Nashville, TN

5 Travel Tips for Visiting Nashville

John M. Dabbs

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Music City USA has its highlights and potholes

Nashville, Tennessee — Home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Tennessee Titans, and lots to see and do. There are a few potholes in this destination you should avoid if possible. I’ll start with that and then move on to the good stuff.

1. Traffic

Most everyone who arrives in Nashville comes by car. Most of the people working in Nashville come the same way. There is little public transportation. There’s no L-train or subway here, just the bus.

If you’re staying just on the outskirts of town, you’ll likely be joining the thousands of other commuters on the interstate highways passing through Nashville. You’ll also find other major roads and back roads that are similarly congested during rush hour.

You’ll want to tune into a local radio station when at least 30 minutes out and stay abreast of traffic reports. It’s also a good idea to use navigation aids like Waze or your TomTom to help you navigate around traffic crashes and congestion when possible. You may find that staying in the downtown area is easiest once you get there, just so traffic will be easier to navigate — should your plans keep you in the downtown area. If they don’t, plan accordingly.

There are many choices for lodging in Nashville. Your options run from 0-Star to 5-Star hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, extended-stay suites, Motels, and rental properties. You’ll also find campgrounds. A KOA campground is near the river.

If you want to go all-out, try the Opryland Hotel (Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center). You couldn’t find a more beautiful location if going as a couple. The Opryland Hotel is especially grand and festive during Christmas.

There are boutique hotels, like the Preston, and other regular places like LaQuinta Inn, Hilton, Embassy Suites, and others.

Only your budget limits you. That, and how willing you are to travel to and from your planned excursions. Nashville truly is a great place. You’ll find many hotels with bars and live music.

Shop early, as there are many events going on that fill hotels quickly. Prices are often at a premium, so shop around. I frequently use Expedia to find better rates. Sometimes hotels can do better than the budget rate if you arrive to find plenty of empty rooms and haven’t booked yet. But that is taking a gamble. You may not find an empty room at all.

3. Dining

If you thought there were lots of options for sleeping, wait until you check out the food options! You have options ranging from fine-dining to food trucks.

I’ll limit my mentions to those I’ve personally experienced. There are more places worthy of eating and you’ll find many reviews which don’t mention the same places, so it’s a matter of taste and where you land.

  • Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse — on West End Avenue, this chain restaurant is one of the last steakhouses I’ve been to that is still in business. The food is amazing, and it comes with an amazing price to match. The quality of food and service are fantastic, though the atmosphere is too dark and old-worldly for me. Still, it’s worthy of the acclaim it’s received.
  • Monell’s — on 6th Avenue, has excellent food served family-style. It was a change coming to a restaurant to see family-style dining with strangers. It was also good to make new friends as we ate. If you are averse to eating with people you don’t know, bring a large crowd of your own. Monell’s is mid-priced, but you’ll get your fill.
  • Arnold’s Country Kitchen — on 8th Avenue, is a cafeteria-style restaurant. My friend Bill Petty had taken me here once. The food and options were very good at a reasonable price. I’d never had guessed it was cafeteria food if I hadn’t walked through the line and picked it out myself.
  • Best Wok — on Clifton Avenue, is the best place to takeout Chinese food. You’ll not go away hungry or disappointed. It has been the best wok cooked meal I’ve had the pleasure of eating.

There are many other fantastic restaurants in the Nashville area. I’ve not had the time to experience them all. I often eat fast-food or catered meals when not having room service, as my schedule is often tight and I’m frequently dining alone.

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4. Things to do

There are lots to see and do in Nashville. Here are a few of my favorite things to do. We’ll cover things to see next.

  • Tour Belmont Mansion
  • Visit the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Visit Fort Negley State Park
  • Visit the Tennessee Central Railway Museum
  • Visit the Nashville Zoo
  • Visit the Tennessee Agricultural Museum
  • Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Visit the Nashville Zoo
  • Visit the Tennessee State Museum

Quite a list. There are many other things to do. You’ll find many listed on Tripadvisor and other sites.

5. What to See

I hope you bring your camera with you or at least clean the lens on your camera phone. There are many things you’ll want to take pictures of besides those in the other places you’ll explore.

  • The Parthenon in Centennial Park
  • Ryman Auditorium
  • The Grand Ole Opry
  • Printer’s Alley
  • The Hermitage
  • Frist Art Museum
  • John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

… and there are many murals in Nashville. See the AT&T building (affectionately known by some as the Bat Building). Nashville is a place with many areas to explore and experience. I couldn’t possibly name them all.

There are additional attractions, hotels, restaurants, and views being developed daily. Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen many good places falter, only to be replaced by other excellent hotels, restaurants, and places to see.

It’s a great city. It has its problems, as do other large cities. There are hidden gems worth discovery here, as there are in many other communities around the world.

Should you have the opportunity, I recommend seeing Nashville. Put it on your bucket list.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN
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