Located in the geographical and cultural heart of Tennessee, the capital city Nashville is most known for the historical and cultural attractions that earn it the title of ‘Music City, USA’. These attractions are responsible for making Nashville one of the most visited cities in Tennessee and are a major contributor to its economy.
A mecca for country music fans, the lands that are today’s Nashville was once a hunting ground by tribes such as Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Shawnee. In 1717, French Lick was established by French fur traders and in 1779, Englishman James Robertson built Fort Nashborough, which was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Francis Nash.
Nashville is a very fast-growing city in the southern United States due to the excellent river and rail connections that allow goods to be quickly routed all around the country. Being situated on a major bend in the Tennessee River, Nashville was strategically important during the Civil War, as it was occupied by Federal troops for three years, then became the site of Morgan’s Raid and one of the last major battles of the war in 1864.
It is undeniable that Nashville is a city of the future, and it has become the cultural center for country music. Today, it’s the center of today’s American country music industry and has more jobs in the industry per capita than any other city in America. The National Life and Accident Insurance Company launched a self-promoting radio station in 1925 and it may have fixed the city’s position.
Before the age of mass media and before the advent of television, their motto at the time was ‘We Shield Millions’ and they soon adopted the Ryman Auditorium to be a location for a show that was originally called Barndance but had soon become Grand Ole Opry, the country’s oldest still-running live radio show. Originally named the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman was built in 1892 by a riverboat captain and due to outstanding natural acoustics, became known as the Carnegie Hall of the South, with the Opry calling it home for thirty years between 1943 and 1974. In 1950, WSM’s announcer, David Cobb, made a reference to broadcasting from Music City, USA, and the moniker stuck.
People looking for the Grand Ole Opry will need to go 6 miles out of the downtown area to the Opry House, a purpose-built facility to accommodate larger numbers of attendees. If you are visiting Nashville as a country music aficionado, then you will want to be sure to visit the Music Row District in downtown Nashville. The area is home to many famous studios and publishing houses that provide major support for the country’s music industry as a whole.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is just south of downtown, centered on 16th Avenue South and 17th Avenue South. These two streets were officially renamed Music Square East and West in a ceremony led by Mayor Megan Barry on October 13, 2016. The Country Music Hall of Fame has recently relocated to a larger space nearby, leaving the previous footprint available to be developed into new and exciting shops, clubs, and dining establishments.
Music Row is where you’ll find RCA Studio B- established when RCA needed a place for their new star Elvis Presley to record. Columbia’s Historic Quonset Hut- the first recording studio on Music Row- can also be found here.
Music Row in Nashville is a ground zero for the development of new country music and contains many key industry sites such as radio stations, broadcasting networks, recording studios, publication houses, licensing firms, video production houses and offices for organizations like ASCAP, BMI, BMG and Curb Records. Many of these institutions are housed in attractive 19th-century homes and mid-century office buildings, with their architecture adding to the appeal of their surroundings.
Nashville’s iconic mellow crossover music style, termed the “Nashville Sound,” was born on Music Row in the mid 1950s and today is a genre that can be heard on radio stations around the United States. The city of Nashville is home to 180 recording studios, 5,000 working musicians and an estimated 1,000 songwriters.
One of the most well-known areas in Nashville is Lower Broadway. It is a hotspot for live music and has an array of honky-tonks that serve as the place to see countless live performances by artists across all genres. Performances are typically free and happen on a daily basis.
Music Row is a nationally known music district and when coupled with downtown Nashville is the location of the Music City Walk of Fame, also known as the Music Mile. The walk showcases a sidewalk star for many American music legends, as well as an interactive timeline of all genres of American popular music. The Museum of African American Music is due to open in the fall of 2020, and there are other museums for artists in Nashville such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, and Glen Campbell.
Nashville and the surrounding area have a lot of historical attractions, many of which date back to the Civil War era. These include tourist sites like the Tennessee State Museum, which showcases the state’s rich musical heritage and civil war history, as well as family-friendly sites such as Fort Donelson National Battlefield.
Named the Queen of the Tennessee Mansions, Belle Meade Plantation was built in 1853, and its thirty-acre grounds are home to the country’s oldest thoroughbred breeding farm. The Greek Revival-style building provides a beautiful backdrop and is an all-around great place to visit. An advisor to Andrew Jackson built the federal-style Traveller’s Rest Plantation, which is the oldest house in Nashville open to the public.
The Belmont Mansion was originally built in the 19th century as a summer retreat for wealthy donors to help finance the construction of the University of Tennessee. It was later donated to the university and has served as a museum and an important tourist attraction ever since. In addition to grand pre-Civil War mansions, Nashville has long been known as the ‘Athens of the South’ due to its prestigious institutions of higher education. One such feature is the full-scale replica of the Parthenon, constructed in 1897 as a celebration of Tennessee’s 100th anniversary of statehood.
The original replica only lasted for six months but was so popular that a permanent structure was built in 1920. Hermitage is the third most visited presidential home in the nation and is honored by our seventh American President, Andrew Jackson. Jackson lived at this 1,100 acre plantation on and off between 1804 and 1845 and it is filled with a variety of sites that document his life. Located in the center of the property is the tomb of himself and his wife Rachel, a place that continues to attract visitors to this day. Much of the central area of Nashville can be explored on foot and is within close proximity to most tourist attractions and attractions.
The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge (formerly called the Shelby Street Bridge and one of the longest pedestrian spans in the world) was built in 1907-09 over the Cumberland River and was closed to cars in 1998. It connects downtown Nashville with several neighborhoods on the east side of town. Just north of downtown, in a district that has been transformed from Victorians to old warehouse buildings, is trendy Germantown. Unlike other neighborhoods in the area, Germantown is home to a variety of high-end boutiques and eateries that offer global cuisine.
If you are looking for a quick escape from city life into the beauty of nature, the Shelby Bottoms Greenway is a perfect five-mile trail that will take you away from all the hustle and bustle. The trail follows the Cumberland River through hardwood forests and bird-friendly wetlands, giving you plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature.
Radnor Lake State Park is also within the city, and it includes 1,300 acres of wildlife-filled land. Formerly a watering hole for both trains and livestock, Radnor Lake is now known for its diverse animal population.