Travel Stories: Nashville Part Two - From Ryman Auditorium to Broadway: Nashville's Harmonious Hotspots

Discover the heart of Music City as I explore the iconic Ryman Auditorium, stroll down the neon-lit Broadway, and experience the magic of the Grand Ole Opry on my solo adventure in Nashville. #NashvilleTravel

Travel Stories: Nashville Part Two - From Ryman Auditorium to Broadway: Nashville's Harmonious Hotspots

Previously on Travel Stories

I shared some hidden gems in Nashville such as the Tennessee State Museum, the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, The Hermitage, and a quick tip about exploring the city with a walk or a hop on/hop off tour.

Alright so where was I? Oh yes, the food was great! Now on to the rest of the tour…

Country Music Hall of Fame

I believe this museum is a must-visit spot in Nashville. Even if you're not a fan of country music, you'll still appreciate what this museum has to offer. When I first went in 2017, I was amazed by the sheer size of the building - it occupies a whole city block. I remember walking in, paying the admission fee, and being in awe of the wall covered in memorabilia. It can be a bit overwhelming, but in a good way! I spent hours exploring the history of country music, from its beginnings to the present day. There were plenty of interactive exhibits and even some temporary ones. One temporary exhibit that really stood out to me was the collaboration between Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. It made so much sense and paved the way for many musicians to come to Nashville for songwriting and performing. Even though I'm from New England, I love country music and classic rock, so I felt right at home in this museum. The hospitality there is truly remarkable. One last thing, when you do decide to visit the museum, there is a RCA Studio B tour that is an add on, and from all accounts, is really cool. I didn't have time for it on the day I visited but I would certainly consider it in the future! While I haven't been back since 2017, I still highly recommend a visit - there's something for everyone to enjoy.

The Ryman Auditorium

I made sure to visit this place during both my trips in 2017 and 2022, and each time, I was amazed by the rich history and stunning architecture. Tucked away behind Tootsie's at the end of the Broadway section, the Ryman is the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, a renowned country music radio and TV show. It's often referred to as "the mother church of country music" for good reason. The layout resembles a church, complete with pews, but in an amphitheater style. It's an intimate venue that still hosts stand-up comedy and music concerts to this day. During my first visit in 2017, the talented country group Little Big Town was starting a residency there, and I regretted not attending their show. If you've heard their music, you'll understand just how incredible their harmonies are. What's even more impressive is the exceptional acoustics of the auditorium. Even from the back row, you can hear conversations on stage without the need for a microphone. The venue has also overcome neglect and deterioration in the past few decades under its current management, emerging as a true survivor. I highly recommend stopping by this auditorium, even if you're waiting for the party to kick off on Broadway. Take a self-guided tour, it's truly worth it, and don't forget to snap a cool souvenir photo on stage, just like I did!

"I don't get any respect in this venue!"

The Grand Ole Opry House Tour

During my second visit in 2022, I made sure to prioritize a visit to the Opry House, which serves as the home to the Grand Ole Opry. I decided to book a tour in advance, programmed my GPS, and embarked on a drive to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. I vividly recall entering the vast and sprawling complex, and being completely awestruck. It's not just a standalone venue, but rather an integral part of a larger complex that encompasses the resort hotel, convention center, SoundWaves Waterpark, Opry Mills Mall, Regal Cinemas movie theatre, numerous bars and restaurants, and of course, the Opry House itself. As a fan of football and baseball, I've often discussed the concept of teams establishing a surrounding "district" consisting of shops, bars, restaurants, office spaces, and apartments around a central destination. This complex is a perfect example of that. I strongly believe that the owners chose this location in the Nashville area precisely because it allows them to have control over the development and growth of the surrounding area, ensuring a seamless experience for visitors to the Opry House.

There are multiple tour options available, such as a daytime backstage tour, a postshow backstage tour, a combo Ryman + Opry House tour, and a Women of Country tour. None of these options include tickets to the actual Opry show, which must be purchased separately. I chose the daytime tour, which allowed me to explore the backstage and stage area of the Opry House, and it was truly amazing. Many legendary figures have walked through those halls and sat in the backstage suites over the years. While I have only seen the Grand Ole Opry on TV a few times and listened to broadcasts on radio, hearing the stories of the performers made me realize how significant performing at the Opry House is to them. During the backstage tour, we also had the opportunity to visit the main stage. It was an unforgettable experience to stand there and look out into the empty seats, imagining what it would be like to perform for a crowd. I can only imagine the thrill and excitement that musicians must feel when they step onto that stage. Overall, the daytime backstage tour at the Opry House was an amazing journey into the heart and soul of country music. It gave me a newfound appreciation for the rich history and the incredible talent that has graced that stage over the years.

These Dirty Sidewalks Of Broadway

In Glen Campbell's famous song "Rhinestone Cowboy," he once sang about the lively atmosphere on the sidewalks of Broadway in Nashville. This vibrant street attracts tourists, music industry scouts, and aspiring musicians from all corners of the globe. The bars and boot shops that line the blocks near the Cumberland River hold a deep significance in the history of aspiring musicians chasing their dreams. During my first visit in 2017, I decided to immerse myself in this musical haven. I hopped into an Uber and headed downtown, determined to have one light beer at each bar and listen to at least one song in every one of them. Starting at Tootsie's, I made my way down both sides of the street, entering each bar with anticipation. I would grab a beer, find a barstool, and eagerly watch as the performers took the stage, one after another. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience, as I had the privilege of listening to incredibly talented musicians perform their original songs or covers. Needless to say, I was grateful for that Uber ride, as the number of light beers I had that night certainly added up!

On my most recent visit in 2022, it happened to be my birthday and a few of my close friends were also in town at the same time. To keep things simple, we decided to explore a few bars on Broadway. We gathered together and ventured into some local bars in the Broadway area before finally reaching Kid Rock’s Big Honky Tonk and Rock n’ Roll Steakhouse. This place is located on the corner of 3rd and Broadway and spans across three floors, each featuring different live performances.

The highlight of the venue is definitely the rooftop bar, where you can enjoy your adult beverages while taking in breathtaking views of the city! Within the two blocks surrounding it, you'll find numerous other bars, and some even extend towards the riverfront. It's a highly sought-after location, so if one bar closes, another one quickly takes its place! Broadway still retains its unique charm, but I can't help but feel that it has become a popular spot for tourists, or maybe it always was!

The following night, after exploring some breweries and distilleries, we decided to take a stroll to Printers Alley. This hidden gem is a two-block alley filled with bars and hotels. It may not be as well-known, but it's definitely worth a visit!

Closing Thoughts

Nashville is a city that captivates the soul, leaving you yearning for more. It's a place so rich in culture and history that even a book wouldn't do it justice. In my humble attempt to guide you through this vibrant city, I hope you found as much joy in reading it as I did in writing it. Nashville extends far beyond the famous landmarks like the Ryman, Broadway, and the Grand Ole Opry. It's a city that breathes music and history, infecting all who visit with its undeniable charm. This city is not just for the typical tourist attractions, but also for those hidden gems that make it truly special. Even if you're traveling alone, Nashville will embrace you warmly upon arrival, leaving you with a longing to return when it's time to leave. With something for everyone, from professional sports teams to a rich musical heritage, Nashville has a story to tell. And if you're up for a drive, you'll find yourself near the Kentucky Bourbon trail and the Jack Daniels Distillery. The food, the people, and the sights all come together to make Nashville an absolute must-see destination.

The Compact Discs that make up the ceiling of Nashville International Airport