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Good Times in Tennessee - With or Without Country

Vibrant Nashville Entices

With Diverse Attractions

Nashville's sparkling downtown reveals fun activities and cultural diversions for travelers.*

By Tim Leffel

Tell someone you’re from Nashville and he or she always asks: “So…do you like country music?” This makes about as much sense as asking New Yorkers if they like Broadway show tunes, but that’s the payback when a place is nicknamed “Music City U.S.A.”

Of course, if you are a country music fan, Nashville is the epicenter. You can get your fill of music, and you almost never hear a bad band. But if country is not your thing, Nashville goes well beyond rhinestone and twang.

A Compact Downtown

Nashville’s downtown has gone through an amazing transformation. Thanks to some smart urban planning, you can go to museums, catch a pro football or hockey game, eat at a wide range of restaurants, and see live bands on the cheap until the wee hours. And it’s all within a few blocks of most hotels.

Lower Broadway is the center of activity, with authentic honky-tonk country bars still serving up live music and longnecks from the afternoon until late at night. Tootsie’s (615-405-9670 or www.tootsies.net), 5th and Broadway, is the most famous — and crowded.

For a less claustrophobic time, head to Robert’s Western Wear a few doors down. See the evolution of this uniquely American music at the impressive Country Music Hall of Fame (615-416-2001 or www.countrymusichalloffame.com), 222 Fifth Ave. South, two blocks south of Broadway. $17.95 adults, $9.95 children.

Think country music is old-fashioned? Think again, as evidenced by the dazzling Country Museum Hall of Fame.*

As if to prove that it’s not all about country in Music City, in late 2006 the grand Schemerhorn Symphony Center (615-687-6500 or www.nashvillesymphony.org, opened a block away at One Symphony Place. Emulating historic European concert halls, the refined acoustics and intimate setting are winning a lot of raves.

Heading west a bit, at 919 Broadway, is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts (615-244-3340 or www.fristcenter.org). This well-designed museum is housed in a beautiful 1930s Art Deco building that was originally a post office. One section is dedicated to permanent exhibits, one to touring exhibits and one to a hands-on children’s section. Admission is $8.50 adults, with children admitted free.

The Frist Center for the Performing Arts calls this lovely Art Deco building home.*

If the timing is right, catch an NFL Tennessee Titan’s game by following the pedestrian bridge across the Cumberland River to the Coliseum (615-565-4200), One Titan’s Way. You have a better chance, though, of seeing one of the many home hockey games of the NHL Nashville Predators, at the Gaylord Entertainment Center (615-770-200 or www.gaylordentertainmentcenter.comin the center of the action downtown at 5th and Broadway.


The Gaylord Entertainment Center is the place for NHL hockey action in Nashville.*

A downtown ballpark for the minor-league Nashville Sounds is in the works. For now the Sounds play a few miles south of the center, at 534 Chestnut St.

Outside the City Limits

If you have more time and a rental car, there’s plenty of incentive to get beyond downtown, especially for history buffs. The 55-acre Cheekwood complex (615-356-8000 or www.cheekwood.orgat 1200 Forrest Park Dr., is anchored by a mansion in the old-money district of town.

On site are an art gallery, an outdoor sculpture garden and lots of quiet strolling space. Admission is $10 adults, $5 for children with an advantageous household cap of $30, great for large families. Adjacent are a pretty public golf course and the largest municipal park in Tennessee.

A few minutes west is Belle Meade Plantation (615-356-0501 or www.bellemeadeplantation.com),  5025 Harding Rd. This 1853 mansion was once a thoroughbred horse breeding center. Guides dress in period costume and give history on the home, the area, and the Civil War. Admission is $11 for adults, $5 for children. (Tip: Check out our Belle Meade Bicentennial story within the Homes & Plantations topic; see the bottom right column of this page). 

The Hermitage (615-889-2941 or www.thehermitage.com), 4580 Rachel’s Lane, is a Greek Revival mansion that was the home of President Andrew Jackson. It is furnished to appear just as it did in the 1930s when Jackson returned from his second term. For an additional fee you can tour the grounds by horse-drawn wagon. Admission is $14 for adults, $6 for children.

The Hermitage is an impressive Tara-like building; it was the home of President Andrew Jackson.*

The Parthenon (615-862-8431 or www.parthenon.org), 2600 West End Ave., is an impressive full-scale replica of the real Parthenon in Athens. It was built in Centennial Park for Tennessee’s Centennial Exhibition in 1897. An art gallery is joined by a 42-foot statue of the goddess Athena, reportedly the “tallest indoor sculpture in the Western world.” Admission is $5 for adults, $2.50 for children.


Nashville's Parthenon looks just like the "real thing" in Athens. Inside is a huge statute of the Greek Goddess Athena.*

Nashville Family Fun

The Adventure Science Center (615-862-5160 or www.adventuresci.com), 800 Fort Negley Blvd., is good for a few hours of entertainment and fun education. A new $20 million planetarium is under construction. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for children.

The Centennial Sportsplex (615-862-8480 or www.nashville.org/sportsplex), across the street from Centennial Park at 222 25th Ave. North has a public ice skating rink. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for children including skate rental.

Nashville Zoo (615-833-1534 or www.nashvillezoo.org), 3777 Nolensville Rd., is made up of natural-looking habitats instead of cages, with plenty of room for the animals to roam. The playground — a wonderland of towering wooden structures with stairs and rope netting to climb — is the best in the city. Admission is $13 adults, $8 for children.

You'll find lots of critters to peruse at the Nashville Zoo.*

Parks: The Parthenon in Centennial Park is a good attraction for the whole family, with a museum, playground, duck pond, and train engine to explore. Or, for warm months, bring a bathing suit and head to the free fountains at Bicentennial Park, next to the Farmer’s Market near downtown at 170 1st Ave. North.

Water Parks: Two water parks include the lakeside Nashville Shores (615-889-7050 or www.nashvilleshores.com), 4001 Bell Rd., Hermitage, or the more modest Wave Country (615-885-1052 or www.nashville.gov/parks/wave_country.htm), 2320 Two Rivers Pwy.

Admission is $21.95 for adults and $16.95 for children at Nashville Shores, $8 for adults, $6 for children at Wave Country.

For More Information

The Nashville Convention and Visitors’ Bureau runs an excellent Web site at www.musiccityusa.comMoney-saving coupons are posted on the site and the bureau sells a Music City Total Access Pass for $35. This covers admission to any four major attractions plus the Parthenon.

Find good information on the local park system at www.nashville.gov/parks/index.htm

The most thorough guidebook for the city is the Insider’s Guide to Nashville. The latest edition came out in January 2007.

Nashville resident Tim Leffel, a NATJA Grand Prize winner for 2006, is author of several books, including Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune. He has been writing for a variety of publications for 15 years and is a columnist for Transitions Abroad magazine. He is contributing editor at HotelChatter.com and serves as editor of PerceptiveTravel.com.

All photos on this page are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Please do not link to these photos nor copy.

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