MUSIC RUNS 200 years deep in Nashville, Tennessee. So it’s no wonder that it has been dubbed “Music City,” drawing fans from around the globe eager to spot the recording studios and halls where some of their favorite artists performed, or hear live music at Lower Broadway’s famed honky-tonks. Nashville also thrills with industry-leading culinary experiences, vibrant visual arts, intriguing performances, a growing sports culture, and one-of-a-kind shops. Survey these alternative scenes below and get the most out of this multifaceted city.
Second to music, food has long been a draw to Nashville. Today, the city’s cuisine is more vibrant than ever, with 200 diverse restaurants opening within the past two years alone. A sampling: Savor chocolate maple and buckwheat pancakes with “breakfast wine” at Lou; sip afternoon tea at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first Southern outpost, Drusie & Darr; delight in fried pork dumplings and pineapple fried rice at Pearl Diver; sit for a scrumptious seasonal tasting menu at Bastion; order up one of nine negronis on Four Walls’ menu; and more. Be sure to save room for iconic institutions like Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack and Big Al’s Deli, both of which are Nashville traditions.
Painting and photography, printmaking and textiles, sculpture and ceramics — there’s no shortage of media to explore in this creative city. The Frist Art Museum, Nashville’s largest arts destination, offers transportive exhibitions designed to expand visitors’ worldview, as well as the award-winning Martin ArtQuest (MAQ) Gallery, an interactive space that invites hands-on learning for all ages. Meanwhile, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens invites you to wander through 13 cultivated gardens, a mansion that captures the American Country Place Era, and on-site galleries. Typography followers will relish a visit to Hatch Show Print’s Haley Gallery for a look at historical large-scale letterpress prints. The city also hosts monthly art crawls, granting free admission to more than 50 venues, from Chauvet Arts in Downtown to Zeitgeist in Wedgewood-Houston, showing work from emerging local and regional artists.
Nashville’s four professional sports teams indulge spectators all year long. In the fall, catch the Tennessee Titans scoring touchdowns at Nissan Stadium or the Nashville SC kicking it at Geodis Park. Come winter, bundle up and cheer on the Nashville Predators — that’s “The Preds” to locals — in Bridgestone Arena. From spring through summer, pay a visit to First Horizon Park and see the Nashville Sounds, the Minor League Baseball team. (Insider tip: The park serves up a spacious outdoor bar and restaurant in right field called The Band Box.) You can even support future professional athletes at Vanderbilt University and Tennessee State University, whose NCAA Division I programs range from football, basketball, and swimming to lacrosse, tennis, and more.
Yes, concerts at the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium are worthy of your bucket list. But don’t stop there. Nashville boasts over 180 live music venues along with stages for classical music, dance, theater, and more. The Grammy award-winning Nashville Symphony celebrates contemporary American orchestrations through collaborations with today’s leading composers, singer-songwriters, and musicians. You’ll find the state’s largest ballet and opera companies, Nashville Ballet and Nashville Opera, presenting classic and contemporary works. Nashville Children’s Theatre, the country's oldest youth-centered professional theater, helps children process real-world situations through shows and education. On the experimental end, OZ Arts supports innovative performances that bend genre and form.
Whether you want to add to your record collection, bring home a unique souvenir, or enhance your wardrobe, there are plenty of ways to support local makers and entrepreneurs. Grimey’s is the insider pick for those aforementioned records. Seeking a taste of the city? Nashville Craft Distillery handcrafts a variety of bourbons, gins, and more spirits in-house, all available to add to your bar cart. If you love pre-loved goods, Gaslamp Antiques is the definitive, and largest, destination, while High Class Hillbilly stocks stellar vintage, including covetable cowboy boots. For something shiny and new, Judith Bright offers artisanal jewelry handcrafted in the city. Readers will relish a stop by Parnassus Books, the independent bookstore opened by novelist Ann Patchett. And if you’re not totally sure what you have in mind, swing by L&L Market, which brings together several Nashville-founded boutiques and eats under one roof.
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