Good Morning Ya’ll!
It’s a beautiful sunny day here in Honky Tonk town.
Since we got here last last evening, we haven’t had a chance to see much of Nashville yet. We had a late dinner, then we’d walked the strip searching (in vain, surprisingly!) for some country music.
Before leaving on this road trip, my awesome friends’ Jen and Henderson (who’s a musician so he’s in Nashville quite often) told me what’s on their top list for Nasvhville. It’s always so nice to have first-hand recommendations, especially for a place you’ve never been before (thanks guys! xo).
We were told that we had to see the Ryman (former home of the Grand Ole Opry) of course, and I couldn’t wait to see the Johnny Cash museum as well (burns, burns, burns!). And, if we can squeeze it in, the Country Music Hall of Fame is on the list as well.
One thing is for sure: downtown Nashville is a lot less Vegas-y during the day.
I didn’t realize just how mountainous (or ‘hilly’, really) Nashville actually is. When we got into town and headed ‘up’ to Music Row (to find a hotel), I remembered that Nashville is fairly close (a hundred miles or so) to the Great Smokey Mountains in Eastern Tennessee. I don’t know why I expected it to be flat. I guess since it’s Cowboy Country, I was thinking it was more like the wide open plains of the Wild(er) west.
I shouldn’t be surprised to see this on the main strip in Nashville, either
We decided to grab some lunch before heading out on our whirlwind museum tour as we were hungry and didn’t eat breakfast. There are SO many great restaurants I wanted to try here in Nashville, it’s going to be pretty hard to narrow it down to just a couple (I think we’re gonna have to come back…just for the food).
We decided on Merchants, a nice-looking spot on the main strip. I’d read a few good reviews of this place, and a couple other tourists told us it was fabulous too.
Plus it’s been around since 1892, so they probably have the whole lunch thing down-pat by now. Well, it’s actually only been this restaurant since 1988, but it was a hotel & restaurant since 1892. But a 30-year track record isn’t too bad either, so we were fairly optimistic.
The building was constructed in 1870 and first housed a pharmacy, a hardware manufacturing company and also a drug company that was famous for producing the opium and alcohol concoction called ‘Blood Medicine’, which you can see still advertised on the brick walls today (I decided on just coffee as lunch beverage though, as enticing as that sounds). There’s been a few famous folks staying at this hotel over the years included Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Patsy Cline.
In the early days of the hotel, it was 25 cents per night for a room, and an extra quarter if you wanted a meal! Well, as expected, the food has certainly gone up in price a bit since then, but it was very delicious– and worth several quarters, even!
Cowboy enjoyed his sandwich and the Tomato Bisque soup and mixed salad was very tasty. Tomato soup can be very ho-hum and it rarely impressed me much, but this one was very delicious and had a good zip to it. My salad was fresh and simple, and the dressing tasted like it was made from scratch. More restaurants are making their food from scratch these days (thankfully) but many are still using your usual bottled sauces and dressings etc.
I loved that the servers wore bow ties. It was cute and a really nice touch. But don’t worry, this place is still fairly casual. Or they wouldn’t have let us in (ha ha).
We sat on their outdoor patio which is on the side of the building. It was a perfect spot for lunch because we still got to be outside and people-watch, but we weren’t right on the street amongst the craziness either.
Though we did notice a few crazies on the street later on, this one definitely being one of them:
We saw a few normal folks too. Like this one
After an enjoyable and fairly quick lunch, it was time to start our museum hopping.
First up: the Ryman, which is only a few steps away from the main drag. This impressive building is over a century old and is one of the most iconic music venues in the world.
You may know it by it’s nickname “The Mother Church of Country Music”.
It was the original home to the Grand Ole Opry, a radio show that helped bring country music to mainstream audiences. This popular show was broadcast here from 1943 to 1974.
It was the most famous country music radio in the world where you could hear artists such as Elvis Presely, Hank Williams, Louis Armstrong, and Johnny Cash, who met his future wife, June Carter, backstage here at this historic venue.
Built in 1892 by Thomas Ryman, it was originally a church called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. Ryman built it as a home for evangelist Reverend Sam Jones. During the building process, Ryman wanted the acoustics to be perfect and able to carry the reverend’s voice across every row of the church. Ryman died just a few years later and it was renamed ‘The Ryman Auditorium’ in his honour.
The acoustics here at the Ryman are said to be better than Carnegie Hall. It’s been a favourite venue among performers over the years. The band Coldplay stated that the Ryman Auditorium is “The greatest theatre in the world!”
While touring this building, you can’t help but fall in love with its rich history, beautiful architecture and extraordinary acoustics.
I really loved the stained glass windows, you can tell this was originally built as a religious meetinghouse.
In 1974 the Grand Ole Opry moved to Opryland USA (across town). The building remained vacant for several years and was almost demolished. Fortunately this remarkable Temple of Twang was renovated in 1994 and still hosts famous performers today.
Although we just did the tour, I would have loved to see a show here. We’re definitely looking into that next time I’m in Nashville.
But for now, we’ll have to settle for going on stage!
Oh yes!! Definitely the coolest part of the tour. And they even gave us guitars. We then posed for a photo and pretended we were doing a Johnny Cash & June Carter duet. (luckily for everyone there, we weren’t hehe).
It was fantastic to be up on that stage though. “Look Ma, I’m on stage at the Grand Ole Opry!”
And we’ve been (apparently) historically cool since 1892. Who knew? Awesome.
If you’re in Nashville, don’t miss this place. Especially if you like country music. But even if you’re not into Honky Tonk, the history and the architecture of this place are worth the visit.
Oh and this is where Bluegrass was born!
We loved the tour and highly recommend it. The auditorium is open for self-guided tours daily from 9am to 4pm. The cost is $15 for adults for a self-guided tour. You can get a photo on stage (like we did) and you can also do a recording too if you’d like (both are extra costs). It’s pretty neat just to see the building and all the wonderful memorabilia displayed inside. Check out this link for more info.
Well, it’s gonna be hard to top the Ryman and the magnificent history that the Church of Bluegrass offers, but next up:
The Temple of Johnny Cash.
Yep, he’ got his own museum now. It’s only been open a year so it’s a pretty new attraction in Nashville.
Here’s the man in black himself greeting us at the entrance.
This place is such a remarkable tribute to this incredible man. Even if you’re not a huge fan, it’s a great collection of a man’s life and the story of how he became famous.
I have many great memories of sitting in my friend’s basement in high school and listening to Cash’s Live from San Quentin album over and over (my friend was a HUGE Johnny Cash fan). So it was fun to learn more about his life (other than what I learned watching Walking the Line).
The amount of memorabillia they have collected and displayed here is incredible! I think there is more of his stuff here than of Elvis’s at Graceland. Well, almost…
Cowboy is a huge Cash fan, so he just loved it here. There was so much to read and see about his life and his music history over the years.
You can see many of his albums, guitars and photos, as well as the clothes he wore during his performances.
During our tour, Cowboy was being a bit of a troublemaker (must have been channeling Cash), so he got locked up. Sigh. Oh well, I guess there are worse places to wind up behind bars than Nashville.
I might bail him out of Folsom Prison, I haven’t quite decided yet 😉 _
What a wonderful afternoon touring these fantastic spots. Not enough time left to see the Country Music Hall of Fame (blasphemy, I know, I know) but we will definitely go the next time we’re in Nashville.
Tomorrow we’re heading to the Belle Meade Plantation. Stay tuned, we’re on the road again….