My love affair with Nashville started long before I ever stepped foot in this lovely city. Growing up a country music fan, Nashville was the mecca of the genre, it’s home to the Grand Ole Opry, countless recording studios, and all of my favorite singers. After a couple trips in high school to visit colleges, one CMA-Fest, and a summer spent interning for the Country Music Hall of Fame, I made the decision to make the big move South to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer/ songwriter.
I’ve lived here since 2009, and BOY, have things changed in the last 8 years. We’ve gone from “the Athens of the South” with slow, Southern summers and lots of country music to a booming metropolis with some of the best food, wine, and entertainment (country and otherwise!). There are a handful of new restaurants opening weekly now, and we keeps showing up on lists of great place to live, eat and play. It’s exciting, but easy to to get caught up in the curmudgeon-y habit of wishing new people would stop showing up and ruining our small town meets big city vibe.
So, I’ve decided to write Nashville, my beloved city, a love letter. The great news for you is I’m going to write it in several parts, and give you tips to how to do Nashville like a local along the way. So here we go!
Part 1: Honky Tonk-ing like a local
The other Nashville locals might tell you that there’s no way to “Honky Tonk” like a local. Broadway, the main drag downtown with hundreds of bars and music venues, is probably the number one tourist destination in Nashville. Hey, if you’re going to come to Nashville, you’ve got to at least spend an hour or two honky tonk-ing! Here are my 4 favorite honky tonks!
1. Robert’s Western World
Walking into Robert’s Western World feels like walking back in time a couple of decades. The long, narrow building has a handful of round tables and long wooden table, surrounded by old Hatch Show Print posters and vintage photos. If the shelves of cowboy boots against the wall don’t let you know that you’re in for great, classic country music, the music reverberating through the air will do the job. This bar features lots of Western Swing and Retro-Country bands whose objective is to get you on your feet. The dance floor is always full with patrons of all ages, and there is never a shortage of people two-stepping and swing dancing the night away. If it gets a little too hot on the dance floor, you can always go up to the balcony for some fresh air and conversation with tourists and locals alike.
2. Legend’s Corner
Featuring a mix of current and classic country, rock, and pop covers, some of the best musicians in Nashville grace this stage nightly. This corner lot bar is a bit more spacious than some of the other bars on Broadway and is a great place to start or end your bar-hopping evening on Broadway due to it’s location at the end of the strip. Stop in for a drink or two and get your night started!
3. Paradise Park Trailer Resort
This pace is definitely a tourist favorite, but for good reason. The trailer-park themed bar is impossible to miss with it’s giant neon sign out front. Walk inside and you’ll find an old rusted out car at the front of the bar, a high-energy band onstage playing all night long, and the cheapest pitchers of PBR you’ll find downtown. If you enjoy people watching, there is never a shortage of entertaining patrons to keep your eyes open for. As an added bonus, there’s a burger joint attached to the bar with some of the best burger, hot dogs and fries you’ll ever have… especially after a few pitchers of beer and night of dancing!
4. The Nashville Palace
For your final stop, I’m taking you off the main strip and East of downtown to The Nashville Palace. This classic Nashville haunt is known as the place Randy Travis got his start, washing dishes and playing music on the weekends. That tradition continues today with great bluegrass, Western Swing, and Classic Country bands playing with some of the best dancers in Nashville gracing the dance floor each weekend. If you’re staying near the airport or Opryland, this is a short cab or Uber ride, and only about 10 minutes from downtown.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Doing Nashville Like a Local!