DAY ONE: CHECKING OUT THE CHICKEN
Nashville hot chicken is the city on a plate. Originally concocted in the 1930s, the fried fowl tastes best served with a side of buttery southern greens. Though there are several chicken joints around town, Hattie B.’s remains top among locals, as demonstrated by the long queues. The wait is worth it when you bite into the crispy coating, which ranges from mild Southern to Shut the Cluck Up, a burn-your-mouth-off mixture of spices.
For drinks and a show, head to Broadway. The city’s neon-soaked avenue is lined with rollicking honky-tonks. On any given night, venues like Robert’s Western World, Layla’s and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge host live musicians, from up-and-coming singer-songwriters to surprise gigs by lyrical legends. More than mere bars, the establishments occupy a front-row seat in music history: Willie Nelson scored his first songwriting job in the backroom at Tootsie’s.
DAY TWO: PUTTING THE MUSIC IN ‘MUSIC CITY’
Now known as Music City, Nashville was widely referred to as the “Athens of the South.” The city was esteemed as a place of high culture and learning—more opera than Opry. While hosting 1867’s Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Nashville even erected a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon. Nestled in Centennial Park, the hall houses a 13-metre-tall recreation of Greece’s lost Athena Parthenos statue.
Since the 1920s, country music has defined Nashville and the city remains the epicentre of the genre. Learn about pioneers and superstars at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The interactive facility contains a vast collection of gold records, tributes to inductees and eclectic memorabilia, including a Cadillac owned by Elvis and Johnny Cash’s black suit. Before exiting the building, make a stop at Hatch Show Print, the 141-year-old letterpress responsible for printing some of music’s most iconic concert posters.
Considered the “mother church of country music” and birthplace of bluegrass, the Ryman Auditorium—originally erected in 1892, hosted the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Though the iconic show relocated to the Gaylord Opryland Resort, the Ryman is still a must-see for any music lover. Every year, the venue serves as the winter home of the Opry and hosts other concerts year-round.
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DAY THREE: FROM NASHVILLE TO NASHVEGAS
Start the day with a morning jaunt to nearby Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey. The town, population 6,378, is the only place in the world that produces the legendary tipple. It’s also, ironically, a dry community—meaning you can’t purchase booze here. Thankfully, the distillery’s been granted an exception, so you can buy a souvenir bottle of the oaky liquor after a tour.
Back in Nashville, get your retail fix in 12 South. The trendy neighbourhood has become the de facto destination for indie fashions, vintage finds and locally made goods. Must-shops include: Draper James, the country-chic clothing emporium of actor Reese Witherspoon; Corner Music for guitars; and Imogene & Willie, maker of handcrafted jeans.
Cool down on the hot retail strip at Las Paletas, purveyor of truly gourmet popsicles in refreshing flavours like pineapple basil. Before your icy treat melts, walk down 12th Avenue for a photo op at the “I Believe in Nashville” mural. It’s a cool finish to a weekend in America’s coolest city.