A Perfect Day in Nashville

Keep yourself mostly downtown: Stay at the Hermitage. Enjoy Southern ingredients at Husk. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame. And be sure to take one quick cab ride (or a nice walk) to the Gulch for live music.

222 Rep. John Lewis Way S, Nashville, TN 37203
Rhinestones, tassels, boots so pointy they’d make toes bleed...what more could you expect from Nashville‘s monument to the music that made it famous? Well, plenty more, as it turns out. The Hall of Fame contains some seriously impressive artifacts from musical history, from Bill Monroe’s Loar F5 mandolin and Johnny Cash’s iconic black suit to Webb Pierce’s car, pimped-out with silver guns for door handles and steer horns mounted on the front grille. Sprawled across several floors, the Hall of Fame misses few details as it tells the story of “hillbilly” music (although the expansive exhibit about Hank Williams is notably sketchy on the particulars of his early death). Big, bold, and shameless, this is one heck of a celebration of country music.
37 Rutledge St, Nashville, TN 37210, USA
With his high-concept McCrady’s and his more rustic Husk—both in Charleston—chef Sean Brock transformed perceptions of Southern cooking from heavy, simple fare to a culinary tradition that is rich, complex, and filled with history. He worked with experts to resuscitate countless heirloom vegetables and grains lost to the agriculture industry, many of which reflect the region’s deep immigration roots (rice varieties from China; spices from Africa). He also changed the game with this simple rule: No ingredient north of the Mason-Dixon may enter the kitchen. Husk Nashville, which Brock opened in 2013, applies the same philosophy, but this time the menu is a nod to the bounty of inland Tennessee. In a 19th-century former residence in downtown Nashville, the James Beard Award–winning chef serves up his modern spin on classics such as pimento cheese, paired here with benne wafers, pickled jalapeños, and chipped beef. The Tennessee-raised pork prime rib, paired with cabbage, pecan butter, and molasses vinegar, is impossibly tender. Leave room for the vegetable plate, which highlights the best of the season’s produce.
416 Broadway B, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Storied honky-tonk joints—and tourists—crowd lower Broadway, but even locals are drawn to the classic country feel of Robert’s Western World. Two-step around the tiny dance floor to covers of songs by such favorites as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn.
2601 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204, USA
Imogene + Willie offers classic clothing and boots, but the real draw is denim. Practically a shrine to jeans, the boutique has patterns hanging from the rafters, and vintage sewing machines rattle away as you shop. Select your favorite cut, and a tailor will custom-fit a pair on-site. 2601 12th Ave. S., (615) 292-5005. This appeared in the October 2013 issue.
116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219, USA
After the Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman Auditorium, country legend Roy Acuff said the redbrick building with its Gothic arches and stained glass windows might as well be torn down. The Ryman had been home to performances and broadcasts since the 1940s, but it was in poor condition and lacked air-conditioning and proper dressing rooms. Fortunately, its legacy as “The Mother Church of Country Music” prevailed and, after years of sitting practically empty, the auditorium was renovated and began hosting shows once again. Originally built as a church, the grand hall has spectacular acoustics and a lingering magic in its pews from all those years spent witnessing country music history. A trip here is practically obligatory when visiting the Music City.
2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
This sprawl of green—132 acres’ worth—is an oasis for urbanites. The park’s centerpiece, the Nashville Parthenon, is a full-scale replica of the Grecian structure and a physical testimony to Nashville’s “Athens of the South” nickname. The park’s bandshell hosts Shakespeare in the Park and occasionally serves as the site of the popular Movies in the Park, but because this is Nashville, a free live music series called Musicians Corner dominates the summer programming. On Saturday afternoons from May through September, music lovers, families, and pets gather to enjoy an impressive lineup of musicians, as well as local food trucks and a beer garden. Recent performers have included Preservation Hall Jazz Band and local favorites Rayland Baxter, Cale Tyson, and Langhorne Slim.
1 Symphony Pl, Nashville, TN 37201, USA
With live music—much of it country—on every corner in Nashville, it’s easy for visitors to miss the city’s stellar symphony. But the magnificent Schermerhorn Symphony Center gives Nashville’s classical musicians a grand home. Located between the Broadway honky-tonks and the Country Music Hall of Fame, the center is named in honor of the late maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the Grammy Award–winning symphony for more than 20 years. In the true collaborative spirit of Nashville, the symphony often presents interesting pairings such as Brahms v. Radiohead: A Symphonic Mash-Up Experience and nontraditional guests like guitarist Trey Anastasio of Phish. The concert hall occasionally hosts other events like stand-up comedy.
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