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5 Things You Don’t Want to Miss in Nashville

For most people, there are certain images that come to mind when thinking about Nashville; guitars, cowboy boots, and comfort food being a few examples. But Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, is truly a city that offers something for everyone. The city attracts over 11 million visitors each year, from all around the world.

When planning a trip to any destination, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and miss out on helpful tips and recommendations. I spoke with Carmelle Jasenovic, a tour guide in Nashville, for some must-see attractions- and what could be avoided.

The Grand Ole Opry

“You wouldn’t go to Paris without seeing the Mona Lisa, would you? You can’t go to Nashville without seeing the Grand Ole Opry,” Jasenovic advises, citing the venue’s history and legacy in American music. The Opry is home to one of the longest running radio shows in history, broadcasting the most talented country music performers, earning it the title of “The Show That Made Country Music Famous.”

Even if you’re not a country music fan, Jasenovic insists that the Opry is worth a visit. “It’s deeply rooted in American culture, and people from all over recognize that,” she said.

Friendly tip: If you are a country music fan, or maybe just visit the Opry and decide you want to learn more, Nashville is also home to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The museum hosts artifacts, historic recorded music, and a variety of exhibits.

Lower Broadway

If vibrant nightlife is one of the deciding factors in choosing where to visit, then you’ve come to the right place. Nashville’s lower Broadway is home to a string of record stores, shops filled with cowboy boots, and honky-tonks; bars with live performers, usually playing country music.

If you’re looking to try your hand at line-dancing, then you should check out the Wildhorse Saloon, where you’ll hear more contemporary country and maybe even participate in a line-dancing lesson. But beware of crowds: Jasenovic recommends Wildhorse for line-dancing, but it can get crowded as it’s a popular tourist destination. If you’re looking to just relax at a bar with some live music, she suggests walking up Broadway. “You’ll find all kinds of music in these bars, whether’s it country or blues or good old fashioned rock’n'roll,” Jasenovic says.

Friendly tip: Nashville is home to major sports teams, like the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Both arenas are downtown near Broadway, so if you’re not a fan of crowds of rowdy sports fans, you might want to plan your downtown visit around game days. On the other hand, it can be just as entertaining people watching in the honky-tonks after a game lets out!

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CC: ckramer

Centennial Park and the Parthenon

“I would not consider it a complete tour of Nashville if you don’t visit the Parthenon,” Jasenovic states, referring to the replica of the Greek Parthenon located in Centennial Park. Jasenovic notes that the architects were very respectful of the original, and spared no effort in making sure it was an exact replica. There’s no doubt that this architectural phenomenon, along with Nashville’s number of universities (including the nearby Vanderbilt University), were contributing factors in earning the city the nickname “The Athens of the South.”

Friendly tip: Centennial Park is also host to many festivals and special events year-round. If you plan your trip accordingly, you could catch a summer concert, free swing dancing lessons, or even a Nashville street food festival!

Opryland Hotel

Opryland Hotel, a hotel and convention center, is almost its own city in itself. Some of the more unique features of the hotel are the atriums, consisting of tropical gardens, waterfalls, and even a “delta” river where guests can take a boat ride-all indoors. Jasenovic says she also wouldn’t ignore the murals, saying “Some people don’t even know they exist, but there’s a beautiful mural near the ballrooms depicting Nashville at the time of the exposition in 1876.” Even if you’re not a guest at the hotel, it’s worth a stroll!

Friendly tip: Crowds are usually inevitable, as Opryland is not only a hotel but a convention center as well. Don’t let this deter you from visiting, though!

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CC: Kevin Oliver

The Hermitage

Nashville has several places you should check out if you’re a history buff. One is The Hermitage, the home of President Andrew Jackson and a National Historic Landmark, located about 20 minutes from downtown. You can tour the grounds and the mansion, and learn a lot about what Jasenovic calls its “touching history.” Jackson’s presidency may be remembered for the more tragic things he was a part of, but you can be sure to learn all about it at his former estate.

Friendly tip: Jasenovic says it may be tempting to take a “Homes of the Stars” tour, but recommends otherwise. “You can’t be sure that it’s actually their homes, plus it’s not like they’re going to come out and say ‘hi’!” she jokes. She suggests taking historical tours, like The Hermitage, as you’ll get your money’s worth. Besides, you’re more likely to catch a glimpse of Nicole Kidman or Kesha just by walking around Nashville!

If you visit Nashville, be sure to check out at least one of these attractions. Chances are you’ll end up getting friendly tips from locals or just discovering more things to do and see on your own!

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.