Nashville, TN: Music City, USA

Everyone knows that Nashville is the long-time capital of country music. It also seems to be the home of 90% of the bachelorette parties in the USA. Every three minutes, an open deck party bus or a pedal-powered mobile bar slides by, with drunk girls in shredded short-shorts and knee-high cowboys boots hootin’ and hollerin’ to the music, which is inexplicably rap or rock. So, is it “Music City,” or “Party City”? Definitely both! And the crowds, my GOD, the crowds!

Every bar, every restaurant, every open window, every sidewalk features some wanna-be star doing some wanna-be hit song, with varying levels of talent. I’m guessing everyone plays for free, just hoping for that big break into everlasting stardom, when a mega-producer happens to walk by. Many of the bars have absentee celebrity part-owners with their names attached: Jason Aldean, Kid Rock, Morgan Wallen, Dierks Bentley.

If you’ve walked The Strip in Las Vegas, or Times Square in New York, that’s what the main drag of Broadway Street feels like at all hours (but especially after midnight) … people, people and more people. Buying cowboy boots at Tecovas. Lining up for hours to brunch at Biscuit Love. Crowding into Fido, a.k.a. Taylor Swift’s favorite coffee shop. Squeezing into Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, the oldest honky-tonk on Broadway (having nurtured legends like Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline), identifiable by its bright purple facade.

If you value a less obnoxious experience, hop just a block or two off Broadway, in any direction, like into Printers Alley. Stop onto the cobblestones of this historic nightclub district dating back to the 40’s for some fantastic music at Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar, get an epic hot dog at Daddy’s Dogs until the wee morning hours, catch a drag show if you’re into that, and maybe if you’re lucky, get away from every 18-member bachelorette party in matching t-shirts and pink cowboy hats with beaded fringe.

Across the city, venues like the Grand Ole Opry, Musicians Hall of Fame, and the Ryman Auditorium pay homage to the true heart and soul of the music scene. The Country Music Hall of Fame is even built in the shape of a bass clef, with front windows that look like piano keys.

The Ryman Auditorium is an iconic 1890’s-era concert venue that is considered the “Mother Church of Country Music.” Indeed, it has evolved from a place of worship, to a place where people worship music.

The Ryan actually WAS a church, before becoming a pitch-perfect venue and a “must-perform-here” location for every country singer; hence, the wooden pews and stained glass windows. This is the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

The stage has only been replaced 3 times over 130 years, and a small circle of the original stage was used as part of the stage at the Opry when they moved locations. Furthermore, the front section of the stage remains, so that those entertainers performing today can walk across the “same” stage as all the legends who came before. The light-colored section in the front is the original.

If you go, consider taking a behind-the-scenes tour. Our small group of 8 got to go literally everywhere, including star dressing rooms, audio mixing rooms, and hidden hallways, and were regaled by our guide with story after story of this magnificent place and those that have paid their respects via music.

A rainy afternoon had us (and everyone else in Nashville, it would seem) squeezing into the Johnny Cash Museum, with the Patsy Cline Museum upstairs. Their lives, music, movies and stories of fame and tragedy were on full display with the most extensive collections of their personal memorabilia.

Speaking of country legends, on our way to Nashville, we stopped at Hurricane Mills, TN, to visit Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, an enormous 3,500-acre property with tours. It was really terrific and a much-recommended road trip detour.

An exact replica of Loretta’s Butcher Holler, KY home was built-on site and filled with original momentos of her family’s life. The excellent biopic “Coal Miners Daughter” (for which Sissy Spacey did all her own singing) was filmed in this house. And, you can’t celebrate the coal miner’s daughter, without a replica coal mine.

The mansion where Loretta and her husband Doo lived out their lives is located near the original gristmill of the property. Loretta was on her way to buy another nearby property and ran across this one. Not knowing who owned it, she camped out on the porch for 2 nights until ownership could be established and she could buy it from the bank. Being impressed by their future buyer being the world-famous Loretta Lynn, the bank went ahead and sold her the entire town of Hurricane Mills along with the house.

The inside of the home is a testament to her down-home nature and filled with personal kitsch.

Other Nashville highlights included a stop at the 53rd Annual Spring Tennessee Craft Fair, a weekend juried art show held at the Parthenon at Centennial Park, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece, built in 1897. We also loved strolling the Two Rivers Greenway with the dogs, a 22-mile paved path that takes you over the Cumberland River with views of the General Jackson Paddlewheeler.

We’ve been to Nashville before, but the last time was way back in 2009, with our 10-year-old son. He’s now a strapping 6’2″, 25-year-old man!

The Nashville KOA was one of the most deluxe campgrounds we have ever stayed at, with a deluxe price tag to match. Large, tree-lined sites (some with their own fenced dog runs), family-friendly activites like “train” rides and tie-dye crafts, on-site restaurant, and tree-shaded pickleball court and lawn games. Remember my theory that aspiring country stars will play for free, anywhere that will take them ….? Well, here’s another example of that: an endless rotation of country singers, right there at the huge KOA pool. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere.

And thus ends another yee-hawww good time in an iconic country town. We’d consider staying here for a month or more to really do a deep-dive on Nashville at some future date, but for now, we’re leaving Tennessee and heading to Kentucky for bourbon and bridles!


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