Let’s kick things off with what Nashville is best known for – its music scene.
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Nashville, Tennessee Overview
The capital of Tennessee, Nashville is well-known for their musical heritage, their live music scene, honky-tonks and cowboy boots. But Nashville isn’t just about honky-tonks and cowboy boots; it’s a dynamic city that seamlessly blends tradition with a modern, cosmopolitan vibe.
Nashville Without a Car
Like most major cities, parking in Nashville isn’t cheap. In addition, we found most of the hotels within the city were charging an additional rate to park a vehicle, so we decided to visit the city without a car.
Instead of driving, we walked and used ride-share. During our visit we spent about $150 in ride-shares, but we didn’t pay for parking at our hotel, didn’t have to find a parking space when we were exploring and could drink without worrying about driving.
Is Nashville Like Las Vegas?
Living in Phoenix we’ve been to Vegas dozens of times, so we have always been intrigued when people say Nashville is the new Las Vegas. After visiting Nashville, I am happy to say it is not like Las Vegas.
There is only one Las Vegas just like there is just one Nashville. The two are not the same or really that similar at all and that’s ok. I believe people visit the two places for very different experiences.
Comparing Las Vegas and Nashville
Lots of Tourists?
They both attract a lot of tourists. Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Convention, attracts nearly 40 million people each year. According to the city of Nashville’s official site, Nashville attracts nearly 15 million each year.
So, Las Vegas has way more people crawling around the streets. Our uber driver said it is “asses to elbows” on Broadway Street in Nashville- I won’t argue that it was crowded in nearly every bar we went to Nashville. But there are more asses and elbows in Las Vegas.
Bars open 7 days a week?
Yes, both Nashville and Las Vegas have bars open 7 days a week.
From what we saw Nashville attire is way more laid back when it comes to evening dress attire. If you go to a bar/club on the Las Vegas strip there is a dress code, and you will look out of place if not dressed to the nines. Men- you will need dress shoes if going to a club in Las Vegas. Nashville bars you will find people wearing skirts, dresses, flip flops, boots, cowboy hats, jeans, flannels- you get the idea.
Nashville has the largest hotel without a casino- Gaylord Opryland Resort with nearly 3,000 rooms. It is a really pretty hotels and I would recommend checking it out even if you’re not staying there. Las Vegas has more than a dozen hotels, each with more than 3,000 rooms.
Interestingly we didn’t see any kids when we were in Nashville. On the Las Vegas strip or Fremont Street it is not uncommon to see kids. I would make the assumption this is because Vegas offers more activities one might take a child to, as downtown Nashville is lined with bars. This isn’t a judgement either way, just an observation.
Both Nashville and Las Vegas have no shortage of places to drink. However, in Las Vegas you can drink on Las Vegas Boulevard, and you can drink as you walk down Freemont Street. Nashville? No, you cannot drink walking down Broadway Street in Nashville. Honestly, a little disappointing if you’re taking a pub crawl tour.
Las Vegas still holds the title of Sin City. Nashville is a really fun city to visit, but we wouldn’t call it the new Las Vegas. Why would it want to be anyway?
Not to Miss Sights in Nashville
Ok, enough about Las Vegas. We’re visiting Nashville. Nashville is best known for its music scene, with a special emphasis on country music. If you love live music this is the place to go. Despite the emphasis on country music, there are plenty of live bands playing rock. If you’ve ever played the game Rock Band, you’ll know nearly every song on the set lists.
Nashville’s Places to See
- Grande Ole Opry
- Gaylord Opryland Resort
- Downtown Nashville
- Honky Tonks & Live Music
- Printer’s Alley
- Ryman House
- Country Music Hall of Fame
- Walk of Fame
- Music Row
- Riverfront Park
- John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
- Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge
- Centennial Park
Grand Ole Opry House
Unexpectedly the Grand Ole Opry House Backstage Tour was our favorite activity in Nashville. We visited with no preconceptions. All we really knew about the Grand Ole Opry is that country singers perform on stage, and it is an influential institution in country music.
As the longest-running live radio show, it’s a stage that has hosted legends like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.
Upon visiting we learned the history of the Grand Ole Opry house. The show’s roots in Nashville can be traced to 1925 where they started out as an AM radio show at an insurance company. The show had a variety of musical styles-country being the dominate genre. It was later moved to the Ryman Auditorium and then in the early 1970’s moved to the Grand Ole Opry House.
The tour takes you the route the performers take before they go on stage. My favorite part of the tour was seeing each of the dressing rooms-all 18 of them have a different theme. It was also an interesting perspective to stand on the stage in the wooden circle.
Grand Ole Opry Show
When we visited it happened to be the 98th anniversary weekend of the Grand Ole Opry Show and we heard they were having an induction that evening, so we purchased Grand Ole Opry Show tickets.
Gaylord Opryland Resort
Just a short walk from the Grand Ole Opry House is the Resort. Even if you’re not staying here this is a really cool spot to visit. It is the largest resort in the world without a casino.
The inside of the Resort is beautiful. It is like walking inside a huge conservatory. Pathways meander and lead you through lush foliage to waterfalls and gazebos.
Tractor Tour- Downtown Nashville
One of the popular tours in Nashville is to take Nashville’s Biggest & Wildest Party Tractor Tour (21+ Only). This hour and a half tour of downtown Nashville is for ages 21 years and older. There is a DJ onboard, a dance floor and an onboard bar.
If you’re looking for little less wild of a tour you can learn about the history of Nashville by taking a downtown trolley tour of Nashville.
Nashville is a popular spot to take a pub crawl. We did a pub crawl tour our first night in Nashville thinking it would give us a good overview of the choices in bars and give us our bearings of the downtown area. There are several pub crawl tours. You can take an all-inclusive pub crawl with moonshine, cocktails and craft beer or if you want to hear some of the haunted history of Nashville take the Seeking Spirits Haunting pub crawl. The latter is cheaper because drinks are not included.
Honky Tonks, Bars & Live Music
If you’re in Nashville than you definitely will want to visit the honky tonks and bars on Broadway Street in downtown Nashville.
The best thing about downtown Nashville is being able to listen to live bands 7 days a week.
Honkey Tonk Freeway
Lower Broadway Street is also called the Honky Tonk Freeway
A cool spot to visit between Commerce and Union Streets.
Before there was the Grand Ole Opry House the Grand Ole Opry was held at the Ryman Auditorium. You can take a self-guided tour of the Ryman Auditorium
Country Music Hall of Fame
We spent one of our mornings in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Walk of Fame
Just across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum is the Walk of Fame. You can see some of your favorite country music stars’ squares.
Nashville’s Music Row
When planning our trip to Nashville it sounded like this was a huge tourist draw and should be on a must-see list. We didn’t get that impression during our visit.
If you’re wanting to tour a music studio I can see the appeal, however otherwise the area has some neat sculptures and statues. Visit the Historic RCA Studio B, where legends like Elvis Presley recorded their hits.
Nashville Hot Chicken
It was our first-time visiting Nashville and we’ve always heard that hot chicken was a popular Nashville dish, so we had to try it out while we were here. Lucky us, our hotel was within walking distance to Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.
Hot Chicken in Nashville is a different kind of hot than food in Phoenix, but it was really good. As you would expect they serve chicken. You can choose seven different levels of hotness. The first being just southern style fried chicken and the hottest is trademarked and called “Cluck Up!” We tried southern style, mild, medium and hot. I recommend getting a side of Cole slaw or banana pudding to cool your palette.
They were the first place we ate at during our visit and interestingly the last place we ate as well since we ate hot chicken at the airport.
If you’re interested in taking a culinary tour of Nashville, a popular tour is Nashville’s Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours where you can learn more about Nashville and try out some of their popular dishes like buttermilk biscuits, hot chicken, and pulled pork.
There are several places on Broadway Street to eat including some of the bars. We were a little surprised to find it was more difficult to find places to eat after 9 pm. I guess we’re used to Vegas. However, we stumbled across Luigi’s City Pizza on 3rd Street and Broadway, and we had some good New York Style pizza.
When we went searching for baby back ribs, we came across Rippy’s Honky Tonk. There was a live band here, the waitstaff were friendly and attentive and the food was good.
We found it a lot more difficult to get food at some of the “famous singers” bars. Alcohol was not an issue to get from the bartenders, but when we went for food no waitstaff were around to take our order.
Assembly Food Hall
Another great spot to find food is the Assembly Food Hall, which is directly across from the Ryman Auditorium. This is essentially a large multi-level food court with some open eating. You can get anything from ice cream to Vietnamese food at the Assembly Food Hall. I recommend trying the Wildberry Lavender ice cream at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
If you need a spot to rest your feet, Nashville’s Riverfront Park is a great spot to take in the view of the Cumberland River and give your legs a rest. The park is tiered grassy spaces overlooking the River and the Nissan Stadium.
John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
You can view the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge from Riverfront Park. You have a nice view of downtown from the pedestrian bridge. We walked across during the day and again at night.
Korean Veterans Memorial Bridge
This bridge is especially pretty at night when it reflects off the water. You can get a great view of the bridge from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.
Centennial Park was within walking distance from our hotel, so we walked there a couple times. It is a large park with a huge green space and flower garden. It is also home to Lake Watauga, which looks more like a pond to me and to Nashville’s Parthenon.
My second favorite thing we did in Nashville was visiting the Parthenon. So, this is where my inner nerd comes out. If you love historical places the Parthenon is an interesting place to visit. Not only are the grounds beautiful the building is too.
Off the Beaten Path
Distillery & Wine Tours
Just outside of the city you can go on a Nashville to Jack Daniel’s Distillery Bus Tour & Whiskey Tastings or Arrington Vineyard Winery Tour. We wanted to go to both the distillery tour and the vineyard, but we ended up only having time to visit the vineyard.
- Book a Flight to Nashville: To Nashville, the main airport is the Nashville International Airport.
- Rent a Car to Nashville: You can rent a car at the Nashville International Airport. Alternatively, you can leave the driving to someone else and grab a ride-share.
- Where to Stay in Nashville: Choose from hotels, motels, resorts, airbnb, vrbo, cabins, and camp sites in Nashville.
- Tours to Take in Nashville