Last year, I drove right through after spending a couple days in Memphis and doing the whole Elvis thing. Being a big country music fan, it was a borderline sacrilegious act. But, I vowed to return and do a proper visit to Nashville, Music City. Home of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Also, home to numerous musicians and what seems like the largest number of honky tonk music joints in the world. Its a busy tourist trap and far from the beautiful stark southwest desert that I had just come from. But, for a country music fan, it’s Mecca. A pilgrimage I had to make.
This time, I planned a three day layover to give me time to see the sights, hear the sounds, and rest up for the long drive home. My base was Two Rivers Campground on the belt way 15 miles northwest of the downtown city center. It’s in the area called Music Valley. This area is home to three campgrounds and is right near the Grand Ole Opry. Two Rivers is a nice enough place and gets good reviews. Its smaller but nicer than Yogi Bear Jellystone Park and much less expensive that the KOA next door. For $34 per night, I got a back in site with water, electric, cable TV, and free wifi. The dump station was near by. Nashville is a very popular destination for all types of travelers. All three RV parks were full and I’m glad I made a reservation a few days ahead of time.
The first must see attraction for me was the Grand Ole Opry. I’m a big country music fan, have seen numerous video performances from the Opry, and have listened to the radio broadcast for years. The Opry shows are on Friday and Saturday. I timed my visit to arrive on Saturday and called the box office that day to see about getting a ticket. The show was sold out but I got one of the last standing room tickets. Not great but at least I’d be in the Opry on a Saturday night. After I got checked in at the campground, I drove over to the Opry to see if any seats had come available. Sure enough, I got a seat 10 rows from the stage. Yoo Hoo!
I was on cloud nine through the whole show. All the people I’ve heard on the radio where right there in front of me. Connie Smith, Kathy Mattea, Terri Clark, The Gatlin Brothers, Riders in the Sky, The Opry Square Dancers. And some great new acts like Striking Matches. It was Saturday night at the Opry and I was there! A great start to my visit. A note to you folks who like to shop. The Opry Mills Mall is right next to the Opry and has over 200 shops.
Day two came and the plan was to go downtown and visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. I took the shuttle downtown ($10 round trip) which dropped me off right smack in “The District” down by the river. I’ll come back to what’s in The District, but its a short walk to the Hall of Fame, which is in a huge new building. Its pricey to get in ($23 per adult) but I got to see some stuff of legends. Words can’t adequately describe it so here’s some pictures.
Just a sample of what I saw at the Country Music Hall of Fame. There’s three floors of exhibits with numerous costumes and instruments on display. A couple of observations that I made while there. Most inductees are individuals, not groups. Just the opposite of what you see at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Notable names not yet induced: Alan Jackson (he has a display but he’s not inducted), Patty Loveless, John Hartford, Jimmy Martin, Hank Williams Jr, Marty Stuart. There’s nothing on Jimmy Martin (the King of Bluegrass) and there’s a couple famous photo’s that Marty Stuart took, but no displays of anything of his. Perhaps the Hall of Fame is particular. Anyway, it’s well worth a visit for any music fan.
After two hours, it was time to stroll through “The District”. This is the place that houses the largest group of honky tonk music joints I’ve ever seen. Its three blocks long on Broadway and then again down on 2nd Ave. I thought Key West had a lot of bars. Nashville makes Key West look tame. Austin, Memphis, and Savannah aren’t even in Nashville’s league. And all the bars have live bands playing country music all day long and the bands are great. I was there at 2 pm on a Sunday and the party was going full tilt. When I got back on the shuttle, I mentioned to the driver that it was crazy out there. He said “It’s like this everyday”. Its a unique place. Here are some pictures that don’t do it justice because it has to be heard as you walk down Broadway.
For me, being a dancer not a drinker, I wish I had a dance partner to enjoy Broadway with. The music I heard was great. Two stepping through all the honk tonks would be a great way to spend an afternoon. Maybe next time.
Day three was spent mostly with chores, getting ready for the last 1,000 miles to get home. I did venture out and visit the Willie Nelson General Store and Cooters Dukes of Hazard Museum, which were both just down the road. I got to see one of the General Lee’s and some of Daisy Duke’s short shorts. Nashville is a cool place to visit. Worth a return visit.