From the soulful sound of the Fisk Jubilee Singers to the promulgation of country music from the stage of The Grand Old Opry to Taylor Swift strumming her guitar in the Bluebird Café, Nashville has earned its nickname as Music City U.S.A. If you want to beat the big crowds and still enjoy all the attractions, consider taking a trip to Nashville in winter or early spring. While many visitors stay away during this time, the town still thrums with music and fun.
Travelers to Nashville will find myriad ways to experience its musical roots, from refined museums to rambunctious honky tonks. Many of these attractions are indoors, away from the winter chill. However, there’s so much more to the city than its music, making Nashville a popular travel destination.
But, let’s start with the music since it’s the star of the show.
The Grand Ole Opry
What started as an insurance company’s idea for a business promotion way back in 1925 is now the longest-running live radio music show in U.S. history. To this day, the Grand Ole Opry is the twangy heartbeat of Music City U.S.A.
The Grand Ole Opry’s live show is offered four nights a week, and you just never know who will show up on stage, ranging from up-and-comers to full-blown country music legends. Even if you can’t see a show, a backstage tour is a must to learn about the toe-tapping history.
Home to the Grand Ole Opry from the 1940s through the 1970s, the Ryman Auditorium is as iconic as the show itself. Today, it is a popular live music venue, bringing in a wide range of popular artists.
Tours and exhibits help tell the story of the Ryman’s journey from a gospel church to an auditorium that presented the country music gospel. Learn about the famous musicians who have performed in this sacred space, and see posters, instruments, and other artifacts from the Ryman’s long history.
Country Music Museums & Famous Stops
Though Nashville continues to thrive as part of the music industry, it never stops honoring its past. Visitors can explore this rich history with visits to the town’s many museums. Each displays a different verse of Nashville’s unending song.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is the massive home to 2.5 million artifacts related to country music history and legendary stars. The Musician’s Hall of Fame has a broader scope, focusing on performers from all musical genres. Fans won’t want to miss the Johnny Cash Museum, the Patsy Cline Museum, or The George Jones museum.
Some of the more unique offerings include the Gallery of Iconic Guitars, the Hatch Show Print (which displays vintage concert posters), and the RCA Studio B (where some of the biggest names in country and pop laid down tracks).
A Living, Thriving Musical Industry
Nashville’s story didn’t start and end in the past; instead, the town is still the production capital for country music, as well as gospel, contemporary Christian, bluegrass, and more. Take a stroll through the Music Row Historic District to see where the industry in action. You’ll find record label headquarters, publishing houses, recording studios, and more.
Local bars and cafes serve up never-ending performances for those trying to break into the industry—and from some who already have. Lower Broadway is known as the “Honky Tonk Highway,” thanks to the dozens of clubs where live music in performed. You’ll feel like you’ve slipped into a jukebox as the raucous sounds spill into the streets.
A trip further from downtown to the Bluebird Café is worthwhile, as this is one of the most iconic live music venues in Nashville. Here, you get to hear the “heroes behind the hits” as songwriters take the stage. Many future legends got their starts in this quiet room where the audience is captivating by the music.
More Nashville Attractions
There’s more to Nashville than music, of course. Gaylord Opryland Resort is home to a nine-acre indoor garden. Take a flatboat tour of the river that runs through this lush landscape. An onsite waterpark is a great family-friendly attraction, as well.
Before becoming president and in his later years, Andrew Jackson lived in Nashville. His home, the Hermitage, is one of the most visited presidential estates, with over 1000 acres to explore. Take a tour of the mansion and surrounding grounds.
Hot Eats and Drinks
There are two ways to feel the burn—in a good way—in Nashville. Aside from the hot sounds of the country hits, Nashville is known for its fire hot fried chicken. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is where it all began over 100 years ago, when a scorned girlfriend attempted revenge on her guy by serving him up a plate of innocent-looking chicken that was tainted with a blistering mix of spices and peppers. Much to her surprise, the boyfriend loved it and went into the restaurant business.
Today, hot chicken is a Nashville staple and is sold in restaurants across town. Hattie B’s, Bolton’s and Pepperfire are popular spots to find this scarlet-colored poultry. Just brace yourself for the slow fire that will build in your mouth!
If you want to burn your throat as well as your mouth, sample the locally crafted whiskeys. Tennessee has a long history with whiskey. Jack Daniels, produced 70 miles south of Nashville in Lynchburg, is the most well-known, but a number of smaller craft distilleries can be enjoyed across the state.
Camping in Nashville
If you want to stay close to the action in Nashville, Two Rivers Campground is a top pick, located near the Opry Mills outlet mall. Campers can enjoy peace and quiet after a busy day in downtown Nashville. Southeast of the city, Nashville I-24 Campground also is a highly rated Good Sam Park within reach of top attractions.
If you are traveling with kids, Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort should be tops on your list. In addition to receiving great Good Sam ratings, this campground features a massive waterpark that extends into the surrounding waters of Percy Priest Lake. Waterfront campsites are available.