Nashville Nightlife They don’t call the Tennessee capital NashVegas for nothin’. Serving as kitschy homing beacons for party-going natives, neon signs illuminate Broadway, otherwise known as the “Honky Tonk Highway.” Though smaller and more countrified than Nevada’s exotic, well-lit strip, Music City’s main drag remains a heady setting for both seasoned bar hoppers and those more accustomed to an 8 o’clock bedtime. Singing everything from country to rockabilly to bluegrass, bands crank up the volume at such down-home bars as The Stage on Broadway (412 Broadway), Layla’s (418 Broadway) and Legends Corner (428 Broadway); outside, the harmonies continue as street performers serenade kid-toting couples and photo-happy grandparents. Phone (615) 726-0504 for The Stage, (615) 726-2799 for Layla’s or (615) 248-6334 for Legends Corner.
Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation
While exploring Broadway on your trip (where the action is centered between the Cumberland River and 5th Avenue), experience the winning combination of Pabst Blue Ribbon, fried bologna sandwiches and live music at Robert’s Western World (416B Broadway), a former apparel store that’s often heralded as one of the city’s best honky-tonks; phone (615) 244-9552. Afterward, sidle up to one of three bars at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway)—long the watering hole of choice for Nashville hit makers, Grand Ole Opry icons and up-and-coming talents. With multiple floors and multiple bands playing each night, you're sure to stumble on something good; phone (615) 726-0463.
Wildhorse Saloon/Chad Lee
If you're looking for fun things to do with friends, techno-blaring dance clubs and themed bars lure raucous twentysomethings looking to let the good times roll along 2nd Avenue (between Union Street and Broadway). Hit the dance floor at B.B. King’s Blues Club (152 2nd Ave. N.), or pick up a few new moves at the Wildhorse Saloon (120 2nd Ave. N.), which offers line dancing lessons most nights. Acme Feed & Seed (101 Broadway) is a relative newcomer to the Broadway scene and offers three floors of dining and entertainment, including a first floor honky-tonk, a second floor hipster-chic lounge, and a rooftop bar overlooking the city. Phone (615) 256-2727 for B.B. King’s, (615) 902-8200 for the Wildhorse Saloon or (615) 915-0888 for Acme Feed & Seed.
Vestiges of a naughty past linger in Printers Alley. Long the hub of Nashville’s printing industry, the alley also became home to speakeasies, gambling halls and other underground establishments around the turn of the 20th century. Though raids by billy club-bearing police officers have slowed since Prohibition ended, late-night debauchery endures in this historic quarter. (Needless to say, infamous Printers Alley isn’t for everyone.) Located between 3rd and 4th avenues and Union and Church streets, the alley includes nightspots like the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar (220 Printers Alley)—where artists such as James Brown, Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Magic Slim have jammed; phone (615) 242-5837.
If you’ve had your fill of Lower Broadway nightlife, choose from the selection of nearby restaurants and saloons at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center , less than 20 minutes northeast of downtown Nashville. After dinner and drinks at the stunning hotel, mosey next door for some good old-fashioned entertainment and watch the show that helped define American country music: the Grand Ole Opry (2804 Opryland Dr.). Since Nov. 28, 1925, the live radio broadcast has enchanted audiences with nimble banjo players and tuned-in singer-songwriters. Fans of stars such as Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson and Martina McBride will no doubt be pleased by the show’s ever-changing lineup; however, even those who aren’t big country music lovers will likely consider their Opry pilgrimage to be a hoot. While songs about achy, breaky hearts and wanderlust-driven outlaws reign supreme, you’ll also hear crossover artists’ pop-infused melodies and amusing one-liners (“Always drink upstream from the herd!”) delivered by droll cowpokes.
Stay up late on your vacation and be part of the “Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree.” If you’ve already spent all your dough on a pair of rhinestone cowboy boots or a Gibson Firebird electric guitar, don’t worry; you still can join the live, toe-tapping studio audience at the Texas Troubadour Theatre (2416 Music Valley Dr.) Airing every Saturday at midnight following the Grand Ole Opry, the country’s second-longest running live radio show won’t cost you a dime to enjoy. Phone (615) 585-9301.
Also free is Writers’ Night, held every Sunday at 8 p.m. at The Bluebird Cafe (4104 Hillsboro Pike). The show features between eight and 10 up-and-comers—who each play three original songs—as well as a guest performance by an experienced Nashville hit maker. Just keep in mind, mum’s the word during the gig (The Bluebird’s unofficial slogan is “Shhh!”). Also, since seating is first-come, first-served, you’ll need to arrive early to snag a spot inside the tiny listening room. If you can’t get in on a Sunday, take note of the determined amateurs who take the stage during Monday’s open mike night. In addition, reservations are generally accepted for a small fee on Tuesdays through Saturdays, when esteemed country and acoustic musicians make appearances at the intimate venue; phone (615) 383-1461.
In Nashville’s Gulch district, an old-school sign outside The Station Inn (402 12th Ave. S.), (615) 255-3307, points out all you need to know about this spartan local institution, a mecca for true bluegrass aficionados:
Live Acoustic Music
Open at 7 p.m. – Music at 9 p.m.
Though physically close to The Station Inn, Sambuca (601 12th Ave. S.) is on the opposite end of the nightlife spectrum in every other way. Surrounded by velvet draperies, plump leather seats and ornate candelabras, stylish patrons sip martinis inside this sexy restaurant and lounge as musicians ranging from jazz crooners to classic rock ’n’ rollers take the stage. If you wonder what to eat, enjoy some lobster enchiladas or a flat-iron steak served with a side of quesadillas, then head up to Sambuca’s posh rooftop patio for after-dinner cocktails and impressive views of Nashville’s twinkling skyline; phone (615) 248-2888.
Just a twist, shimmy and knee slide away is your next destination, Mercy Lounge (One Cannery Row) draws hipsters and wailing front men to a former food-canning factory. In the '80s and '90s, riotous crowds went hoarse cheering on acts such as Iggy Pop, Lenny Kravitz and Jane’s Addiction in this retrofitted warehouse; these days, the intimate second-floor venue packs ‘em in with local and nationally touring buzz bands as well as such regular events as 8 off 8th, a showcase for fledgling artists still unaccustomed to groupies and throngs of Zippo-brandishing fans. On the ground floor is the Cannery Ballroom, which hosts larger concerts. Phone (615) 251-3020.
If you find yourself standing in a long line outside the Exit/In (2208 Elliston Pl.), scan the wall of fame by the entrance. Odds are you’ll recognize more than just a few of the names scribbled haphazardly on the side of the building. Since the club’s opening in 1971, R.E.M., Johnny Cash, Kings of Leon, Willie Nelson and Bon Iver are just a few who’ve brought down the house in this dark, standing-room-only dive; phone (615) 891-1781.
With Vanderbilt University as a neighbor, it’s no wonder Elliston Place (a.k.a. the “Rock Block”) and the surrounding area are home to a number of quirky taverns and local restaurants. Sorority sisters and biker babes clink suds-capped mugs at the Broadway Brewhouse (1900 Broadway). Phone (615) 340-0089.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
Tennessee's statewide sales tax is 7 percent; Nashville's sales tax can be up to an additional 2.25 percent, and the city has a 6 percent lodging tax, plus $2 city tax per night.
Nashville General Hospital at Meharry, (615) 341-4000; Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital, (615) 284-5555; Saint Thomas West Hospital, (615) 222-2111; TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center, (615) 781-4000; TriStar Summit Medical Center, (615) 316-3000; Vanderbilt University Medical Center, (615) 322-5000.
501 Broadway Nashville, TN 37203. Phone:(615)259-4747 or (866)830-4440
For tourists with airline flights,
Hertz, (615) 275-2600 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.
The Greyhound bus terminal is at 709 5th Ave. S.; phone (615) 255-3556 or (800) 231-2222.
Cab fare is $3 to start and $2 per mile; a $25 flat fee is charged for transportation between the airport and downtown. Cabs are not easy to hail outside downtown, but they can be ordered by phone. The major cab company is Yellow, (615) 256-0101.
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has more than 50 city routes, including an airport connection. Exact change is required. The fare is $1.70; $1.00 (ages 5-19); 85c (ages 65+ and riders with disabilities). Buses generally run daily 6:15 a.m.-11:15 p.m., depending upon the route. For information phone (615) 862-5950.