Great Urban Weekend Escapes: Nashville, TN
February 21, 2013
Welcome back to “Great Urban Weekend Escapes.” Today we visit Music City, home to some excellent Southern cuisine, surprisingly great hotels and of course, music, music, music. For reasons I will elaborate on, Nashville is an absolutely perfect pick for a weekend getaway.
For new readers, I’ll very briefly recap the logic behind this recurring feature, Great Urban Weekend Escapes. In my very first column on Indianapolis, Indiana, I explain the concept in much greater detail, so if you want to learn more about the criteria, read that one, here.
The concept is simple: As someone who travels a great deal and is always short on time, I’ve become a big fan of more manageable cities, those perfect for weekend or long weekend escapes. My rules for what makes a city a great weekend choice include at least one standout attraction, something people travel to see, like the Alamo. It must also have unique or diverse cuisine. Natural attractions, great lodging, notable cultural offerings and/or museums, and interesting shopping are all big pluses. Even more than most of the places I’ve written about, Nashville fits this formula to a T – it was born to be one of my Great Urban Weekend Escapes. And I am not alone: just last month, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine named Nashville one of “The 5 Best Places to Go” in the entire world (see article).
I’ve said this before: If you live in Nashville, please take your selection as a compliment. I’m not suggesting your hometown is only “worth” a couple of days – I happily live in a town of less than 5,000 souls with two restaurants and no major attractions. I’m saying your city is user-friendly enough to be enjoyed in a weekend – hopefully the first of many weekend visits.
Standout attraction? How about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum? Works for me. I’m not even a country music fan and I loved it. Then again, I think people like myself who are not country music fans often forget just how broad “country” is and how much crossover impact it has. A visit to the museum is a reminder how much more connection most music lovers have to country than they know. It’s also just a great facility: you ride to the top and then work your way down, and it is set up so that while you pass through it all, you can go as fast or slow as you want and it’s easy to skip something you are not interested in. The $37 million facility opened in 2001, and it is very well designed, user friendly, and like many other sites it is also in the heart of Nashville’s very walkable downtown.
That sort of sets the tune, since Nashville is serious about music. Recording stars Faith Hill, Brooks and Dunne, Jimmy Buffet, and Ashley Judd all have homes here, and Music Row downtown is the base for numerous recording studios, record label headquarters and entertainment industry offices – Elvis recorded more than 250 songs here. For the public, music related facilities include Music Mile, with the recent $123 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum, the Music City Walk of Fame and the Bridgestone Arena. And of course, there is the Grand Ole Opry – its weekly live broadcast is the nation’s longest running radio show, since 1925. The Opry is now a huge multi-tiered enterprise that includes dining, shopping and associated lodging, but its heart is the 2,300-seat Ryman Auditorium, built as a church in 1893 and now National Historic Landmark. Big time concerts and performances are held regularly (American Idol judge Keith Urban was a recent performer) and seeing a show at the Ryman is the highlight of a Nashville visit for many. Daily backstage tours are offered of the auditorium, recording and broadcast studios and much more.