City guide: Nashville

Labeled “Music City USA,” Nashville is the center of the country music industry. Its musical history is memorialized in the famed Grand Ole Opry theater and exhibitions at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It’s also alive and well in the city’s honky-tonk bars where live music and cowboy boots are the standard. But there’s plenty to outdoors, too. Nashvillians are proud of their green spaces—networks of bike paths, hiking and kayaking trails and urban parks.

The music recording and production industry contributes over 19,000 jobs to the city’s economy, and all major record labels have offices here. Health care, automobile manufacturing, publishing and insurance are also dominant economic drivers. Nashville is also gaining popularity as a meetings and events destination.

Getting to and from the airport

Nashville International Airport is about seven miles from the city center. Taxi trips to and from downtown carry a flat rate of $25. Depending on traffic, the trip will take between 20 and 40 minutes. Door-to-door shuttle service is also available for $14 one way; the booking office is on Level 1 inside the terminal. Lyft and Uber both operate in Nashville.

Getting around Nashville

You’ll have no problem getting around Nashville’s city center on foot—tourist sites, attractions and entertainment venues are concentrated in a relatively small area. The Music City Circuit is a free bus that runs two routes through downtown. Buses come every 10 to 15 minutes between 6:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. You can view a full listing of stops on the Nashville MTA website. Taxis are readily available and can be hailed from the street easily.

Where to stay

For luxury and upscale hotel options, try Omni Nashville Hotel (250 5th Ave. South; Ph: 1-615-61578253), Sheraton Music City Hotel (777 McGavock Pike; Ph: 1-615-885-2200), Courtyard Nashville Opryland (125 Music City Circle; Ph: 1-615-882-9133), Hilton Garden Inn Nashville Downtown/Convention Center (305 Korean Veterans Blvd.; Ph:  1-615-251-3013), Hyatt Place Nashville Opryland (220 Rudys Circle; Ph: 1-615-872-0422).

Midscale options include Best Western Plus Music Row  (1407 Division St.; Ph: 1-615-242-1631), Comfort Suites Nashville (3431 Percy Priest Drive; Ph: 1-615-391-5959), Holiday Inn Express Nashville Downtown (920 Broadway; Ph: 1-615-244-0150), La Quinta Inn Nashville South (4311 Sidco Drive; Ph: 1-615-834-6900), Millennium Maxwell House Nashville (2025 Metro Center Blvd.; Ph: 1-615-259-4343), Super 8 Nashville Downtown Opryland (3320 Dickerson Pike; Ph: 1-615-226-1897).

Things to see and do

The Music City Trolley Hop is a great way to get an overview of all the major attractions in Nashville. It’s a one-hour narrated tour with the option to get on and off at any stop on the route. A $39 adult ticket is valid from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The Grand Ole Opry started as a radio broadcast in 1925 and has evolved into a cultural phenomenon. A weekly country music concert includes some of the biggest acts—think Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton—and draws patrons from near and far.  Tickets and show calendar are available online.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is an essential part of any Nashville itinerary. The museum explores the history of the musical genre and pays tribute to country greats through an impressive collection of memorabilia, audio, video and temporary exhibits. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $24.95.

Built in 1853, Belle Mead Plantation features Greek Revival architecture and immaculate grounds. Tours are led by guides in period costume who take guests through ornate rooms—all filled with antiques—and out to the manicured lawns, carriage house and stable. It’s open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $20.

Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art offers over 50 acres of gardens featuring pools, fountains, and hundreds of plant species. The Japanese garden with bamboo walls and a fish pond is an especially calming area. The site’s Georgian-style mansion houses an enviable art collection. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $8.

For the live music and animated bar scene that Nashville is known for, head to the District. This entertainment area is home to dozens of clubs and bars that showcase up-and-coming musicians, as well as a few favorite performers. Kick back or tap your toes to tunes in a variety of music styles—bluegrass, jazz and, of course, country.

Where to eat

At Etch, chef Deb Paquette has a talent for using bold flavors to create inventive dishes, and she follows through with elegantly plated presentations. The roasted cauliflower with truffled pea pesto is a popular appetizer, and the grilled lamb loin with pomegranate walnut sauce is a favorite entrée. The dining room is stylish and welcoming. If you’re not up for a full meal, ask for their happy hour menu of small plates, draft beers and featured wines. Find it at 303 Demonbreun St.; Ph: +1-615-522-0685.

Arnold’s Country Kitchen steps up the comfort food game. The cafeteria-style eatery has been a local favorite for over three decades. From macaroni and cheese to fried chicken and meatloaf—all the Southern and soul food classics make an appearance on the menu. Save room for the chocolate pie. Arnold’s is at 605 8th Ave. South; Ph: +1-615-256-4455.

City House is always busy for a reason. Perfectly cooked pizzas from a wood-burning oven, fresh pastas made in house and a seasonal menu that changes depending on what’s available locally keep guests coming back for more. Staff know the menu inside out and are happy to make recommendations. It’s at 1222 4th Ave. North; Ph: +1-615-736-5838.