanut butter one and a pecan one. There are also three experiences to be had when you visit.
- The Behind the Bar experience – where you create your own premium Goo Goo Cluster. It’s a larger size Goo Goo Cluster – about the size of a big palm – and you put whatever ingredients you want in it. To top off your experience you get to sample some of their yummy chocolate milkshake drinks.
- The Taste of Goo Goo experience – where you also make your own premium Goo Goo Cluster – which to me is awesome because you put whatever you want in it! – and you finish it off by getting to try samples of all their different treats.
- The Secrets of Goo Goo experience – where once again you’re going to be making your own unique Goo Goo Cluster but then you do a chocolate and wine pairing from local winery Arrington Vineyards to top it off. Count me in!
So ok girls – how about this for your girlfriend getaways or bachelorette parties? I think we definitely need to add this to your itinerary because – wow – what a fun experience to have. Plus, you’re creating – so it can be considered chemistry – i.e.– science class – so for you families with children this is a great addition to the whole travel as a living classroom concept too (which we will talk more about later)!
Staci also shared that when she heads to the travel shows throughout the year the first thing people do when they come up to the Nashville booth is ask if they brought the Goo Goo Clusters! So now they make sure that they bring Goo Goo Clusters everywhere they go because they are truly a Nashville staple.
Ok so from chocolate to cider – and distilleries. So, everyone pretty much knows about Jack Daniels but in reality, middle Tennessee in general has quite a few distilleries and microbreweries. They even have a moonshine distillery and a cidery in Nashville. A lot of people think of Nashville, and they want to go to Jack Daniels because it’s well known and it’s a great place to get a tour and learn about the process of Tennessee whiskey. However, it is a little further outside of town. In fact, it’s a good 45 minutes to an hour drive outside of town in Lynchburg, Tennessee and I suggest you plan it as a day trip so you can spend time on their grounds as well. We can easily schedule transportation so that you can go have a good time and not worry about driving. And Staci added that it is a great experience, and they have plenty of tour companies that do just that. They’ll pick you up in a specific spot in downtown, take you Miss Mary BoBo’s, which is a great restaurant to eat lunch, then you tour the distillery, and you can even do some shopping while in Lynchburg.
That being said there are many closer distilleries like Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery – which is located a mile and a half from Lower Broadway – and Corsair Distillery – both of which are micro batch distilleries in the area. Nashville also has a lot of breweries and one of the favorites is Old Smokey Moonshine which originated in the Gatlinburg area, but they just opened up a moonshine distillery in Nashville – so now they are also making moonshine! Staci joked that it’s been said that Nashville is a drinking town with a music problem!
And here again – girls’ getaways or guys’ getaways – perfect opportunity. You can do some wine tasting and then sample the moonshine and end with whiskey. Staci also noted they have plenty of tour companies that do mixing – think Distillery and Donuts!
Let’s Go Off The Beaten Path
So, I had asked Stacy to give us some things that are truly things that only locals know, and she presented us with some great options. First up is The Listening Room Café. Now a lot of people think of Nashville and right away think of country music or the Grand Ole Opry or even the Country Music Hall of Fame. But Staci said that due to the fact that they respect their songwriters immensely – they have a special place for them called The Listening Room. Founded in 2006 by Chris Blair – a singer and songwriter himself – and located in Downtown Nashville in the Sobro area – it came to be because he felt that there was nowhere in Nashville that provided a venue really to focus on the songwriter. What you will find here is that it is not so much of a honky tonk, blaring music, people partying and drinking atmosphere, but rather a quieter space where people could go and hear about the stories behind the songs right from the song writers’ mouths. Normally you’ll see a lineup of maybe four to five artists, just sitting on stools, holding their guitars and they’ll go through the songwriter round. So in an hour and a half show you might hear five rounds of songs and on any given day you’re going to walk in and you’re just going to be amazed and think why did I not hear this name before! And that’s probably because you didn’t realize they wrote that song. But these are artists that are writing for the big names – the chart topping artists of all of the different genres – not just country but Americana, pop, folk – all of that. And yes, there are a few listening rooms concepts in Nashville – such as The Bluebird Cafe which many of you may be aware of thanks to the ABC show Nashville and The Listening Room is similar to that but it’s on a larger scale. The Bluebird only fits 90 or so people while The Listening Room provides you the opportunity for that same experience without standing outside – sometimes for a few hours – to get a seat because it is spacious but still has that experience of just putting all eyes on the songwriter. Staci says she highly recommends it and anytime she has anyone in town she takes them there.
Next, we’re going to talk about studio tours where you’re going to have a lot of those behind the scenes experiences. Staci noted that in the past say five plus years Nashville has pulled the red curtain back and allowed tourists and visitors to really see what’s going on in their music studios. There are different opportunities, but she highlighted the one with Megan Lindsay and Tyler Cain because – as she said – they are just kind of that dynamic duo. She’s very funny and kind of quirky and he’s very technical, and between the two of them they’re very approachable. So, you go to their studio, they actually just opened up a new one in midtown, –and you get to meet them, and you have an intimate acoustic performance, then they do a Q&A finally they take photos with you to boot. You really get to see what a Nashville recording studio looks like and how they actually record because you’re able to sit in a recording studio and they’re going to perform for you six feet away!
And finally, there are lots of neighborhoods that you can go and explore that are essentially off the beaten path as well. According to Staci they have over 20 plus neighborhoods in Davidson County. People tend to think of Nashville and think of all the honky tonks on that one strip of neon signs with the music blasting out of it – but there is so much more. In fact, there museums and attractions and tours to be found in all the different areas that you really wouldn’t explore if you didn’t look at a list – some focus on the locals or shopping or it’s just all eateries or maybe where all you find all the college students or whatever. But she
highly suggests people get out of Broadway for a bit and explore ALL that Nashville has to offer – all the neighborhoods that sometimes people miss. There’s so much in between and really there is something for every type of personality and all different interests.
Travel to Nashville As A Living Classroom
Let’s talk a little bit about history because there’s so much in the state itself as it has not only so much of the civil war, a lot of the original history of our founding fathers but it’s also where we have the ratified pieces of the suffrage movement. If you aren’t familiar with the Women’s Suffrage Movement here is the scoop – there were thirty-six states needed to approve it and it was stalled at 35. Tennessee was the best hope that our nation had for this amendment to be ratified and they approved it – and the rest is history as they say. And as of 2020 it has been 100 years since the 19th amendment which is when women got the right to vote.
Then there is the Tennessee State museum which opened in October of 2018 because the museum before it just wasn’t large enough to house all the history that the state has to offer. Here you can find a Tennessee time tunnel that actually depicts all the years prior to it becoming a state, the civil war and just all of the different transformations that the state of Tennessee has had. There are also temporary exhibits which are really fun like one they had in the past that was called Let’s Eat that was the origins and evolution of Tennessee food. It talked about southern cuisine and that those big, heavy iron skillets you can take in and out of your oven – the company that created them, Lodge Manufacturing Company, is based in Tennessee. It also talked about the cornbread festival they have in Tennessee and more. Just a lot of fun unique facts along with the history of the food found in the state.
Another great example of travel as a living classroom is the Country Music Hall of Fame – thanks in part to the fact that it is now home to Hatch Show Print. Hatch Show Print is a letterpress printing company and if any of you do not know what letterpress printing is, it is the process in which basically raised blocks with an ink surface – so it’s just a woodblock or it could be a metal block or even a linoleum block – are rolled through a roller and then it’s pressed against the paper which creates this letter press print. It could be for posters or wall décor or whatever. It was originally located on Printers Alley and was moved to Lower Broadway at one point and now its home is at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The best part? It still produces over 600 poster jobs each year – it makes a poster for every concert that is performed at the Ryman Auditorium! It’s a bona fide analog institution that survived and is thriving in the digital age. I guess we probably all thought that any type of manual analog print would be lost with all of our computer and futuristic, digital processing but this concept is still around and still working. And of course, people just love it because it’s something that hasn’t been changed. In fact – they haven’t added any new letters to their blocks. They use all original alphabet blocks – which means only the images you see are new – all of the letters are all original ones used from day one. They take tours of 20 people or less so a family of five can easily go in and tour of the facility. They are constantly working – so someone will be explaining, and you’ll see people in the back rolling the posters through then you will go into a room where you can print a poster yourself – you’ll have two posters to choose from. So, you guys this is a great tour where you not only learn about the process – but you come out with a souvenir! Whether you take the kids, and they see firsthand how it used to work – and still does in Nashville! – or if you’re on a girl’s or guys trip you get the memories of your trip and a keepsake memento to go along with them! And Staci added that for girlfriend getaways they even do something called the block party where they’ll take it outside and the ladies pick a canvas bag or there’s a couple of other items to choose from to print on rather than a poster. That way it is something that they could use – not just hang. I am definitely adding this to your itinerary girls!
As for historical landmarks there are quite a few to check out. There’s Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage – he was the people’s president. Here you will find history on the mansion, there’s the garden and grounds to tour, Jackson’s tombstone and also a history of the enslaved families that lived on his Hermitage. Then there is Belle Meade Plantation and Winery. It began in 1807 with just a log cabin and 250 acres. Two families – the Harding and the Jackson families – along with the workers who lived on the site before and after emancipation – built it up to become one of the largest thoroughbred horse farms in the south and now it’s a legacy. You can also tour the Belmont Mansion, Travellers Rest Historic House and Museum, the Frist Art Museum, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, Schermerhorn Symphony Center and TPAC which is the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. And then there is The Parthenon which is located in Centennial Park and is a full scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens with a great story behind it. It was originally built to be just a temporary exhibit as part of the Tennessee Centennial exposition, but the city loved it so much that they did not want it to be taken down. But at one point it was torn down only to be rebuilt with limestone and marble and things like that so that it could remain in the city, and it now sits in the park and is a beautiful sight to see!
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing Nashville is open for visitors!
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here. And for the most up to date COVID protocols in Nashville click here.
So, there you have it my friends! Nashville is a hidden treasure and I think that a lot of people don’t realize all of the amazing pieces that Staci showcased. Obviously, you can’t just go for a weekend and expect to get everything out of the city that you hope for – unless you’re going just for some music and a getaway then that works. But if you really want to experience the full city and all it has to offer – food, arts, culture, music – all the above – then take a good three or four days because that’s really what you’ll need to see it all – or most of it at least. Truth be told you’ll probably still need to go back a second or third time to hit everything. Especially with all those neighborhoods that we talked about. There’s over 20 of them so to be able to do that in three or four days – that’s a lot – so I really would either say go to Nashville for two or three different trips or go and spend a week or so to really have all those experiences.
For more details on things to see and do in Nashville, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!