Half of the U.S. population lives within 600 miles of Nashville, according to the city’s Chamber of Commerce. As for the other half, Nashville’s conveniently located airport has its own Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. So, if you’re ready for a vacation, or just want to be a tourist for a long weekend, here are 10 travel ideas (listen in alphabetical order) to make the most of Music City.
Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn founded this vineyard about 25 miles from Nashville. Crack open a refreshing Stag’s White, spread out a picnic lunch and enjoy the sprawling view. Check the calendar if you’re interested in cigar night or catching a live band during Music in the Vines. (6211 Patton Road, Arrington, Tenn.)
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
This is the ultimate destination for country fans, whether you’ve been listening for decades or you’ve just discovered the music. The top floor explains the origins of the music while the lower exhibits show memorabilia from current superstars like Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood. (222 Fifth Ave. South)
The former log cabin home of Barbara Mandrell is decorated with dazzling platinum plaques from the current owners, whose management clients include Kenny Chesney, Big & Rich and Gretchen Wilson. Check out the concerts, restaurant and hiking trail, all on the property. (4225 Whites Creek Pike)
Grand Ole Opry
An essential stop on the Nashville package tours, the Opry remains a favorite among older generations. However, contemporary fans may be delighted to find Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Martina McBride in the mix. Blake Shelton is the new virtual tour guide on backstage tours. (2804 Opryland Drive)
Loveless Cafe/Music City Roots
You’ll need a car to get to the Loveless Cafe and probably a nap after you eat. Their biscuits are nationally famous, although some locals prefer the delicious dinner menu. On Wednesday nights, the barn out back hosts Music City Roots, a neat radio show with a satisfyingly diverse roster. (8400 Tennessee Highway 100)
The weekends can get crazy downtown, especially in the Lower Broadway honky-tonks. You’ll hear “Family Tradition” everywhere you go, except at Robert’s, where the bands often reach farther back in the country canon. Pick up classic country CDs at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. (Downtown Nashville)
Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
After an expensive remodel following the flood of 2010, this sprawling hotel site is now a worthwhile destination for everyone — not just for weddings, conventions and tourists. The restaurants are impressive and the décor is impeccable. It’s a “can’t miss” destination over the holidays. (2800 Opryland Drive)
To see a show at the Ryman is to step back in history. Countless stars from the Grand Ole Opry sang here, including Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. It’s also the birthplace of bluegrass music. Following an extensive renovation, the acoustics are incredible. (116 Fifth Ave. North)
To see songwriters in action, catch an “in-the-round” show at a small club. Usually three or four writers sit on stools and swap songs while everyone listens politely. The Bluebird Café (4104 Hillsboro Pike) is famous, but it tends to get crowded. A laid-back option is the Listening Room Café (209 10th Ave. South, Suite 200). They both serve food, too.
For years, the Station Inn held court in a seedy side of Nashville. Now it’s an authentic jewel in a hip district known as the Gulch. Bluegrass fans from around the world come here for fiddles, mandolins, banjos and super-fast picking. Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Joe Nichols and Keith Urban have all been spotted here. (402 12th Ave. South)