Nashville, Tennessee has become Party City.
It is The place for Bachelorette parties — with ‘Party’ trollies and open busses transporting groups of bachelorettes and other people celebrating birthdays or events around town as they dance and party. Nashville’s lower Broadway is now known as “Honky Tonk Highway” — teeming with thousands of young party goers listening to live music in 20 or so live music bars on either side of the street — with more live music in bars down side streets — an amazing explosion of condensed party going and live music unmatched anywhere in the world.
This has all happened in the last 10 years or so — I didn’t see any of it on multiple trips to Nashville in the late 90’s and early 2000’s — although I was always there in the afternoon after a work trip visiting a customer; I never took in a Saturday night until a family vacation on Labor Day weekend 2023.
A few blocks away are the famous structures — the Country Music Hall of Fame and Ryman Auditorium. There’s a famous guitar shop that is a must go.
There are lots of Europeans — and there is Memphis Tennessee — a 2-hour drive to the south. Most tourists who take in Nashville also take in Memphis on the same trip; you see people walking around with Elvis Pressley t-shirts on.
But bring your own coffee, or be prepared to drive outside the inner city — the one thing you can’t find on a Saturday night at this writing — unbelievably really — is a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts that is open; they all close as early as 5pm. Although there is an expresso shop detailed below.
Things to Do in Nashville, Tennessee:
1. Honkey Tonk Highway
As said above, the 3 block section of North Broadway with 20 or so bars on either side of street — with live bands in each bar — some bars with a band on each of 3 floors — and live music in bars on the side streets — seems the single most condensed explosion of party going and live music unmatched anywhere in the world.
Pick a bar, and a band — watch them from outside the front window — and go in and listen. No cover charge in bars. Some have long lines to get in.
On day 2 in Nashville in Sept 2023, on a Sunday night, the wife and I dropped into a bar a block off Broadway where a solo act was playing. This was more to our liking than the massively noisy bars with loud live music on Broadway. So the point is — both kinds of bars and acts are waiting for you in Nashville.
2. Barstool Sports Nashville
While we were visiting on Labor Day Weekend, September, 2023 — Honkey Tonk Highway was shut off to vehicular traffic on Friday and Saturday nights — so thousands of party goers roamed at will on Broadway between the bars.
On a side street at the end of Broadway sits Barstool Sports Nashville — a place I wanted to check out as it had recently been in the news with David Portnoy purchasing the Barstool business back from Penn Entertainment for $1.
3. Party City — Rent a Party Bus or Trolly
Amidst all the live music — and by calculation there must be over 50 live bands playing simultaneously in Nashville throughout a Friday and Saturday night — and the thousands of young party goers listing to the live music and walking around town — are the open party busses and trolleys that drive about town with parties of people — mostly young women on bachelorette parties — openly dancing and drinking.
There are groups of girls — bachelorette parties — walking all about town and on the busses — almost always 5 girls, because that is typically as many girls that can get the money or time together to get off to come to Nashville for a bride-to-be friend. There are some larger groups, but it is almost always 5. Four is too little; you need 5 — which goes back to ancient times — 5 people make for good conversation.
There are also paddle wagons where a bunch of people paddle the vehicle while they drink at a bar.
4. The Coffee Situation
If you want a good coffee in downtown Nashville on a Friday or Saturday night, it is important to note the few Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts downtown close at 5pm. So you’d better have a car to drive to one outside of downtown.
There is one place we found that serves espresso’s and cappacino’s — Mike’s Ice Cream and Coffee shop a half block off Honky Tonk Highway (Broadway).
There is also — at his writing — a fab ice cream place a block over — also a half block off Broadway — with amazing ice cream concoctions called Legendairy Milkshake Bar.
If you have a car, there is an excellent cafe on the outskirts of downtown — a 5 minute drive, called 8&R — which on lookup afterwards turns out to be a chain — named for 8th & Roast.
Of course outside of downtown there are the usual Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts scattered about all over the place.
5. Where to Eat
Recommended eats: Martin’s BBQ — had a terrific Pulled Pork Shoulder sandwich — its specialty. The Farmhand Fries appetizer — fries with all sorts of barbeque meats and jalapeno peppers — was also terrific. The prices were very moderate. Due to its proximity to downtown it was unlikely to be a local family-run restaurant, and indeed it is a chain — but very good.
There was another BBQ place downtown on Broadway (a few blocks away) that we did not try.
There are also numerous Taco stands around town.
Nashville of course has many many restaurants — since we didn’t eat in any of them we won’t review them here.
6. Where to Stay
We stayed at a Hyatt Downtown that allowed pets. It was a really nice hotel at a decent price and allowing Pets was mandatory for us as we were traveling with 2 dogs.
Our daughter travelled with us to attend a Bachelorette Party. Bachelorette groups will either book 2 adjoining rooms in a hotel (better than a suite as 5 girls will need multiple bathrooms I was told), or book an apartment at an Air-B-N-B downtown or in the suburbs. There are a ton of condos going up in downtown Nashville to suit these needs. If a Bachelorette group books an Air-B-N-B in the suburbs beware, the Uber costs could add up.
7. How to Get Around
The Uber prices in Nashville are high and fluctuate higher depending on the time of day and if there’s an event going on like a football game at the nearby Nashville Titans football stadium, according to an Uber driver we know who spent time in Nashville. Uber Drivers can make up to $120k a year in Nashville the Uber rates can fluctuate so highly, said this friend.
Motorized scooters are available all over downtown. They are just there on the sidewalk ready to be used. You put your credit card in, and go. You’d better be good on a scooter!
8. Grand Ole Opry & Johnny Cash Museum
There is of course the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Johnny Cash Museum.
According to wikipedia at this writing, “the Grand Ole Opry is an American weekly live country music radio broadcast from – and a several nights per week performance held at – the Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee. It was founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio ‘barn dance'”.
The Ryman Auditorium — called the “Mother Church of Country Music” — was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, and seasonally from 1999 to 2020. It is located a block behind Broadway. We passed in front of it but did not go in on our trip.
The Johnny Cash Museum is also a block off the main part of Broadway called “Honkey Tonk Highway” where all the bars and live music and people are. I went into its store and browsed the stuff for sale — t-shirts and the like.
9. Country Music Hall of Fame & Music City
The Country Music Hall of Fame is in downtown Nashville as well. It is a big building, with a number of stores in its mall-like 1st floor, including a gift shop etc. We didn’t go into the Hall of Fame but you can get a good look at what’s inside in pictures on the internet.
Across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame is a MASSIVE, modern 5-story building that encompasses several blocks called Music City. It is a convention center. In front of it is a Country Music Walk of Fame.
10. Visit Vintage Guitar Shops
We were recommended to visit Gruhn Guitars shop — a 10 minute drive to the outskirts of downtown — but when we got there, on a Sunday at 10am, it said it was closed all day Sunday, and the next day — Labor Day — as well. So we didn’t get to go into Gruhn Guitars.
But we did happen into Carter’s Vintage Guitars which is downtown near our Hyatt hotel. When we first tried to get in, it had just closed for an hour — they said someone famous was coming in to look for a guitar. We returned 3 hours later and it was open for business.
11. A Railroad Runs through It
PS a railroad runs through Nashville — if you are a train buff. We saw multiple freights run thru with CSX engines. A quick lookup finds that there are many main streets that often get blocked by a freight train that stops for too long.
12. Visit Music Row
While waiting for Carter’s Vintage Guitar Shop to re-open, we drove out to nearby Radnor State Park. On the way over we passed through the famed, old Music Row. This area is by Vanderbilt University, which itself is in a pretty town 15 minutes drive from downtown.
Music Row is a set of suburban-town streets that houses many of the famed recording companies, like RCA Victor.
13. Visit Vanderbilt University Area
Right near Music Row is Vanderbilt University, which has college-town bars and restaurants, and art galleries, etc. Very nice. The area is called Hillsboro West End.
14. The Bluebird Cafe
On the road between Vanderbilt University (and Music Row) and Radnor State Park — lies The Bluebird Cafe — which opened in 1982 and has become famous as a place where famous country musicians play their songs in a small, up-close venue.
The Bluebird Cafe bills itself as “gained worldwide recognition as a songwriter’s venue where the “heroes behind the hits” share their stories and perform their original songs. Artists such as Kathy Mattea, Garth Brooks, Faith Hill and Taylor Swift have had career defining moments at the club along with countless hit songwriters whose music is represented on a wide-range of charts.” It is also the location for the filming of a tv show called Nashville.
While we were there several other tourists pulled up to take pictures of themselves in front of the cafe. There was a Japanese couple there before us.
15. Drive through Belle Meade & Forest Hills
Just past The Bluebird Cafe you drive through the hills of Belle Meade and Forest Hills, which feature mansion after mansion on big estate grounds. This is where many country music stars have homes — the Beverly Hills of Nashville.
16. Visit Radnor Park and It’s Lake
Just outside of downtown Nashville — a 20-minute drive — lies Radnor State Park and its lake. Park for free and hike its trails around the lake. The lake itself was man-made — created to have a reservoir of water for steam engines in the 1914!!!
If you take your dogs — you can’t walk them in the trails but you can walk them on the road around the lake area.
17. Rivers Run Through It
The Cumberland River runs through Nashville. There are various bridges that get you across the Cumberland.
18. Take in a Sporting Event
When we were there on Labor Day Weekend, 2023, there was a huge college football game that included the Tennessee college team on Friday night that everyone was watching — including huge crowds at Barstool Sports Bar. Many people were wearing Orange around town.
19. Nashville Skyline
With money POURING into Nashville, the Nashville Skyline is also getting bigger.
- The tallest building is 505 Nashville, a 45-story luxury apartment and condo building (see ‘Where to Stay’ above, and how bachelorette parties are renting Air-B-n-B apartments).
- Second tallest is “Fifth Third Center” a 31-story tower,
- 3rd tallest is the Bridgestone Building which is very noticeable 30-story tower, and
- 4th tallest is the AT&T Building pictured below, which also dominates the skyline due to its architecture; it is listed at 33 stories.
20. Getting There
You can take a plane to Nashville of course.
Getting there by train from the East Coast of the US is very difficult — there are no direct links from say, NYC to Nashville via Amtrak. You have to go thru DC and make many connections; it is infeasible. Same thing with the bus.
So driving becomes the alternate to the plane if you are trying to get there from within the US and not going by plane — if for example you have dogs. Most routes from the East Coast have you going down Interstate 81, past the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley, then swinging past Knoxville Tennessee and thru the Smokey Mountains. A wonderful, scenic drive. But it’s good to have 2 drivers to switch off between. For us it was me and my daughter.
The drive was long but — fun — especially if it meant having the dogs with us.