Johnny Cash, the Byrds, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson helped put Nashville on the map and made country music cool. Travel Expert Alana Van Dusen, experienced a musical awakening on her trip to the south and shares 7 reasons why you should add Nashville to your bucket list:
1. The Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry was one of the most interesting places I visited in Nashville. I travelled with a tour group who shared the same passion for music and all things country. From the Grand Ole Opry we were lead through the Gaylord Opryland Resort, right around the corner. A convenient shuttle ran from the hotel to the venue. While everyone else walked through the regular entrance, we walked through the back gate toward the artist entrance, the private back entrance artists and their families use. This is where we met our guide, Wayne, who made the whole experience that much better. We got a tour of the dressing rooms, each which had a different theme, and the green room. We even got to see the room that was Opry-regular Carrie Underwood’s favourite. After standing in the green room with some of the artists performing that night, Wayne told us he would be taking us backstage. What we didn’t know was that he would be taking us on stage during the live performance! The show had just started when we got backstage and we got to walk out onto the stage right in the middle of all the action. We only stayed onstage for about a minute but it was a surreal, unforgettable experience!
2. The Live Music
The Live Music in Nashville was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It didn’t matter what time of day it was or where anyone was from, we were constantly surrounded by live music and people who dreamt of making it big. The Listening Room was an amazing establishment to listen to very talented musicians to and eat great food. A group of bearded men played their own original songs, as well as covers (one was even a Justin Bieber tune), for the first two hours we were there. If you head to Broadway, one of Nashville’s main thoroughfares, you’ll find even more live music bars blaring good old southern honky tonk, country music, blues, and more.
3. RCA Studio B
For any true country music fans, RCA Studio B is a must-see. From the moment I walked in, I could tell this was where the magic happened. The walls were covered with photos of all of the artists who had ever recorded there – Elvis, Roy Orbison, and Dolly Parton being a few of them. Studio B was overwhelming and exciting at the same time. The studio was huge; filled with instruments played by musical legends. Chet Atkins, the Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson – all contributed to Studio B’s industry-wide reputation for creating the “Nashville sound” of the ’60s. During our tour of the studio, our guide surprised us once again: we recorded a song by Elvis in the same room where many amazing artists have stood before. If I didn’t feel overwhelmed with excitement before, I certainly had at that point. I could’ve stayed there all day to learn about all the artists who had recorded there.
4. The Johnny Cash and George Jones Museums
Both located right downtown near Broadway, the Johnny Cash and George Jones museums were filled with some of the most fascinating and exciting memorabilia any fan would adore, and really, for anyone, even if you didn’t know who these artists were. From outfits and costumes artists wore, to a display of personal items, the museums brimmed like shrines to these country singers and gods. My favourite part of the Johnny Cash museum was where his Grammy for the music video “Hurt” was showcased. There was a television above the award which played the music video on loop. The George Jones Museum was a lot larger than the Johnny Cash Museum, with more floors and a rooftop bar. After exploring the museum, we ventured to the rooftop bar, drank some Moonshine together, and enjoyed the sweeping view of the city.
5. Musicians Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame
The Musicians Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame honoured some of country music’s most important figures in history. The Musicians Hall of Fame displayed instruments played on some of the greatest recordings of all time, including hits by Elvis, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, and The Byrds. We did a tour and our guide was very knowledgeable, and his love of music was inspirational and captivating. He had the backstories to every instrument brought into the museum. We agreed that we could have stayed there for hours just to hear him talk about each instrument. We explored The Country Music Hall of Fame on our own and got to see up-close outfits and instruments on display from Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill to name a few.
6. The Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium is a historic Nashville landmark dating back to the late 1800s. Charlie Chaplin, President Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Houdini, Katharine Hepburn, all once stood on this stage. Standing in this auditorium felt similar to standing in Studio B, like visiting an important moment’s past in history and time. Even after the renovations, the Ryman still kept most of the original wood. What was once the home of the Grand Ole Opry, established in 1927, is currently a live music and performance venue designed with exceptional acoustics.
7. The Food
If you want to try Southern food, Nashville is definitely the place to go! From fried catfish to fried pickles, your taste buds will thank you! I recommend my new favourite, the sweet and spicy deep-fried pickles. A trip to Nashville is not complete without stopping by the Loveless Cafe for their famous fried chicken, about a twenty-minute drive away. (I also recommend learning some line dancing in between bites at the Wild Horse Saloon.)