Music City USA gets some hastily made grades
To all of my dedicated readers: I'm sorry. I've been on a brief hiatus after my first two weeks on the road to recharge. Before my brief break we rolled into Nashville for a few days to take in the sights. In case you've never been to Nashville before, here are my grades of the most important parts of the city.
Location: Nashville is located directly in the center of Tennessee. Easy to drive to from the surrounding Southern states, it serves as an epicenter for the region. We drove up from Miami and passed through Chattanooga, which could easily be another stop on your trip.
Attractions: Nashville definitely earns it's title as the Music City. They've definitely branded themselves as the home of country music, and it works. Within 3 blocks you have the Country Music Hall of Fame, CMT headquarters, and about 20 country-themed bars. You can also check out an NHL game and NFL game in the same area, so there's plenty to do. I've loved country for years, but with that said the lack of diversity in Nashville's Broadway neighborhood is tiring. You can venture off to spots like Centennial Park (which has a full scale replica of the Parthenon), but there isn't quite enough to break the country mold. Wouldn't hurt to add some other hotspots downtown to attract the eclectic residents who are scattered around the city.
Food: Here's where things go south momentarily. Nashville is located in the BBQ Belt, but fails to distinguish itself from other hubs like Kansas City and Memphis. We went to a restaurant called Rippy's, which was described as "very Nashville". To be honest I could've made equivalent BBQ at my house. Goo Goo clusters, the local candy of choice, does some redeeming for the food scene. If you're ever offered one, take it.
Nightlife: There is a singular quality about every establishment in Nashville: live music. No exaggeration, there is live music in EVERY bar and restaurant so you best be prepared. At certain locations the music is too loud and will drown out your conversations, but for the most part I found the entertainers endearing. There are hundreds of musicians looking to make their break in Nashville, and they're all talented. They love to interact with crowds as well, so you can get a more authentic concert experience for a fraction of the price. Though the country theme gets worn out, the live music scene is a unique atmosphere to anything other city I've ever seen.
Local's Only: Though smaller, Midtown Nashville is the best off the beaten path neighborhood in town. Close to Vanderbilt University, this area has a nice mix of college bars and alternative restaurants. We ate at a Woodstock/Jamband themed pizza restaurant (complete with a visit from the Allman Brothers former manager), and there were a handful of other rooftop patios that looked worthy of a visit. If this neighborhood was a few blocks bigger (and had a better turnout from the Vandy students) it would be a legitimate game-changer.
Overall: I had heard a lot of good things about Nashville, and there is definitely a lot to like. Overall it wasn't my favorite city to visit. If you love country music and you want to put a whole weekend toward that theme, then Nashville is your place. If you're looking for a more eclectic city that's really digging into it's cultural creativity, you may want to look elsewhere.