Well, I wasn’t expecting snow when I arrived at the famous Music City of Nashville, Tennessee. After arriving very late at night, and dealing with an assortment of travel related frustrations, stepping into the frigid night air felt like getting slapped by Johnny Cash’s ghost.
No amount of ice, however, would be enough to freeze the hearts of the kind hearted folks who call Nashville home. Not only did an absolute sweetheart wait with me while I waited to hear if my luggage was indeed lost, but a local car rental service stayed open because, “Well, we knew planes were going to be delayed due to the weather, and then what would y’all do?”
Nashville is an incredible easy to navigate city; everything is a short ride via car, cab, or bus. And, if you’re lucky enough to ask a local for directions, they will do anything to make sure you eat at their favorite restaurant, drink at their favorite watering hole, or see something they know you’ll love. My personal favorite experience was asking someone what the big deal about “spicy chicken” was, and having them give me the longest suffering look I’ve ever seen. “It is called Hot Chicken, and you need to get to Prince’s right now,” my new travel advisor told me, while writing down directions from my hotel.
The Hattie B’s vs Prince’s debate a big one, and I won’t say which sandwich I preferred. But, my God, does Nashville know how to make a chicken sandwich. From the heat of the sauce, to the crisp tang of the pickle, every bite is a perfectly orchestrated exercise into chicken heaven. If you go to Nashville and don’t at least try the hot chicken bites? You’re missing out.
Another local favorite is the fried catfish. I wasn’t as much of a fan of this one, but I was a fan of the cornbread hush puppies that accompanied the meal. Deep fried, hand rolled, nuggets of savory sweetness. The bartender at Acme Feed and Seed was shocked I had never had a good hush puppy before, “They’re fried bread! You can’t go wrong!” While I ate, we chatted about where he was from, what he liked most about the city. First responding with, “I really enjoy the non-judgemental drinking culture,” he then answered seriously, “I love the people here,” and it’s easy to see why.
If you’re in Nashville for more than the obvious musical performance spaces, you absolutely need to check out Gruhn’s Guitars on 8th Avenue. Only ten minutes from Downtown, this company is fifty years young and “Proud to Be Showing Their Age!” Stringed instruments of all types are repaired, appraised, sold, and drooled over here. Everyone in the shop has their own speciality, from guitars, to banjos, to…snakes? That’s right, in George Gruhn’s office, there are 21 of the reptiles of various sizes and species, but if you’re scared of snakes, don’t worry! George’s office is on the second floor, and not in plain sight. However, you might catch sight of the two cats, two dogs, or bearded lizard that also frequent the shop.
Check out Gruhn’s Guitars for an incredible music experience you need a ticket to enjoy! Pick up some memorabilia if you have the cash to spare! Or, if you’re like me, just grab a mug, sit back, and watch the clientele test out guitars worth more than your car payment… or sometimes your whole car!
If the bar scene is more your style, look no further than Nashville’s scenic Broadway Strip, affectionately called “Honky Tonk Row.” There are bars, neon, and music pours out of every open window and doorway on Lower Broadway from 5th Ave to the Cumberland River. The 60 bars on this strip of roadway have hosted bands such as Willie Nelson, Gretchen Wilson, and Florida Georgia Line! Even more impressive to me, are the up and coming bands who flock to this city, just to get a chance to play their hearts out. A fellow patron explained to me, “It’s rare that a musician in this city is actually from here. We’ve all just made Nashville our home while we’re waiting for our big break.”
Since I’m not a huge drinker, I asked around for really good places to take photos. I was told to go to The Gulch, a pseudo-millennial neighborhood of coffee shops, beautiful architecture, and smiling faces. The “What Lifts You” mural, a 20ft installation of angel wings, is a tourist favorite. I even took a took a selfie there, and when you see this mural, you won’t be able to resist either! Across the street are more abstract, colorful murals, which create a perfect backdrop for a selfie, or just something to admire while you sip your classically crafted cocktail or coffee. Those sparks of eclectic color and form remind you that while Nashville might have a honky tonk reputation, it’s very clear Music City is far from old fashioned.
If you’re looking for the best way to view the city skyline while moseying around downtown, I would have to recommend the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. Crossing this bridge at sunset created a beautiful vista of the city while also providing a great view of the Gateway Boulevard Bridge just down the Cumberland River. It’s also the best way to get to LP Field if it’s game night!
Nashville is a famous town for many reasons. From Johnny Cash to Jack White calling the Music City home, to being the birthplace of Jack Daniels and the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville has something for everyone.
But the best thing about Nashville isn’t the musical history, the booze, or the even the food. It’s the people who live there. In a place where it’s estimated one in every five plays an instrument, it’s far more impressive that five out of five people are willing to give a total stranger directions, a smile, and their time. No one’s ever in a rush, and they genuinely want you to enjoy their city. Their hands are rough, but their hearts are open, full, and so generous. In this overgrown small town, I’ve never felt more welcomed. This may have been my first trip to Nashville, but it won’t be my last. Because I believe in Nashville, and after you visit? You will too.