Nashville’s Greatest Hits

Take a ride with us through Nashville in the shadow of the Batman Building as we explore her history, the roots of her music, and her most famous landmarks.

Discover why she’s called the Athens of the South, how Bob Dylan shaped the music scene, and the surprising story of how she earned the moniker Music City… CONTINUE READING >>

We are proud to be Viator Ambassadors

We are proud to be Viator Ambassadors – big thanks to Viator for providing this musical adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

Skyscrapers in Nashville, Tennessee

We talk with fellow travelers a lot, and one thing we have learned is that almost all of us have woefully overlooked attractions right in our own backyards.

Take a ride with us through Nashville in the shadow of the Batman Building as we explore her history, the roots of her music, and her most famous landmarks. Discover why she's called the Athens of the South, how Bob Dylan shaped the music scene, and the surprising story of how she earned the moniker Music City...
Nashville, Tennessee

It is very common to go off exploring the far corners of the world and overlook the things that regularly bring visitors to our own hometowns.

We have certainly been guilty of this ourselves, having lived in two tourist destinations for most of our lives and neglecting the local attractions.

We recently decided to remedy one of those situations by booking Viator’s Discover Nashville tour

Nashville proudly calls their tallest building the Batman Building
Nashville proudly calls their tallest building the
“Batman Building”

There was only one small flaw in our plan, we haven’t lived in Nashville since 2001, but a recent stopover for the Southern Festival of Books solved that.

Nashville was our home for over twenty years, so the first thing we noticed was how much things have changed.

It is one of America’s fastest growing cities so construction cranes are everywhere – they must be the city’s new official bird (ba dum-ching!).

Nashville, Tennessee is growning so fast, the building crane is the new state bird!

Why is Nashville Called Music City?

When Nashville's Fisk University Jubilee Singers performed for Queen Victoria, she proclaimed that they must be from the Music City of the United States.

But this is still Music City, and after meeting the tour group near Opryland and heading downtown, our guide and driver, Terry, told us a story of how that name might have come about.  

During a world tour in 1873, Nashville’s Fisk University Jubilee Singers were performing for Queen Victoria and she was so impressed that she proclaimed that they must be from the Music City of the United States.

However, the name didn’t really catch on until 1950, when radio announcer David Cobb dubbed Nashville “Music City U.S.A.”

A Rich History

But Nashville has a lot more going on than catchy tunes, it has a rich history and it is the capital of Tennessee.

As we circled the statehouse grounds we were glad to see the capitol building hadn’t changed while we were away.

The rest of downtown certainly has; Music City has become a city of skyscrapers. Happily, much of the city’s past still remains in the shadows of those towers.

Printer's Alley, Nashville's famous nightclub row named for the print shops that used to occupy the narrow passage, and learned that it became an entertainment district during prohibition when the printers would secretly sell the alcohol they used in the printing process once the sun went down.

We drove by Printer’s Alley, the (in)famous nightclub row named for the print shops that used to occupy the narrow passage.

We learned that it became an entertainment district during prohibition when the printers would secretly sell the alcohol they used in the printing process once the sun went down.

The very cool bathroom at Nashville's Hermitage Hotel
Pay attention to where the Hermitage Hotel is on the tour – you’ll
want to stop in for a cocktail and a peek in the bathroom when
you’re done! See more pics of this fab loo!

We also passed the Hermitage Hotel, a 5-Star accommodation that might actually be best known for a restroom.

The downstairs men’s room just off of the hotel’s Capitol Grille has been voted best bathroom in America several times in online polls.

We strongly feel that it deserves the title.

In fact, they have given up on trying to keep curious female observers out and put up a plaque welcoming everyone, regardless of gender, to take a look inside.

See more pics of the bathroom of the Hermitage Hotel’s bathroom!

The Mother Church of Country Music

The former Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashvile, Tennessee

The former Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashvile, Tennessee

Downtown is also home to the Ryman Auditorium, longtime site of the Grand Ole Opry, so Terry stopped to give us about an hour to go inside and explore.

While the Opry didn’t begin at the Ryman, it certainly grew into the national treasure that it is today while broadcasting from the auditorium.

Statue of Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee
David hangin’ with Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl

Prior to hosting the Opry, the Ryman had already presented its share of big stars and political heavyweights.

Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers, and Harry Houdini performed on the stage, and presidents Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft delivered addresses in the early nineteen-hundreds.

The stage of the former Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashvile, Tennessee

The hall became known as “The Mother Church of Country Music” while hosting the Grand Ole Opry for thirty-one years, but the show moved to a modern new home at Opryland in 1974.

The Ryman Auditorium, The Mother Church of Country Music, in Nashville, Tennessee

There were several reasons for the change, the need for more seating, the lack of air conditioning, and the fact that there was no backstage area. That last inconvenience actually led to another unique Nashville tradition.

And the Music Plays on…

The alley between the Ryman Auditorium, Grand Ole Opry, and Tootsies, where the stars hung out after the shows

Many of the performers would hang out behind the building, some sneaking across to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge or some of the other nearby bars for a drink between shows.

Sometimes they’d even sing a song or two, which made the honky-tonks along Nashville’s Lower Broadway quite famous.

Tooties Orchid Lounge in Nashville is a Music City institution.

We were glad to see that these clubs have had quite a resurgence while we were away, with live music returning to most all of them.

Street musicians on Lower Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee

The Athens of the South

From downtown we drove to Centennial Park, home to a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. It was built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition because at that time Nashville was known as the Athens of the South for its many institutions of higher education, such as Fisk, Vanderbilt, Lipscomb, and Belmont universities.

The Parthenon in Centennial Park in Nashville

The interior of this modern version of the temple is an art museum dominated by a re-creation of the Athena Parthenos statue precisely as it was in ancient Greece.

 Standing nearly forty-two feet high, she is the largest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western hemisphere.

The park also presents movies and plays throughout the summer and serves as a recreational area for students from the neighboring colleges and musicians from nearby Music Row.

A Tribute to the Greats

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee

Our final destination for the day was the Country Music Hall of Fame.

This is another thing that has changed drastically, and for the better, since we were Nashvillians.

The original Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened back in 1967, and even though we drove by it almost every day we never went inside.

Gram Parson's pot leaf nudie suit is on exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee

While we were away a much larger, new Hall of Fame has taken its place, and it is fantastic. The building incorporates musical images such as windows patterned after piano keys and a radio tower with discs surrounding it representing records and CDs.

The set of Hee Haw at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Inside, three floors are filled with incredible memorabilia and history going back to the very beginnings of country music in Nashville. We began at the first floor Rotunda, which displays bronze plaques of the over one hundred (and growing every year) inductees, before heading upstairs to the exhibits.

Costumes from Patsy Cline and Don Gibson at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

Most of the exhibitions change periodically, but one, Sing Me Back Home, named for Merle Haggard’s hit song from the year that the Hall of Fame opened, is permanent.

 It tells the story of country music from its pre-commercial roots in the nineteenth century through its current crop of artists.

The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville celebrates old and new music - and everything in between

The rotating displays during our visit featured a tribute to Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records.  Phillips left an indelible mark on music history by introducing the world to Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and Elvis Presley.

Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

We loved the presentation called Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats, which highlights the impact Nashville had on Bob Dylan, and many other artists.

By deciding to record in Nashville, Dylan attracted many other musicians and changed the dynamic of Music City.

Suddenly country was cool.

Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville

With their similar styles, Johnny Cash seemed like a perfect fit with Dylan and the two recorded more than a dozen duets.

One of them, Girl from the North Country, made it on to the Nashville Skyline album with Cash also writing the Grammy-winning liner notes.

Remember when albums had liner notes? And they could win a Grammy!

Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame displays rare and famous musical instruments

Folks listen to the Nashville pickers that made country music great at the County Music Hall of Fame in Tennessee

We especially appreciated the focus on some of the unsung musicians that performed in that era.

Sixteen listening booths are set up so visitors can listen to David Briggs, Kenny Buttrey, Fred Carter Jr., Charlie Daniels, Pete Drake, Mac Gayden, Lloyd Green, Ben Keith, Grady Martin, Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss, Weldon Myrick, Norbert Putnam, Jerry Reed, Pig Robbins and Buddy Spicher perform on many of the greatest records of the sixties and seventies.

The Country Music Hall of Fame shares the achievements of unsung musicians

All That’s Fit to Print

Hatch Show Print's history goes back over a hundred years in Nashville, Tennessee. It is now located in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Before leaving we had to stop by Hatch Show Print on the ground floor.

Their history goes back over a hundred years, but the heyday corresponded to the Opry’s Ryman days.

Many of the most iconic images of country music came out of their print shop, which was right behind the old auditorium back then.  

Hatch Show Print's history goes back over a hundred years in Nashville, Tennessee. It is now located in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

After moving a few times, and nearly closing, it has now become a part of the new Hall of Fame and is thriving, still producing show posters for yet another generation of fans.

Hatch Show Print's history goes back over a hundred years in Nashville, Tennessee. It is now located in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

By the end of the day our obvious question to ourselves was, “What took you so long?”

Well, we don’t have a good reply, but we can say that touring Nashville was well worth the wait.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

We are proud to be Viator Ambassadors

We are proud to be Viator Ambassadors – big thanks to Viator for providing this musical adventure! As always, all opinions are our own. To see more about this tour, click here.

See all of our adventures in Tennessee!

YOUR turn: Have you been to Nashville? Have you seen all of the attractions in your own backyard?

26 thoughts on “Nashville’s Greatest Hits”

  1. My daughter was in Nashville recently and enjoyed it. I’ve never been, but this post makes me think it’s time to go! I was interested to see that there’s much more to it than the Grand Ole Opry

  2. I’ve never been to Nashville, but it looks as if there’s loads to see and do there. Walking tours are a great way to see a city – as you say, even if you know a place well there’s always more to discover!

  3. I have been to Nashville once or twice, but it has been a long time, Veronica. I recall visiting musician friends for Thanksgiving in the early 1980s, and they took us backstage at the Ryman. Your pictures of the Country Music Hall of Fame have given me an urgency to visit again.

  4. I had no idea Nashville was known as the Athens of the South! That full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens is pretty incredible -as is the opportunity to listen to live music and maybe catch a performance by the next big country music star.

  5. Great intro to Nashville, a city that has never been on my radar. Now it is! We’ve been doing some close-to-home sightseeing, as well, and it’s amazing how interesting this can be.

  6. Country music was general looked down on when I was growing up in Connecticut, but I always secretly liked it. I’d love to take some time to see Nashville, and especially the Country Music Hall of Fame!

  7. Such an interesting post … I didn’t know why Nashville was called the music city – but now I do. I love your photos which depict all the gaiety and sound and energy.

  8. What a wealth of information this post is! We’ve never been to Nashville, but you’ve given us dozens of reasons to visit.

  9. Thanks for the quick trip around my hometown! Love the pix! I grew up with C & W stars and their kids all around me. It was a great life! Thanks for the memories!

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