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Nashville Travel Guide

When in 1943 Governor Prentice Cooper accused country legend Roy Acuff and the country music community of turning the City into ‘the hillbilly capital of the united states’ the veteran fiddle player (and sometime Yo Yo promoter) wryly retorted ‘you say opera and I say opry’. Of course the astonishing popularity of C&W meant that the music business in Nashville couldn’t help but flourish and consequently branched out to become an eclectic industry. Over the past fifty or so years everyone who is anyone in the music world has recorded here from Elvis to Paul McCartney.

The biggest by-product of the country music scene, tourism, now caters over 9 million visitors who make the pilgrimage to the ‘Athens of the South’ to get a taste of authentic ‘opry’. Many of them make there first stop the legendary Grande Ole Opry to see there heroes up close and personal in the 4,400-seater concert hall that plays home to the very best that Country music and Bluegrass has to offer. To be honest the venue used today has only been it’s home since the mid seventies, but more about that later. If you’re only on a short stay, hell, it don’t matter neither! Right next to the 45,000 square foot Concert Hall is the Opryland Hotel and Convention Centre. Booking a room shouldn’t be too hard; the place is truly vast with nearly three thousand rooms. Surrounding the Hotel is The Delta, an enormous man made park enclosed in glass and steel, filled with plants, trees, waterfalls, an island, restaurants, shops and even its own river running around the edge!

In the City’s famous Downtown area there is more than enough to keep diehard line dancers enthralled. For a start there’s the legendary Ryman Auditorium, former home to the Grande Ole Opry. Built in 1890 it was originally conceived as a ‘tabernacle to spiritual music’ and became home to the weekly live broadcasts during the 40s, remaining so for 31 years. It was renovated and re-opened during the early 90s and since then ‘The Mother Church of Country Music’ has played host to a wide variety of musicians including, Bruce Springsteen, Cheryl Crow and James Brown.

No self respecting upholder of the faith would dare pass up on the chance to visit the Country Music Hall Of Fame where you can see Gene Autry’s famous String Tie and Elvis’ Gold Cadillac (despite that fact that after a cool reception at the ‘Opry’ in October 54 he flatly refused to appear there again). Included in the Hall of Fame package is a tour of RCA’s legendary Studio B where the original ‘Nashville Sound’ was born. Then there’s Music Row, which is actually in 2 sections, the first being the industry based buildings around Music Square and the other a tourist strip around Demonbraun St. And whilst you’re at it you may as well step in at the Country Music Wax Museum and come ‘face to face’ with luminaries such as Hank Williams Jr and George Jones.

If you happen to be in town on a Sunday be sure and call in at the Nashville Cowboy Church at the Texas Troubadour Theatre. Service starts at 10am and features a blazing sermon from Dr Harry Yates backed by a full Country and Western band. He’s a star of the stage in his own right and married to none other than Joanne Cash Yates, a certain Johnny Cash’s little sister. Remember the Dr. isn’t ‘trying to scare you to hell’ but ‘scare the HELL out of YOU!’ Somewhat of an antithesis of the thigh slappin’ Sunday Service is the Nash Trash Tour. ‘The trashier the better’ is their motto and the Jugg Sisters are as true to their word as the good Dr himself. Simply hop aboard the big pink bus and enjoy the cheese-wiz hors d’oeuvres as Brenda, Kay and Sheri Lynn guide you around the less salubrious areas of town where the famous names of C&W and Rock and Roll bottomed out - Davidson County Jail, Tootsie’s Orchard Lounge or the guitar shaped pool where Elvis once swam butt naked by moonlight.

When you tire of steel guitars and banjos take a ride to the outskirts of town and check out the wealth fascinating historical places. There’s the Hermitage, one time home of the South’s most legendary statesman and general Andrew Jackson. Visit his beautifully restored mansion and the surrounding plantation with its intriguing archaeological sites dedicated to discovering the truth about slave life there. Head for Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and gawp at the 55 acres of unique and unbelievably beautiful parklands filled with pools, fountains, statues and plants, trees and shrubs from the world over. Back in the City Centre be sure to take a look at the Parthenon, an exact replica of the temple in Athens originally built for the Centennial Exposition and now rebuilt as a permanent structure. Inside are a fascinating art collection and a forty-two foot tall statue of the goddess Athena.

At night hit Downtown again for some truly blistering entertainment; there are over 30 music clubs and 125 restaurants to choose from in the area known as The District, which covers Broadway, 2nd Avenue and the notorious Printers Alley. Here you’ll find everything from Cowboy Bars to the Hard Rock Café, barbecue joints to gourmet restaurants. It can get a bit wild around Lower Broad but on the whole the atmosphere is good natured and great fun. If you’re in town between May and August it’s well worth checking out the Riverfront for the ‘Dancin’ in the District’ events. These take place every Thursday during the summer and pull regular crowds of 10,000 plus. You never know who you might catch on stage – Emmylou Harris, Del Amitri, the Iguanas, Beck – and it’s absolutely free!

So if you want taste some real s**t kicking Southern hospitality – great and inexpensive food, fantastic music, good weather, genuinely friendly folk – head for Nashville. Whether you’re a true Country Fan or you’re just a little curious it’s definitely an experience you’ll never forget!

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