Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Music City Mayhem


Destinations Travel Magazine
May, 2013 Issue
By Michael Hartigan


Thousands upon thousands of bands have passed through Nashville, Tennessee. It is, after all, Music City, U.S.A. But fortunately for those of us with little to no musical talent, a group devoid of crooners and pickers can still rock this town upside down.

Spend a weekend in Nashville and you will assuredly bump into every type of getaway group there is: bachelor parties, bachelorette parties, girls’ weekends, guys’ weekends, couples on vacation, parents getting away from their kids or kids getting away from their parents. All are looking for relaxing getaways, raucous revelry or a healthy mix of both. Nashville will oblige because in music, and in travel, going solo can be fun, but nothing beats an upbeat collaboration. Nashville, like any good concert, is better together.

The crowds gravitate toward several specific areas in Nashville, such as the nostalgic and fun Country Music Hall of Fame or the trendy and vibrant neighborhood near Vanderbilt University. But like New York City, the rhythm of Nashville beats loudest on Broadway. Broadway, the city’s main drag, stretches for several blocks from the riverfront up past the arena, lined with bars and saloons, each with a live band cranking out originals and covers morning, noon and night. Most days begin and end right here, although typically not at the exact same place.

Regardless of what time your group arrives in Tennessee, it would do well to start right here on Broadway. Pick a place, any place. Choose one based on the buzzing neon signs, or by the clientele listing in and out or better yet, by the sweet sounds tinkling out from the open doors and open windows.

You will know the famous and infamous Tootsies by the purple lilac hue glowing around its windows, door and fa├žade. Inside is a jam-packed party, with a tiny stage tucked right inside the front door, so small that from the back of the bar it looks like the singer is balancing on peoples’ shoulders. But with such great music and such a great vibe, Tootsies is the ultimate down-home dive bar.

Up Broadway is Legends, a rustic country saloon with quality afternoon acts on the stage, perfect for getting the evening started early or to continue the night before. Make sure to take turns throwing tips in the jar at the band’s feet; you’ll usually get a request.

Over at The Stage, rumor is the Saturday night show here is when the best up-and-comers perform. Even if you aren’t witnessing the next platinum-selling superstar, this classic honky-tonk boasts a large stage to support a large band. And a large band means a rowdy, rocking show.

Country music lovers will of course be in their glory along Broadway and all over Nashville. Unlike your typical dive bar cover band, the musicians in this town are all quality, no matter which establishment you patronize. It is easy to fall into conversation with your travel companions about the obvious devotion that most every one of these artists has to their music, not to mention their extraordinary amount of talent.

The all-inclusive hospitality that oozes from every corner of this city encourages all ears to embrace the honky-tonk spirit. You don’t have to be a country music fan to let loose and thoroughly enjoy Music City. Each watering hole along Broadway is tailor-made for sing-alongs and should-by-shoulder swaying. One thing is certain, no matter your taste in music, when the band starts playing Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places, you’re going to want a beer in your hand and your pals close by.

If dancing and drinking aren’t on the agenda, or if your bleary-eyed bunch needs to recuperate from too much of either, Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort is a harmonious retreat. Situated on the city’s outskirts next to the famous Grand Ole Opry concert hall, the Gaylord Opryland is a destination in itself. Here more than 2,800 luxurious guest rooms spread across a sprawling complex that buzzes like a city within a city. There are hints of Las Vegas or Disney World style resorts, in terms of grandeur, hospitality and flare. But the southern charm is distinctly Nashville. Each section boasts atriums filled with vegetation, shopping, dining and entertainment, right outside the guest rooms. A river flows through one, while a skywalk takes you around the treetops in another.

Nashville is not all bars and spas. At the Country Music Hall of Fame the massive wall of gold records and rare Elvis memorabilia pale in comparison to the almost spiritual experience of walking around the circular induction hall. Back up on Broadway, Jack’s BBQ, one of the best in town, pumps out sweet aromas that makes the entire city smell like succulent smoked meat. The benefit of eating at Jack’s en masse: sharing. Lay out a few platters and let the group go to town on tender pulled pork and smoky sweet ribs, perfectly cooked with the right amount of zip.

This city certainly knows a thing or two about collaboration, on stage, in the studio, and especially when it comes to showing your group a good time. No matter where you go here, Nashville will have your band playing well into the night and begging for an encore.






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