When the Grand Ole Opry came on air for the first time on November 28, 1925, country music history was being made. Up to that point, country music didn’t have a “home,” but the weekly radio show would soon change that.
Over the years, in large thanks to the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville has become the home base for the country music industry, producing country music superstars like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, George Jones and Dolly Parton. When planning your next trip to Nashville, TN, here are the must-see country music attractions you won’t want to miss!
Known as “the show that made country music famous,” the Grand Ole Opry should be the first stop in Nashville on every country music fan’s list. This weekly live country music show, which is broadcast nationally via WSM Radio, features live performances from country music greats and newcomers.
There are typically 3-4 live shows a week from the Grand Ole Opry House at Opry Mills, with a different lineup every night. In the winter months, the Grand Ole Opry moves from the Grand Ole Opry House to the historic Ryman Auditorium for “Opry at The Ryman.” Before you head out to the show, make sure to take a guided tour of the Grand Ole Opry which takes you backstage, onstage and in the spotlight at the show that made country music famous.
The current home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum sits at 222 5th Ave S in downtown Nashville and holds more country music history than any other place on the planet! This is a must-see for any country music fan wanting to get an in-depth look into the country music industry. A walk through the museum will take you back in time to the roots of country music, as well as showcase exhibits of the great artist and songsmiths of the 21st century.
Remember Elvis’s gold Cadillac? The Country Music Hall of Fame has got it! It’s open seven days a week and is closed on all major holidays.
3. The Ryman
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Nashville, Tennessee, The Ryman Auditorium is downtown Nashville’s premiere music venue. The Ryman originated in 1892 as a place of worship, but in the 1900’s, the building began hosting secular events such as concerts, boxing matches and other attractions. What really made the Ryman Auditorium world-famous was the Grand Ole Opry, which was held at the Ryman from 1963–1974.
After the Opry left the Ryman in the 1970’s, the venue remained mostly vacant until its renovation in 1994. Since then, the stage of the Ryman has been graced by some of the biggest names in modern music history. The Ryman Auditorium features live performances and events weekly and also offers daily tours of the venue and backstage areas, which are both adorned with memorabilia from over the 100-year history of the auditorium.
Stepping onto downtown Nashville’s iconic Broadway Street will take you back to a simpler time when 10-gallon hats and cowboy boots reigned supreme. Broadway (as the locals call it) is home to Nashville’s honky tonks and sometimes even an Elvis Presley impersonator or two.
If you want to see live country music at its best, Broadway is the place to hear it. The bands get started around 10am and go until last-call. Some of country music’s best got their start singing at the honky tonks, so pay attention because you may just be listening to the next great country music star. And don’t forget to check out the world-famous Tootsies Orchid Lounge. Legend has it, this is where country music artists would hang out after their gigs at the Ryman (located right behind the bar).
When you hear a country music song on the radio, chances are that song was written or co-written by one of Nashville’s top songwriters. Songwriters are the staple of the country music industry and are often lesser known than the artist who sings the songs they wrote. The Bluebird Cafe is a music venue that celebrates the songwriter and on any given night, you’ll be serenaded by the guys and gals who pinned your favorite country music songs. Writers who perform at the Bluebird Cafe often show up with only their guitar and sing songs next to 2-3 other writers in a format Nashville has dubbed “in the round.” Make sure to book your reservation in advance because this intimate venue only has 100 seats and sells out almost every night. And if you plan on attending a show at the Bluebird Cafe, dress accordingly because you have to wait outside to be seated!
6. Music Row
On a map of Nashville, they may be called 16th and 17th Avenues South, but locals refer to this area as “Music Row.” These two streets are home to many of the record labels and recording studios that have made country music what it is today. Every major country music artist has spent time on the row, and if you’re lucky, you just may see your favorite country music artist going in or out of a business meeting.
On Music Row, you’ll see historical sites like RCA’s famed Studio B, where Elvis Presley recorded more than 260 songs! Music Row is also home to Sony Music Nashville, Warner Brothers, Curb Records, ASCAP & BMI (music rights organizations), Ocean Way Recording Studio, and pretty much every music publisher in town!
When you come to Nashville, Music Row is a definite MUST on your list.
Experience Nashville in Grand style. Large or small, whether one person or an entire convention, we invite you to the beautiful grounds of Arrington Vineyards, to see the landmarks from Johnny Cash’s life in Hendersonville, or head up to the Bourbon Trail of Kentucky. Fans of ABC’s Nashville will want to check out the real house in Belle Meade where Rayna James lives or drive out to Juliette Barnes’ rented mansion.
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