Nashville Travel Information

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People who visit the Music City for the first time are always surprised by the lack of public transportation. Like many large cities in the Mid-South, Nashville has spread out, taking over land from plantations and farms, and now covers a large area that limits your ability to walk from one district to another. Granted, there are a few public bus routes and many taxi companies, but Nashville is a lot like Los Angeles, at least in one respect, people here like to drive. There are more parking lots downtown than office buildings, and yet parking remains a premium. If you arrive by plane, your first step should be to rent a car. Don't depend on public transportation, it's just not a dependable or convenient option.

The one exception to this overriding need for a car is if you plan on spending most of your time downtown. It's a short walk from tourist-friendly Second Avenue to famed Printers' Alley and all parts in between.

Five Boroughs

There are five distinct districts to the city, much like the boroughs of New York, only smaller.

Begin your visit Downtown and visit the Arcade for lunch. Next, stroll along Second Avenue and take in the sights. Downtown is famous for its music venues, and every storefront is part retail outlet and part performance hall. There are more specialty shops and cafes than you can visit in a week and each features some kind of live music. Nowhere else can you shop for shoes while listening to a local band play its version of Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart."

In the early days of the city, all the printers were located in Printer's Alley. This section of downtown takes up three city blocks between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Today there aren't many printers turning out playbills and newspapers, but there are museums and shops for visitors to explore.

Capitalizing on the influx of tourists, a number of theme restaurants have opened downtown. From Planet Hollywood to the Nascar Café there are enough expensive cheeseburgers for everyone.

The West End of Nashville is home to Music Row. If you have any interest in country music or the music industry, this is where you should spend at least a day. Every major recording label in the United States has an office here.

You won't see anything like the imposing Capitol Records building in Los Angeles. This is Nashville, and record companies here work out of renovated homes and warehouses. The atmosphere is relaxed and inviting, which is the reason a lot of artists are choosing Nashville to record their next project. Some of the best recording studios in the nation share real estate with the record companies on this famous street. Stand outside Emerald Studios or Quad Sound and see what famous musical artist walks out the door.

Two blocks from Music Row on West End Avenue lies Elliston Place. This is one of Nashville's trendy neighborhoods. Small homes and cafes typify the tenants of the area. And then there's the Elliston Place Rock Block, a block-long section of Elliston Avenue that is home to six of the loudest nightclubs in town. This is not the place to go if you are interested in quiet conversation. This is where you go to listen to great country music and party into the wee hours of the night.

The West End is also home to Vanderbilt University, one of the nation's finest private universities and the alma mater of Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. The lush and expansive campus provides much-needed green space in Nashville's West End area, as well as opportunities for visitors to enjoy collegiate sporting events, art museums and symphonic concerts.

South of the Music City lies the suburb of Brentwood. This is where the affluent live and where corporations have been relocating over the last decade, escaping the congestion of downtown traffic. Brentwood offers the best shopping in town with two large shopping malls and a number of factory outlet centers. Brentwood also suffers from poor public transportation. You are lucky to even find a bus, much less catch a ride on one. This is definitely a place to drive your car.

A little further South is the historic town of Franklin. One of the oldest towns in Middle Tennessee, Franklin is famous for its numerous antique malls and neighborhood cafes. A drive down Main Street is like driving through a Norman Rockwell painting. This is typical small town USA, filled with history and charm and friendly folks who are always willing to offer directions or tell a tall tale or two. After 200 years, Franklin has retained its quiet, Southern charm.

If you arrive in Nashville via the International Airport, you will be in the Opryland area. For many, this is the final destination, and with good reason. For decades, the district around the Opryland theme park kept the city of Nashville alive. The Music City owes a great deal to the now defunct amusement park that was once home to the Grand Ole Opry, the world renowned country music venue. The Opry drew millions of visitors every year and the area surrounding it grew up fast. Today, the theme park has been turned into the largest shopping center in the South, Opry Mills. The Opry still stands and still offers the greatest in Country Music entertainment. Dining in and around this area can be exquisite at the New Orleans Manor or adventurous at 101st Airborne.


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