Though Nashville still retains a strong connection to country music, it’s a hub for just about every genre. While it’s the longtime home to the Grand Ole Opry, Loretta Lynn and the Country Music Hall of Fame, it’s also home to Jack White, the Black Keys and the world class Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Diverse musicians are attracted to Music City for its ready supply of talent, numerous live music venues, state-of-the-art recording facilities and the livability of the city itself. If you are a music lover, it’s an inspiring destination where you’ll find all types of music at every turn.
For a taste of why Nashville truly deserves the name Music City, read on.
1. Honky Tonks
There are more than 120 live music venues throughout Nashville. You can find live music starting before noon up until the wee hours of the morning at Nashville’s famous honky tonks on Broadway (pictured above). Keep your eyes peeled; you never know who you might see just dropping into one of these venues. There is often no cover charge, so you can bar hop, listening to different groups and trying out different venues all night long. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge used to be the watering hole for the Opry performers when it was held at the nearby Ryman Auditorium. The Stage has two floors of music and features murals of some of the artists that built Music City’s reputation. If you’re looking for a crowd, head to Nashville hotspot Legends Corner.
2. Grand Ole Opry
A trip to Nashville is incomplete without seeing a Grand Ole Opry show. The radio program that helped build Music City and launched the careers of hundreds of musicians is turning 90 in 2015 and is celebrating all year. Each two-hour program features different artists that range from official members like Loretta Lynn, Trace Adkins and Dierks Bentley to guest artists like Alabama Shakes, Danielle Bradberry and The Band Perry. The shows are held every Friday and Saturday evening, plus there are seasonal Tuesday and Wednesday programs. From February through October shows are held at the Grand Ole Opry House, and from November to January the show returns to its former home, the downtown Ryman Auditorium. Backstage tours are available at both venues.
3. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Nashville has more than its share of music museums—Studio B, The Johnny Cash Museum, The Musicians Hall of Fame, to name a few. However, there is no better introduction to country music than the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It holds more than two million relics, ranging from Bill Monroe’s infamous Gibson F-5 mandolin to Webb Pierce’s tricked out “silver dollar” 1962 Bonneville convertible. You’ll learn the stories behind the personalities that made the city famous for country music and the beautiful Hall of Fame Rotunda pays solemn homage to each member. The museum’s newest exhibit, “Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City,” explores Music City from the late 1960s to early 1970s, when many non-country artists arrived. In 1966, Bob Dylan bucked record executives and came to Nashville to record. Soon after artists like Neil Young, Joan Baez, Paul McCartney and Leonard Cohen followed. Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest letterpress poster print shops in America, is also located on the premises. From 1879 to this day, the shop has created one-of-a kind, limited edition concert posters for the likes of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Taylor Swift and Coldplay.
4. The Bluebird Café
Looks can be deceiving. Nestled in a strip mall, just outside downtown Nashville, is one of the city’s most charming venues. At a typical Bluebird performance, three or four songwriters are seated in the center of the room, taking turns singing their songs and swapping the inspiring stories behind them. Many famous singer-songwriters, including Kathy Mattea and Garth Brooks, got their start here. The 100-seat cafe is owned and operated by the nonprofit Nashville Songwriters Association and is dedicated to honoring the songwriting “heroes behind the hits.” There are two shows each evening and the venue frequently sells out.
5. Schermerhorn Symphony Center
Tourists are often surprised to learn the Schermerhorn Symphony Center is only 10 years old. It hosts a wide range of concerts throughout the year, but is also home to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Its state-of-the-art design includes special soundproof windows, moveable seating, adjustable acoustics and a custom built 3,500+ pipe organ. You can arrange to tour the building, but it’s even more impressive to attend a concert in this nearly acoustically perfect venue.
is a freelance editor and photojournalist who specialized in music and travel writing.