What to do in Nashville, Tennessee

Brief Economic History

The city of Nashville, founded in 1779, near the former settlement of Fort Nashborough was named after Francis Nash a brigadier general in the Continental Army who died during the American Civil War. Even before 1843 the year Nashville was declared as the capital of Tennessee, it had started to bloom economically for many reasons:

  • Its strategically located port on the Cumberland River
  • Its developing status as a major railroad center
  • Being the center of plantations cultivating tobacco and hemp as commodity crops
  • Breeding and training of thoroughbred horses and other livestock.

For years Nashville was considered one of the wealthiest southern capitals and, apart from the above-mentioned advantages, a large portion of its prominence also resulted from the iron and steel business. Unfortunately, Nashville suffered two cholera pandemics one from 1849 to 1850 and the second in 1873, both of which damaged the city economically. However, these setbacks did not stop its long-term growth for long.

21st century Nashville 

Nowadays, Nashville is a prospering city offering a high standard of living in a low-cost business environment having as its prime advantages not having to pay personal income tax and an overall low tax burden. In 2017, Nashville’s economy was deemed the third fastest-growing in the nation and it was nominated as one of the “hottest housing markets in the US”. Furthermore, Tennessee has one public school system serving the entire state called Metro Nashville Public Schools. This system offers classes from Pre-Kindergarten up to High School with the vision of becoming the “fastest-improving urban school system in America, ensuring that every student becomes a life-long learner prepared for success in college, career and life”.

Music City Nashville

It is said that songwriters from all over the globe come to the Music City to learn the art of songwriting and share their passion for music. Right from the beginning, Nashville has been the capital of Country Music and over time has developed into being a hub for a wide range of other music genres. United Record Pressing opened in 1949 and is North America’s largest volume producing vinyl record plant. Artists like Robert Plant, Kid Rock, Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi, and Michael Bublé, among many others, have come to Nashville’s studios to write and record world hits.

Although my musical background is limited to having played the recorder and the clarinet many years ago, back in October 2019, I decided to visit the “Songwriting Capital of the World” not knowing what I was going to experience.

First impressions of Nashville

Over time traveling has developed into a hobby of mine. Unfortunately, it is a costly one and matching it to my student budget is not always easy. Therefore, I often had to cut corners on comfort by using public transport. To my surprise, the city rejected plans for funding light rail and bus lines which made my trajectories longer than expected.

After my adventurous transit from Nashville’s airport to Downtown, I arrived around noontime feeling a bit peckish. Although I spent 2 months in North Carolina, a state known for its delicious BBQ,  the opportunity of trying it never arose. Driven by my hunger, I decided to order a juicy, flavorsome southern-style burger at Acme Feed & Seed located near Riverfront Park. With my humanity returning slowly, I started to pay attention to my surroundings which stunned me. The very spacious ground-floor was more reminiscent of an indoor beer garden and a long bar which must have witnessed many tumultuous party nights. Intrigued by the location’s size, I decided to explore the venue and discovered two more stories offering several dance floors, more bar-counters and a rooftop bar overlooking Broadway.

Downtown Nashville

Apprehensive owing to my previous experiences in New Orleans, I was pleasantly surprised by the city and “Nashville Downtown Hostel’s” general appearance. The city’s ambiance exuded serenityand even though I was tired I felt the urge of exploring. Walking through Nashville’s Downtown was a completely different experience compared to New Orleans. Owing to its modernity and cleanness, I felt safer strolling through the city. Furthermore, there are plenty of hidden spots perfect for urban photography that will nudge your creativity.

Experiencing Nashville’s main street illumination during dusk is overwhelming as you can see the city waking up and feel the music surrounding you. This made me want to get a taste of Nashville’s nightlife and nothing was going to hold me back, not even my age. Legally you are allowed to enter any bar and drink alcoholic beverages as from 21. However, I found out that the bouncers start to check your identification only a little later in the evening. Using this knowledge, at 19 I entered the world-famous “Tootsies Orchid Lounge” and was able to enjoy the wonderful ambiance created by Country Music musicians. Knowing that bartenders check identification as well I decided to return empty beer bottles and thereby bought my own beer. My first Southern nightlife experience ended with my eating perfectly tender spare ribs and Mac´n´Cheese at Jack’s B-B-Q.

Walking 25.000 steps in Nashville

The next day my journey started at the Nashville Parthenon, built in 1897 and a full-scale replica of the Athenian Parthenon. Totally ignoring Google Maps, I blindly started my marathon. I passed by the beautiful Vanderbilt University and walked through Hillsboro West End where I saw many spookyly decorated houses preparing for Halloween before pit-stopping at “bartaco” on 12th Ave S. in the 12 South district. Drained by all this physical activity, I had to treat myself to a crispy, spicy taco and grilled corn covered in butter and parmesan cheese.

After having recovered from the first 4 km, I slowly started to find my way back to the hostel. 12 South has a cute and colourful center with several boutiques and, during October, hosts a little pumpkin patch. Knowing I would have to walk at least another 4 km, I bought myself a creamy, chocolatey doughnut at Five Daughters Bakery as a travelling companion to enjoy whilst ambling back.

On my way back, I passed the famous upscale neighborhood, “The Gulch”, which is known for its chic hotels, high-end fashion boutiques and trendsetting restaurants. There, I decided to stroll through the shops, wait in line to take a picture at the famous “What lifts you” mural art and sat in front of the “LEGO Man Mural”, where I relaxed by enjoying the mid-October sun shining on my face.

Saying Good-bye to Nashville

Bars in Nashville are a mixture of everything. You can dine, enjoy a drink at a bar whilst listening to live music, cheer on your favorite sports team on TV, or even go clubbing – everything underneath the same roof. Friday happened to be my last day in Nashville and I decided to try my luck at “FGL House“, situated on 3rd Avenue South in Downtown Nashville. According to their website, they offer a world-class kitchen that fuses the unique Southern-style cuisine with California flair and bars on each floor serving local craft beers and deliciously mixed cocktails. It truly was the perfect ending to a wonderful trip. Unfortunately, the night ended too quickly since I needed to wake up early the next morning to catch my flight back home.