Length of stay: 2 days
Visited: November 2021
Nashville is often referred to as Music City and as the capital of country music. It is located along the Cumberland River in Tennessee and is filled with lots of opportunities to learn more about the history of the city and its connection with country music.
Day 1: Grand Ole Opry
We spent the morning hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains and enjoyed the mountainous landscape. But due to the crowds, we decided to head to Nashville early. After checking into our hotel, we booked last minute tickets for the Grand Ole Opry, which boasts of being the true home to country music and for having the longest running radio program in the United States. It had its first broadcast in 1925 and since then has had much success in showcasing country music to the world.
After eating an early dinner in our hotel room, we headed out to the show. We knew in advance that there was heavy traffic around the Grand Ole Opry from when we plugged in the directions into our GPS. It turns out that the entrance into the Opry is located at the back of a mall. And it was Black Friday. So you can only imagine what the traffic situation was like. It took us over 20 minutes just to get off the highway. We then had to drive all the way around the mall parking lot.
We finally made it with a few minutes to spare before the show started. There were eight performances in total where each person or group played three songs. The list of performers included: Mark Wills, Gail Davies, Riders in the Sky, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Darryl Worley, Gary Mule Deer, Sierra Ferrell (who made her debut performance) and Dailey & Vincent. Neither of us are particularly all that into country music, but it was surprisingly a lot of fun.
By the time the show ended, the mall was no longer packed and we had no issues getting out of the parking lot.
Day 2: History of Country Music
We woke up to another beautiful day of blue skies and sun. We left our accommodations bright and early in an effort to beat the crowds and see what the city is like first thing in the morning. The parking situation was a bit confusing as many of the parking lots required paying through some parking app on a smartphone. Since we didn’t want to pay for roaming, it meant that we had to drive around longer amongst the maze of streets until we finally found a parking garage that accepted cash or credit.
We walked towards the Tennessee State Capitol. Along the way we passed the Ryman Auditorium, which was once home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974 and earned the nickname of the Mother Church of Country Music. There were a few plaques and statues to commemorate a few of the big names in country music, like Little Jimmy Dickens (who was one of the longest tenured and most beloved members of the Grand Ole Opry), Bill Monroe (who created the bluegrass music genre) and Loretta Lynn (who also played an important role in country music).
We then walked to the Tennessee State Capitol, which sits atop Capitol Hill, the highest point in downtown Nashville. It is surrounded by a number of state government buildings, statues and monuments, including the tomb of James Knox Polk, the 11th president of the United States.
From here we walked along the riverfront and passed through Fort Nashborough. It was here where Nashville was originally founded in 1779 along the banks of the Cumberland River.
Next up on our itinerary was the Country Music Hall of Fame which highlights the history and evolution of country music throughout the years. It also holds the largest repository of country music artifacts in the world.
Afterwards we walked through the Music City Walk of Fame which is located just across from the Country Music Hall of Fame, and commemorates some of the artists that have had a significant contribution to country music.
On the way back to the parking garage, we walked along the Honky Tonk Highway, a stretch of lively bars often with live music and dancing on Lower Broadway. I can only imagine what this place is like in the evening.
After eating an early lunch, we left downtown Nashville and drove to the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. We first went for a stroll around the grounds to check out the various statues and moments.
We then went inside to learn more about the history of Parthenon. It was initially built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition since Nashville was often referred to as the “Athens of the South”. It was only meant to be temporary, but the city was reluctant to tear it down at the end of the exposition. The building however started to deteriorate and in 1920 the city was forced to tear it down and rebuild.
One of the main features of the Parthenon is the 42-foot statue of Athena, which is another re-creation from the original Parthenon. The shield itself is taller than us so that should give you some sense of the sizing.
After picking up some Hattie B’s Hot Chicken for K, we drove to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. We booked the last tour of the day for 4p.m and got there 30 minutes beforehand, which didn’t give us much time to walk through the grounds.
The Hermitage was once owned by Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, from 1804 until his death in 1845. It is situated on over 1,000 acres and contains the first Hermitage cabin, a mansion, three cabins, a church, and a one-acre garden, which also contains Jackson’s tomb.
After racing through the grounds, we walked over to the mansion to wait for our guided tour. We were given a brief overview of Andrew Jackson and his family, the layout of the mansion, and how it’s been renovated and redesigned a few times. We then explored the lower and upper levels of the house where each room features original furnishings and belongings from when Jackson lived there.
After our tour we walked through the grounds again until it got dark. We then drove back to our accommodations.