Nashville City Culture

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Nashville City Culture
Music City comes by its nickname honestly. But beyond the music, you'll find a thriving arts community, sporting events, a rich history, and more than 12,000 acres of outdoor space.
By Jennifer Justus, AFAR Local Expert
Photo by Dennis MacDonald/age fotostock
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    Historic Architecture
    Perhaps the two most dignified works of public architecture in town are the Tennessee State Capitol building (pictured here) and the full-scale replica of the Parthenon that presides over Nashville's Centennial Park. The Parthenon, conceived as a way to bolster the city's claim of being the Athens of the South, was built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.
    Photo by Dennis MacDonald/age fotostock
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    Music Venues
    The Ryman Auditorium, built in 1892 as a church, helped Nashville rise to become the capital of country music when it hosted the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The venue still holds regular shows, and the audience still sits in church pews. Down on Lower Broadway, a walk past the honky-tonks will expose you to live music from around 11 in the morning until 3 at night. Most of the downtown clubs don't charge a cover (bands often pass a tip bucket), so the music is accessible to all. Robert’s Western World and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn are favorites among locals and tourists, and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge is known worldwide. The Bluebird Cafe holds intimate songwriters-in-the-round nights that draw a crowd. And there's plenty to hear beyond country too: Check the listings at rock clubs like Exit/In or the Mercy Lounge.
    Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
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    Music Museums
    The Country Music Hall of Fame is a must-see for music lovers of all genres, with a collection that includes Elvis’s gold Cadillac and sparkly Dolly Parton dresses alongside serious historical exhibits, special events, and live music demos. Dig deeper into the musical history of the city at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gallery inside the Music City Center, and at the Musicians Hall of Fame at Nashville Municipal Auditorium. Nashville also has its own version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame: The Music City Walk of Fame is along Music Mile, between the Country Music Hall of Fame and Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
    Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development
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    Parks and Greenways
    Nashville has about 12,000 acres of open space, including more than 100 parks and over a dozen greenways. Centennial Park, located just a couple miles from downtown, has history as farmland and a racetrack but, in addition to playing fields and playgrounds, now hosts a variety of events on its 132 acres, including Shakespeare in the Park. The park's most famous feature is the Parthenon, seen here. On Vanderbilt University's campus, the National Arboretum provides a green and shady refuge of more than 300 acres in the midst of the city.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Market and Fairs
    The Nashville Farmers’ Market near the Germantown neighborhood opens daily at 8 a.m. for shoppers seeking farm-fresh produce and locally raised meats. The space also includes an indoor market with diverse food options such as Swagruha Indian, Jamaicaway restaurant, and Bella Nashville, a pizza shop that tops pies with seasonal market ingredients. Art lovers will be intrigued by the Tennessee Craft fair, a sprawling outdoor market with fine pottery, jewelry, and furniture held in spring and fall at Centennial Park. If you get the chance, check out Porter Flea, a biannual handicrafts fair that showcases the best in local artisan products, from bags to eyeglasses and birdhouses.
    Photo by Jeff Greenberg/age fotostock
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    Art Museums and Galleries
    The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville’s premier art space, opened in 2001 in an art deco building that formerly housed the main post office; a branch remains on the bottom floor. National exhibits and local artists' work are hosted in 24,000 square feet of gallery space, with live music, film, and lectures rounding out the experience. Tap into the contemporary art scene on monthly art crawls at galleries downtown or around the up-and-coming Wedgewood-Houston district. There you'll find Fort Houston, a sprawling complex where artists share work space with a print shop, photography studio, and woodshop.
    Photo by Richard Cummins/age fotostock
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    Performing Arts
    Listen to the Grammy-winning Nashville symphony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which often collaborates with artists outside the classical world, such as Ben Folds and Lyle Lovett. The Nashville Ballet, the Nashville Opera, and the Nashville Repertory Theatre are all residents at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, which covers an entire city block downtown and also hosts visiting Broadway shows and a variety of musical acts. Oz is a nontraditional space for contemporary performing artists like Philip Glass; it also hosts collaborative events such as Fall, Nashville’s first aerial contemporary dance company, with visual artist Mary Mooney executing large paintings on acrylic during the performance.
    Photo courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation
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    Literary Scene
    Nashville has a growing literary scene, thanks in large part to the Porch Writers' Collective, a nonprofit center for writing classes and readings. Parnassus Books, the independent bookstore owned by local author Ann Patchett, also hosts a variety of readings and special guests. Additional spots for literary inspiration include Her Bookshop in East Nashville and East Side Story, which stocks only books written by locals as well as a monthly live radio show bringing together authors with local musicians.
    Photo courtesy of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development