There are a lot of Nashville sights and sounds that can be confusing to a first-timer. Like, for example, why are there signs for “Hot Chicken” everywhere (as opposed to cold chicken?), what’s so grand about the Grand Ole Opry, and what exactly was the impetus for building a life-scale replica of the Grecian Parthenon in Nashville’s Centennial Park?
Vacation photography experts Flytographer weigh in on these and more of Nashville’s wild and wonderful quirks. Read on.
They Don’t Call It ‘Music City’ for Nothing
Let’s start with Nashville’s world-famous moniker, “Music City.” Historically the city’s been known for its world-class fiddling since the 1700s, and in the 1800s the city built the Ryman Auditorium.
This auditorium had such next-level natural acoustics that it became revered as the Carnegie Hall of the South, and in 1925 it was chosen as the location for the legendary “Grand Ole Opry” radio show. The Grand Ole Opry got its name from the radio host jokingly referring to the radio station’s Barn Dance program as the grand ole opry (it followed an opera program). Not everyone was a fan of the folksy country music at the time, but more and more people started showing up to watch the show, and now hundreds of thousands of people come from across the states and the world to catch the live performances. In the 1970s the Grand Ole Opry moved to its own dedicated venue (the Grand Ole Opry House) that you can still visit to this day to see a mix of country legends and contemporary chart-toppers because it is the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history.
Get to Know Johnny Cash
Although Johnny Cash met June Carter at the Ryman Auditorium, another great place to soak up local history is at the Johnny Cash Museum (which is also ranked the #1 music museum by Conde Nast Traveler, Forbes and National Geographic Traveler). The museum is conveniently located in the heart of downtown, and inside visitors will find the largest and most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world. For more info, visit johnnycashmuseum.com.
The Food Scene: A Tasty Overview
If you haven’t checked the geography, you are in the south, which means the toothsome cuisine is often the product of home-style cooking that features a lot of flavor, spice and soul. Here are a few things you should keep your eyes peeled for: “Meat and Three.” This means one meat and three sides (not including your cornbread, which is often complementary). A Nashville staple. Also, look out for fried pickles and fried pickle chips on the menu. “Hot Chicken” is actually a Nashville-specific dish that sees chicken treated to a special water-based marinade, that is floured and fried, slathered in a cayenne pepper sauce and then served open-faced on sliced white bread with pickle chips. There’s even an annual festival where eateries in the city compete for Nashville’s best Hot Chicken. Other southern staples to try: mac ’n cheese, barbecue, biscuits and gravy, and banana pudding.
Seeing the Town
Downtown Nashville sits right on the Cumberland River, and so strolling the waterfront or checking out the views from all different vantage points along the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge are sight-seeing musts (see if you can spy the iconic ‘Batman Building’, which has two art deco spires and looks like it’s straight out of Gotham). Leave the bridge and head to Nashville’s West End neighborhood to find Centennial Park and a life-sized replica of the Parthenon. Many tourists have often wondered why this monument is here, so very far away from Athens, but it makes perfect sense if you know that Nashville is also nicknamed “the Athens of the South.” (Because it’s quite scholastic with all its colleges and universities.) In 1897 the city celebrated its centennial by building its own Parthenon, which even features direct casts of original sculptures. FYI: Present day, this Parthenon functions as an art museum.
…Then Hitting the Town
The historical district Printers Alley used to be the center of Nashville’s printing industry, but today it’s more “party central.” Nightclubs opened up along this strip in the 1940s—which also now houses restaurants and pubs—and made the alley a hotspot for local performers like Waylon Jennings, Dottie West, Hank Williams, The Supremes and Jimi Hendrix.
Capture the Memories
Want to look back on your Nashville trip and remember it always? A Flytographer destination photography shoot is the perfect way to capture those memories without anyone having to carry around a selfie stick on the bus. Bonus: Use the promo code HILTONSOFNASHVILLE to get 10% off your shoot and receive a free 5×7 print—head to flytographer.com/hiltonsofnashville to learn more.