Nestled at the bend in the Cumberland River in the middle of Tennessee, Nashville is one of the liveliest and most fun places you will ever visit…especially if you love music, which you will find almost non-stop, 24/7. The ABC show Nashville and the Country Music Awards give viewers around the world a peek into what the city’s fame is based on. If you love Country Music you can find it live and free between Third and Fifth Streets on Broad Ave, the section dubbed “Honky-Tonk Alley,” almost any time of day or night. Whether you consume alcohol or not, bars welcome you to come in, rest your feet, and listen to really great country music performed live by both famous and unknown people. There is seldom a cover charge so you can clap, dance and swoon to your heart’s content and then move on to the place next door! It is always foot-stomping good! Most of the bars serve food ranging from chips and nuts to full meals.
We love to travel in our RV, and the KOA on Music Valley Drive is perfectly located, along with many hotels of all prices and a wide range of restaurants. This is the area in which to stay, especially if you are going to the Grand Ole Opry, which dominates Music Valley and is right beside the grand Gaylord Hotel with its beautiful indoor tropical garden and waterfall.
The Grand Ole Opry is the longest running radio show in the world … 87 years, and the concert evenings are actually a live broadcast, so it is quite an experience to witness all that goes on on-stage in addition to the excellent singers and musicians. You will quickly get into the casual spirit and even watch the radio ads being broadcast. It is so much fun you will want to come back again and again as we do. It is truly down-home country style and you feel welcome as soon as you see Minnie Pearl with her warm “How-dee!” as you approach the Opry House. The Grand Ole Opry seats 4400 people and is frequently filled. If you do not have tickets in advance and it is sold out, you can still request standing room.
But only 250 people can purchase Back-Stage Tours each night for after the performance, and this is REALLY worth your time and money. We saw the dressing rooms of the stars, each decorated in honor of one of the greats; the very private areas where stars receive mail; the Wall of Fame (the highest honor a performer can get); and so much more. Frequently while you are backstage one of the performers just might walk by and offer an autograph. We were very lucky that night to meet Sarah Hayes and George Hamilton IV, who are very cordial and generous with their time for fans.
Nashville has a grand new Music City Center ready to host conventions and almost any large gathering. Nearby the Country Music Hall of Fame is a place you MUST spend several hours or a full day to absorb the information and see the memorabilia of all the greats who have made the Hall of Fame, the top honor in their field. We enjoyed all the videos showing performances by our favorites through the last decades. There are many individual glass cases of musicians, often with DVD’s playing so you can see each perform again. The latest displays we enjoyed were a long hallway of Carrie Underwood’s gowns and instruments from many of her performances. We stood in the center of the unbroken circle of over a hundred plaques, each commemorating a Hall-of-Famer through the decades with his or her face in bronze relief. Take a walk of memory around the large circle and again a memory walk outside in the cool, shaded park where the walkway contains stepping stones commemorating each of these stars.
Before you leave the lively downtown area, be sure to visit Fort Nashborough to see the log cabins and learn the history of them 1779 forerunner of this amazing city. Bill and I proudly observed each of the details, including the memory of his ancestor being killed here by the Indians. These settlers had a horrendous trip for weeks down the river and built the fort.
One of the delightful evenings most visitors to Nashville miss is attending a performance at BlueBird Café at 4104 Hillsboro Pike. This is a tiny restaurant venue, open every night with shows at 6 and 9 p.m. You must make your reservations about 10 days prior to the date you wish to reserve online at http://www.bluebirdcafe.com . There are sometimes a few seats you can get at the door, but don’t chance it. We saw people who had stood in line for seven hours but didn’t get in! It only seats about 100 people max, and the cover charge is around $15 and you must buy a modestly priced meal. The kitchen is tiny but the food is really good and inexpensive.
There are about eight singers for each of the two different nightly performances, who were selected from thousands through a very stiff application/interview process four times each year. The night we were there Washington Street Publishing hosted the performance. Applicants must live within 100 miles of Nashville. Each of these performers is a song-writer playing and singing his or her own pieces with the hope of being discovered and continuing the road to fame and fortune. Song-writers at Bluebird Cafe also have the opportunity of being heard by some of the famous singers who may hire them to write songs. It takes years of hard work and dedication to reach this point, and if they are discovered here by an agent or a recording studio and given a contract, they are really on their way. Many all-time greats have been discovered here including Garth Brooks and Miranda Lambert.
The performances are terrific, very casual, and certainly worth reserving ahead. Many all-time greats have been discovered here including Garth Brooks and Miranda Lambert. Every Monday is Open Mic for out-of-town song writers with signups at 5:30 p.m. Sunday night performances include one country music star.
There is so very much more to see and do in the Nashville area. Be sure to check out http://www.VisitMusicCity.com where you can choose the ways to enjoy your holiday and book all your reservations. You will enjoy going to the Visitor Center at Broad and 5th Street where you can meet guitarist David Anderson, the Ambassador of Music City, and see him perform. The friendly staff will give you directions, maps, brochures, and you can purchase souvenirs. There is an interesting new Tennessee Sports Museum here adjacent to the huge Smashville Arena where every kind of event from Hockey to tractor pulls and the CMI Awards take place. Nashville IS Music City, and you will come away humming the magic memories for a long time!