The most common question I’ve been asked since returning from the States is “Where was your favourite place in America?” and I answer the same every time, hands down it is Nashville, Tennessee.
Nashville may hold a special place in my heart forever because it was my first solo trip, but it was also number one on my American bucket list and I cannot wait to go back someday soon!
Nashville Downtown Hostel
I did my research before setting off on a solo trip and found that staying in hostels was definitely the best way to go. Nashville Downtown had great reviews online and if you look carefully on TripAdvisor you’ll find the glowing review I left after my own trip! The rooms are all named after famous musicians (I was in the Joan Jett room) and there’s a really great common room downstairs with a beer fridge, pool table and guitars for the budding country musician. The hostel is modern and clean with friendly staff and great facilities. Its location on 2nd street cannot be beaten for being right in the heart of downtown Nashville.
While I was in Nashville there was actually a tornado warning and the hostel staff gathered everyone together in the common room until the warning was over. This night actually turned out to be the best night of my trip! Being essentially locked in the common room by the crazy weather forced my social side and I made some really great friends who I went to dinner line dancing with (because no one wants to line dance alone).
Country Music Hall of Fame
I am a really big country music fan, which is why the Country Music Hall of Fame was the first stop on my tour of Nashville. The museum opens at 9am and I’d recommend getting there as soon after
that as you can. The hostel is only a short walk from the museum so I arrived at around 9:15am (and then didn’t leave until after 2pm, I was having such a great time!) Admission costs $25 but if you’re a student (and remember your student ID, which I didn’t) you can get a discount to $22.50. If you’re looking to spend 5 hours there like I did it’s worth the money! I really liked this museum because it was such a mix of classic country and modern “new” country so it’s perfect for country music fans of all ages. I especially enjoyed getting to see my girl Taylor Swift’s genuine rhinestone guitar!
Boot Country (Two Free Boots)
The next item on my Nashville list was to go shoe shopping. There are cowboy boot shops all down the main streets of Nashville but my research lead me to Boot Country on Broadway. This store is famous for its “Buy One Pair get TWO Pairs FREE” policy which is designed in part to justify the $400 price tag (which for genuine leather cowboy boots it does) but in reality just enabled me to fall in love with three pairs of boots instead of one… I spent a good hour in this store picking out my boots so I suggest you set aside a good chunk of time for this activity (and bring your credit card). If you live in the US the store will ship your boots home for you, which is incredibly helpful because those boots aren’t light and you can only fit one pair on your feet at a time.
Wildhorse Saloon (Line Dancing)
This is THE place for a night out in Nashville. I was unfortunately still underage by a couple of months when I visited Nashville but one of the reasons I loved this place is they still allowed underage people in. Before 9pm those of us with a few more weeks to 21 can gain entry simply by paying twice the cover ($10 instead of $5) and having giant permanent-marker ‘M’ for ‘minor’ drawn on the back of both your hands. As strange as this was to me, being from a country where the drinking age is 18, I at least appreciated the opportunity to hear some really good live country music and learn to line dance from the best Nashville has to offer! There is a live band playing every night at the Wildhorse Saloon and when they break every 20 minutes or so they play recorded music and teach a few line dancing steps which you can then practice when the live band comes back on. You think you can only line dance to certain songs? This place will teach you that you can line dance to ANYTHING if you really want to! It’s basically the perfect place to break in the pink sparkley cowboy boots that you bought that afternoon.
Nashville War Memorial and Tennessee State Capitol
I discovered the War Memorial accidentally one morning when I misread the bus timetable and arrived very early for my bus. The War memorial is located just down from the Tennessee State Capitol which was the landmark I was trying to use Google Maps to find when I found the memorial. It was early in the morning and so very peaceful. I took a lot of pictures here and enjoyed a picnic breakfast sitting on the edges of one of the fountains. The War Memorial is also just down from the State Museum so it’s an easy and worthwhile landmark to fit into any tour of Nashville.
Another of my discoveries in Nashville was my new-found dream school. I got the bus from the city centre to Vanderbilt University campus with the aim of walking through the campus to the Parthenon in a nearby park. I spent a lot longer then I thought I would on the campus, its such a beautiful walk through, well worth a visit if you’re in that part of town (especially on a sunny day!)
A more unusual, but equally famous, landmark in Nashville is the Parthenon. Built in 1897, the Parthenon is a full scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens. The building now functions as an art museum with an entry fee of $6 and an ever-changing exhibit. It is located in Centennial Park, just a short walk from Vanderbilt’s main campus. Again, here I embraced the beautiful Tennessee weather and took a picnic lunch to the park. I sat people-watching and enjoying the afternoon so much that I missed my bus back to the hostel… Oops!
Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort
I really couldn’t leave Nashville without visiting Opryland. Now the home of the Grand Ole Opry, the hotel and resort is located fairly far out of the main city of Nashville and is about a 30 minute bus journey. The public buses in Nashville actually have very good online information, so its easy enough to work out which bus you need to take. I met people in the hostel who took a taxi to Opryland instead and I think it cost them around $30, so not outrageous if you’d rather avoid the bus! The hotel is absolutely incredible, an absolute must-see in Nashville. Even if you’re not a guest you can walk through all the main atrium areas and visit the countless shops, restaurants, cafes, ice cream bars etc until you jump on your bus home. There are fountain displays and gondola rides and no pictures I could take could even half capture the magic of this place! Maybe on my next trip to Nashville I’ll treat myself to a room!
On my final day in Nashville I rounded off my bucketlist with a visit to the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman is hailed as the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and can be toured daily for $20 self-guided or $27 with a provided tour guide. While I was there there were several people confused over whether to buy a guided tour ticket or not but I would always recommend it. With a self-guided ticket you only get to see the main concert hall whereas the guided-tour takes you into the backstage areas of the auditorium. I also don’t think any money, let alone an extra $7, can buy the amazing stories and personal anecdotes your tour guide will tell you of the time he was a driver for the stars! If you are a budding musician yourself I’d also recommend bringing your instrument with you as the Ryamn offers a photo opportunity on stage. For the price of a professional Ryman photo (around $20 I think) you get to play on the Ryman stage, a printed photograph of your experience and the opportunity to take as many personal photos as you want once the professional one has been paid for. A father and son played the stage while I was there, such a great idea!
Overall, Nashville is not a city to be missed. I only stayed three days and I never wanted to leave! Thanks for a wonderful weekend, Nashville. I will be back!