It was inevitable that we would visit Nashville.
For one thing, there are undeniable ties between Austin, the “live music capital of the world,” and Nashville, which is dubbed Music City.
Second, it’s a mecca for lovers of country music specifically, a genre that I have grown to know and love dearly in recent years.
Third, it was my country-music-loving daughter’s dream destination for her 10th birthday.
The minute we touched down, we instantly felt at home, from the three bands we encountered in the airport to the multitude of guitar cases we spied at baggage claim. Over the course of a 48-hour visit, we would fall even further in love with Music City as it welcomed us with a siren song so strong that, by the end of the trip, we were already planning our next visit.
If you have Nashville in your travel plans, here are some ideas for getting a taste of Music City.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Taylor Swift’s custom-made Stuart Weitzman booties glittered like diamonds behind their glass-jewel-box display, accompanied by a sequined rainbow dress with beaded fringe and a butterfly-adorned umbrella, all of which she wore at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards. For our 10-year-old, seeing these and other personal artifacts – including Elvis Presley’s gold Cadillac and Kacey Musgraves’ detention notice for “continuous classroom disruptions” during high school – at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was almost like meeting the artists themselves.
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The Austin-Nashville tie is also on full display in the exhibit “Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ‘70s,” which details the “era of cultural and artistic exchange between Nashville and Austin” and “explores the complicated, surprising relationship” between the two cities. Expect a variety of rarely seen personal effects, murals and photographs that will make any Austinite feel right at home. The exhibit runs through June 5, 2022.
The museum, which is fun for all ages, also has a variety of interactive and immersive exhibits, allowing you to record your own song, put your face on an album cover, go on a Taylor Swift-themed scavenger hunt or make your own microphone.
The Bluebird Café
If there is one place in Nashville that encompasses its iconic music scene, it’s The Bluebird Café, where everyone from LeAnn Rimes and Taylor Swift to Kathy Mattea and Phil Vassar have graced the stage. Garth Brooks was even discovered here. In addition to being a springboard for up-and-comers and a popular spot for Nashville’s country royalty to stage pop-up shows, the 90-person venue is also a place where the city’s songwriters test out their potential new hits. On the night we visited, we were treated to a show by songwriting veterans Mason Douglas, John Allan Miller and Bill DiLuigi, who have written songs that have appeared in TV shows (DiLuigi had a song in the CW series, “Hart of Dixie”) and been performed by some of today’s most popular acts (Douglas has written for Old Dominion, HARDY, Sam Hunt and more). As the three songwriters took turns performing, the themes spanned beers, boats and beaches as well as some classic love songs, too – all of which you could easily imagine hearing on country music stations in the coming months. Other must-visit music venues include the Ryman Auditorium, Marathon Music Works and, of course, the Grand Ole Opry.
The Café at Thistle Farms
Ever dreamed of enjoying a delicious piece of cake while giving back to a good cause? Then you’ll love The Café at Thistle Farms. Here’s the deal: Thistle Farms is a 501c3 nonprofit that supports survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction by offering a free two-year program that includes a safe place to live, a meaningful job and a sisterhood of support. As part of its mission, the nonprofit operates The Café at Thistle Farms, which serves breakfast, lunch and tea, with proceeds from each meal helping a woman survivor heal. We stopped in for sweet treats including almond cake, toffee-chip cookies and gluten-free blueberry muffins that were absolutely delicious in a space so inviting we could have lingered for hours. There is also a boutique, The Shop at Thistle Farms, next door where you can purchase candles, body products, jewelry and other items that have been handcrafted by women survivors in Nashville and around the world.
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Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
When we looked into hotels in Nashville, we were instantly drawn to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center for one reason: SoundWaves, a sprawling, music-themed indoor-outdoor waterpark that features 111,000 square feet of splash-filled fun including tube and body slides, an outdoor wave pool with a giant LED screen that plays music videos and movies, indoor FlowRider surfing and more. Like a miniature Schlitterbahn, it was unlike any other hotel-based waterpark we’d ever seen. The resort also features 9 acres of gorgeous indoor gardens including, naturally, guitar-themed sculptures; a world-class spa; 20 eating and drinking options; and more than 2,700 guest rooms.
If You Go
Multiple airlines offer nonstop service to Nashville International Airport; it’s a two-hour flight. Prefer to drive? It will take you about 12 hours from downtown Austin.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center has something for everyone, is walkable to the Grand Ole Opry and is convenient to other Nashville attractions. https://www.marriott.com/en-us/hotels/bnago-gaylord-opryland-resort-and-convention-center/overview/. The Hutton Hotel is a beautifully appointed boutique hotel just steps from Music Row that features regular live music. https://www.huttonhotel.com/.
If you were a fan of the Nashville-based reality TV show “Very Cavallari,” which showcased the adventures of reality star and fashion designer Kristin Cavallari, you’ll enjoy a visit to the flagship location of her boutique, Uncommon James. https://uncommonjames.com/pages/locations
Eat and Drink:
You can’t visit Nashville without sampling one of the city’s famous hot chicken sandwiches, which is traditionally a portion of breast, thigh or wing that’s been fried and smothered in a cayenne-pepper-spiced paste or sauce and served on white bread with pickle chips. We loved the versions we tried at Puckett’s, https://puckettsgro.com/, and Hattie B’s, https://hattieb.com/.