Two iconic establishments that can’t be missed are the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, both of which have have made an an indelible impact on making Nashville the Music City. The Ryman was constructed in 1897 as a tabernacle and became the home to the famous Grand Ole Opry in 1943 where it remained until 1974 when it moved to the Grand Ole Opry House. Today it is one of the the most popular music venues in the country, hosting big name musical acts of all genres. The Grand Ole Opry, the country’s longest running radio show, celebrates more than 90 years on the air and still puts on live shows three nights a week. In one show, you’ll hear a dozen performers, from country music greats to newcomers on the scene.
A city full of songwriters, take in a songwriters night at one of the city’s music venues that host a writers night. The most famous is the Bluebird Cafe where you can hear songwriters perform their original material in an intimate “in the round” setting every night of the week. Other great places to check out are The Listening Room, Douglas Corner, and The Commodore Grille.
Another revered music venue is the hole-in-the-wall Station Inn. Located in the middle of the buzzing Gulch neighborhood, the Station Inn remains unchanged and offers some of the best live bluegrass music you’ll find anywhere. Hit up the Sunday night Bluegrass Jam for a true “only in Nashville” experience. Speaking of hole-in-the wall, many of Nashville’s most popular venues, there are more than 180 of them, may be tough to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. We suggest using the free Nashville Live Music Guide app to find out who’s playing where. Venues like Mercy Lounge, Exit/In, 3rd & Lindsley, The Basement, and 12th & Porter host musicians of all genres from rock and pop to folk and singer/songwriter.
If you want to pack in a lot of live music all in one spot, head down to Lower Broadway, aka Honky Tonk Highway, and pop in and out of legendary clubs like Tootsie's World Famous Orchid Lounge and Robert's Western World. And remember, you don't have to have a ticket to see live music in Nashville. There's free music playing all the time in this city (but if you like the music, drop a couple in the tip jar).
Learn more about the history of Nashville and music on the RCA Studio B tour which departs from the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nicknamed “The Home of a Thousand Hits,” Studio B became famous in the 1960s for producing what has come to be known as “the Nashville Sound.” It was also Elvis’ favorite place to record. The list of artists who recorded there include Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, and the Everly Brothers. Another must-stop is the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum which honors the talented musicians who played on some of the greatest recordings of all time. You’ll learn that Jimi Hendrix actually learned how to play guitar while he was living in Nashville and that Roy Orbison wrote “Oh, Pretty Woman” from his apartment near Music Row. Be sure to check out the new GRAMMY Museum Gallery there which offers an interactive look at the history of the GRAMMY Awards.
Get a glimpse inside the lives and careers of two of Nashville’s most accomplished musicians at the Johnny Cash Museum and The George Jones. The Johnny Cash Museum showcases a world-class collection of items that tell both the personal and professional story of the incredible life of the Man In Black. Located just down the street, The George Jones provides a never-before-seen look at the life and career of the musical icon through personal and professional memorabilia of “The Possum.”
One great way to get the maximum amount of music out of your trip is to plan your visit around one of the city’s countless music events including CMA Music Festival, Americana Music Festival, Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, Live on the Green, and Musicians Corner, to name a few. You can always count on amazing live music at the city's annual celebrations on the 4th of July and New Year's Eve, both of which are free!
Don’t leave empty handed. Pick up some uniquely Nashville musical souvenirs at Hatch Show Print, one of America’s oldest working letterpress poster shops. You can get concert posters, original Hatch art, and other cool stationery. Grimey’s is an indie record shop where you can find albums from today’s top artists as well as those hard-to-find indie bands. Also, be sure to check out Third Man Records’ storefront. Third Man, founded by Jack White is a recording studio with a small storefront that sells vinyl albums as well as other eclectic music paraphernalia.