America’s Friendliest Cities…#8 Nashville, TN

Downtown Nashville

I have visited Nashville many times—including for mine and the hubby’s honeymoon…a “few” years back! The big emphasis then (twenty-two, plus years ago) was on the music industry—particularly the country music side of things.  Though Music Row, the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry, and similar attractions remain a vital part of the Nashville tourist scene, that isn’t all there is to see and do while you’re there.  (Though I generally lean in that direction.  When in Rome, you know…)  We enjoy touring the downtown area on foot and have always felt perfectly safe; there are a number of public parking lots in case you arrive in your personal vehicle.  You are sure to run across a guitar-toting cowboy or two, lots of live music venues, and more junk…er, souvenir…shops than you can imagine!  I love Nashville, its fun and casual atmosphere, and its winning combination of “big city” and “down-home, friendly” where they still say yes ma’am, no ma’am, and y’all.  You might say I feel right at home!  Here are a few of my Nashville favorites…

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Where to stay…

Opryland Hotel: Yes, it is quite pricey. But the hotel is an incredible experience in itself! In fact, I have been thinking lately that it is about time to return to Nashville and spend another week in a balcony room overlooking The Cascades! This sprawling luxury resort has it all—acres of climate controlled gardens complete with ground level walking paths and suspended walkways; an indoor riverboat ride; a plethora of shops, cafes, and treat shops; a spa; and a variety of dining and entertainment choices. This is easily my favorite hotel in America.

What to do (in and around Nashville)…

  • The Ryman Auditorium – Join a tour of the “Mother Church of Country Music,” or check the schedule for upcoming concerts and events. Got to see Merle Haggard there a few years ago…what a memorable opportunity!
  • The Grand Ole Opry – Known as “country’s most famous stage,” The Opry is Nashville’s top tourist attraction and worth fitting into your schedule. You will hear the legends perform alongside today’s rising stars.
  • The Hermitage – Visit President Andrew Jackson’s home, stroll among the hickory trees and gardens, and view the elaborate final resting place he designed for himself and wife, Rachel. A must for the history buff.
  • General Jackson Riverboat Cruise – Steam along the Cumberland River and enjoy fabulous views of the Nashville skyline while being fed and entertained. We have found this to be a relaxing and fun experience with entertainment that actually entertains!
  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – Much more than a mere museum, the Hall of Fame houses a vast array of exhibits—many permanent, others temporary—and offers something for everyone. Be sure to allow several hours for your visit.
  • Opry Mills Mall – If shopping, eating, or watching movies is your thing, you’ll want to stop by this mall with its 200+ stores, theaters, and restaurants. (This area used to be Opryland, the amusement park…which I still miss.)
  • Downtown Nashville – You won’t want to miss the kitschy tourist shops lining Broadway! It’s the perfect opportunity to have your photo made with Fake Elvis, buy a Willie Nelson souvenir, or pick up a few postcards to mail to the folks back home. It’s a cinch you’ll hear live music along the way.
  • Riverfront Park – Stroll along and enjoy fabulous views of the Cumberland River.  Check online schedule for special events.
  • Stones River National Battlefield – Calling all history enthusiasts…this Civil War battlefield just a short distance from Nashville is worthy of a visit. The bloody Battle of Stones River is little-known and, sadly, this historic site is under constant threat by urban sprawl.
  • Music Valley Wax Museum – To my great disappointment, I have discovered that #10 of my Nashville Top Ten choices apparently no longer exists. Filled with wax replicas of country’s greatest legends attired in authentic costumes—many donated by the artists themselves—this attraction was destroyed by the 2010 flood that devastated Nashville. An article that I read said the heads of many of the figures had been salvaged, so I am leaving this at #10 in hopes that the museum will one day be resurrected. (No highbrow exhibit this, but entertaining all the same.)
  • Highland Rim Speedway – Lest you feel that I have gipped you by including a non-existent attraction in the list, I am adding this 1/3 mile, high banked, asphalt track as an alternative #10. If, like me, you feel the need for speed and get an adrenaline rush from roaring engines…this is the place to go! Located about half an hour from Nashville, the track hosts seasonal weekend racing.

Where to eat…

The only hard and fast restaurant recommendations I am willing to offer are those inside the Opryland Hotel. For atmosphere and ambiance alone, I suggest Cascades American Cafe. It is located in the atrium area near the Cascades waterfall, so you can enjoy your meal to the tune of water splashing against the rocks. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Old Hickory Steakhouse is also located inside the hotel—in the Delta Atrium—and serves a delicious cut of meat as well as suuculent seafood. It is open for dinner. Unlike the dress code for Cascades American Cafe, which is casual, Old Hickory requires smart casual attire as well as a reservation. We also ordered room service a couple of times and relished our balcony view over the Cascades Atrium as much as we did the food.  There are many other restaurants inside the hotel as well—including coffee, gelato, and yogurt shops.

Feel free to share your Nashville impressions and favorites in the comments.  America’s Friendliest City #6,  Fort Worth, Texas, is coming up next…

America’s Friendliest Cities, Part 1

As a native Southerner and passionate devotee of the American South, I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that eight of the Top Ten Friendliest Cities in America (according to a recent survey by Conde Nast Traveler) are located—you guessed it—in the South! I have visited all eight cities and each has unique and interesting qualities that make it a judicious travel choice. I have decided to elaborate on my “Top 6” this week…just couldn’t narrow it down to five! I will reflect on my time spent in each city; share my personal impressions and insights; and make a few recommendations regarding what to do and see, where to eat and stay, and why each city is a wise destination choice. Here is a list of my six favorites and their rankings, by number, on the CNT survey list…

  • #8 – Nashville, Tennessee…

Nashville, Tennessee

 

  • #6 – Fort Worth, Texas…

Fort Worth, Texas

 

  • #5 – New Orleans, Louisiana…

New Orleans, Louisiana

 

  • #3 – San Antonio, Texas…

San Antonio, Texas

 

  • #2 – Savannah, Georgia…

Savannah, Georgia

 

  • #1 (and my personal favorite) – Charleston, South Carolina…

Charleston, South Carolina

 

The remaining Southern cities that made the Top Ten are Key West, Florida (tied for #8) and Asheville, North Carolina (#10).

Stay tuned…