Nashville, Tennessee

This Nashville travel guide begins by exploring the state capital complex. Then, experience the entertainment district along Lower Broadway and visit the famous home of country music. Next, stand in awe at a full-scale replica of the Parthenon. Finish your tour at the Grand Ole Opry House.

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1 Highlights of Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee’s largest city with about two million people in the metro area is also the state’s capital. But Nashville is best known for being the epicenter of country music. This has earned the nicknames Music City and Country Music Capital. In this travel guide you will visit impressive state government buildings, admire numerous statues, stroll the Honky Tonk Highway and visit the homes (past and present) of the Grand Ole Opry. Most surprising is why Memphis is also called the Athens of the South.

6th Ave N & Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243

2 Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville, Tennessee

The Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville patterns a Greek Ionic temple. On top of the limestone façade is a tower instead of a traditional dome. Before the building was finished in 1859, architect William Strickland died and was buried in a crypt above the cornerstone. He is credited with initiating the Greek Revival movement in Nashville. Some people claim his ghost haunts the building. Tennessee became the 16th state on June 1, 1796.

600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243

3 Andrew Jackson Statue at Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee

This equestrian statue of President Andrew Jackson by Clark Mills is on the Tennessee State Capitol grounds. The 7th president was in office from 1829 through 1837. Old Hickory died in Nashville in 1845. A similar Jackson sculpture is located in Florida, New Orleans and next to the White House. Another Tennessean to become president was James Polk. The 11th president (1845 – 1849) is buried beside his wife on the capitol grounds.

600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243

4 Edward Carmack Statue at Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee

Among the numerous memorials encircling the Tennessee State Capitol was this bronze likeness of Edward W. Carmack. He was a U.S. senator from 1901 until 1907. The tribute was created by Nancy Cox-McCormack and erected in 1927. Carmack’s outspoken newspaper editorials resulted in his death by gunfire in 1908. His harsh criticism of Ida B. Well – known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement – led George Floyd protestors to topple the Carmack statue in 2020.

600 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37243

5 John Sevier State Office Building in Nashville, Tennessee

The Art Deco design of the John Sevier State Office Building was created by architect Emmons H. Woolwine and opened in 1940. The building’s namesake is John Sevier. He was the first and only governor of the state of Franklin from 1785 until 1788. This section of land from North Carolina sought yet failed recognition as a state. Sevier then became a founder of Tennessee and became its first governor in 1796. He later served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

500 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37219

6 Tennessee State Library & Archives in Nashville, Tennessee

The embodiment of the state’s history is housed within the Tennessee State Library & Archives. This government building has Tennessee newspapers dating back to 1791, five years before becoming a state. The TSLA collection also contains over 700,000 print volumes. This Classical Revival structure designed by H. Clinton Parrent Jr. was finished in 1953.

403 7th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243

7 Tennessee Supreme Court Building in Nashville, Tennessee

The Tennessee Supreme Court is the state’s ultimate courtroom. The five justices serve eight-year terms (not life appointments) and the role of chief justice rotates among them. They primarily decide cases in this building yet frequently convene in other major Tennessee cities. Interestingly, the Supreme Court and not the state’s governor appoints the attorney general. The façade of the Supreme Court Building has an elegant Stripped Classicism design.

401 7th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219

8 War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

This handsome Neoclassical structure near the Tennessee State Capitol is the War Memorial Auditorium. It was conceived after World War I to honor the 3,400 Tennesseans who died during the conflict. The names of the fallen are etched on two walls of the structure. The design by architect Edward Dougherty was dedicated in 1925. The 1,661 seat performing arts center hosted the Grand Old Opry from 1939 until 1943. Also inside the War Memorial is the Military Museum. This branch of the Tennessee State Museum features displays of major battles from the Spanish-American War through the War on Terror.

301 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243

9 Youth Statue at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

Inside the courtyard of the War Memorial Auditorium is the Youth Statue (also called Victory). The impressive bronze is depicted holding a sword and laurel wreath in one hand and Nike in the other. Nike is the Greek goddess of victory. The Youth Statue was created by native daughter Belle Kinney Scholz. She also created the Women of the Confederacy statue on the property. Scholz was a prolific sculptor of statues and busts of famous Tennessee politicians during her career in the first half of the 20th century.

301 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243

10 Korean War Memorial at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

In front of the War Memorial Auditorium is the Legislative Plaza. The large open square is also referred to as the War Memorial Plaza. This is where you can admire two, life-size bronzes of Korean War soldiers. On either side of this tribute by sculptor Russ Faxon is a detailed description of the three-year conflict between North and South Korea (1950 – 1953). Toward the end it is referred to as the Forgotten War. 10,500 Tennesseans served during the Korean War. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten.

301 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243

11 Vietnam Memorial at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

On the south side of War Memorial Auditorium is Vietnam Veterans Park. In the center are three young American soldiers sculpted by Alan LeQuire in 1986. The Vietnam Memorial is a chilling reminder of the United States involvement in a catastrophic, unpopular and costly war. From 1959 until April of 1975, 2.7 million Americans participated in the Vietnam War. More than 58,000 lost their lives. 1,300 Tennessee soldiers were killed.

301 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37243

12 Chet Atkins Statue in Nashville, Tennessee

This likeness of Chet Atkins by sculptor Russ Faxon is so real you anticipate music coming from his Gretsch guitar. Beside the statue is an empty stool. So, go ahead, sit down and pretend you are listening to one of the world’s best guitar pickers. Or bring your own instrument and have a jam session. Atkins helped create the Nashville sound in the 1950s as both a musician and an RCA Victor record producer. He signed artists such as Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Connie Smith. Mr. Guitar also won numerous Grammy and Country Music Association awards plus has been inducted into three music halls of fame (Rock & Roll, Country Music and Musicians).

5th Ave N and Union Street, Nashville, TN 37219

13 Nashville Public Library in Nashville, Tennessee

Although the Main Library Building in Nashville is relatively modern, the design blends in with many of the neighboring state buildings. The opening in 2001 marked the centennial of the first free library in Nashville. During those 100 years, the Main Library was first housed in a structure financed by Andrew Carnegie and then the Ben West Public Library starting in 1963. Notice the 20 foot tower of 26 stacked books. The stones are from five continents. The artwork is titled La Storia della Terra. This means The Story of the Earth. It was created in 2001 by a married German couple who call themselves the Kubach-Wilmsen Team.

615 Church St, Nashville, TN 37219

14 AT&T Building in Nashville, Tennessee

The Nashville skyline lays claim to the five tallest buildings in Tennessee. Number one since 1999 is the AT&T Building. The 33 story skyscraper measures 617 feet tall at the tip of the two antenna spires. Locals enjoy calling it the Batman Building. This was the scene of a large explosion on Christmas, 2020, when a bomb inside of a recreational vehicle was detonated by Anthony Quinn Warner.

333 Commerce St, Nashville, TN 37201

15 Lower Broadway Entertainment District in Nashville, Tennessee

In the late 19th century, storefronts lined Broad Street heading west from the former docks along the Cumberland River. In the 1930s, musicians such as Jimmie Rodgers – the Father of Country Music – began performing in the area. Their success attracted more singers, more bands and more patrons. Today, the four blocks from 1st through 5th Avenue South are called Lower Broadway. This main entertainment district of Nashville is filled with restaurants, bars and country bands that play until 3:00 a.m. Shown here is Merchants Restaurant. This building was a pharmacy dating back to 1872. When expanded in 1892, it became the Merchants Hotel. Famous guests included Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline plus Jesse James and Wild Bill Hickok.

401 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203

16 Famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee

A colloquial name for Lower Broadway is the Honky Tonk Highway. By definition, a honky-tonk bar is a bawdy tavern where country music is played. Nashville did not invent the concept, but they established its golden age during the 1950s. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is the most famous of the honky-tonk bars in Nashville. The original owner was Hattie “Tootsie” Louis Tatum. The walls are filled with memorabilia plus photos of past performers and customers including Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Pasty Cline, Roger Miller and Mel Tillis to name a few. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is easy to find. Just look for the lavender-color exterior.

428 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203

17 Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee

Bridgestone Arena is the largest venue for music on Broadway. Up to 20,000 can attend a concert. The multi-purpose stadium is home to the Nashville Predators. The Peds play in the National Hockey League (NHL). The court also hosts college basketball games plus the men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament. Since 2006, the annual CMA Awards (Country Music Association Awards) have been presented here. Finally, you will enjoy touring the 7,200 square feet of exhibition space at the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame inside of Bridgestone Arena. Nearby is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

501 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203

18 Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

Every fan of country music knows of the Ryman Auditorium. It is often called the Mother Church of Country Music. It began as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892 and was renamed in honor of the major benefactor, Tom Ryman, in 1904. The entertainment complex was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 through 1974. A seemingly endless list of musical stars – such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams – earned the Ryman Auditorium the nickname the Carnegie Hall of the South. The stage gave birth to bluegrass when Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe gave their first concert in 1945. Other performers included comedians such as W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, Bob Hope and Will Rogers. Two U.S. presidents – Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft –lectured here. After the theater’s deterioration was reversed by several renovations, the Ryman Auditorium has once again become a popular stage. Recent celebrities include Ringo Starr, Garth Brooks and R&B recording artist Anita Baker.

116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219

19 Captain Ryman Statue at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

At the east entrance plaza of Ryman Auditorium is this statue standing next to a captain’s wheel (helm). Meet Captain Thomas Green Ryman. He was an eminent steamboat entrepreneur. Toward the end of the 19th century, he operated a fleet of 35 riverboats on the Cumberland River plus saloons. His enterprise specialized in alcohol and gambling. In 1885, he was inspired by evangelist Sam Jones. After hearing the reverend’s sermon, Tom Ryman became converted, stopped serving liquor on his riverboats and poured his money into building the Union Gospel Tabernacle. At Ryman’s funeral in 1904, Reverend Jones proposed the venue be renamed the Ryman Auditorium. Over 4,000 mourners stood up in agreement.

116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219

20 Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff at Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

As you walk into the lobby of the Ryman Auditorium, you will notice this famous duo chatting on a pew. On the left is the King of Country Music, Roy Acuff. The singer-songwriter and fiddler auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry in 1938. This launched the Smokey Mountain Boys and Acuff’s rise as a superstar. He was the first living member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. By his side is Sarah Cannon, better known by her stage name Minnie Pearl. She is wearing her signature straw hat with flowers and a dangling price tag. The comedian-singer joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1940. Together, Acuff and Pearl entertained at the Grand Ole Opry almost every weekend for decades. These statues by Russ Faxon are so lifelike you almost expect to hear Minnie shout out, “Howww-Deee! I’m jest so proud to be here!”

116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219

21 Tour the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee

A highlight of any visit to Nashville is attending a performance at the Ryman Auditorium. At the very least, sign up for a self-guided tour. Few sights compare to the crescent-shaped wooden pews overlooking the stage where countless legendary artists have performed for over 125 years. Along the parameter are displays of costumes and other memorabilia during the heyday of the Grand Ole Opry. The iconic Ryman is justifiably recognized by the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark.

116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219

22 Parthenon in Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee

If you want to see what the Parthenon looked like atop the Acropolis in 432 BC, then visit the full-sized replica in Nashville. The first version created in Centennial Park by architect William Smith was constructed in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. The pavilion was never meant to be permanent. When the faux Greek temple became very popular, the exterior was rebuilt in 1925 and the interior was finished six years later. One of Nashville’s many nicknames is the Athens of the South.

2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

23 Pediment and Metopes on Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee

The façade of the Parthenon in Greece is mostly barren. But the reproduction in Nashville shows how it appeared during the Golden Age of Athens over 2,450 years ago. The bas-relief inside this west pediment shows Athena and Poseidon struggling for control at the summit of the Acropolis. When Athena won, she became the protectress and namesake for Athens. The opposite pediment (not shown) depicts the birth of Athena. Encircling the top of the Parthenon are 92 panels (metopes) featuring battle scenes plus a Panathenaic procession.

2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

24 Athena Parthenos inside Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee

The original Athena Parthenos by Greek sculptor Phidias was a colossal statue of ivory, silver and 2,400 pounds of gold. The deity’s image was finished in 447 BC. That sculpture is long gone and the Athenian Acropolis is in ruins. But a full-scale reproduction of the goddess of war was created by artist Alan LeQuire in 1990 for display inside Nashville’s Parthenon. This contemporary version was made of gypsum, fiberglass and gold leaf weighing only 8.5 pounds. The statue is as intimidating as it is garish. At 42 feet tall, Athena Parthenos is the largest indoor sculpture in the Western Hemisphere. Look closely at her right hand. She is holding Nike, the winged Greek goddess of victory. The giant serpent behind her shield represents King Erichthonius. He was Athena’s autochthones son (born of the earth) and early ruler of Athens.

2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

25 Athena Parthenos Shield inside Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee

This is a close up of the shield held in Athena’s left hand inside the Parthenon. On the front are battle scenes between the Athenians and the Amazons. The Greeks were victorious. In the center is Medusa. She was one of three mythological Gorgon sisters. They were all depicted having venomous snakes in lieu of hair. After Medusa was killed by Greek hero Perseus, he presented her head to Athena to display on her shield. One look from Medusa could turn an enemy into stone.

2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

26 Vanderbilt University Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee

In 1873, business magnet Cornelius Vanderbilt – one of America’s richest men in the late 19th century – gave a million dollars to form a Methodist university. The philanthropic gift was enormous for the times. Little wonder the school was named Vanderbilt University. Today, VU enrolls about 13,500 undergrad and postgrad students. This qualifies as the largest university in Nashville and the fifth largest in Tennessee. More importantly, Vanderbilt’s outstanding reputation for academics typically ranks it among the top twenty five schools in the country. Vanderbilt’s football team is named the Commodores. They play inside of this stadium.

Natchez Trace & Jess Neely Dr, Nashville, TN 37203

27 Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee

The Gaylord Opryland Resort is enormous. The 2,888 rooms operated by Marriott International ranks among the top 30 largest hotels in the world. Beneath the property’s glass atriums are gardens, an indoor river and waterfalls. The facility also boasts of having over 750,000 square feet of event space. Nearby is the Opry Mills shopping mall featuring more than 200 retailers, outlet stores and moderately-priced restaurants.

2800 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214

28 Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee

The Grand Ole Opry began in 1925 as a weekly country music concert aired on station WSM in Nashville. It is now the country’s longest-running broadcast show. The variety program was performed at the Ryman Auditorium from 1943 until 1974. Then, it moved to the Grand Ole Opry House (although the show returns to the Ryman during the winter). Membership as a cast member in the Grand Ole Opry is a coveted honor. Performers are selectively chosen and formally inducted. They are then obligated to perform a minimum number of times each year during the balance of their career. Avid country music fans dream of making a pilgrimage to the Grand Ole Opry House to hear a live show in the 4,400 seat theater. Tours are also available including a peek backstage.

2804 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214