Untamed Melody

Above: An exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Mark Gibson-The Image Finders

Below: Gaylord Entertainment Center hosts concerts and sporting events. Thomas R. Fletcher-The Image Finders

Before You Go
For more information, contact the Nashville CVB at (800) 657-6910 or www.musiccityusa.com.

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Order free information about Missouri through the Reader Service Card online and click on reader resources.

From boot-scooting boogies to
botanical gardens, Nashville hums with foot-stomping fun.

B Y   B O N N I E   G I L L   M A N H A R T
Nashville’s music scene is hot and there are thousands of residents connected to the music industry. This metropolitan Southern city has a historical downtown, sprawling suburbs and a variety of music festivals throughout the year.

Each June for the past three decades the city welcomed the all-country Fan Fair. There is still a musical gathering in June, but its name is now CMA Music Festival. The four-day festival attracts top country artists and hundreds of their fans. Music flows from the stages set up at the Riverfront Park and from the concerts held in The Coliseum. Other musical venues, such as the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry House and the 14 downtown honky-tonks, give the public a good feel of Nashville’s year-round musical scene.

The Ryman Auditorium is a great place for a concert due to its acoustics; performers have raved about the venue for decades. Built in 1892, the Mother Church of Country Music was extensively renovated in 1992. During Fan Fair 2003, the auditorium hosted several musicians and singers including the Kentucky Headhunters and Wynonna Judd. George Carlin, Marty Stuart and many others plan to perform at the Ryman in the upcoming months.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Artists in a Country Museum?

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is full of information about country music and its history, such as how the Nashville sound was created from a blend of country and pop music. Those who started the sound, and those who were influenced by it, include Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Everly Brothers and the Eagles.

Exhibits feature vintage guitars, stage costumes and Elvis’ gold-colored Cadillac. Visitors often spend hours at the hall making their own CDs from selections of favorite artists. “Night Train to Nashville: Music City Rhythm and Blues 1945-1970,” an exhibit opening in March, will tell the story of rhythm and blues in Nashville.

The new $37 million Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is five times larger than the previous one, which was located on Music Row, home to many recording studios. Major steps are being taken to revitalize Music Row by making it an upscale live music and dining destination.

The Grand Ole Opry, a first-class facility with 4,400 seats, feels like a throwback to the 1940s due to the live radio-show audience, the hillbilly-type jokes and the recorded commercials. It’s located in Opryland, about 20 minutes northeast of downtown, which features the 2,881-room Gaylord Opryland Hotel, the General Jackson Showboat paddle wheeler and the Opry Mills shopping mall.

The hotel rivals a Vegas property; its nine acres of indoor gardens contain boutique shopping, giant waterfalls, tropical plants and a narrated boat ride. Opryland offers packages to the CMA Music Festival activities as well as a shuttle to the fair.

The honky-tonks downtown on Broadway are the real deal complete with smoke, loud music and louder conversation. Local aspiring artists perform in them every day from 11 a.m. through 2 a.m.

The Bluebird Café offers a different atmosphere; there’s no smoking, performers play acoustical music and conversation is forbidden during sets.

Many a singer and songwriter have been discovered during the café’s Monday night open mic shows.

More than Music

Nashville is also known as the Athens of the South, and those not interested in music will find plenty of attractions ranging from art galleries to museums to historical sites. The Cheekwood Botanical Garden provides a refreshing respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. The garden’s 55 acres include a path under a lush canopy of bamboo in the Japanese Garden. The property also holds the Museum of Art, which is housed in the former residence of the Cheek family. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is worth a stop to see the gorgeous Art Deco interior of this renovated post office and to visit the gift shop, which offers unique items and great prices.

For sports fans, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and the NHL’s Nashville Predators provide exciting action.

Top off a visit to Nashville with some fine dining. White-gloved staff pamper guests at Jimmy Kelly’s, a restaurant famed for its steaks and corncakes. The Park Café’s international cuisine has many fans. The signature item of its chef, Willie Thomas, formerly of Hermitage’s Capitol Grill, is crème brulee napoleon, which comes highly recommended.

Bonnie Gill Manhart freelances for Home & Away magazine.

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