Welcome to Music City.
Something not a lot of people know about that famous moniker is that it was given to Nashville by Queen Victoria back in the day after she heard the Fisk Jubilee Singers perform, at least so the story goes, and Nashville has been slowly growing into that name ever since.
Our reputation as The Music City came about as a sort of phenomenon, perhaps something in the air or water. But ever since, and maybe even a little before those Fisk Singers sang for the Queen, our city has been the cradle of one America’s most iconic sounds, the sound of Country music. A music that, granted, has changed quite a bit over the years from Hank Williams to Luke Bryan, but Nashville is still a place where anyone can walk the streets and hear this music in its most natural habitat: the bars and honky-tonks of Broadway.
Guests of our Downtown Hostel can walk out our front doors, breathe deep the city air and catch a breeze off the Cumberland river, turn right and take the one-block hike down a ways and arrive at the foot of Broadway: a five-block stretch of bars and venues that you can hear before you see. Some of the most famous, like Tootsies and Robert’s Western World, have become known internationally in television appearances or word of mouth and have seen more acts come and go over the years than almost any other venue in the country.
Much like New Orleans, except with more strict open-container laws and country instead of Jazz, guests of the city can walk down the streets and greet street performers playing their songs before open guitar cases blasted by the sun, maybe throw them a dollar or two, then stroll down the strip sampling the music that wafts through the open-door bars, awaiting that moment where they hear that song that catches their ear and once you hear it, it’s on. You head on in, order a drink and some food, dance until your feet are tired or the band loses you, and then you pay your tab throw a dollar in the tip jar and begin all over again until you hit the end.
But even you do hit that end of the road, that’s not the end of what the city has to offer.
Far more than just the bars, the Nashville Downtown Hostel is also only four blocks from the Ryman Auditorium, a music venue made famous as the “Mother Church of Country Music.”as It has also earned a reputation as one of the world’s premier concert halls (currently ranked 25th in the world in Pollstar’s Theater category) with its world class acoustics and top tier performers. If those walls could speak they could tell you the times they’ve heard Arethra Franklin, Hank Williams and Johnny and June Cash in the infancy and peak of their fame to more recent performances by Grammy winners like Beck and thousands more.
Though Nashville is famous for it’s bars and live music, it is also a city proud of it’s heritage, and like any city with a story we are flush with museums and historic sites. Those wishing to absorb the story of Nashville in detail greater than simply hearing “Folsom Prison Blues” played on the stage of some Broadway bar for the fifth time can head into spots like the Johnny Cash Museum, a newer addition to our downtown containing hundreds of pieces of memorabilia and unreleased recordings from the Man in Black including his last handwritten song. Also near the hostel is the one and only Country Music Hall of Fame, a building containing almost anything either the avid fan or the casual but curious listener could ever want to know about Country music including the famous Studio B exhibit where icons like Elvis Presley recorded some of their most famous songs.
Everything here is a brief introduction and summary of the sort of sights and sounds a traveler could gather from our city, but more than any written piece on “what to do in Nashville” can offer, the best way to experience a place is to ask the locals, and some of the most knowledgeable locals are the Hostel staff themselves. So when you arrive, the staff will be waiting, but for a short sampling of the type of suggestions you may find once you’re standing at that front desk, check out these 10 recommendations from our staff for how to get to know Nashville in however long you may have in the city.