The Inside Self-Storage Expo returns to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 7-10, 2008. We’ve got the scoop on the best places for bar-b-que, the coolest clubs, must-see historical destinations, and even hotel hot spots. Did we mention bar-b-que?
Standing proudly as the capital of Tennessee, Nashville is rich in history and Southern charm. Although first established as a trading post in the early 1700s, a real settlement wasn’t established until 1779 when a group of 200 pioneers settled on the banks of the Cumberland River on Christmas day. Fort Nashborough was soon erected, and later renamed Nashville. In 1796, when Tennessee became a state, Nashville was still a small settlement in a vast wilderness. That changed when a local lawyer named Andrew Jackson became a national hero in the Battle of New Orleans and, later, America’s seventh president.
The Civil War had an even greater impact on Nashville, partly because the Cumberland River made the city a desirable shipping port. Nashville also has the distinction of being the first state capital to fall to Union troops. After the War, the city emerged as a prominent trade center, which helped the population jump from about 17,000 people to more than 80,000 between 1860 and 1900. By the end of War World II, Nashville’s popularity grew for another reason: music. The Grand Ole Opry began as a radio broadcast on station WSM in 1925.
Twenty-five years later, the term “Music City USA” was coined during a WSM broadcast. Soon Music Row began to take shape as recording studios and record labels opened their doors. Elvis Presley, who recorded more than 250 songs at RCA’s Historic Studio B, was one of the many artists to put Nashville on the map.
Today’s Nashville is a treasure chest of Southern sounds, delectable foods, a bustling commerce and vacation destinations.
Let’s face it: When you visit Nashville, you’re not looking for sushi, burritos or pasta. Nope. You want smoky meat dripping in rich, tangy sauce. In Nashville, bar-b-que is KING. That’s spelled BAR-B-QUE, not barbeque! Smoked, slathered and scrumptious, Nashvillians love their grill.
Newcomer Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (615.776.1856), just a half hour from Opryland, is being hailed as a BBQ-lover’s heaven. Brisket, ribs and even bologna are smoked to perfection. Top it off with Southern sides like slaw, green beans or fries. If the enticing sauces don’t draw you, the prices—starting at $5 for just a sandwich—will. For a closer look at Martin’s, check out owner Pat Martin’s blog, in which he chronicles his beginnings as a pit-master apprentice to opening the doors of Martin’s.
With locations across the nation, Famous Dave’s Barbeque (800.574.9444) may already be a familiar name. Huge portions of pork, ribs and chicken are served alongside firecracker green beans, garlic red-skin potatoes and specialty drunkin’ apples.
If you’re looking for a local hangout, try the family owned and operated Whitt’s Barbeque (615.385.1553). All the meats are smoked for 24 hours over smoldering hickory coals, then processed by hand. Whitt’s specialty is Tennessee pork shoulder; or try the beef, chicken and turkey with all the fixings.
Judge Bean’s Bar-B-Que (615.823.3507), operated by Texas transplant Aubrey Bean, features brisket—and lots of it. Smoked for at least 16 hours, the brisket sandwich includes half a dozen quarter-inch slices piled high on a sesame seed bun. Plate it and you’ll get two sides—baked beans, fresh cut fries or coleslaw. While there’s no pork on the menu, you will find meaty ribs, chicken drummettes, shrimp and even tamales. And because the joint is located in the heart of Music City, look for local musicians on Thursday and Friday nights.
Inside the Gaylord Opryland hotel, you’ll find a good mix of Southern favorites and quick bites. Old Hickory Steakhouse (615.871.6848) offers everything from bison and bone-in rib steak to salmon and short ribs. If you’re more of a cheese-and-wine type, they’ve got that, too. Or relax with a domestic or imported beer or Kentucky bourbon at the Library Lounge. Reservations required.
Dine al fresco at the Tuscan-themed Ristorante Volare (615.871.6848). Try authentic Italian dishes like chicken fettuccini, lasagna Bolognese and tiramisu, or signature items such as parmesan-crusted swordfish or pork chop wrapped in prosciutto and sage. There’s also an extensive wine and dessert list. Volare is kid-friendly, too, but be sure to book your reservations early.
Gaylord also has a number of upscale casual eateries, including Cascades Seafood Restaurant (615.871.6848), Japanese-style sushi at Wasabi’s, Rusty’s Sports Bar and Grill, and Water’s Edge Marketplace Buffet.
Looking beyond Opryland, you’ll find no shortage of hip places and old favorites dotting the Nashville scene. Upscale meets modern cuisine at radius10 (615.259.5105), located just 15 minutes from the convention center. The lunch menu is a mix of re-imagined favorites like mac ’n cheese and po boys, while dinner offers up flavorful ahi tuna or chicken and white truffle lasagna. Arrive early and order from the happy hour menu that goes way beyond typical bar fare. Beer, wine and specialty martinis round out the menu.
Located in Nashville’s hip Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood, Bongo Java (615.385.5282) is a local hot spot. Java Joes and Janes can sit a spell at the hand-painted tables inside or head outdoors to the deck and enjoy the fresh air. Bongo serves scrumptious breakfasts—bagels, heart-healthy granola and your basic eggs and bacon—all day, or choose from an array of salads and sandwiches including black bean burgers, hummus wrap or childhood fave grilled cheese. Or just stop in for a fancy cup o’ joe.
If you’re looking for meat-and-three, head to Arnold’s Country Kitchen on 8th Ave. The popular destination serves up Southern comfort meats—meatloaf, chicken, pork chops—alongside three sides—slaw, potatoes, greens or beans. Try the flat griddle-cooked cornbread, a dinner favorite in Nashville. Expect a line at lunchtime; Arnold’s is a local darling.
For a taste of New Orleans, Chappy’s on Church (615.322.9932) is the place to go. Owner John Chapman and his wife landed in Nashville after Katrina destroyed the original Chappy’s on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The two-level renovated building seats up to 220 people. It’s decorated with Orleans flair: Parisian street lamps, stained glass and vibrant colors. Here, seafood classics—jumbo shrimp, oysters and trout almondine—meet up with Orleans’ favorites including honey island swamp frog legs and Mardi Gras lamb chops.
There’s an excellent reason Nashville’s nickname is Music City. Musical artists—no matter their genre—have traveled to the musical mecca to explore the history of sound and song.
Rooted in the folk traditions of the British Isle, country music began as a blend of ethnic sounds and styles, evolving over the years to become today’s multibillion-dollar giant. From the early days of Hank Williams and the Carter Family to today’s chart-toppers Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood, country music is a rich mix of stories, rhythms and rhymes to create a sound that feels like home.
Music fans should add Nashville’s most famous music epicenters—The Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium—to the top of their must-see lists. Located just around the corner from the hotel, The Grand Ole Opry (615.871.OPRY) is steeped in tradition and glory. It began as a radio broadcast in 1925, and soon emerged as a place where legends are made and newcomers pay homage. Catch some of today’s hottest country acts—Vince Gill, Martina McBride and Carrie Underwood—or stop in the gift shop for a souvenir.
The historic Ryman Auditorium in downtown was completed in 1892, and housed the Grand Ole Opry from 1934 to 1974. Known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman underwent extensive restoration in the mid-1990s and now serves as a concert hall featuring music legends like B.B. King, Lou Reed and George Jones, and a number of today’s country, jazz, comedic and rock stars. Soak up some music history with a tour (615.889.3060).
Loretta Lynn. George Strait. Waylon Jennings. Dolly Parton. Elvis Presley. Johnny Cash. Hank Williams. These are just a handful of the famous musical acts that have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (615.416.2001). Get up close and personal with a tour through the museum’s permanent exhibit, Sing Me Back Home. The artifacts, photographs and interactive media will take you on a journey through country music’s roots. The self-guided tour covers two floors of the museum. The story moves in chronological order, featuring information on the music and makers, photos, instruments and costumes.
Home of the Honky-Tonk (and Jazz, too!)
Lower Broadway is home to many honky-tonks, the most famous of which is Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (615.726.0463). Part bar, part concert venue and career-launcher, a number of famous faces have passed through Tootsie’s, including Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and songwriter Roger Miller. And today’s up-and-comers pour their hearts out nightly on the famed stage. In fact, the lounge even has its own retrospect DVD with Nelson as the narrator.
Much like Tootsie’s, Legend’s Corner (615.248.6334) is another hot spot on Broadway. With live music and a crowded dance floor, Legend’s plays tribute to the history of Nashville music with nostalgic memorabilia lining the walls. If you’re looking for more of a down-home bar, this is the place.
If you’re more into jazz than honky-tonk, you’ll want to check out F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar (615.269.5861). Named after famed author F. Scott Fitzgerald, the friendly staff serves up an eclectic mix of wines and high-class Southern fare, such as bourbon maple pork chops or braised turkey legs with dumplings. Patrons can enjoy jazz every night of the week. Plus, a large portion of the fresh ingredients come from local farms.
True jazz lovers should plan a trek to B.B. King’s Blues Club (615.256.2727), one of three outposts nationwide. A house band and other featured music artists take the stage nightly at the superb blues club located in the heart of downtown Nashville on Second Avenue.
Collectors should add Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop (615.255.7503) to their itineraries. Founded by the late “Texas Troubadour” Ernest Tubb, this esteemed music shop has been around for more than 60 years. Tubb’s features an extensive collection of Grand Ole Opry performances on DVD, spotlighting the biggest country music stars of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. The shop is also home to the Midnight Jamboree, the second longest-running radio show, broadcast every Saturday night on WSM 650-AM.
Whether you’re looking for food or fun, there are still plenty of things to do and see inside and around the extravagant Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
Paddle along the Cumberland River on the General Jackson Showboat (615.458.3900). Known for its live shows performed in a two-story Victorian theater, the showboat is a 300-foot paddlewheel riverboat with four huge decks. Midday cruises bring the Peking Acrobats show and casual lunch. When the sun goes down, enjoy an elegant dinner and production show featuring a wide range of music genres. Complimentary hotel shuttle service is available.
Another Cumberland River gem is Gaylord Springs, an ace golfing destination. Designed by former U.S. Open and PGA champion Larry Nelson, the Scottish links-style, par 72 layout has 18 challenging holes bordered by limestone bluffs and enchanting wetlands. On the fourth hole, golfers will discover the course’s namesake—a century-old springhouse. Tee times may be booked up to 30 days in advance (615.458.1730).
For a slice of the outdoors indoors, stroll through Gaylord’s four glass atriums. Explore the 9 acres of lush gardens, winding paths and dazzling waterfalls. Be sure to stroll through the Garden Conservatory, a tropical garden paradise abundant with fragrant and exotic flowers, tantalizing greenery and trickling fountains. Or head over to The Delta for a short cruise on a Mississippi-style flatboat along a winding river.
The Gaylord also has an abundance of shopping opportunities—from souvenirs and bar-b-que sauce to high fashion and jewelry. The unique boutiques are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you’re looking for relaxation, book a massage or facial at Relâche, the Spa at Gaylord Opryland. The 27,000-square-foot spa features indoor and outdoor pools, 12 treatment rooms and a fitness center.
The Wildhorse Saloon, on the other hand, is all about action. Located in nearby downtown Nashville, Wildhorse (615.902.8200) features live music, food and dancing. Gaylord hotel guests receive free admission when they flash their room cards. Shuttle service is available for a small fee.
You don’t have to spend a lot to see a lot in Nashville. The city’s rich history provides the backdrop for a number of free venues. Head over to the Jack Daniel Distillery (931.759.6357), the oldest registered distillery in the United States. Take a guided tour and observe the world-famous whiskey-making process perfected by Jack Daniel in 1866. Open daily 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In business since 1879, Hatch Show Print (615.256.2805) is one of the oldest-known letterpress poster shops in America. Now owned and operated by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the print shop still uses the same techniques employed in the 15th century to create old-time posters of yesterday’s country icons and even today’s stars. Open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Open year-round with flea markets on the weekends, Nashville Farmers’ Market (615.880.2001) features restaurants, open-air stalls, specialty shops and plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables and plants.
If you’re a military buff, Nashville has two gems for you: Fort Negley and the Military History Branch of the Tennessee State Museum. Fort Negley, adjacent to Adventure Science Center and Greer Stadium, was the largest and most important of the fortifications built by Union forces after Nashville fell during the Civil War in 1862. Built primarily by slaves and free black workers conscripted into service, Fort Negley (800.657.6910) is the largest inland stone fortification constructed during the Civil War and incorporates a complex polygonal design.
The Military Museum, located in the War Memorial Building as a tribute to veterans, features exhibits on America’s involvement in foreign wars from the Spanish American War to World War II. Exhibits showcase weapons, uniforms and battle histories. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Tennessee State Capitol (615.741.2692), located on Charlotte Avenue between 6th and 7th Avenues, has remained nearly unchanged since it was completed in 1859. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Capitol was designed by William Strickland, a noted architect and engineer who also designed the Egyptian-influenced First Presbyterian Church (now known as the Downtown Presbyterian Church). Surprising fact: Strickland is buried within the walls of the Capitol, his final work.
A Trip Back in Time
The state of Tennessee flourished during the pre-Civil War years. This is evidenced in the picturesque plantations dotting the countryside. While a number of these beautiful plantations were destroyed during the Civil War, and many more fell into disrepair over the last century, there are a handful of countryside estates still standing proudly today.
You can tour several along The Tennessee Antebellum Trail (800.381.1865), an enchanting self-guided driving tour that roams through four counties and more than 50 historic sites, such as the homes of two past presidents, including Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage. Nestled along a scenic rural landscape, the 90-minute looping trail is a trip back in time.
Located in Centennial Park, the Parthenon (615.862.8431) was originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition. The Parthenon and the re-creation of the 42-foot statue of Athena are full-scale replicas of the Athenian originals. The Parthenon also serves as Nashville’s art museum, which includes 63 paintings by 19th- and 20th-century American artists. Open most days year-round.
For information about hotel accommodations, entertainment, special offers and more, call the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800.657.6910; visit www.visitmusiccity.com.
Top 10 Things to Do in Nashville
1. BBQ. Need we say more?
2. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame.
3. Take a stroll through Bicentennial Park.
4. Have lunch at the Farmer’s Market.
5. Hop aboard the General Jackson Showboat.
6. Grab a drink and enjoy live tunes on Lower Broadway.
7. Stop and smell the roses and other flora along Gaylord Opyrland’s 9 acres of lush gardens, winding paths and serene waterfalls.
8. Tour a piece of presidential history: Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage.
9. See a show at The Grand Ole Opry.
10. Rejuvenate at Relâche, the Spa at Gaylord Opryland.