A city filled with art, history and music.
By Stacie Standifer
Nashville Local Expert
Narrowing down the list of attractions to only 10 is difficult in a city that is growing at such a rapid pace but still dedicated to preserving and showcasing historic treasures and landmarks. Depending on your tastes and interests, planning a vacation or long weekend can revolve around a day at The Country Music Hall of Fame and surrounding downtown sites (don't miss stopping by the Songwriter's Hall of Fame a block away) with the following afternoon and evening spent at the Grand Ole Opry. Art lovers can rejoice in the central art district downtown after enjoying the collections at Frist Center for the Arts. One of the most sought-after locales for authentic Civil War history sites, the city and surrounding communities host dozens of tours each day to famous sites like Carton Plantation, Lotz House Museum and Carter House Plantation. Spirits come alive and guides are passionate on the topic. Another draw is the landscape, lakes and gardens, and there are several. From spring blooms at Belle Meade Plantation to summer nights on the grounds of Cheekwood and walks through Percy Warner Park, the opportunities for outdoor exploring are abundant. Dress is casual at every establishment, making this an easy and uncomplicated adventure to put on your vacation roster. If you are looking to shop for antiques, hear live music and view superior art in one place, Nashville is your town.
If you have a history buff seeking entertainment, head straight to Franklin, TN. Here, you can visit many sites (this year is an anniversary celebration of the battles, with a number of specific events) for very little expense. Carton joins other nearby locales including Carter House and The Lotz House for a series of stops (discounts for packages) reflecting some of the most famous historical battles, homes and individuals. Tour through stables and view grave sites of soldiers lost. Here, there is a true feeling of connection to actual happenings during the conflict between North and South. Elements, furnishings, grounds and artifacts are certified and appreciated by top authorities on the war throughout the world. ((615) 794-0903)
One of Nashville's most beloved music venues, The Ryman is the premier spot for any music lover seeking to hear their favorite performer or tour a legendary performance space. Originally built as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892 by Captain Tom G. Ryman, it is one of the most famous music venues in the country (as well a a National Historic Landmark). With their top-notch acoustics and history, The Ryman has an almost mystical, welcoming feel. So many rising stars' journies to the top have included a pass or two across the Ryman stage, and any performer jumps at the chance to connect with fans in the intimate setting. Ryman also offers daytime tours, so you can explore the majesty of this venue at your own pace. Easily spend two hours in the museum and, before you leave, make sure to stop by Cafe Lula for fresh and healthy eats! (615-889-3060, 615-458-8700)
Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
History comes to life at the home of Old Hickory, former President Andrew Jackson. The story of The Hermitage, and how Andrew Jackson's forged his prosperous farm, is peppered with invention, freedom, and the changing tides of the times. At the Hermitage, visitors can expect to see a day in the life of plantation living, as they tour the mansion and the expansive grounds and learn about the history of slavery, the role of women, and the war. During the holiday seasons, guest can expect to discover the origins of many of the Jackson family Christmas traditions. (615-889-2941)
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
After much anticipation, the new home of the Nashville Symphony opened in 2006. The stunning building, modelled after a European music hall, is equipped to host a variety of musical performances, including classical, jazz, pop, and blues. The state-of-the-art facility boasts natural lighting, soundproofed windows, and innovative, convertible seats. The concert calendar runs September through May, but the building itself is worth a visit anytime. (615-687-6400, 615-687-6500)
Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art
Cheekwood mansion is a site to behold, and one that Nashville society has carefully protected for years with the annual white tie Swan Ball fundraiser. Curated antiques and a passionately preserved building are the reason this is the city's top choice for weddings and photographs. The grounds are impossibly expansive, with countless installations, water features, wildlife and annual floral displays that receive national accolades. Spring is lovely but Cheekwood offers delights in every season. The Pineapple Room is a traditional dining experience for enjoying lunch overlooking breathtaking scenery. Evenings are also special here with regular offerings of movies from the lawns or artistic lighting exhibits. There are exploration activities for children weekly and endless ways to find solitude, joy and beauty on every corner of the property. Do check the website for happenings, events and open hours and seasonal displays prior to visiting. (615-356-8000)
Parthenon in Centennial Park
A tribute to classical architecture, the Parthenon in Centennial Park houses one of the premier museums in the area. The permanent collection boasts notable works from 19th- and 20th-century American artists (Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Moran) and contemporary pieces crafted by emerging talents. Athenian sculptures created from direct casts of originals that once adorned the ancient Greek ruins are also on display. It's a popular place for weddings, proposals, and filming for movies and television. Since it is located near Vanderbilt campus, a tour is perfect to pair with visiting some of the school grounds and architecture. Soda shops, revered burger joints and collegiate shopping are all nearby. (615-862-8431)
Belle Meade Plantation
Belle Meade Plantation is one of the premier plantations in Nashville. Stately, elegant, and pristine, this antebellum mansion rests on 30 acres of land just south of Nashville in upscale Belle Meade. Charming and authentic, the quaint grounds are impossible to turn down for a stroll, while the columns of the house still bear bullet scars from the Civil War. The plantation includes eight historic buildings, including Dunham Station's cabin, which dates from 1790. The Victorian-style manor home, completed in 1853, is now a museum dedicated to preserving the Harding family's rich legacy. History is preserved and brought back to life for the thousands that discover and return to Belle Meade mansion every year. (615-356-0501, 800-270-3991)
Frist Center for the Visual Arts - Martin ArtQuest Gallery
The Frist Center for the Arts is the type of place you could visit weekly and never grow bored. The ambiance is elite but approachable while exhibits never cease to excite and entice visitors. Most local residents purchase annual passes and often do gift shopping and lunches onsite. Art Deco Cars filled multiple rooms last year while the theaters are always hosting educational viewings for students and those seeking a broader understanding of the art world. There is always something fresh onsite, which is why the area's most prominent citizens devote efforts to continuing improvement of this very special facility located in one of downtown's most beautiful landmark structures. (615-244-3340)
Country Music Hall of Fame
Private spaces and intimate venues scattered throughout this venue are booked by the most discriminating personalities in the music industry on a regular basis. Special exhibits are limited with other tributes to country legends being mainstays. This is perhaps one of the area's most treasured attractions, both for nostalgia and for all that it represents. With the addition of the Omni Hotel and new location of Hatch Show Prints (adjacent) the Hall of Fame is in good company, and the one place you cannot miss seeing while in town. (615-416-2001, 800-852-6437)
Grand Ole Opry
The top attraction in Music City, The Grand Ole Opry is an American icon. Known as "country's most famous stage," what began as a simple radio broadcast in 1925 is today a live-entertainment phenomenon. Providing world-famous entertainment for all ages, The Opry showcases both country music legends and up-and-coming stars. A one-of-a-kind experience, guests come for the memorable shows and unforgettable moments, and are offered a behind-the-scenes look at this famous show on the Opry tours. Each Friday and Saturday night, a backstage glimpse into new and old country history is available, and guests are sure to remember their "opry moments" long after the curtain is closed. (615-871-6779, 800-733-6779)
About Stacie Standifer
As the founder of acclaimed titles Nashville Lifestyles, Nashville Weddings and AT HOME/NL, Stacie has been involved with every level of fashion, celebrity and home design in her city for over 14+ years. An avid traveler, she is a respected resource in sharing trends with thousands of followers in the South. Since selling her publications and ultimately leaving her publisher post in mid-2013, Stacie continues to freelance as a contributor and also acts as a consultant for select luxury retail and entertainment clients. Shopping, travel and entertaining tips are posted weekly on her popular website, SouthernSophisticate.com.
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