Nashville City Guide


©2006 Heavenly Perspectives Nashville is a big city, but it has a welcoming, small-town feel. See more pictures of city skylines.

Nashville is where artists find their muse, where inspiration strikes and creativity thrives. You can feel that expression in this "Athens of the South" in the orchestral movements at the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center or in the rhythm of the clarinet of late at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.

If perfect harmony can be achieved anywhere, Nashville has come nearest to it over the last 200 years. A tradition began in 1811 when a fiddler and buck dancer, Davy Crockett, came to middle Tennessee. And it never stopped: The folk ensemble Fisk Jubilee Singers began touring in 1871, gospel hymns were sung at the Ryman Auditorium by 1892, and country's Grand Ole Opry started broadcasting in 1925.

City Skylines Image Gallery

Today, the "Nashville Sound" is heard all over the world, but it can't be defined by its lyrics or melodies anymore. As a $2-billion-a-year business, it's still about captivating them all. It's the visitors to Music City USA who are among its most loyal audience. That's the genius behind Nashville.

Insider's Guide: The Best Of Nashville

Both classical and country, Nashville is as uptown as a Stradivarius violin and as down-home as a Martin guitar. It's where architecture is as rustic as a log cabin at Fort Nashborough or as modern as the Grand Ole Opry House. It's where the famous are more likely to wear baseball caps and sneakers than ten-gallon hats and boots.

Nashville is a big city that feels like a small community, where executives on Music Row form partnerships to the legislators working hard on Capitol Hill. It's where joint names are made in industries such as publishing, medicine, or automobile sales.

It's also where vacations are mostly shared experiences, whether it's a family reunion or a girlfriend's getaway. Whatever the collaboration, there are some not-to-be-missed attractions in Nashville: the Ryman Auditorium, the winter home of the Grand Ole Opry; The Hermitage, the mansion where President Andrew Jackson once lived; the Parthenon, a reproduction of the one in Greece; and the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, where the music's finest are inducted and celebrated.

©2006 Randy Piland The Grand Ole Opry is a legendary country music venue.

Together, Nashville has all the makings of a destination where there's something for everyone: professional sports like the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL) to the Nashville Predators of the National Hockey League (NHL); museums such as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and Fisk University's Car Van Vechten Gallery; retailers like Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton; famous restaurants and bars such as the Loveless Cafe and the Bluebird Cafe;, and historic landmarks like the Belle Meade Plantation and the Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum.

Fast Facts & Info

Fast Facts & Info

Geography and landscape: When you think of urban sprawl, it isn't usually associated with Nashville. Yet with 533 square miles, it has the second-highest land mass of a major metro area in America. So if you want to cover more ground, you'll definitely need dependable transportation.

Nashville is mostly flat, with its smallest grade at 550 feet and the tallest at 1,100 feet around the rim of the basin. That makes it a comfortable walking city, especially around Broadway and First Avenue through about Eighth Avenue. You'll need your energy, though, going up and down Capitol Hill.

The low-lying Cumberland River also winds through Nashville like its fourth major Interstate. Since the earliest settlers arrived on Christmas Day 1779 on flatboats, it has been navigated by barges to the Delta Queen paddle wheeler. For recreation, there are two nearby manmade lakes --- Old Hickory and Percy Priest --- as well as the reservoir of Radnor Lake.

General orientation: It's important to remember that the Cumberland River is virtually to the east, along with its five bridges. Be aware that the downtown grid system isn't the best to follow because some streets simply stop while others change their names abruptly. Most downtown streets are one way. Play it safe and carry a map with you.

The newest is the Gateway Bridge, which leads to the Coliseum and the home turf of the NFL team the Tennessee Titans. The other markers to help you navigate are the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge, the Woodland Street Bridge, the Victory Memorial Bridge, and the Jefferson Street Bridge.

Broadway is the main thoroughfare in Nashville, which takes you east from the circle of flags and dead-ends at Riverfront Park, alongside the Cumberland River where it forks left into 21st Avenue/Hillsboro Pike and right into West End Avenue/Harding Road. Many of the side streets intersect with at least one of these avenues.

The interstates are, presumably, the fastest routes to get around Nashville, including Interstate 40 (East and West) and both Interstate 24 and Interstate 65 (North and South). There's also the inner beltway of Interstate 440 to the city, along with Interstate 840 making a southern outer loop between Interstate 40, Interstate 24, and Interstate 65.

Safety: Maybe it's Southern hospitality, but Nashville was ranked as the friendliest city in the United States in 2004. Yet, that doesn't mean that visitors shouldn't follow basic safety precautions.

Nashvillians are more than willing to give directions when asked or offer to lend a hand when someone is in trouble. They are mostly good neighbors, but you don't want to take chances late at night beyond the restaurant district in East Nashville and farther than Germantown in North Nashville.

As in anywhere, tourists must always think "safety first." Keep doors and windows locked in hotels and automobiles and valuables out of the reach of petty criminals. Nashville's officers are usually out in force around Broadway, near the hangouts and where most major events are held.

Climate/weather: With four distinct seasons, the climate in Nashville is mostly pleasant throughout the year. The average temperatures range from a brisk 28 degrees Fahrenheit in January to a blazing 90 degrees Fahrenheit in July.

Spring is when Nashville is at its greenest and bluest, with the lush lawns of Centennial Park abloom with daffodils, irises (the official state flower), and tulips under clear skies. It's also when sudden rain showers appear, though, so bring an umbrella or hooded jacket, especially for those weeks.

Many are just pop-up clouds, but others can become violent downpours. And, it can also be tornado time, when you should heed the warnings of the TV meteorologists and the loud warning sirens. Never attempt to ride out tornadoes or other stormy weather.

Autumn is a great time for watching the leaves change colors, from garnet reds to topaz-like gold, and for rummaging through pumpkin patches from Franklin to Lebanon. There might be enough of a chill in the air to wear a sweater at night, but it's only breezy by day.

©2006 Gary Layda Autumn in Nashville is highlighted by Tennessee Titans football at the Coliseum.

Tourists should pack their lightest and most absorbent clothes for June, July, and August. This is the swelter season in Nashville, when the humidity and heat index cause the mercury to rise to up to 95 to 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit. If you attend any festivals, make sure to keep a bottle of water, visor, sunscreen, and sunglasses with you.

Winter arrives in January with the first snowfall, which normally only accumulates between one to three inches. Since the temperatures hover around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it often melts and re-freezes with ice on the roads. At those times, you should drive with extreme caution on side streets. Since Nashville's weather isn't always this predictable, check with the National Weather Service before you head out.

You'll also need to know exactly how to get where you're going before embarking on any tourist excursions. Getting around Nashville is relatively easy, especially if you choose to tour the city on foot. See the next section for more tips on navigating Nashville.

Getting In, Getting Around Nashville

©2006 Barry M. Winkler Plan your sightseeing around Nashville's rush hours so that the streets are clear for you.

Be sure to carry a map with you while touring Nashville, and try to take advantage of the city's reasonably priced public transportation system. The following Nashivlle transporation primer should get you going in the right direction.

From the Airport

Rental car: A car is essential for getting around Nashville, and you can rent yours onsite at the Nashville International Airport. Eight major car rental companies have check-in desks located on Level 1 of the airport. The rental cars are conveniently located in a covered area adjacent to the terminal building.

Taxis: Taxis will be waiting for you in a designated area for ground transportation (follow the signs). From the airport, the meter starts at $4.50 and the rate is $2 per mile. A flat rate of $22 is charged to take a passenger to downtown Nashville and the Mobil Three-Star Opryland Hotel area. Be aware that there's an extra charge for large bags.

Public transportation: For early birds, the Gray Line Airport Express departs from the Nashville International Airport every 15 to 20 minutes beginning at 5 am and runs until 11 pm. The one-way fee is $12, with frequent stops, while a round-trip costs $22. You can board the express at the lower level of the airport's ground transportation area.

The Nashville Metro Transit Authority Bus Route 18 makes nine trips each weekday between downtown Nashville and the airport, and four times daily on Saturday and Sunday. A one-way fare costs $1.25. The Route 18 schedule is available at the airport's Welcome Center, located on the baggage claim level.

Driving In

Rush hour: Nashville is a relatively easy city to drive in for visitors. Yet, construction is always going on somewhere, which is Rule No.1 to know before taking the on-ramps to Interstates 40, 24, and 65. The work is often postponed until late at night or even suspended during major holidays.

You should know that Interstates 65, 40, and 24 intersect, making Tennessee one of only six states in which three such thoroughfares converge. So that also brings more wayfarers into Nashville.

Study the Nashville map carefully so you'll know which exits to get off at once you see vehicles backing up on the freeways. And if you stay in the middle lanes, you can make faster decisions around the trickiest Interstate 40 and Interstate 65 splits around Broadway, Second Avenue, and Demonbreun and along the Interstate 440 and Interstate 840 beltways.

Jamming takes on new meaning in Nashville at rush hours, which usually are from 7 am to 9 am and 4 pm to 6 pm Monday through Friday. Arrange your itinerary so you won't be on the interstates during those times, and you won't be stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Rules of the road: Nashville's roads haven't kept pace with the town's expansion and might be difficult to navigate if you aren't familiar with them. Out-of-town drivers should be aware that most downtown streets are one way and some signs are poorly posted. Some streets simply stop and others change their names abruptly. Right turns on red lights are legal, unless a sign says otherwise.

 

Many of the special parking meter lanes in downtown Nashville have no or restricted parking during rush hours, and cars left there during these times will be towed away. Instead, park in the 24-hour public parking garage at the junction of First Street South and Broadway.

Getting Around Town

Public transportation: For a less costly method of transportation, some visitors take the Nashville Metro Transit Authority

(MTA), which operates bus services in the greater Nashville area. An all-day pass is $3.75 for passengers 20 and older, which is a bargain compared to the $1.25 one-way fare. Single tickets for youth (19 to 5 years old) cost 70 cents; senior citizens (age 65 and older) and the disabled pay 60 cents. If you're staying a week in Music City, then go for the $17 seven-day pass. MTA even has bike racks on the front of its vehicles, which are complimentary.

   

During football season, from August to December, MTA has an "End-Zone Express" for $6 for the roundtrip on game days from the Yellow Route (departs from 4th Ave N and Harrison St) and Green Route (534 Chestnut St from Greer Stadium) satellite parking lots for the Tennessee Titans.

Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Several taxi services are available in Nashville, but it's easier to call ahead than to hail one on the street. There are few waiting even at major attractions. Cab companies have a base rate of $3, with an extra $2 per mile. An additional fee of $1 will be charged for up to six passengers. The available cab companies include Allied Cab (615-244-7333), Nashville Cab (615-242-7070), Metro Cab, Music City Taxi (615-742-3030), and Yellow Cab Metro (615-256-0101).

Downtown Nashville is quite small and easily managed on foot. Bike riding is another option for getting around Nashville. The city has many parks popular for cycling, and it's a common sight to see groups of cyclists riding around. The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge offers a wonderful scenic view of downtown Nashville and the Cumberland River and is open to pedestrians and cyclists every day from sunrise to sunset.

You can rent road or mountain bikes at Cumberland Transit (2807 West End Ave, 615-321-4069) near Centennial Park, and the business will also give you maps of bike trails in the area.

Now that you know how to get around Nashville, you can start thinking about taking advantage of all there is to do. Nashville's major attractions include the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Parthenon, the Belle Meade Plantation, and more. See the next page for our suggestions on experiencing Nashville's special events and attractions.

 

Nashville Special Events & Attractions

©2006 Peyton Hoge The entire family will enjoy the hands-on exhibits at the Adventure Science Center.

Nashville is a happening place with all of its year-round activities and major attractions to visit. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Belle Ryman Auditorium, the Adventure Science Center, and the Parthenon are just some of the key places that will keep you busy for hours.

There's so much to see that you could split your time between downtown Nashville and the Opryland area, northeast of the city center. The Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau (501 Broadway) is a good place to start because it offers a variety of passes allowing discounted entry to Nashville's major attractions.

For visitors, the best time to come to Nashville depends on what really interests you: pro and college sports games (usually August to March); car races (April until September); major antiques and garden shows (February to March); music festivals (April, June, and September); opera, theater, ballet, and symphony orchestras (September until May), and juried arts and crafts festivals (May and June).

Insider's Guide:

The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Nashville

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (222 Fifth Ave South) is a $37 million facility featuring more than 40,000 square feet of exhibition space detailing the chronological journey of the history of country music. The tour takes three hours and features 1 million items from country music's back porch beginnings through the heyday of the Grand Ole Opry to today.

You'll see Elvis Presley's Gold Cadillac and Patsy Cline's cowboy boots. A two-story glass wall displays every gold and platinum record ever to make the country music charts. Live music is played daily in the atrium, and a 214-seat theater features a digital film presentation on country music.

Ryman Auditorium (116 Fifth Ave North) is the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and still puts on all kinds of musical shows each evening. During the daytime, visitors can tour the auditorium and stand on the stage to hear stories of when Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and other country legends performed there early in their careers. Memorabilia like stage outfits and guitars also are on display.

The Adventure Science Center (800 Fort Negley Blvd) features numerous hands-on exhibits and daily displays based on science topics, including earth science, creativity and imagination, sound and light, air and space, and health and energy. One popular attraction is a simulated flight over Nashville. The center's planetarium also features films, such as explaining the "Skies Over Nashville."

The Parthenon (2600 West End Ave) is a replica of Greece's most famous building and now houses Nashville's art museum. The replica was made of plaster for the Tennessee Centennial in 1897 and was later reconstructed in concrete aggregate. As in the original, there is not a straight horizontal or vertical line, and no two columns are placed the same distance apart. And a 41-foot recreated statue of the goddess, Athena, is also a popular item to visit. This statue took eight years to build onsite.

The Belle Meade Plantation (5025 Harding Rd) features a Greek-Revival mansion surrounded by 30 acres of manicured lawns and shade trees. The restored building has been furnished with 19th-century antiques. Costumed guides can give visitors a three-hour tour of the grounds to show them what life was like in the mid-1800s.

©2006 Robin Hood

The Nashville Toy Museum (161 8th Ave North, 615-742-5678) features unique displays of antique toys, including German and English bears from the early 1900s and 1,000 lead soldiers in battle dioramas. The train room has more than 250 toy and model locomotives and two train layouts depicting Tennessee in the 1930s and Britain at the turn of the century.

The Music Valley Wax Museum of the Stars (2515 McGavock Pkwy, 615-883-3612) has more than 50 lifelike wax figures of famous stars dressed in authentic costumes. In front of the building is the Sidewalk of the Stars, in which the hand and foot imprints and signatures of more than 250 stars are embedded in the concrete.

Bring your barbecue grill for tailgating around the 68,000-seat Coliseum (1 Titans Way), an outdoor stadium set on the Cumberland River with a great view of downtown Nashville. This stadium is home to the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League.

 

The roar of the engines is never louder than on the 1.33-mile tri-oval concrete track at the Nashville Superspeedway (4847-F McCrary Rd, Lebanon). Besides the two NASCAR Busch Series contests, the Superspeedway also hosts the Indy Racing League and NASCAR Craftsman Trucks before a 150,000-seat grandstand. This is only one of three concrete tracks on the NASCAR circuit.

The Music City Raceway (3302 Ivy Point Rd, Goodlettsville) is the place to catch National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag-racing action. The drag strip, known as Nashville's Playground of Power, has races on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday between March and October.

From alternative fuel vehicles to microcars, Lane Motor Museum (702 Murfreesboro Pike) has some of the most unusual inventions on wheels. Some of the 150 on display are prototypes, making this a one-of-a-kind experience.

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (598 James Robertson Pkwy) covers 19 acres and contains 31 fountains, corresponding to the main rivers of Tennessee, and a vast granite map of the state. The park also has walks, a Wall of History, an amphitheater, and good views, especially leading up to the Capitol itself.

The Tennessee Walking Horse Museum (183 Main St, Lynchburg; 931-759-5747) features the history of the Tennessee walking horse through the use of interactive videos, hands-on exhibits, and other displays. The Tennessee walking horse is considered the world's premier breed of show horse for its unusual high-step walking gait. 

The annual Tennessee Walking-Horse National Celebration is held each August, and many Tennessee walkers can be seen going through their paces at various other annual shows in the Nashville area throughout the year.

While most people know about Nashville's country music scene, many don't realize that the city is a major center for other arts and cultural outlets. On the next page, we detail Nashville's many cultural offerings.

Nashville Arts & Culture

©2006 Scott Thomas The Frist Center is always changing, with traveling exhibits and rotating displays.

Nashville, otherwise known as "the Athens of the South," is undergoing a renaissance, not unlike the one it experienced in the 1800s when many of its colleges and universities were established. In 2006, the American Arts Association named Nashville as the No. 6 city in the United States for its volume of nonprofit cultural arts organizations.

The Nashville Symphony Orchestra also has a reputation as one of the leading city orchestras in the southeast. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the first state-funded facility of its kind in the nation, is home to the Nashville Ballet, the Nashville Opera, and the Tennessee Repertory Theatre.

In the area of visual arts, Nashville is a citywide gallery of creativity with such places as Cheekwood Museum of Art, a cultural arts center and a physically impressive gallery, and the Van Vechten Gallery at Fisk University, which houses more than 100 pieces from artists like Picasso, Renoir, and O'Keeffe.

With a broad stroke, Nashville is also painting the town with a new sculpture going in at Riverfront Park. And, you'll notice the funky-designed catfish and guitars outside some businesses, along with wacky "Arts In the Airport" works at the Nashville International Airport.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Nashville

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Nashville

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts (919 Broadway) has grandeur, with its black, grey, cream, and silver Art Deco motif inside the former Nashville U.S. Post Office. The rotating displays (every six to eight weeks) are just as stunning, along with traveling exhibits that last a few months. The only permanent gallery is ArtQuest, which has about 30 hands-on activities for the whole family. The gift shop is also one of Nashville's best in a museum, where you can get the Spirit of Nashville prints of historical landmarks to intricate beadwork.

The Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art (1200 Forest Park Dr) was once a private home and estate of the Cheek family, but it now houses a cultural center complex on 55 acres. The site includes a museum with a permanent collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art and a Botanic Hall with an atrium of tropical flora and changing plant exhibits.

Think globally at the Hartzler-Towner Cultural Museum at Scarritt Bennett Center (1104 19th Ave S), where selected masks, textile designs, and pottery are on view in the Laskey Building. The collection consists of several thousand objects from around the world and other artifacts pertaining to different ethnicities and cultures.

For religious art, there's a wooden 8-foot-by-17-foot carving of "The Last Supper" based on Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece at The Upper Room Chapel (1908 Grand Ave) along with a striking 9,000-mosaic stained glass World Christian Fellowship Window. The museum at the Upper Room also has outstanding religious works, besides two annual displays of nearly 70 Ukrainian Easter eggs in April and more than 100 Nativity scenes in December.

The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery (West End and 21st Ave S) showcases six exhibitions each year that represent Eastern and Western art and an international collection of works. A portion of the gallery space is frequently dedicated to the exhibition of selected works from the permanent collection.

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (505 Deaderick St) is the first state-funded facility of its kind in the nation and is home to the Nashville Ballet, the Nashville Opera Association, and the Tennessee Repertory Theatre. The arts center occupies an entire city block, and its venues include Andrew Jackson Hall (2,472 seats), the James Polk Theater (1,075 seats), the Andrew Jackson Theater (256 seats), and the War Memorial Auditorium (1,661 seats).

Nashville is home to country music, but it also features the Nashville Symphony Orchestra at Schermerhorn Symphony Center (One Symphony Place). The center, which is named in honor of Kenneth Schermerhorn, the orchestra's late music director and conductor, also houses the Laura Turner Concert Hall.

Visitors to Nashville will have a hard time missing such architectural standouts as the Parthenon. Find out about all the can't-miss landmarks on the next page.

Nashville Architecture & Landmarks

©2006 Bob Schatz Belmont Mansion was designed in the style of an Italian villa in the 1850s.

Nashville has a respect for its past and shows it by restoring and maintaining such older buildings as the Tennessee State Capitol, Belmont Mansion, the Governor's Residence, and the Village Chapel. The Parthenon in Centennial Park might not be the city's most original building, since its an exact copy of the Athens original, but its detailed pristine facade and statue of goddess Athena are worth visiting.

The Ryman Auditorium, the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, is an engineering marvel, considering it was completed in 1882, and its interior is acoustically flawless.

The city's history includes working plantations in its heyday in the 1800s, which can be relived through tours of the Belle Meade Plantation, The Hermitage, and the Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum.

Some structures, like President James K. Polk's home near the Capitol, were razed long ago and didn't escape the wrecking ball. The city, however, still has dozens of older buildings that are well preserved and accessible.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Nashville

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Nashville

The Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum (636 Farrell Pkwy) is the oldest mansion in Nashville. The honorable Judge John Overton, who also established the city of Memphis in 1819 with Andrew Jackson, started building it in 1799, but it wasn't finished until six phases later over the next 50 years. It has period furniture, records, and letters, and the building reflects the history and development of early Tennessee.

The Hermitage (4580 Rachel's Ln) is the place to learn about seventh U.S. President Andrew Jackson. It has authentic 1800s-era furnishings, which are more than 95 percent original to the family. You will see the General's writing table, the exact wallpaper First Lady Rachel Jackson selected for the foyer, and the bed in which the President lay dying. Take the wagon tour of slave quarters, which have been reconstructed just as the Jackson farmhouse will be over the next few years.

The love story of the Jacksons is one of the most romantic of the presidents. After a smear campaign in the election of 1824, Rachel was buried that Christmas Eve in their private garden at the Hermitage just weeks before a heart-broken Jackson was inaugurated. He never wed again, and he was later entombed beside her.

Belmont Mansion (1900 Belmont Blvd, on the campus of Belmont University) was built in the 1850s and was once considered one of the finest private residences in the United States. This 19th-century Italian Villa-style mansion has original marble statues, Venetian glass, paintings, and 15 rooms open for public tours.

Belle Meade Plantation (5025 Harding Rd) is a good example of the South's Greek Revival Ante-Bellem architecture. The property includes an 1853 mansion that was restored with many Victorian features, an 1890 carriage house and stable, and a 1790 log cabin, which is one of the oldest in the state. The plantation also was a horse-breeding farm.

Fort Nashborough (170 First Ave N, 615-862-8400) is patterned after the pioneer fort established seven blocks from this site in 1779.  It's about one-fourth the size of the original on the actual grounds, which were settled by the North Carolinians led by James Robertson and John Donelson (father of Rachel Jackson). The five primitive log cabins have markers that explain the interiors, along with hardships they faced that winter.

Sam Davis Home (1399 Sam Davis Rd, 615-459-2341) is a stately house and 168-acre working farm preserved as a memorial to Sam Davis, a Confederate scout caught behind Union lines and tried as a spy. He died at the gallows instead of revealing information.

The State Capitol (600 Charlotte Ave) is a Greek Revival building that has an 80-foot tower that rises above the city and columns at its ends and sides. Architect William Strickland died before the building was finished in 1859, and his body is entombed within the building's northeast wall. This building was used as Fortress Andrew Jackson during Union occupation of Nashville from 1862 to 1865. The building currently houses the governor's offices, the chambers of state senate, and the House of Representatives and Constitutional offices.

In the buckle of the Bible belt, the architecture of several Nashville's churches can be a notch above others in the South. One house of worship to visit is the Downtown Presbyterian Church (154 5th Ave N) for its outstanding example of Egyptian Revival architecture, including symbolic paintings and ornate columns. Architect William Strickland, who built the Tennessee State Capitol, designed this church in 1851.

First Baptist Church (900 James Robertson Pkwy) was one of three churches that descended from the First Colored Baptist Church and served as an important meeting place for leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (James Robertson Pkwy) honored Tennessee's 200th anniversary in 1996 on the symbolic site. The Wall of History has the milestones, including a break in its rock around the Civil War for the "Great Divide" in the state when it left the Union. The granite map of Tennessee depicts all 95 counties, while the 31 spraying fountains represent its rivers.

©2006 Cynthia Tanksely Architect William Strickland died before his masterpiece -- the Tennessee State Capitol -- was completed.

The Cameron-Trimble Neighborhood (bounded by Fourth Ave S, Lafayette St, and the railroad tracks near Brown's Creek in south Nashville) is the oldest surviving African-American neighborhood in Nashville. The name Trimble comes from the owner of the plantation once situated here and on which the Colored Troops of the Army of Cumberland began their December 1864 attack on General Hood's Confederate Troops in Nashville.

Music Row (16th and 17th aves S, between Division St and Music Square) houses several buildings considered the headquarters of America's country music industry. The Row includes about 180 studios, 130 publishers, and 80 labels. In the modern offices, you'll see such entertainment corporations as Sony Music, BMG, MCA/Universal, and Curb, in addition to performing rights organizations like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC. Yet, the "row houses" -- which give Music Row its name -- are often leased by independents.

The RCA Studio B (222 5th Ave S) is the studio where Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Rimes, and Billy Ray Cyrus have recorded country music hits.

If you'd rather shop than view architectural landmarks, we have some tips on the next page.

©2006 Cynthia Tanksely Architect William Strickland died before his masterpiece -- the Tennessee State Capitol -- was completed.

The Cameron-Trimble Neighborhood (bounded by Fourth Ave S, Lafayette St, and the railroad tracks near Brown's Creek in south Nashville) is the oldest surviving African-American neighborhood in Nashville. The name Trimble comes from the owner of the plantation once situated here and on which the Colored Troops of the Army of Cumberland began their December 1864 attack on General Hood's Confederate Troops in Nashville.

Music Row (16th and 17th aves S, between Division St and Music Square) houses several buildings considered the headquarters of America's country music industry. The Row includes about 180 studios, 130 publishers, and 80 labels. In the modern offices, you'll see such entertainment corporations as Sony Music, BMG, MCA/Universal, and Curb, in addition to performing rights organizations like BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC. Yet, the "row houses" -- which give Music Row its name -- are often leased by independents.

The RCA Studio B (222 5th Ave S) is the studio where Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Lee Ann Rimes, and Billy Ray Cyrus have recorded country music hits.

If you'd rather shop than view architectural landmarks, we have some tips on the next page.

Nashville Shopping

©2006 Opry Mills Opry Mills has it all, featuring 200 stores as well as dining and entertainment options.

Nashvillians like to splurge, but they also appreciate a bargain. For upscale shopping, the well-off go to Green Hills and Brentwood Shopping Districts. You will also find dozens of malls in the Nashville area, all featuring a series of specialty shops and standard department stores. The economical crowd likes to haggle at the nearly 125 thrift shops all over the metro area. Where you should go to shop depends on how much money you have to spend and how much time is left on your agenda.

Some celebrities have opened specialty shops to help you buy anything from unique glassware to designer duds. For big-ticket items, Nashville's got it made. In middle Tennessee, they assemble Nissan and Saturn automobiles, Gibson guitars, Dell computers, Hartmann luggage, and Bridgestone and Firestone tires. Unfortunately, those won't fit into your suitcase.  

Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Nashville

Nashville's fashionistas go to the newly expanded Mall at Green Hills (2126 Abbott Martin Rd) for Tiffany, L'Occitane, Betsey Johnson, Louis Vuitton, Williams-Sonoma, Abercrombie & Fitch, bebe, and Lucky Brand Jeans. Don't miss Nashville's own posh clothing boutiques like Gus Mayer, My Friend's Place, and Lillie Rubin, also located there.

The well-heeled shopper goes to the Opry Mills (433 Opry Mills Dr). This 1.2-million-square-foot shopping, dining, and entertainment complex has 200 stores ranging from high-end retail to clothing bargain outlets.

The Bellevue Center (7620 US Hwy 70 S) features 90-plus specialty stores, like Bayou Buggies and Creative Crafters. An indoor playground will keep kids busy while mom shops.

Hickory Hollow Mall (5252 Hickory Hollow Pkwy) features 200-plus stores ranging from department to bargain retail, such as Sears, The Gap, and Dillard's department store. It's considered one of the largest shopping centers in the city for a premium shopping experience.

Rivergate Mall (1000 Rivergate Pkwy) has 150-plus stores and offers a VIP coupon book for serious shoppers who plan to spend some time there.

A few celebrity-owned boutiques include Crystal's (4550 Harding Rd), which sells exquisitely cut glassware by vocalist Crystal Gayle.

Manuel is the dazzling designer of Nashville, as nobody can make a rhinestone, turquoise, or sequin-studded jacket like him. He's made couture for everyone from country music singers Keith Urban to Dwight Yoakum at his Manuel Exclusive Clothiers (1922 Broadway).

Finding nightlife and entertainment in Music City seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, there are places to seek out over others, so check out the next section for suggestions.

Nashville Nightlife & Entertainment

©2006 Barry M. Winkler Even if country music isn't your thing, you should still check out the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum while visiting Nashville.

Music City USA is where the song never ends, and not just because it's a recording capital. There are so many varieties of tunes being written in Nashville, along with the artists who interpret them. There's likely enough rock, jazz, bluegrass, country, and gospel to go around forever.

Nashville is in another "pop explosion," since several lead vocalists like Leigh Nash (formerly of Sixpence None the Richer) and Matt Kearney are getting onto the mainstream charts. And Faith Hill and Martina McBride are among those also thought of as adult contemporary artists. Not to mention those who have laid tracks here before, such as India Arie to Jimmy Buffett to Matchbox Twenty.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Nashville

Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Nashville

If you have a song in your heart, then get it on paper. Go to a workshop to hear composers (every Saturday at noon) at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum (222 Fifth Ave). This 130,000-square-foot building faces a 3-acre park and has an 11,000-square-foot conservatory. Each year, musical artists are elected to the hall of fame by 200 of their peers, and their plaque is hung in the hall. Admission to the building is free, and you can view three floors of exhibits.

Traditional honky tonks like The Stage (412 Broadway, 615-726-0504) feature an amazing blend of country, southern rock, and good ol' rock 'n' roll. The Legends Corner (428 Broadway) is considered a tried-and-true honky-tonk saloon with its country music record covers on the walls and contemporary acts making their mark on the stage. The extensive drink menu and cold beers keep people coming back -- that, and its late hours until 3 am.

Whether you like your "Honky Tonk Ba Donk A Donk" (ala Trace Adkins) or Boot Scootin' Boogie (as do Brooks & Dunn), you can get in on free country line dancing lessons at the Wildhorse Saloon (120 Second Ave). Lessons are usually available about 6 pm on Monday through Friday or at noon on Saturday and 2 pm on Sundays. If you don't want to dance, you can sit back and listen to country music's biggest stars perform.

Make the rounds of Music City USA for blues at B.B. King's Blues Club & Restaurant (152 Second Ave N). This is a jazzy joint that will treat your eardrums with quality jazz and blues tunes and your taste buds with such treats as fried chicken, Sonoma white cheddar mac 'n' cheese, and cornbread pudding.

The Mercy Lounge (1 Cannery Row) features national acts in this club with a laidback atmosphere, pristine hardwood floors, vintage couches, and two S-shaped bars. You can catch a band in the front room, meet friends or fellow travelers for drinks at the main bar, or head to the back room for red-felt pool tables and vintage pinball machines.

The Coco Loco Nightclub Lounge (4600 Nolensville Pike) is a tropical-themed dance club that serves a good mojito drink. You can dance to the salsa or merengue amid fake palm trees and neon pink, green, and blue lamps. The dance floor takes up over half of the room.

The Tin Roof (1516 Demonbreun St) is a rockin' nightspot that hosts live bands six nights a week -- everything from classic to contemporary rock to country. The bar has a casual atmosphere and brightly colored beer glasses with the slogan, "Stolen from the Tin Roof."

CountryMonkey (201 Woodland St) has 15,000 square feet to keep country, rock, and blue grass music fans happy, and its bistro menu serves quality dishes like fried green tomatoes, pot roast with corn cakes, and Cajun-spiced pasta.

The Yazoo Brewing Company (1200 Clinton St, Suite 110) is a local microbrewery that offers four homemade ales and a list of specially designed brews. The menu also includes gourmet cheese with fresh Tuscan bread and seasonal fruit.

Excess/Orbit (9091/2 Church St, 615-255-4331) features an upstairs club called Excess with a dry bar and dimly lit dance area surrounded with mirrors. Orbit is a basement-like downstairs club with low ceilings and black lights. The big draw is that it's the place to go for late-late-late night dancing between 3:30 am and 5 am.

Or just sit still and laugh at Zanie's Comedy Showplace (2025 8th Ave S), where the one-time champ John Heffron of NBC's Last Comic Standing first auditioned for the program.

Celebrity-watching can be done at restaurants from Green Hills to Franklin, including Mobil Three-Star Merchant's (401 Broadway) and Granite Falls (2000 Broadway), but you're just as likely to get a sighting at Nashville's International Airport. Musicians are always taking flights before and after their weekend gigs.

Be sure to take a breather from all the high-octane entertainment and have a slow-paced day. The next section offers suggestions on how to relax and unwind in Nashville.

Relaxing & Unwinding in Nashville

©2006 Byron JorJorian You'll find scores of unique animals at the Nashville Zoo.

Nashville can be an ideal place for some laidback moments if you know where to go. The pace can be slower here at times, so you can take it even easier on a vacation. Nobody is in a rush going through the wildflowers in April, when they have a spa treatment in June, diving into a pool in August, or looking at the fall foliage in October.

The Nashville area is filled with numerous state parks, botanical gardens, and plantation grounds that are great for strolling on a nice afternoon. It might seem tough to imagine, but Nashville also has its share of golf courses and biking opportunities.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Nashville

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Nashville

For a personal retreat, Scarritt Bennett Center (1008 19th Ave S) is like a slice of heaven. At the Gothic-like cathedral with dormitories, you can meditate. And just having a quiet lunch in its Dining Hall is tranquil. Walk in its outdoor labyrinth at the gardens, or get a deep-tissue massage in your room. Scarritt Bennett also has "Taize" music and prayer to "quiet the mind, open the heart, and feed the soul." What is offered is non-denominational, but you can talk with advisors about your beliefs.

Radnor Lake State Natural Area (1160 Otter Creek Rd) includes 1,100 acres of forest preserves with an 85-acre lake and some of the highest hills in the Nashville Basin. The area provides scenic, biological, and geological areas for hiking, observation, photography, and studying nature.

Old Hickory Lake (6 miles northeast of Nashville on Cumberland Dr) is a 22,000-acre lake with 440 miles of shoreline, eight marinas, and many opportunities for riding a pleasure boat, sailboat, or personal watercraft.

J Percy Priest Lake (3737 Bell Rd, 11 miles east of Nashville off of Interstate 40) is the place for waterskiing, fishing, boating, and picknicking. You can also tour a visitor center.

The Cheekwood Botanical Garden (1200 Forest Park Dr) includes 55 acres with five gardens specializing in dogwood, wildflowers, herbs, daffodils, roses, and tulips. A Botanic Hall has an atrium of tropical flora and changing plant exhibits.

Tour the Nashville Zoo (3777 Nolensville Rd), where time stands still for animals like the lorikeets, gibbons, and elands. Wile away the day at the new Giraffe Savannah and Alligator Cove, with the rhinoceros hornbills and the red pandas on the Bamboo Trail, or the Saki monkeys at the Critter Encounters.

Designed by Gary Roger Baird, the Ted Rhodes Golf Course (1901 Ed Temple Blvd) features wide fairways, spreading greens, and a number of difficult water hazards on its 18-hole, par-72 public course. The Two Rivers Golf Course (3150 McGavok Pike) is a historic golf course situated in the Opryland area of Nashville. This 18-hole, par-71 course has several challenging putting greens.

Whether you prefer a horse-drawn carriage or a mini-bus, there are plenty of ways to see Nashville. Learn about the city's organized tours on the next page.

Nashville Organized Tours Overview

©2006 Gary Layda The General Jackson Showboat travels to Riverfront Park during its tour.

Nashville loves to show people around, which is why the number of guided tours has increased in the past few years. Everybody has an angle, a different take on where to go to "see Tennessee." You'll observe more of the city, though, if you take one of the mini-buses.

Clip-clop through Nashville in a horse-drawn Southern Comfort Carriage, where up to four people can ride at once. The carriage also will take you back and forth to your hotel.        

"The King of the Cumberland" is none other than the General Jackson Showboat (2812 Opryland Dr), which plies the waters to Riverfront Park before returning to its docks at Opry Mills. Come for the Broadway-style entertainment, which is at its finest at night with the three-course meals. It's more informal at lunch, where the spotlight is on one or two country acts.

To go up the lazy river, take the RiverBarge Excursions, which has roundtrip eight-day cruises to and from Nashville along the Cumberland River with ports like Florence, Alabama, and Clarksville, Tennessee. If you'd like to be a modern-day Huck Finn, it also makes voyages to and from Nashville and to Louisville and Cincinnati throughout the year.   

On an introductory tour, you can become oriented to Nashville while leaving the driving to someone else. Grand Ole Opry Tours (2812 Opryland Dr) knows its subject very well, since it has been around since 1952.

Gray Line Tours (2416 Music Valley Dr, Suite 102) can also escort you beyond the downtown to places like Lynchburg (and the Jack Daniels Distillery) through middle Tennessee. The red trolleys, including the "Dolly Trolley" that go to Music Row are also operated by Gray Line Tours. Like the famous bar, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, from whence it's named, Tootsie's Tours (422 Broadway, 615-207-3999) will acquaint you with colorful Nashville characters.

As the Jugg Sisters say, "hang onto your wigs and spandex" while you're riding their Big Pink Bus during the NashTrash Tours (Nashville Farmers Market). Yes, they can get a little risque -- and they advise leaving the 13 and younger kids elsewhere because they know all the Music Row gossip. Besides, you've got to learn how to make their Mama-Knock-Ya-Nekkid Margaritas.

Stepping out in Nashville can be done day or night. On the Downtown Historical Walking Tour, you'll get to know the pioneers, politicians, and performers through See Music City Tours (Fifth & Broadway, departing from the glass tower of the Gaylord Entertainment Center).

In the evening, there are "intoxicating" tales from the Haunted Tavern Tours (the origin changes nightly). The minimum age is 21 for the pub crawl, and you'll have to buy your own round of drinks. More spirits are lurking during Nashville Ghost Tours (corner of 6th Ave N and Union St across from the Mobil Five-Star The Hermitage Hotel), especially through spooky Printer's Alley. In Franklin, shadowy figures abound from the Civil War on the Ghosts and Gore Tour, which meets at the atrium between Sandy's Downtown Grille and Meridee's Breadbasket.

If you want to know what goes into making whiskey, then take a Jack Daniels Distillery Tour (Interstate 55, about 26 miles southwest of Lynchburg). Founded in 1866, this is the oldest registered distillery in the United States. Like a neighborhood bar, the last call for reservations is about 30 minutes before closing.

Two auto manufacturing plants will let you inside, including Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation in nearby Smyrna (983 Nissan Dr, 615-459-1963), and GM Spring Hill Manufacturing in Spring Hill (100 Saturn Parkway).

Before you pack your bags and guitar case, take a look at the next section for suggestions on where to stay in Nashville.

Nashville Hotels Guide

©2006 Barry M. Winkler Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center features indoor tropical gardens, championship golfing, riverboat cruises, and many other amenities.

Despite all the music, you'll sleep soundly in Nashville. You'll find luxury at the Mobil Five-Star Hermitage Hotel (231 Sixth Ave), which has vaulted ceilings of stained glass, dazzling arches decorated with frescoes, and intricate stonework.

Nashvillians often wow their visiting friends and family at the Mobil Three-Star Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center (2800 Opryland Dr), which is adjacent to the Grand Ole Opry and is a good choice for music fans. Nine acres of tropical gardens and flowing rivers are tucked inside climate-controlled glass atriums, allowing guests to enjoy the indoors year-round. It also offers golf, shopping, and other activities nearby.

For a superior stay, there's the Mobil Three-Star Millennium Maxwell House Nashville Hotel (2025 Metrocenter Blvd), where the art is exceptional. The designer Paul Chase has four painted electric guitars there, along with 30 framed ones. And the Maxwell has keepsakes in cases around from Elvis Presley, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash.

Mobil Three-Star Loews Vanderbilt Hotel Nashville (2100 West End Ave) is a well-kept upscale hotel located between Vanderbilt University and downtown Nashville.

Mobil Three-Star Renaissance Nashville Hotel (611 Commerce St) is located between the business district and city's tourist area. You'll be close to fine dining, shopping, and attractions.

Speaking of fine dining, see the next section for an excellent Nashville restaurants guide.

Nashville Restaurants Guide

©2006 Robin Hood Come for the food, stay for the entertainment at the Bluebird Cafe.

Most people think of barbecue and Southern comfort foods when they think of Nashville. You can easily find these types of foods to satisfy your appetite. But tastes are changing everywhere, so the menus are getting lighter around Nashville, although you'll still notice a lot of deep-frying and gravy at the meat-and-three meals, with three referring to vegetable sides.

Nashville has a feast of new restaurants after a famine in the last decade. Several creative chefs have opened their own bistros in the trendy Five Points area of East Nashville beside The Gulch near the railroad tracks off Broadway and near the mecca of Green Hills.

Some of the most respected trendy bistros are the Mobil Two-Star Margot Cafe (1017 Woodland St), which serves gems like goat cheese polenta souffle and roast veal tenderloin paired with artichoke-Parmesan risotto; Tayst (2100 2st Ave S), featuring a menu with small appetizers, simple salads, and generous meat and seafood entrees; Red Wagon (1112 Woodland St, 615-226-2527), with such specialties as eggplant parmesan, lemon-ricotto pancakes, and Bananas Foster; and the Mobil Two-Star Zola Restaurant (3001 West End Ave S), serving a Mediterranean-inspired menu with such treats as pork tenderloin with apple brie empanadilla.

Mary's Pit Bar-B-Que (1106 Jefferson St, 615-256-7696) is an off-the-beaten-path cafe that's known for its pork on cornbread, barbecued chicken on white with pickles, or bone-in chicken sandwich. Those who like a little kick in their sauce can try Mary's hot barbecue sauce with their order.

Neely's Bar-B-Que (2292 Metrocenter Blvd) is the place to find Flintstone-sized beef ribs in a thick, sweet, and spicy tomato-based sauce. You can order the barbecue spaghetti, which is loaded with pork.

Copeland's of New Orleans (1649 Westgate Circle) serves Creole and Cajun dishes like eggplant pirogue and blackened chicken in a dining room decorated to look like a plantation.

Chappy's on Church (1721 Church St) is known for its bayou specialties like grilled spicy shrimp and soft shell crab. The atmosphere is cozy with its indoor Parisian-style street lamps, stained glass, and hand-carved bar from Europe.

The French Quarter Cafe (823 Woodland St) complements its Cajun cuisine with blues and rock music on two stages. You can enjoy the fried red fish on French bread as you sit amid Mardi Gras-like decorations.

Mobil One-Star Monell's Dining (1235 Sixth Ave N, 615-248-4747) specializes in Southern comfort food, especially what the locals call "meat and three (vegetable sides)." Diners pass around bottomless bowls and platters of Southern entrees like pork chops, chicken and dumplings, and country-fried steak. The restaurant is set up with long wooden tables that can accommodate

up to a dozen people, for down-home family-style dining.

Ellendale's Restaurant (2739 Old Elm Hill Pike, 615-884-0171) serves rib-sticking lamb stew, asiago creamed spinach, and coconut chicken sandwiches that gives it a reputation as a must-eat place. At first the oversized bungalow might deceive you, but head inside to find tasty treasures on the menu.

The Towne House Tea Room (500 N 17th St, 615-254-1277) has a reputation for being a good spot for lunch because it serves a different homemade soup each day, or you can opt for the buffet lunch.

The Bluebird Cafe (4104 Hillsboro Rd) draws a crowd because of its nightly musical entertainment, but its Cajun catfish and pork barbecue sandwiches are just as popular.

Jackson's Bar and Bistro (1800 21st Ave S, 615-385-9968) is an ultra-hip coffee shop, bar, and bistro. In the afternoon, you can have specialty teas served alongside cookie-dough eggrolls, or order a glass of wine from the extensive wine list to go with your lunch. At night, the bistro's outdoor patio comes alive for cocktail and appetizers. This is also a good spot for people-watching.

No matter where you choose to dine, your server may be an aspiring musician in Nashville (as was Kathy Mattea among others). Tipping is usually 15 percent.

Are you having difficulty coming up with a plan to see and do as much as possible during your visit to Nashville? The suggested itineraries on the next page will help.

Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Nashville

©2006 Donnie Beauchamp Bring your dancing shoes -- or boots -- to the Wildhorse Saloon.

Don't become overwhelmed by all the things to do in Nashville. With some help from the suggested itineraries on this page, you'll be able to cover tons of ground and see the very best of the city.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Special Events & Attractions in Nashville

Whether country music, Civil War lore, race cars, or something else is the primary focus of your trip, Nashville will deliver. See the suggested itineraries below to help you fit it in the must-see attractions.

1 day: Start your day on a tour of the Ryman Auditorium (116 Fifth Ave N), the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. Stand on the stage where dozens of legends, like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, started their careers.

Then head over to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (222 Fifth Ave S) to look at memorabilia that once belonged to country music legends. This is a good spot to view gold and platinum records of your favorite artists, too.

Complete the country music theme day by stopping at the Music Valley Wax Museum of the Stars (2515 McGavock Pkwy, 615-883-3612), which has dozens of lifelike wax figures of country music legends dressed in authentic costumes.

Stop in at the Delta Atrium of the Mobil Three-Star Gaylord Opryland Resort (2800 Opryland Dr). This is the largest of three atriums at the hotel. The Delta covers 4-1/2 acres and has a quarter-mile-long river, a 110-foot-wide waterfall, an 85-foot-tall fountain, and an island modeled after the French Quarter in New Orleans. On this island are shops and restaurants to stop and take a rest.

In the evening, drop by the Wildhorse Saloon (120 2nd Ave), which is considered Nashville's hottest country dance hall. You can even receive free dance lessons to keep your scootin' boots in step with the music.

2 days: Visit the Belle Meade Plantation (5025 Harding Rd), which has a Greek Revival mansion surrounded by 30 acres of manicured lawns and shade trees. Costumed guides can give visitors a three-hour tour of the grounds to show them what life was like in the mid-1800s. You'll see a log cabin, a smokehouse, and a creamery, as well as a large carriage house and stable built in 1890.

To keep with the post-Civil War theme, head over to the Jack Daniel's Distillery (Interstate 55, about 26 miles southwest of Lynchburg). Founded in 1866, this is the oldest registered distillery in the United States. You can tour the facility and see how Jack Daniel's whiskey is made, including water from a pure, iron-free Cave Spring.

Make time for the Stones River National Battlefield (3501 Old Nashville Hwy, Interstate 24 south from Nashville about 30 miles), where one of the bloodiest Civil War battles was fought on New Year's Eve 1862. The site features 351 acres of preserved battlefield that includes a national cemetery and the Hazen Brigade Monument, one of the oldest Civil War memorials in the United States.    

3 days: Spend the day listening to the roar of the engines and watching cars make laps at the Nashville Superspeedway (4847-F McCrary Rd in Lebanon).

Continue with the race car theme by visiting the alternative fuel vehicles and micro-cars at the Lane Motor Museum (702 Murfreesboro Pike). Some of the 150 on display are prototypes, making this a one-of-a-kind experience.

After all that roar of the engines, enjoy some quiet time checking out the 250-plus toy and model locomotives in the train room at the Nashville Toy Museum (161 8th Ave N, 615-742-5678). Two train layouts depict Tennessee in the 1930s and Britain at the turn of the century

End your day with a nice steak or blackened catfish and cornbread at Jimmy Kelly's (217 Louise Ave).

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Nashville

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Nashville

There's no shortage of arts and culture in Nashville. Take a look at these itineraries, which highlight the best of the best.

1 day: Over coffee and a cinnamon bun, solve Nashville's most infamous art heist at Bongo Java (2009 Belmont Blvd). The NunBunTM, a pastry that resembles the late Mother Teresa, has been missing since Christmas Day 2005.

Next, examine the distinguished Alfred Stieglitz Collection at Fisk University's Carl Van Vechten Gallery (1000 17th Ave N) for the works of Pablo Picasso to Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Then, view the modern and contemporary pieces of Africans and black Americans on the third floor Aaron Douglas Gallery at the nearby Fisk University Library (Jackson St at 17th Ave N).

In the Gulch District, enjoy the tortilla soup or serrano chicken caesar salad at the Sambuca Restaurant (601 12th Ave S).

Spend the rest of the afternoon at The Frist Center for the Visual Arts (919 Broadway), viewing the temporary exhibits or exploring the hands-on ArtQuest room.

2 days: For a morning in the Mediterranean in middle Tennessee, have the Eggs Florentine with feta at the Athens Family Restaurant (2526 Franklin Rd).

Then, visit The Parthenon (2600 West End Ave), the world's only full-scale reproduction of the temple in Greece. You can admire the classic beauty of the gilded Athena Parthenos, which at 42 feet in height makes it one of the tallest indoor sculptures anywhere. In the basement of The Parthenon, the sea and landscape oil paintings by American artists hang in the galleries, along with photos and watercolor prints.

©2006 Gary Layda If you can't get to Greece, be sure to visit the full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Nashville.

Go from palette to palate in Germantown, with the Reuben at the Mobil Two-Star Mad Platter Restaurant (1239 6th Ave N). The menu not only changes often, but so does the local art on the walls. Instead of viewing a velvet picture of Elvis, you can sample a chocolate one for dessert.

Head over to the Hartzler-Towner Cultural Museum at Scarritt Bennett Center (1104 19th Ave S) to view masks, textile designs, and pottery in the Laskey Building or religious art like a wood carving of the Last Supper at the nearby Upper Room Chapel and Museum (1908 Grand Ave).

Make time to stop by Vanderbilt University to see its international collection at its Fine Arts Gallery (23rd and West End Ave).

3 days: Enjoy a special breakfast request of panini with cheese, egg, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and mushrooms at Bread & Co (6051 Hwy 100).

Take a stroll at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art (1200 Forest Park Dr) on the mile-long Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail, where artists have interpreted nature in wire, stone, and metal. In the forest, you'll happen upon a giant rabbit and turtles and go through a glass-covered bridge. Next, walk through Cheekwood's other flower-lined paths, which include daylilies to daffodils.

The wealthy family that once owned Cheekwood was also responsible for Maxwell House Coffee, and the Georgian-style mansion has a decorative arts collection of Worcester porcelain and American 18th-century-and-older silver. However, Cheekwood has since amassed 600 paintings by such notables as William Bradford and 5,000 prints, including some by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, for its galleries.

Take your fruit tea in Cheekwood's Pineapple Room with the creamed roasted chicken on cornbread or the pineapple boat with chicken salad. You will notice items such as unique tableware and yard ornaments in its gift shops.

Later, take in the contemporary crafts on display at The American Artisan (4321 Harding Rd). The owner searches the country for fine handcrafted collector's items to feature at the gallery.

When you get hungry, head to the Mobil Two-Star Bound'ry (911 20th Ave S), where Tennessee ostrich is laced with pomegranate molasses, or have the country ham and black-eyed pea salad with romaine and endive.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Nashville

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Nashville

From Civil War landmarks to Tennesse state buildings, the architecture and landmarks in Nashville are varied. Use these itineraries to help you plan your days.

1 day: Begin your Nashville Heritage Day at one of its institutions: The Pancake Pantry (1796 21st Ave S), which has 35 kinds of flapjacks in Hillsboro Village. The sweet potato pancakes are so delicious that you'll have to go during mid-week to avoid the long lines.

Walk off breakfast at Riverfront Park (First Ave and Broadway), where you can also sit and ponder about how the founders, including the young Rachel Donelson, later the wife of President Andrew Jackson, landed on Christmas Day 1779 along the Cumberland River.

Discover the replica of Fort Nashborough (170 First Ave N, 615-862-8400), which is about one-fourth the size of the original on the actual grounds, which were settled by the North Carolinians led by James Robertson and John Donelson (father of Rachel).

Revisit more of the past at Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum (636 Farrell Pkwy), the oldest mansion in Nashville. The honorable Judge John Overton spent more than 50 years building it. A genteel Southern gentleman, Overton allowed the weary wanderers to stay at his 2,300-acre cotton plantation. The building reflects the history and development of early Tennessee.

Just as hospitable is The Yellow Porch (734 Thompson Ln) for soups, salads (try the one with dried figs), or sandwiches in the nearby Berry Hill neighborhood. It has the welcoming atmosphere of a dress-up tea room, but without the frilly hats and gloves.

Spend the remainder of the afternoon at The Hermitage (4580 Rachel's Ln) learning about the seventh U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, at his esteemed Ante-bellum estate. It has authentic 1800s-era furnishings, nearly all of which are original to the family.

For dinner, have a sizzling aged steak inside a remodeled log cabin at the nearby Hermitage Steakhouse (4342 Lebanon Pike). Or go toward midtown to Jimmy Kelly's (217 Louise Ave), a landmark since 1934 in Nashville. Their corn cakes are from a recipe not unlike that of The Jacksonian Era.

2 days: Have flaky pastries and coffee at Java Jane's House of Gourmet opening about 9 am inside Farmers Market (900 8th Ave N), where you can get a glimpse of  Tennessee's agriculture. Before the move in 1995, vendors sold their wares around the Davidson County Courthouse.

Take a walk through nearby Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (James Robertson Pkwy), which honored Tennessee's 200th anniversary in 1996 on the symbolic site. The Wall of History has milestones, including a break in its rock around the Civil War for the "Great Divide" in the state when it left the Union. The Court of 3 Stars is another must-see in patriotic red, white, and blue granite for the East, Middle, and West regions of Tennessee. As one of the world's largest, its carillon is impressive when the 95 bells toll for the state's musical heritage.

©2006 Robin Hood The Hermitage Hotel saw much activity during the women's suffrage movement.

Next, you should head for "The Hill." At the Tennessee State Capitol (600 Charlotte), bills pass or fail (with much lobbying in between) on Capitol Hill under the golden dome.

For the best skyline view of Nashville, have lunch at the Mobil Two-Star Germantown Cafe (1200 Fifth Ave N) in the Germantown District. You can't go wrong with the salmon with coconut milk and curry on risotto.

Save the afternoon for the Tennessee State Museum (5th & Deaderick sts, on the lower level of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center), where President George Washington's autograph is on the 1796 proclamation making Tennessee the 16th state. You'll also find Andrew Jackson's hat from his inaugural, a quill pen of James K. Polk's used in signing the treaty in 1848 with Mexico, and the piano of nearly impeached Andrew Johnson.

Stroll up to the Mobil Five-Star Hermitage Hotel (231 6th Ave N) for a pink cosmopolitan in its Oak Bar. For years ladies had to order drinks from its window because they weren't allowed to socialize inside with the men. Then, women were given the right to vote after Tennessee became the deciding state in 1920 to pass the 19th Amendment. Much campaigning went on at the Hermitage Hotel.

Eat in elegance at Mobil Four-Star Capitol Grille at the Hermitage Hotel, beginning with the corn bisque with smoked peach relish, pork with mustard greens, and truffle macaroni and cheese.

3 days: Explore the stone Fort Negley (475 Humphreys St), so deemed for the provost Marshall and Commander General James Scott Negley of the Federal Troops. Many African-Americans built the 600-foot-long and 400-foot-wide outpost.

Next, see how the Nashville's other half -- the wealthiest woman in Tennessee -- lived during the Civil War at Belmont Mansion (1900 Belmont Blvd, on the campus of Belmont University). No blushing Southern belle, Adelicia Acklen talked both the Union and Confederate armies into transporting her cotton on the Mississippi River to the port of New Orleans.

For lunch, you can't get more sophisticatedly Southern than Martha's at the Plantation (5025 Harding Rd at Belle Meade Plantation). Along with her buttermilk fried chicken, Martha makes elegant chicken croquettes with a lemon mushroom sauce.

Spend the afternoon at the Belle Meade Plantation (5025 Harding Rd) looking at where cannonballs aimed in 1862 by the Union at the front porch still leave an imprint from the Civil War. The owner, "General" William Giles Harding, was sent to a Federal jail for six months at Fort Mackinaw Island.

If you have two extra days, consider taking a tour of the Stones River National Battlefield & Cemetery (3501 Old Nashville Hwy) in Murfreesboro. On New Year's Eve 1862, the exchange began through January 3 on the now 600 acres. By 1865, some 6,000 soldiers had been buried there, where the Hazen Brigade Monument may be the oldest intact obelisk from the Civil War.

The Battle of Franklin sealed the fate of the Confederacy, beginning November 30, 1864, around the Carter House (1140 Columbia Ave, Franklin) and Historic Carnton Plantation (1345 Carnton Lane). The independence of the South became a lost cause after the bloodiest battle below the Mason-Dixon Line. Within five hours, carnage was left all over the town. As the "Gettysburg of the West," Franklin was vividly depicted by author Robert Hicks in the New York Times best-selling novel, Widow of the South.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Nashville

From antiques to discount duds, the shopping venues in Nashville will suit all budgets. Here are suggestions on how to plan your shopping trip:

1 day: Take your espresso on this Designer Shopping Day with the signature apricot pecan ring coffee cake at the original Provence Breads & Cafe (1705 21st Ave S). Then wander through Hillsboro Village for jewelry to pottery made by local artists at A Thousand Faces (1720 21st Ave S).

Go for the power purchases at The Mall at Green Hills (2126 Abbott Martin Rd), where you can buy at Sigrid Olsen, Cole Haan, White House/Black Market, and Janie and Jack. The anchors are Hechts and Dillard's, but there's also a Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, and Restoration Hardware.

Do lunch at Mobil Two-Star Green Hills Grille (3805 Green Hills Village Dr) with the Adobo barbecue chicken salad.

Still looking for sophisticated Nashville style? Get it off the rack at Jamie (4317 Harding Rd), Coco (4239 Harding Pike), Grace's (4005 Hillsboro Pike), The French Shoppe (2817 West End Ave), or the Boutique Bella (2817 West End Ave).

    

2 days: Begin your Bargain Hunter's Shopping Day by eating peanut butter and banana on a cinnamon raisin bagel at Fido (1812 21st Ave S) in Hillsboro Village. Then, rummage through sale paperbacks among the 100,000 volumes at the adjoining gender-titled Bookman and Bookwoman Rare and Used Bookstore (1713 21st Ave S).

Thousands of old 45s to 33-1/3 LPs at The Great Escape (1925 Broadway) are affordable along with movies, comic books, and video games.

As for clothing, think retro rhinestone at Katy K Designs Ranch Dressing (2407 12th Ave S) for a strappy dress or an original Nudie suit that goes for $1,000 and more. And for that 1970s or '80s hippie look, Venus & Mars Silvery Moon (2830 Bransford Ave) is where you can find eclectic fashions at frugal prices.

In the shabbiest of chic, have meat loaf for lunch at The White Trash Cafe (1914 Bransford Ave). Then, look for more knick-knacks at The Downtown Antique Mall (612 Eighth Ave S). It's worth the drive to nearby Goodlettsville, with eight malls to plunder through. Two of the best are the Rare Bird Antique Mall (212 S Main St) for the unusual and Goodlettsville Antique Mall (213 N Main St) for the more traditional.

3 days: Wake up early on your "Outlet Shopping Day" and head to Opry Mills (433 Opry Mills Drive), a 200-plus-store mall that has an information booth to get complimentary discount coupons for shopping within the mall. Take a mall map, and point yourself in the direction of Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet (Suite 247), Tommy Hilfiger Company Store (Suite 222), Liz Claiborne Outlet (Suite 168), Nautica (Suite 252), and Banana Republic Factory Stores (Suite 240), among other retailers.

For lunch, grab a table at the Aquarium Restaurant (516 Opry Mills Dr), where you will sit around a 200,000-gallon aquarium centerpiece filled with more than 100 species of colorful, tropical fish. Get back into the mall and make the loop to Blacklion (Suite 261) for home decor to accessories, college jerseys at Tennessee Sports Fan (Suite 379), and shirts to skirts at RCC's Western Store (Suite 384).

For a snack, have the apple fritters, cider, and apple butter at the Apple Barn (Suite 109) or ice cream in a waffle cone at Carvel in the mall's food court. Since Opry Mills is all about "shopper-tainment," you can also bowl a strike at Dave & Busters (Suite 540) or even pet a live stingray at Sting Ray Reef (Suite 514).

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Nashville

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Nashville

While music is often the center of Nashville's nightlife and entertainment, there are a few other options to check out. See the following itineraries.

1 day: For a Classic Country Day, have the fried eggs, pork sausage, biscuits, and gravy at the Elliston Place Soda Shop (211 Elliston Place). Many a Grand Ole Opry member has sat on its red barstools and booths since the eatery opened in 1939.

Make the pilgrimage to the Ryman Auditorium (116 Fifth Ave N) for a front and backstage tour of the shrine known as the Mother Church of Country Music. If these walls could sing, you would hear such voices as Hank Williams Sr. and Patsy Cline in the 1892-era tabernacle. Take a moment to reflect on the artifacts in the glass cases on the lower level and the view from the upstairs balcony.

©2006 Donnie Beauchamp Ryman Auditorium is the original home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Stop in at Hatch Show Print (316 Broadway) to look at vintage Grand Ole Opry billposters at one of the oldest letterpress operations in the United States begun in 1879.

Take a peek inside the purple-painted Tootsie's Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway), patronized by everyone from Willie Nelson to Roger Miller years ago. Next, flip through CDs at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop (417 Broadway), where record racks were scooted back for dancing by the 1940s for the Midnite Jamboree. Today, the Texas Troubadour Theatre hosts the live weekly broadcast near Opry Mills on Saturday nights.

Drive to the Nashville Palace (2611 McGavock Pike) for a Legendary Lunch of catfish to white beans and cornbread and occasional visits from Opry stars since the restaurant is across from the Gaylord Opryland Resort. At the Palace, Ricky Van Shelton and Randy Travis were introduced to Nashville.

Afterward, take in the history of the world's longest-running radio show at the Grand Ole Opry Museum (2802 Opryland Dr). You'll see how the former WSM Barn Dance was founded, along with shiny costumes and instruments from the likes of Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff.

 

Then, listen to the real deal at The Grand Ole Opry (2804 Opryland Dr) on Fridays and Saturdays from March through early October. (In the winter, the performances move to the Ryman Auditorium.)

2 days: Start with breakfast on an All Music Day at Cafe Coco (211 Louise Ave) with the struggling musicians on the "Rock Block" of nightclubs at Elliston Place. Groupies can have the Italian sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach, or the green eggs (with pesto) and ham with mozzarella.

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum (222 Fifth Ave S), which has had an unmistakable influence on folk, classical, jazz, rock 'n' roll, blues, and gospel. Some of the most popular artifacts on the three floors are by talent "crossing over" in the genre, such as Elvis' "Solid Gold Cadillac" with the 45 rpms in the roof.

Even country cooking goes pop at the SoBro Grill (222 Fifth Ave S) in the lobby, where you can order the fried green tomato and mozzarella BLT. Have the sweet tea and cornbread with honey butter. Then, explore one of the top gift shops in Nashville, known for its always-anticipated Country Music Hall of Fame Wall Calendar to its coffee-table books.

Take the guided headset tour of Historic RCA Studio B (30 Music Square W), where the Everly Brothers to Eddy Arnold recorded songs for the mainstream. At the "Home of 1,000 Hits," in the 1960s, Dolly Parton accidentally ran her car into the side of Studio B. You must purchase your ticket at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum.

Afterward, go from fiddles to violins at the new $120 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center (One Symphony Pl) just a bow's throw from the Country Music Hall of Fame. Even the 30 windows are soundproofed, so it's pitch-perfect for the 100 concerts annually. Have a drink at its bistro, or take home a Nashville Symphony Orchestra CD at its retail store.

In the evening, dine at Mobil Three-Star F. Scott's Restaurant & Jazz Bar (2210 Crestmoor Rd) with its changing seasonal menu. It's also one of the most romantic Nashville restaurants.

3 days: Spend a Guitar Town Day among the songwriters and session musicians of Nashville. Get up by noon (like they do) to have your java at Caffeine Cafe & Bar on Music Row (1516 Demonbreun) with the vegetarian eggs, avocado, and tomato plate.

If you drive around 16th to 18th avenues, you'll recognize some titles on buildings on "The Row" of many of the 180 studios, 130 publishers, and 80 labels. Yet, the "row houses" -- which give Music Row its name -- are often leased by independents.

Visitors can't expect to walk inside without an appointment, so get your behind-the-scenes look at the "players" at the new Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum (301 6th Ave S), which opened in June 2006. They even invite you to "Come See What You've Heard" at their major recording studio and the 5,000-square-foot live concert hall.

Have an executive power lunch at the Mobil Two-Star Sunset Grill (2001 Belcourt Ave), where movers and shakers on The Row have closed many deals.

Take a more in-depth look at "Guitar Town" with the experts at Gruhn Guitars (400 Broadway, 615-256-2033), who also know all about banjos, mandolins, and ukeleles. Some of the priceless possessions sold here include one of the late Johnny Cash's guitars. If you have no rhythm, you can still buy a miniature on a key chain here.

Finely-tuned instruments are made in Nashville, and also presented at the Gibson Bluegrass Showcase (161 Opry Mills Dr) inside Opry Mills Mall. The guitar is the star here, so expect some jammin' to be going on day and night while you examine the latest models. Then, catch some bluegrass at The Station Inn (402 12th Ave), where Alison Krauss to Bela Fleck have appeared.

Songwriters are so low-key in Music City USA that they often go undetected. That is until the evening, when the best regularly perform at the Bluebird Cafe (4104 Hillsboro Rd). The Bluebird is virtually a 25-year institution in Nashville, after assisting in launching the careers of such notables as Garth Brooks and Faith Hill.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Nashville

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Nashville

From leisurely lunches to spa treatments galore, Nashville has some of the most inviting relaxation options around. Here are some of the best:

1 day: No need to hurry to the Mobil Two-Star Loveless Cafe (8400 Hwy 100), where a full country breakfast is served all day. Where else can you get pit-barbecued pork with your eggs? Watch the buttermilk biscuits being made in the kitchens, which can be topped with blackberry preserves.

The former motel rooms behind the Loveless Cafe have been converted into boutiques, so stroll through the Shimai for whimsical pottery, Curious Heart Emporium for anything quirky, and Atelier for the fanciful jewelry.

At the Loveless Cafe Shops, you can rent a 10-speed at Trace Bikes (8400 Highway 100) to cycle for the afternoon along the Natchez Trace Parkway since 24 miles of it is on the northern end toward Leipers Fork and Franklin. Take a sack lunch and drinks, since restaurants are off-the-beaten path on the parkway.

Or, pedal through The Warner Parks -- the twin Edwin and Percy Warner Parks -- (7311 Hwy 100) on 2,864 total acres, besides hiking, golfing, or riding at the equestrian stables. Stop for a moment to go through the Warner Park Nature Center, which has an organic vegetable and herb garden, beehives, and flowers.   

2 days: When it's hot in Nashville, some places can never be too cool like Mobil Three-Star Gaylord Opryland Resort (2800 Opryland Dr). Here you'll find indoor and outdoor swimming pools and Nashville Shores and Wave Country aqua parks.

©2006 Donnie Beauchamp The Opryland Resort offers indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a great spa, and so much more for its guests.

Listen to the soothing waterfalls as you enjoy your praline chocolate chip pancakes during brunch at Cascades at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. Dip your toes into the pools. Then, immerse yourself at the Relache Spa for a drenching "Cacades Moisturizing Facial" or a body scrub with a Vichy showers.

For lakeside lounging, make it Nashville Shores (4001 Bell Rd) where jet skis, pontoons, and other boats can be rented at its marina. Inside the water park, slither down seven slides such as the inflatable three-story-tall Hippo. Or, keep dry on a cruise aboard the Nashville Shoreliner around Percy Priest Lake.

The only wave pool in Nashville is elsewhere at Wave Country (2320 Two Rivers Pkwy), which has three chutes along with a volleyball court and a playground. For those on a budget, it's about one-sixth the price of admission to Nashville Shores.

3 days: You'll feel oblivious to the clock at the Nashville Zoo (3777 Nolensville Rd). While away the day at the new Giraffe Savannah and Alligator Cove, with the rhinoceros hornbills and the red pandas on the Bamboo Trail or the Saki monkeys at the Critter Encounters. Spear a kabob or a frozen fruit bar at the Zoofari Cafe.

Linger at Grassmere Historic Farm, around which the Nashville Zoo was constructed. Two late sisters, Margaret and Elise Croft, donated property for use as a historic farm. Meet on the front porch of their 1810 Croft Home on Wednesdays through Sundays to go through the house with a guide, as well as the outside kitchen, heirloom vegetable gardens, smokehouse, orchard, chicken coop, and barn.

Most visitors expect Nashville to be a city of honky tonks and Southern comfort food. But it has so much more to offer -- from incredible visual arts and architecture to Civil War history sites and a variety of museums. Simply put, Nashville has developed into the perfect destination for a vacation.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A lifelong Nashvillian, Patricia Bates has written about travel for many national magazines, such as Cooking Light, FamilyFun, and Coastal Living. For more than a decade, she was an editor at Billboard, the international music weekly, and a reporter at Amusement Business, an international entertainment weekly, in the Nashville office. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers.

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