Nashville. State capital of Tennessee and home of country music. Nashville had been on my bucket list of dream trips for YEARS – probably from the age of 16. Perhaps slightly unusually for a girl from Leicester, England, I am an absolutely HUGE country music fan: from Taylor Swift and Jason Aldean, to Dixie Chicks and Johnny Cash. I had dreamt of visiting all the famous sights of ‘Music City’ and the entire week I spent there really was a dream come true.
First thing’s first. I stayed at Music City Hostel, located in the midtown area of the city. They have since opened a branch located more centrally downtown too. This is by far the best hostel experience I have had – the atmosphere and people at this hostel were incredible. You can see from the first picture that the hostel is split into two long buildings of dorms, with an outdoor area in the middle. Both day and night this was filled with people kicking balls around, cooking on the BBQ or singing along to guitars. Every night was a jam night, with all the musicians in the hostel bringing out their guitars, banjos and harmonicas to play their latest songs, or playing a familiar tune for everyone to sing along too. There was also free pancakes for breakfast. Absolutely the coolest place ever.
Right, back to Nashville. My first morning I headed straight for downtown Nashville. I intended to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and then just see where else I ended up. The first place I walked past was the Ryman Auditorium, otherwise known as the ‘Mother Church of Country Music’. They offer self-guided tours, or guided backstage tours – I went for the guided backstage tour, and for the extra few bucks it’s definitely worth it! (Price: $20…I think it was cheaper when I visited.)
Our guide was really knowledgeable and told really interesting stories about the old stars of country music. The venue was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from 1943 – 1974, and it was even home to The Johnny Cash Show for two years. The tour ended with us being allowed the stand on the edge of the famous wooden stage – I pretended I was Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line and took in the moment.
Next up was the Country Music Hall of Fame. I paid around $35 for admission to the museum with audio tour, and a trip to Historic RCA Studio B. I spent absolutely hours in the museum, reading every exhibit sign. Most of my knowledge of country music comes from the modern country-pop acts such as Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert and Tim McGraw so I was fascinated to learn more about the roots of the genre.
Exhibits included performance and award show outfits, instruments and even handwritten lyrics.
There was also a special Taylor Swift: Speak Now Tour exhibition on, featuring all the costumes from the Speak Now tour.
After the museum visit, I was escorted to the Historic RCA Studio B tour, a studio where Elvis Presley once recorded over 200 tracks. Now, the studio is used by students are the nearby Belmont University for music production class. While listening to stories of the building’s history, we had the chance to sit at Elvis’ piano!
The next morning, I headed to Hillsboro Village. The top recommendation friends had given me for Nashville was to grab brunch at The Pancake Pantry, a favourite amongst locals and celebrities alike (I was very aware that Taylor Swift and co like to frequent this joint on weekends, so I thought it must be pretty good…!). If you’re heading there on a weekend, be prepared to wait in a very long line.
While I consider myself quite an independent traveller, there’s still something a little uncomfortable about sitting down in an actual restaurant to eat on your own. A very friendly old man was sitting at the table next to me, and soon struck up conversation. We talked and talked while I ate the ridiculous amount of food I’d ordered (Eggs and Cakes – three buttermilk pancakes, with a portion of the best scrambled eggs I have ever eaten). He knew loads about Nashville, gossip on some of the biggest stars as well as imparting some general life advice. When it came time for me to pay the bill, he revealed his identity – the founder and original owner of the restaurant! He gave me his card and told me that if I came back again while I was visiting, to come to the kitchen door and tell them ‘Mr B. sent me’! Great food, great company!
I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Hillsboro Village and the Vanderbilt campus, working off my massive brunch and sweltering in the southern heat.
The next day I took a trip to the holy grail of Nashville locations – The Grand Ole Opry. I went with some guys I’d met at the hostel, and Andy had a car making it extra convenient (the Opry is a little out of town). Tickets for the backstage tour are around $20 and well worth the price. The tour is introduced by Blake Shelton, via video. You’re then taken backstage, through dressing rooms and performer lounges, and finally out on onto the Opry stage! They pointed out areas where Nashville, the TV show, films.
The tour guide even had us sing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, so that we could say we had sung at the Opry!
The boys and I headed for some food nearby and felt a little brave…we ordered frogs’ legs.
Not bad. Tasted like chicken if I’m honest.
When I started planning my trip to Nashville, I kept a very close eye on concert and tour announcements which would coincide with my dates. I got lucky, and ended up with a ticket to see Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw, on the Brothers of the Sun tour, at LP Field!!! What could be better than a country music concert, IN Nashville?! I headed down to LP Field nice and early, in the hopes of joining in some of the tailgating action. First up was a free radio show concert with Gloriana performing. I was lucky enough to meet the band after their set, and Tom even gave me his guitar pick.
While trying to buy some water I met a couple who invited me to tailgate with them and their friends. I had the most amazing afternoon drinking free beer in the back of a pick-up truck, whilst friends blasted country music. People all over the parking lot were having parties and the atmosphere was great – why don’t we tailgate in England?!
I bought cheap seats so I was pretty far away for the actual concert but it was still amazing. One of my favourite days ever, for sure!
Most nights I went out with people from the hostel, either into midtown or into downtown Nashville. One highlight was visiting the touristy, but great Wildhorse Saloon. They offer line dancing lessons regularly throughout the evening, and then live music to practice your new skills! The place was packed on Saturday night, and quieter on other nights but still just as fun and lively!
Nashville, you’re an absolute beaut! I’ll be back for you again soon!
Look out for another post on my Nashville adventures, coming soon!