A must-see while in Nashville is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, housing artifacts, recording clips, videos, stage costumes and interactive exhibits. This is a good place to visit early in your trip for an overview of country music history. Shown here is Elvis Presley's costume and guitars. The museum even houses his gold Cadillac. The listening stations offer visitors an opportunity to choose songs they want to hear from early crooners like Merle Haggard. After touring the facility, we ate lunch at the onsite cafe where I ate the best BLT I ever had. It was made with fried green tomatoes and pimento cheese. Yum!
The fairly new Johnny Cash Museum is quite extensive, showcasing memorabilia, interactive exhibits, documents, letters, awards, costumes and instruments. Allow about an hour or so to see everything.
A trip highlight was a guided tour through RCA Studio B on Music Row. Tours leave from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. More than 35,000 songs were recorded at Studio B by artists, such as Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Waylon Jennings and Charlie Pride. Our tour guide used recordings and lighting to bring the past to life. It was easy to imagine Elvis Presley in the studio recording Are You Lonesome Tonight and other great hits.
Another exciting tour was at the historic Ryman Auditorium, which was a church before being converted into a live music venue, still in use today by many musicians young and old. Still in place are the stained glass windows and church pews. Self-guided and guided tours are available. For a behind-the-scenes look you need to book the backstage tour. It's a short tour that takes you through several dressing rooms and onto the stage, which is the best part of the tour. It was fun to stand on stage with musical instruments and imagine what it's like for performers looking out at the audience. The tour continues to the backstage door, where performers come and go. You can find guitar picks lying in the street. The venue also has an upstairs museum with photos and documents depicting the Ryman's history. Later that evening, we returned to the Ryman for the Grand Ole Opry, the longest running radio show, which featured an announcer who not only introduced the performers, but handled the on-air commercials as well. It was very entertaining.
At Hatch Show Print, one of America's oldest letter press poster print shops, we toured the facility to learn how printed concert posters are made. With the Internet and digital technology, it may seem that traditional letter press isn't necessary. Not so! The quality is much better and textured with letter press, which is why the company is still in demand by businesses around the world.It also prints all the posters and printed materials for the Ryman Auditorium.
Although backstage tours are available at the Grand Ole Opry House, we didn't do one, but we did see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes. Great show, beautiful venue.
Nashville is brimming with an assortment of places to enjoy live music. The General Jackson Showboat features mid-day and evening dining and shows. We went during the day, which is great for families because of the puppet show, and enjoyed live music and lunch while cruising along the Cumberland River.
The Bluebird Cafe is a cozy, laid-back venue where songwriters perform original material in an intimate setting. Three musicians sit in the center of the listening room, chatting abut their music and playing music. Patrons sit at tables surrounding the songwriters. Food and drink service is available. It gets packed so get tickets early.
No visit to Nashville is complete without stopping by its famous honky tonk bars on Broadway. Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Robert's Western Wear and Legends are among the lively venues featuring live bands from 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. They're a lot of fun and each bar is unique. We went around 3 p.m. and the bars were bustling, but not too crowded, like they get at night. We were able to get a table or squeeze in at the bar to order drinks and watch the bands.
So many good restaurants serving southern food in Nashville! Among the places we ate: Edley's East, which serves yummy BBQ in a sports bar setting; Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant, featuring live music and comfort food; the Farm House, utilizing meats and produce from local farms; and the elegant Ravello's restaurant located in the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. Again, since we visited in December, the entire resort was elaborately decorated for Christmas. It was like dining in a winter wonderland - very magical. Great food too!
On the General Jackson Showboat you can catch a live show while enjoying a meal.