From the very first time we set foot in Nashville, we were hooked. The music, the food, the architecture, the energy, the history…we loved it all. So, when our sister-in-law said she was considering running the Nashville Marathon, we were immediately on-board for a third visit to this ridiculously fun city. (First visit here; second visit here.)
We cheered on Jen (along with some random guy dressed as a shark), and toasted the successful completion of her 25th marathon…
And, once the race was done, we joined them in soaking up some Music City goodness…
Nashville – The Place to See and Be Seen… and Heard
Nashville has been on a seemingly endless upward trajectory. Between its entertainment options, professional sports teams, conventions, and special events, the city offers something for everyone, and “everyone” keeps showing up. The city continues to set records for tourism and the permanent population has boomed over the last decade.
In addition to attracting country music fans, the city is now catering to those who might not have given it much consideration before. Boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, and high end shops now compete with the historic, sticky-floored downtown honkytonks for tourist and resident dollars. One such place is The Gulch – a trendy neighborhood full of higher end shops and restaurants located a few blocks from downtown.
Our visit to super-popular restaurant Milk & Honey allowed me to finally try this fancy avocado toast that has everyone up in arms:
And we got to see some of the cool kids making Instagram magic…
…after standing in line behind the other hundred cool kids waiting to make the very same Instagram magic:
Speaking of which, Nashville has become THE place for bachelorette parties and girlfriend getaway weekends. Stand on any street corner in the downtown area, on any day of the week, at any time of day, and you’ll see an almost endless stream of open top party buses full of revelers singing and dancing as they wind their way through the downtown. The buses are so ubiquitous, and their patrons so predictably hammered, we call them the “woo girls” – in honor of their seemingly insatiable desire to scream “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” as their buses motor by.
They all look something like this:
In addition to the ubiquitous party buses, there are pedal taverns, tractors, barges, and several other types of motorized vehicles that prowl the streets transporting the woo girls (and the occasional woo-dudes) around town:
But all that wooing doesn’t just happen. First you gotta get some avocado toast, 6 mimosas, and an Instagram pic…
It’s like the circle of life….
Misfire at The Grand Ole Opry
On both our previous trips to Nashville, we bought tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and, each time, we loved the experience. The show, which is broadcast live on the radio, features 8 or 9 performers, each representing a different era or genre, performing just 3 songs before ceding the stage to the next performer. For folks like us, who don’t know much about country music, it provides an awesome opportunity to get a taste of different types of it, and for those who are country music fans, there’s a good chance that, on any given night, one of the biggest names in the business might show up for a mini concert.
Most of the year, the show is broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House which is located in the suburbs of Nashville.
However, for a couple months each winter, the show returns to it’s original home, the Ryman Auditorium, which is located in downtown Nashville.
Our November visit coincided with this return to the Ryman and I figured it would be an even better experience than usual because the Ryman is so revered in country music.
I was wrong.
Somehow, we got stuck at the Opry’s version of “Golden Oldies Night at the Sunset Hills Retirement Home.”
Most of the performers were sooooooooooo oooooollllldddd… and the whole night just felt corny and dated. Of the nine acts, only two were appealing to us at all – Ana Christina Cash (daughter in law of Johnny and June), and Molly Tuttle, a popular bluegrass/folk artist. The rest were an assortment of performers who sounded like they’d finally finished their set and disembarked from the Love Boat and a gaggle of cliche country boys singing about drinkin beer and riding tractors while shooting squirrels or whatever. I have no idea. It was terrible.
Additionally, when the Opry is at its normal home in the suburbs, there is one show each night. However, when they’re at the Ryman, they have two performances back to back. Unfortunately, and somewhat shockingly, they were not at all prepared to handle the changed format. They skipped the usual introductory video for the show and they didn’t leave enough time between the performances for guests to find their seats. The entire evening felt rushed and disjointed.
Finally, and most cringe-worthy, they brought out Sergeant Noah Galloway. If you’re not familiar, Sgt. Galloway was a soldier in the Army who, in 2005, lost his left arm above the elbow and his left leg above the knee when his vehicle hit an IED in Iraq. Subsequent to his release from the hospital, he fell into a deep depression but eventually turned his life around. In addition to becoming a successful author and motivational speaker, he regularly competes in various extreme athletic events, he’s appeared on Dancing With The Stars (best show ever), and, more recently, American Grit.
It was Veterans Day weekend, so we expected the Opry announcer was introducing him and telling his story in order to allow him to say a few words about his advocacy on behalf of veterans or his work as a motivational speaker. But nope! After introducing him to a rousing standing ovation, they handed him an advertisement to read on the radio.
An ad for Humana.
They – literally – handed him a microphone and a typed out sheet of paper and had him read it.
Who asks a wounded war veteran to read a fricken ad for an insurance company?
And on Veterans Day??
After that travesty, they returned to their standard program of songs about Real Amuricans or whatever and we counted down the minutes til it was over.
Faring better for our return trip, was Hattie B’s. While Hattie’s was not the first restaurant to serve up Nashville Hot Chicken, we’ve visited several purveyors of this fine dish and, in our expert opinion, Hattie’s is the best.
The restaurant features six different spice levels: “No heat,” “mild,” “medium,” “hot,” “damn hot,” and “shut the cluck up.” We typically stick with medium or hot, but this time, Jeremy and Jen got the bright idea to order a single chicken tender at the “Shut the Cluck Up” level so we could all split it.
I think this picture of Kevin pretty well captures how that went:
The Johnny Cash Museum
We spent one rainy afternoon at the Johnny Cash Museum and found it to be extremely well done. The small but comprehensive museum explores his life, his music, his movies, and his personal story. We thought it was really well done.
Johnny Cash had one of the most prolific and successful music careers of any artist in history. Of his many astounding feats, he is the only entertainer in history to be inducted into the Country Music, Rock, and Songwriters Halls of Fame, and he’s the only musician to have had songs on the Billboard charts for six consecutive decades. Additionally, while unheralded in the face of his legendary music career, his talents as a manufacturer and purveyor of fine lip balms should not be overlooked. Alas, it is not too much to wonder whether Johnny would have walked any line at all, had he been forced to do so while suffering the embarrassment and discomfort of cracked, peeling lips. Fortunately, his Johnny Cash brand chapstick is available to all at the gift shop.
Unrelated, if you’re ever sitting in your house one day and you think to yourself “I would like to feel sad today!!”, then you should cue up this video…
This song was initially written and performed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. A producer later asked him to allow Cash to record a version. While Reznor was originally resistant to the idea, he, eventually, acquiesced and the video became one of the most critically acclaimed of all time.
The song and video were produced just months before Cash’s death in September, 2003. June Carter Cash, who is also shown in the video, unexpectedly preceded him in death in May of 2003.
The video is utterly heartwrenching and they play it on a loop at the end of the museum virtually guaranteeing that you will walk out, into the cold rain, completely crushed as you ponder the fleeting nature of human existence and the weight of one man’s regrets as he faces his inevitable physical decline.
Fortunately, it only takes about 3 seconds on a Nashville sidewalk before the despondent pall will be pierced by the siren song of “WOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”
Thank god for party girls.
Speaking of sadness, as we were hanging out with J&J listening to music in one of the downtown venues one afternoon, I had this lovely conversation with a bot from our bank….
We later determined we got skimmed at this car wash we took the Xterra to.
Now, my law enforcement friends will look at this photo and think: “Of COURSE you got skimmed there, you idiot!” And they would be right. We should have known better. This place has all the hallmarks of a spot where skimmers operate, but we weren’t thinking and instead of making good decisions, we got took. (Well, actually, Chase Bank got took. We just got inconvenienced. Sorry, Chase!!)
Lesson: Never vacuum your car.
After several days in Music City, we were ready for some serious beach time in one of our favorite spots. More on that next.
Where we stayed:
Two Rivers RV Park, Nashville, Tennessee