Four Days in Nashville
The Music City is a great quick-vacation destination
Note: An earlier version of this column appeared in my ‘Daly Grind’ newsletter.
First and most importantly, I wanted to wish you all a very happy Fourth of July. We here in the United States often take our country’s greatness and freedoms for granted, but today’s a day to celebrate both. I hope you all stay safe.
Now, onto this week’s column, which takes a break from politics.
Earlier this year, just hours before some airline credit we had was set to expire, my wife and I decided to take a short trip to a city we’d been hearing a lot about in recent years: Nashville, Tennessee.
Neither of us are really country fans, but we do love live music. And from what we’d been told, all kinds of music genres are very well-represented in the streets and venues of Nashville these days. So, we took the plunge, and lucky for us, another couple (some close friends of ours) was able to join us.
We flew into town the Saturday night before last, and spent the next four days taking in the sights, sounds, and culture of the city. It was an absolute blast, and I can’t recommend the experience highly enough for adults looking for a quick and memorable getaway.
I figured I’d use this week’s column to throw out some of our favorite stops, should any of you be considering a future trip to the Music City.
Broadway street is the main action hub of downtown Nashville. It runs from the southwest to the northeast, and is lined with one multi-story live-music bar after another (several with rooftop dining and lounging). Bands (many of them extremely talented) perform inside from roughly 10am to 3am every day. It’s a party atmosphere, and there’s a little something for everyone.
One of the coolest things about walking along Broadway is passing five or six open windows in a row, each with a different band performing loudly inside. Their drummers’ backs are facing you (since they’re playing primarily for patrons inside), and they’re so close you could reach in and touch them (though I’m not at all recommending that, since it would be super awkward).
The Johnny Cash Museum
Just off Broadway street is the Johnny Cash Museum, which contends to have the most comprehensive collection anywhere of the singer-songwriter’s artifacts and memorabilia. It’s officially authorized by the Cash estate, which explains how they managed to get a hold of so many great items. They include awards, instruments, handwritten lyrics and notes, clothes, and a plethora of photos and video footage.
Even casual Cash fans will absolutely love it.
“What Lifts You” Angel Wings Mural
Like many artsy cities, Nashville features all kinds of building-side murals. Perhaps its most famous one is the “What Lifts You” mural in the Gulch district, where people actually stand in line to get their “angel” picture taken. It’s a cool landmark and a fun photo op, even if you try to get overly cute with your pose and end up looking like you’ve suffered a severe leg fracture.
And while you’re in the neighborhood, why not check out…
Third Man Records
I’m always up for visiting local record stores when I’m on vacation, but when our Segway tour-guide or a hotel doorman (I forget which) offhandedly mentioned that rock-star Jack White (of the White Stripes) owned one in Nashville, I was particularly excited to check it out. A Google search led us over to Third Man Records.
People familiar with White know that retro imagery and bold, limited colors are very much a part of his brand, and as you can see below, they’ve been well integrated into his shop (which includes a lounge, listening room, and recording booth).
But the record store is just a small part of the building. Three Man Records also offers the richly decorated Blue Room Bar (that’s open to the public a few nights a week), and an office and recording studio (not open to the public) where Jack White and other artists under his “Three Man Records” label professionally record their music. It’s those artists’ work that is sold, mostly on vinyl, inside the record store.
If you’re a fan of Jack White in any capacity, and you’ll be visiting Nashville, you don’t want to miss it.
The Best Restroom in America
Speaking of bold, limited colors, we were tipped off to this little gem: the world famous key lime men’s room at the 5-star Hermitage Hotel. It was once voted the best restroom in America (for its visual appeal). Frankly, I love little finds like this.
The two pink pictures are from the women’s room next door (which is equally spectacular). I should probably explain that, in both cases, scouts in our group were sent inside to check for occupants before I walked in snapping pictures. 😄
The Listening Room Cafe
The Listening Room prides itself on featuring “the hits you hear on the radio in a way you’ve never heard them before. The songs are portrayed by the writers themselves.”
What’s meant by that is that a lot of popular music we hear from recognizable artists, whether it be on the radio or streaming services (including number one hits), weren’t actually written by those artists. They were instead written and sold to them by individuals that few of us have ever heard of. It’s those people, many of whom are fantastic singers and performers in their own right, who have a stage at the Listening Room.
On Monday nights (the night of the week we went), the Song Suffragettes act takes the stage. It’s a one-hour acoustic show featuring five rotating, young, female song-writers explaining and performing some of their biggest or most meaningful songs. It was fantastic (you can watch a little of it here), and it even came with dinner!
By the way, the lady on the left is 18-year-old Mia Morris, who can be seen this season on America’s Got Talent.
Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar
The Printers Alley neighborhood of Nashville is known for its speakeasy live-music bars. Our favorite was Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar, which has a great ambiance and two-level circular seating that allows for lots of good views of the stage.
This was a very unexpected surprise. Years ago, I saw a short video feature somewhere on Cooter’s Place, the Dukes of Hazzard museum owned by Ben Jones, who played “Cooter” the mechanic on the early 1980’s television series. I just didn’t know there was one in Nashville.
Like many people my age, I grew up on the pop-culture phenomenon, so it was a lot of fun checking out the museum. It’s overflowing with pictures, props, and memorabilia, and I even discovered some Dukes of Hazzard toys I owned as a child.
Admission to the museum is free, but you can purchase your picture inside four vehicles used on the series (including one of the General Lees) for $30. (We didn’t do that, but there’s probably a market for it).
I can’t emphasize enough just how many fun and interesting things there are to do in Nashville. The four of us barely scratched the surface in our short time there, and there were lots of trip accounts I left out. If you’re interested in them, you can check out more of our Nashville adventures on my Instagram account, including our visit to Ryman Auditorium, a super-fun Segway tour through the downtown area, and the Nashville Parthenon.
I'll be back with my latest political and media thoughts later this week.