10 Unique Experiences You Can Only Have in Nashville
Nothing compares to Nashville. From its full-scale replica of the Parthenon to its 141-year-old letterpress shop to its one-of-a-kind music scene, Music City is a vacation destination like no other.
Visit one of the oldest working letterpress shops in the country
Hatch Show Print has been in business since 1879, creating posters to commemorate iconic concerts that have taken place over the years. The letterpress shop’s experts handset the wood type, and no two posters look the same as the ink creates a different impression on the paper each time. Take a tour of the studio and try your hand at making your own keepsake poster.
Dine inside a civil rights landmark
While Memphis was the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee, Nashville played an important role, too. Protestors, many of whom were local students, staged daily sit-ins for three months at lunch counters across Nashville, including five-and-dime store F.W. Woolworth. Their fight for equal rights is remembered and preserved at Woolworth on Fifth, a restaurant housed within the preserved Woolworth’s space downtown.
See a full-scale replica of Greece’s Parthenon
Completed in 438 BC, the original Parthenon in Athens has seen some wear and tear over the years, but those hoping to get a full picture of what it looked like all those centuries ago can pack their bags for Nashville. Billed as the “Athens of the South” for its abundant universities, Nashville has its own full-scale (and intact!) replica of the Grecian temple that became a permanent fixture after the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition.
Take care of, um, business at two of the country’s best restrooms
Nashville sure knows how to flush out the competition. It’s the only city in the country to be honored twice by Cintas, a restroom supplies giant, with the “America’s Best Restroom” award. The Nashville Zoo claimed top honors in 2019 for its monkey exhibit inside a women’s restroom. In 2008, the historic Hermitage Hotel won for its men’s restroom that has a shoe-shine station and a working telephone that connects to the front desk — you know, in case you run out of toilet paper.
Two-step with a fried bologna sandwich in your hand
A holdout against the modern music that bursts out of other bars on Broadway, Robert’s Western World is the downtown destination for old-school country music. Kick it on back to some Ray Price and Kitty Wells while noshing on sinful fried bologna sandwiches, a no-frills specialty.
Hear how hits are made at a listening room
Our favorite part about attending a songwriter’s session at The Bluebird Cafe or The Listening Room Cafe? When the songwriter intros a song by saying something to the effect of I wrote this little tune one night on the back of a cocktail napkin. Then this guy named Garth Brooks recorded it. These stories aren’t uncommon in Nashville, but they never get old.
Be front row for your favorite artist’s pop-up performance
With all of the star bars on Broadway, country music’s hottest acts have made a habit out of surprise performances. You might think it’s an ordinary Tuesday night until Blake Shelton shows up on stage at Ole Red, or Keith Urban holds a spur-of-the-moment concert at Exit/In. Getting into one of these shows involves some social media sleuthing and a lot of luck.
Stand on the same stage as your country music heroes
Only the Opry puts you this close to the stars. On most Grand Ole Opry guided backstage tours, you can step foot onto the same 6-foot circle of wood that the boots of country music legends have paraded across on stage. Return in the evening for a show featuring a dynamic lineup of artists.
A backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry is your official initiation into country music.
Take part in some pickin’ and grinnin’ under a full moon
From your restaurant server to your accountant, you never know who among you has some serious musical chops here in Nashville. Discover the musicianship of locals at a bluegrass Full Moon Pickin’ Party, which takes place May through October on Fridays closest to a full moon at Percy Warner Park. If you play, bring your instrument along and join in on the fun.
See a concert inside a stunning former church
Built in 1892, Ryman Auditorium, also known as the Mother Church, was first a tabernacle; its unique curved space was created to project the booming voices of evangelists. In the years since, the Ryman has distinguished itself as having some of the best acoustics in the world. While there’s no longer a Sunday service, it remains holy ground for artists of all genres and the fans who make it a bucket list item to see them perform inside these hallowed halls.