When it was first revealed that the Chicago Blackhawks were on tap to take on Nashville in the final home game of the Predator’s 2014 season, Predators brass launched an all-out effort to “Keep the Red Out” of Bridgestone Arena. This included requiring fans to buy tickets to both weekend games on April 11 and 12.
But this did not thwart the intrepid Hawks fans that flocked to the Music City to cheer their team on. The stadium was a sea of red and the Chicago contingent were in high spirits despite the Predators’ efforts to quell their enthusiasm by singing “God Bless America” instead of the National Anthem. Although they were denied the tradition of cheering throughout the national anthem, chants of “Let’s Go Hawks” were heard throughout the evening.
Unfortunately the game’s final outcome did not have a happy ending as the scrappy Predators beat the Hawks by a score of 7-5. But the city of Nashville might have been the biggest winner as free-spending Chicagoans descended on the town’s many attractions both before and after the game.
That said, here is a brief assessment of hot spots to hit if you only have a limited time in Nashville.
Honky Tonks & Other Hangouts
Tootsies: No trip to Nashville is complete without a pilgrimage to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Located at 422 Broadway, just across from the Bridgestone Arena, the place was packed to the gills with Hawks fans throughout the weekend. But subsequent trips in off-peak hours allow visitors to soak up the history of the gin mill that has played host to countless country singers. The “wall of fame” is plastered with photos and artifacts while the purple menu tells how Tootsie would lend money to down on their luck singers and songwriters. Rumor has it that Opry performers would pay up all the IOUs at year’s end to keep Tootsie solvent.
The Stage: Like its name implies, the Stage is a great place for serious music lovers to see country up-and-comers in an intimate setting with no cover charge. While bands on Tootsie’s three stages often compete for attention, the Stage's performance stage is front and center for customers hoping to catch a set or do the “boot scoot boogie” on the large dance floor. While two-stepping around the room be sure to look for the mural featuring “The Highwaymen,” which once belonged to Waylon Jennings.
Full Moon Saloon: If you want a frosty beer and a seat at the bar, then circle by the Full Moon Saloon for live music and ice cold libations. This watering hold is across the street from Tootsie’s but generally doesn't draw the large and raucous crowds---providing a welcome repast from the hustle and bustle of Broadway.
Go Historical, Y’all!
Ryman Auditorium: The “Mother Church of Country Music” is just around the block from the bars and boot stores on Broadway. This hallowed hall is billed as being “historically cool since 1892” and has played host to everyone from President Teddy Roosevelt to country luminaries like Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson and others. Tours are offered from daily from 9 a.m until 4 p.m. Self-guided tours are $15 for adults and a backstage tour is $20.
Grand Ole Opry: The Opry moved from the Ryman to the outskirts of Nashville in 1974 and this venue continues to be THE spot for country music stars and up-and-coming artists. In 2010, the building was inundated with over 4 feet of water following record flooding of the Cumberland River. Precious artifacts were rescued and teams worked around the clock to have the Opry back up and running by that September. A $20 backstage tour provides a fascinating glimpse of the recovery efforts, newly refurbished artist dressing rooms and the famed onstage circle.
Johnny Cash Museum: This new entry to the Nashville museum scene covers the life and times of Johnny Cash in great detail. For $15 you can see everything from “The Man in Black” on the silver screen to fashions worn at White House functions. There is also a plethora of memorabilia from JC’s younger days including love notes, year book photos, and more.
Centennial Park: If you’re longing for some green space after the frenetic pace of downtown Nashville, then a trip down West End Avenue to Centennial Park is in order. Located in the shadows of the Vanderbilt University stadium, this 132-acre park is home to the iconic Parthenon, which is a replica of the Greek monument. Originally a plaster display at the Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition in 1897, the building later was constructed in concrete as befitting a symbol of “The Athens of the South.”
Antique Archaeology: As the new outpost for the History Channel's American Pickers, Antique Archaeology is located in the old Marathon Motor Works building, which churned out autos from 1911 through 1914. Today, the cavernous structure is home to a few boutique-type shop and Antique Archaeology. Visitors to the "Picker's" place might be disappointed that the small space does not house a large variety of "picks" for sale but there are plenty of souvenirs from the show and some interesting “not for sale” artifacts.
Demos’ Restaurant: The shuttle driver recommended this popular dining spot claiming that customers could get a great meal for ten dollars. Well, the bill was a bit over that but who can argue with a perfectly seasoned bacon wrapped filet for $12.39? The food was fresh, the service fast and the varied menu of “authentic family recipes” offers something to satisfy every diner in your party.
Jack in the Box: Anyone of a certain age in the Chicago area is sure to remember Jack in the Box and those tasty late night tacos. Well, fear not because Jack’s waiting for you right on West End Avenue between the downtown area and Vanderbilt University district!
This only touches the tip of what you can see on a trip to the Music City but hope this provides a brief overview of things to do while hanging out in Nashville, Tennessee.