For those who think Nashville, the state's capital, is only about country music - think again. Located in the center of the state, Nashville is a city of education with Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities prime examples. A wealth of museums, the arts and professional sports call the city home. But country music remains the city's claim to fame and visitors from all over the world flock here for just that reason.
Tennessee's state capitol building is set on a hill with the rest of downtown flowing lower along the Cumberland River. The city's strategic river position first drew settlers here when it was known as Fort Nashborough. Later, river transportation was joined by the railroad and the town boomed. Although a target during the Civil War, the South could not hold Nashville.
Downtown Nashville and the area known as "the District" can easily be toured on foot. Citywalk is a two mile walking tour through the area. The Tennessee State Capitol here is open to touring and includes statues of famous Tennesseans. For an in depth look at the state's history, visit nearby Tennessee State Museum.
Shrines of country music in the downtown and district include Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, where country stars still head after performances, and Ernest Tubb's Record Shop, which features a free live midnight radio jamboree. Ryman Auditorium and Museum, home to the Grand Ole Opry radio show, hosted country music greats until the Opry was moved in 1974. Country Music Hall of Fame occupies an entire block of the downtown and includes items such as Minnie Pearl's hat and an Elvis Presley Cadillac. The District offers shops, restaurants and clubs including Wildhorse Saloon and Printer's Alley.
Music Valley is home to the Grand Ole Opry; shows are on Friday and Saturday nights with some summer matinees. The huge Opryland complex includes the Grand Ole Opry Museum as well as museums of specific country stars.
Nashville boasts a variety of museums around town including Adventure Science Center, Music Valley Car Museum, Nashville Toy Museum and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Parthenon Gallery includes four art galleries located in the basement of a replica of the Parthenon (complete with a statue of Greek goddess Athena).
The Museum of Art, housed in a Georgian mansion called Cheekwood, sits amid the 55 acres of the Tennessee Botanical Gardens. The estate's owner created Maxwell House coffee. Nashville is home to several grand homes including Belle Meade Plantation, called "The Queen of Tennessee Plantations" and Belmont Mansion, an antebellum close to the downtown.
Outdoor recreation includes the Nashville Zoo, which occupies the grounds of an 1880s farm. Bicentennial Mall State Park, covering the back side of the state capitol, has a 31-fountain display and granite map of the state. Radnor Lake State Natural Area offers a wildlife refuge and nature trails. Nashville also has several professional sports teams including the Tennessee Titans football team and the Nashville Predators hockey team.
Nightlife options are numerous. Live music is available throughout the city at spots such as B.B. King's Blues Club. Dining options run the gamut from barbecue at Hog Heaven to upscale entrees at Martha's at the Plantation on the grounds of Belle Meade. Nashville is known for "hot chicken", plenty spicy and plenty hot. Prince's Hot Chicken Shack is a popular spot for this delicacy.
Nashville is located in the center of the state, at the junctions of Interstates 24, 40 and 65, about 215 miles east of Memphis.