Nashville is hot, and not just in the summer. The town once mostly synonymous with country music has made a name for itself over the past decade, particularly, as a great travel destination, a hip place where young professionals want to live and work, and a city rich in culture and crafted spirits.
Sure, the honky tonks are certainly worth a visit. They’re rich in history, and live music can be heard through their walls from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m., every day. Plus, nothing much beats the “Recession Special” at Robert’s Western World, which includes a fresh-off-the-griddle fried bologna sandwich, bag of potato chips, Moon Pie and PBR for just $6.
But beyond Broadway lies an entire city that is also rich in history, a city that is grappling with merging its new identity among the old charms natives are fighting to save.
The art of Nashville
One of Nashville’s most interesting art museums is the Parthenon. This beautiful, gigantic, unexpected structure is home to the city’s art collection as well as a 42-foot sculpture named Athena Parthenos. The recreation of the Athena statue found in the original Parthenon took Nashville artist Alan LeQuire eight years to create, a feat he said he might not have undertaken if he had known it would be so colossal. Art enthusiasts can visit his studio, LeQuire Gallery, to admire some of his favorite local art and even catch a glimpse of LeQuire working on his latest creations.
Oz Arts Nashville is a nod to Nashville’s more modern approach to art. Located on the west side of town, this newly-renovated, former cigar warehouse is a unique destination for innovative art experiences with a large venue space, walls upon walls of local art and even an outdoor zen garden.
Murals and public art also abound in the city, alongside its more than 75 art galleries. ExploreNashvilleArt.com is a great resource to find both public art and galleries throughout Nashville. It also lists them by neighborhood so you can explore them by area.
A drinking town with a music problem
Forget the pedal taverns, party buses and general booze mobiles that take over the streets of Broadway (if you ask a local, they’d like to forget them, too). Nashville is home to dozens of breweries, distilleries, cideries, wineries – just about anything you could want to get your tastebuds revved up, and with local flavor.
Diskin Cider in Nashville’s Wedgewood-Houston (We-Ho) has a revolving list of ciders on tap, boasting everything from dry English ciders to pineapple ciders. They’re perfect for those with gluten allergies and are surprisingly not too sweet. The same neighborhood is home to Nashville Craft Distillery, which boasts a female distiller crafting whiskeys and other craft spirits (the Nashville Honey Spiced Honey Liqueur is especially tasty).
Tennessee Brew Works in Pie Town has an impressive food menu with one helluva burger, and that’s even before you get to its revolving taps of lauded craft beer. If you’re in the mood for mixing history and wine, visit Belle Meade Plantation. Once a log cabin built in 1807, the property grew into a beautiful Greek Revival Mansion and one of the largest private estates in Nashville, covering more than 5,400 acres. After exploring the home and grounds, visit the tasting room for a sip of the plantation’s muscadine or blackberry wines.
Other great boozy options are Fat Bottom Brewing, Pennington Distilling Company and 6th & Peabody.
It ain’t all country in Nashville. Third Man Records in the Pie Town neighborhood of Nashville was launched by Jack White of The White Stripes in 2009 and houses a record store, novelties lounge, label offices, photo studio and the world’s only live venue with direct-to-acetate recording abilities (U2 even had a jam session there). Neil Young once popped into the novelties lounge where he saw a kid covering a Neil Young song in the lounge’s Voice-O-Graph, a 1940s-style recording booth. Young liked the booth’s sound so much that he recorded his 2014 album “A Letter Home” directly from the booth to vinyl.
Not too far from there is Carter Vintage Guitars, a vintage shop that is a guitar player’s heaven. The guitar Lynyrd Sykyrd’s Ed King wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” on can be purchased for a cool $450,000, but more affordable guitars can be found there, too. Even if you don’t know how to play, the people-watching alone at the guitar shop is worth the trip, as celebrities like Keith Urban and Lenny Kravitz are known to frequent the spot, pick up a guitar and just start tinkering. (Just be Nashville cool about it, though.)
Venues like east Nashville’s 5 Spot provide a cozy place for up-and-comers to build fan bases and try out new music, while larger venues like The Grand Ole Opry provide a place to see history in the making as musicians solidify they’ve made it by making their Opry debuts.
No matter what your tastes might be, Nashville probably has something for you. Just don’t be afraid to step off of Broadway to find it.
For more information on all things Nashville, go to visitmusiccity.com or call 800-657-6910.