Nashville: The City With Music and so Much More

  By Dee Reed

Except for long-distance truck drivers, no other drivers in the world measure their achievement by the mile the way RVers do. Proof: the many miles reflected in the maps found inside and outside RVs proudly showing all the states and providences visited.

There are a lot of interesting miles: Miles of Golf in Ypsilanti, Michigan; 100 Miles of Lights in Virginia, 50 Miles of Art in Missouri, 20 Miles of Furniture in North Carolina, Chicago’s Magnificent Mile; and who can forget Three Mile Island. But one of the most significant for those of us who love music—whether via vinyl, polycarbonate plastic, or electronic—is Nashville’s Music Mile.

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Nashville is a city with music and so much more

Even if you don't make it downtown to the Music Mile—the stretch of roadway connecting the $123 million Symphony Center with the music district of Music Row, the vibrant new entertainment venues on Demonbruen Street, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum, the Music City Walk of Fame and the Sommet Center—the notes and lyrics of centuries of music will be woven into your visit to Music City, Nashville, Tennessee.

As early as the late 1700s, the earliest settlers to Nashville brought music to the region. Fiddle tunes and buck dancing offered respite from the hard work of honing out a living on the shores of the Cumberland River. You can relive the sights and sounds of those days as you take a river cruise on the General Jackson Showboat, a 300-foot paddlewheel riverboat. Tap your toes and clap your hands during live music shows in the boat's two-story Victorian Theater.

In addition to performing folk music passed down from generation to generation, settlers began writing down the notes and words and soon there was a thriving music publishing industry. Today, more than 130 Nashville-based companies publish music that is sold throughout the world. Actually, the first around-the-world tour by a musical act was by the Fisk Jubilee Singers from Nashville's Fisk University. You can hear today's Fisk Jubilee Singers at home or at concerts they perform worldwide

Performing isn't limited to the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Some of the most famous stages in the world are located in Nashville. Every Friday and Saturday night (and select Tuesday nights) the Grand Ole Opry brings the sound of the world's longest-running radio show (more than 80 years) and an incredible mix of talent to a live audience. Visit the beautiful venue or tune in to 650 WSM-AM or The Roadhouse on Sirius XM Radio and listen to member and guest artists.

The Ryman Auditorium has been hosting musicians and guests since 1892, when it opened its doors as a church. In 1943, the Grand Ole Opry began putting local artists onstage and on air. Even though the Opry moved from the Ryman in 1974, the auditorium spent some years dark was soon restored as a national showplace. The Ryman Auditorium was named Theater of the Year in 2003 and 2004 and Venue of the Year in 2009.

Artists at the Ryman and the Opry are usually seasoned veterans, but the real flavor of the Music City is found in its struggling musicians, who may or may not make it big. To see these in an intimate venue, a visit to the Bluebird Café is in order. Opened in 1982 as a casual gourmet restaurant with some live music, Sunday writers' nights were added in 1985 as a chance for new writers to audition and perform. Two years later, dinner shows were featured and today the Bluebird is a music club first and a restaurant second. Kathy Mattea was the first star to be identified with The Bluebird. Garth Brooks played on both an Open Mic and Sunday Songwriter's Shows before he was discovered – at The Bluebird – and signed to Capitol Records. A typical nightly performance consists of three or four songwriters seated in the center of the room, taking turns playing their songs and accompanying each other instrumentally and with harmony vocals. It is an experience that few forget, and one that reflects why Nashville is known as Music City.

But … if you can't make it to any of those music venues, park your rig at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which has been the home of America's music since its opening in 1967 on Music Row. In May 2001, the Museum relocated to a new $37 million building in downtown Nashville. The facility boasts a vast collection to illustrate country music's story as told through the years. An immense compilation of historic country video clips and recorded music, dynamic exhibits and state-of-the-art design, a regular menu of live performances and public programs, a museum store, live satellite radio broadcasts, on-site dining and fabulous public spaces all contribute to an extraordinary museum experience.

Nashville's music industry continues to grow and today it is home to 80-plus record labels, more than 180 recording studios, 27 entertainment publications and some 5,000 working union musicians.

Maybe music's not your thing—you'll still find plenty of things to do in Tennessee's capital city. Be transported to ancient Greece by visiting The Parthenon, the world's only exact replica of the ancient Greek temple. It's certainly something to talk about with your friends back home. Inside the temple stands the 42-foot-tall gilded goddess of wisdom, Athena, the western hemisphere's largest indoor statue. The Cowan Collection, which spans the years 1765-1923, includes works from American artists representing the Neo-classic and Impressionism eras.

Travel from ancient Greece to the antebellum era with a visit to Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. The mansion has been restored to its 1837 appearance and today looks much as it did when Andrew Jackson returned to it after finishing his second term as president. After the home was damaged by fire in 1834, Jackson had it remodeled in the Greek Revival style. In addition to touring the beautiful mansion, the Hermitage grounds have much to offer including the Hermitage garden, Jackson's tomb, and the Beyond the Mansion tour of sites related to slavery, farming, and nature.

Nearby Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art combines nature and art in an enchanting way. In addition to the botanical gardens and Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail, the 55-acre property is home to a variety of art collections. Cheekwood's permanent art collection is housed in a 30,000-square-foot Georgian-style home, where collections of American contemporary painting and sculpture, English and American decorative arts and renowned traveling exhibitions are shown. It's also home to the Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation Collection of Fabergé, including 57 rare pieces. There are too many collections to note. If you love art and nature, you won't be disappointed.

Nashville is also home to other collections, such as these professional sports teams:

  • National Football League: Tennessee Titans –In 1999, the team moved into the new 68,800-seat coliseum located on the east bank of the Cumberland River downtown, known as LP Field after sponsor Louisiana Pacific.
  • National Hockey League: Nashville Predators – The team has matured into a solid franchise, known for its hard-hitting, never-give-up style of hockey as well as its supportive and boisterous fans.
  • Pacific Coast League Baseball: Nashville Sounds – The Nashville Sounds is a AAA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers and member of the 16-team Pacific Coast League.
  • American Basketball Association: Nashville Broncs – The American Basketball Association returned to Nashville in November 2008. Home games are played at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium.

  • May is a beautiful time to visit Music City and an opportunity to attend the 2010 Historic Nashville Samboree, May 18 to 24. In addition to tours of famous Nashville sites, tickets to shows and eight meals, the package price includes six nights of full-hookup camping at Two Rivers Campground.