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Welcome To Nashville: Music City Traditions For The Tourist

  • TRAVEL

  • ARTICLE
  • |
  • October 04, 2018

Never been to Nashville, no problem! We've got the perfect guide to Music City for your next trip.

Written by: Melissa Coker, Above Photo: Courtesy of Ryman.com


If you’ve ever planned on heading to Nashville, Tennessee and wondered what it would be like to have someone show you around to all the hot spots, wonder no more! The Country Music Capital of the World boasts many sights, sounds and southern comfort dining, leaving you satisfied from the stomach to the soul. 

Ready for a trip to Music City? Here’s a hearty overview of the town, sprinkling in both new and old favorites (some of which are sometimes overlooked).

1) The Texas Troubadour Theatre

The theatre is named for one of country music’s most iconic classic artists, Ernest Tubb (also known as the “Texas Troubadour”). You’ll find it in the historic “Music Valley Village” area off the pedal-tavern-beaten-path of downtown Nashville on Music Valley Drive, with mainstays such as the Grand Ole Opry House, The Gaylord Opryland Resort and The Nashville Palace only a short distance away. This prestigious venue is built to welcome at least 400 people to its pews and is home to numerous musical events including the unique worship of Nashville Cowboy Church every Sunday morning.

But before Sunday morning, there’s Saturday night… and with it is the must-attend music hour of the Midnite Jamboree. Having been on the broadcast airwaves since May of 1947, the Jamboree is the second-longest running radio show in history (second only to the Grand Ole Opry)! A different guest performer plays every Saturday night at 10PM in the theatre and the public is always invited to watch…for FREE!

And akin to Opry tradition, there is an announcer for each show (usually a WSM air personality) who stands behind a podium to give details of music available for purchase. The show is then broadcast at midnight the same evening on the legendary 650 AM-WSM (home to the Opry); so you might even hear yourself on the radio. David Ball, Collin Raye, “bluegrass queen” Rhonda Vincent, Riders in the Sky (an Opry favorite), Mark Wills, John Conlee, Jeannie Seely and many more notables have graced the Troubadour’s stage to join in the Jamboree. Concessions are available and the parking is free.

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Photo: The Texas Troubadour Theatre, Melissa Coker

2) The Tacky Turtle

Located next to and adjoining the Troubadour Theatre is The Tacky Turtle. Actually, this shop offers just the right amount of tackiness – featuring eclectic home décor and souvenir items from over 30 vendors, a small selection of CD’s from featured artists and some unbelievably tasty cinnamon rolls. Ernest Tubb’s tour bus from the years of 1970-1979 is on display here and open for free walk-throughs. There is also live music several nights a week and the employees are always very welcoming. Check out the stores Facebook page HERE!

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Photo: The Tacky Turtle

3) The Nashville Palace

The Palace is a great place to soak in the music scene. You’ll likely be greeted with live music immediately upon entry, because the venue offers separate stage areas. The first room has various bands playing throughout the day and typically it’s free to enjoy. Meanwhile, the dancehall feel of the main space (where lots of larger concerts take place) and restaurant/bar makes it appealing to many visitors and offers up a rich history (some of which still adorns its walls). A big claim to fame for the Palace is that Randy Travis once worked there as a cook.

Locals Tip: If you’re in the market for the music but the Palace is a little too full of “royal subjects” you might want to wander across the street and give The Music City Bar and Grill a go. They offer free live music from exceptional artists 7 days a week and their kitchen is open until 2:30AM.

Check out the venue’s official website HERE!

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Photo: The Nashville Palace

4) The Ernest Tubb Record Shop

Give your regards to Broadway: Downtown’s “honkytonk row” of Broadway is no stranger to the fame. In recent years numerous music stars have built up the street with their namesake multiple-story bars. And it’s the home of historic honky-tonk Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. However, it’s also home to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Established in 1947, the shop’s sign boasts “real country music lives here,” you can still visit the vintage store’s only remaining location and walk the floor among their one-of-a-kind selection of vinyl, souvenirs, books, songbooks and more.

Check out the the Record Shop’s official website HERE!




5) Mike’s Ice Cream and Coffee Bar

Just a few doors down from The Ernest Tubb Record Shop is a true cherry on top. Mike’s Ice Cream and Coffee Bar is a staple sweet spot for anyone looking to cool off and re-energize before taking on more Music City entertainment. Nashville “hot chicken” may often steal the spotlight in the city’s featured foods department, but when it comes to tastes that never go out of style, Mike’s is a safe bet. Open until at least 11PM every night (midnight in the summer season and on Fridays and Saturdays otherwise), the menu features homemade ice cream plus an impressive variety of homemade fountain sodas, milkshakes, and a wide selection of hot, iced and frozen gourmet espresso and coffee drinks.

Check out the shop’s Facebook page HERE!

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Photo: Mike’s Ice Cream and Coffee Bar

6) The Ryman Auditorium 

Time for church! The famed so-called “Mother Church” of country music has and continues to host many a sell-out shows within its stained-glass auditorium walls. Still, there’s more for you to know. For example, posters autographed by performers who’ve played the Ryman are on display in the Hatch Show Print Gallery on the second floor of the auditorium. From show slots boasting acts from everyone to comedians to awards shows and in-between, it’s the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and today takes that history to a new level with tours, a gift shop, and its own cafe (Cafe’ Lula, named to honor a longtime Ryman manager) which is usually open later on show nights.

But the Ryman fun doesn’t end there. Some true music to the ears of the secret singer inside of you might be that (for an extra fee) the Ryman provides the chance to record your own song at their in-house recording studio! Choose from a list of 19 special songs including classics like Conway Twitty’s “Hello Darlin’” or record your own original music. Some instruments are allowed, too; plus the studio will provide an in-house acoustic guitar.

Check HERE for details. 

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Photo: The Ryman Auditorium

7) The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Trek on down the road from the Ryman and you can’t help but to see and hear the illustrious call of the Hall, where you’ll be surrounded by everything gone country of both past and present. Called “the Smithsonian of the country music world”; songwriter sessions happen regularly here. Exhibits showcase one-of-a-kind letters, albums, instruments, sheet music and costumes of iconic country music names including The Judds and artists of the outlaw movement of the ‘70s featured in the “Outlaws and Armadillos” exhibit. Artists from the likes of Miranda Lambert to the inimitable Oak Ridge Boys play sold-out shows at the Hall’s theater. You can even make it up to Music Row if you book a tour of historic RCA Studio B as part of your museum visit, which you can do HERE if you’re interested!

Check out the museum’s official website HERE!

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Photo: The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

8) The Commodore Grille

Speaking of songwriters, word is there’s plenty of that going around in Music City. Unfortunately, the crowds at a lot of tune-smith scenes (particularly a colorful little cafe whose name rhymes with “Schmoobird”) are almost always at capacity. For some genuinely good food AND genuinely good original tunes, it would do your soul good and well to stop by The Commodore Grille (located inside of the Holiday Inn on West End Avenue, close to Vanderbilt University). Pick up your mood and maybe a slice or two of their delicious Southern Pecan Pie. No reservations required and the parking is free.

Check out the Grill’s Facebook page HERE!

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Photo: The Commodore Grille

9) Fontanel Mansion

Formerly owned by ground-breaking classic country songstress Barbara Mandrell, this Whites Creek Pike site is definitely a fine one for sore eyes. It’s a bit off the beaten path of downtown and offers a luxurious hotel stay surrounded by beautiful views. There are zip lines and happy trails. You’ll see trees of green…maybe red roses too. Still, it’s just close enough to Nashville to where sometimes the beat goes on – especially on show nights! The Woods at the Fontanel amphitheater provides an ideal setup for some big-name all-out raucous concerts. It’s a wonderful (wooded) world. 

Check out the official website HERE!

Photo: Fontanel Mansion

10 ) Mewsic Kitty Cafe/Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

Last, but certainly not least. Mewsic Kitty Cafe is a must-visit if you pre-furr some cat action where you can cozy up with all the kitties. Featuring tea, coffee from local roasters Bongo Java and specialty pastries, spend some time taking in the view of the adoptable four-footed furry residents who strut around like they own this place.

The adoptable “headliners” (as the cafe calls them) have fun names such as Tim McClaw, Mewcinda Williams, Joni Meowtchill, Feline Dion and Emmylou Hair-is. It’s got cat class and it’s got cat style with décor that truly says “mewsic” city to the core. Reservations are recommended. Check out the cat-tastic cafe HERE!

Photo: Mewsic Kitty Cafe

Now, speaking of Nashville cats: Another local destination where cats of bigger varieties roam is The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. Meerkats, cougars and clouded leopards call the zoo home, as do many other special species including Andean bears, white rhinos, kangaroos, red pandas, giraffes, tapirs, and so many more to explore. Feed the lorikeets in Lorikeet Landing or take a slow stroll with the tortoises at the zoo’s Shell Station. There are keeper talks, animal shows, and so many special events (some musically-focused). For a complete schedule of events check the website of the Nashville Zoo. There are approximately 375 animal species to be seen.

Check out the zoo’s official website HERE!

Locals Tip: Animals not your thing? If you’re a sports fan, remember Nashville has hockey – so if you’re into sliding pucks and such then be sure to check out the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena. And also be sure to take plenty of pictures of Gnash, the Predators’ proud sabertooth tiger ambassador (AKA mascot). Gnash is quite a character - often going the extra mile to show off his toothy smile and finding inventive ways to stay active outside of the ice, including on social media. Goal achieved!

Photo: The Nashville Predators

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