American Culture

Tootsies, plantations and jewelry boutiques

I first visited Nashville, Tennessee this past summer as part of a Midwest road trip with my brother, Dan. We visited the city in mid-August when the near-100-degree temperatures and humidity index left us wandering the streets dressed in shorts, flip flops and sweat.

This week, the city prepared a more mild climate for another round of siblings to come through. My sister and I arrived from St. Louis just in time to enjoy a sushi dinner, check-in rush hour at a motel-style Best Western (equipped with an already-intoxicated bachelor party to greet us) and an evening walk through downtown. We visited Nashville for one day on this road trip and managed to see most of its highlights.

It’s hard to visit Nashville without learning about the world-famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. First opened in 1960, this bar has seen countless famous musicians swing through its doors. Live local artists play its two stages each night, but famous country stars often stop in unannounced to play a few sets. Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Patsy Cline all got their start at this downtown Honky Tonk. Grab a seat when you can in this boot-stompin’ establishment. The crowd creates shoulder-to-shoulder traffic once the music starts.

Though we opted against the $31 fee to tour the entire Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, we strolled its lobby and surrounding “Music City Walk of Fame.” We took photos outside Ryman Auditorium, took a stroll along Printer’s Alley and danced on a sidewalk when we heard Carrie Underwood’s top hits piped into a random street corner.

On the way out of town the next morning, we drove leisurely down Music Row and pointed out the few recording studios and businesses we recognized among the hundreds headquartered there.

Though we did not tour inside either one, we made a stop at The Hermitage, home of former president Andrew Jackson, and Belle Meade Plantation, a famous old plantation mansion on the outskirts of Nashville. While we saw the grounds of each establishment, both hold strong historical relevance and will be on the list of places to return to for an inside tour.

Next time I return to the Nashville area, I will be sure not to leave without another visit to Franklin. This hidden gem rests just South of Nashville at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains. Victorian-style architecture houses the antique shops, art galleries and cafes that line Main Street of the 200-year-old historic district. Nearby, visitors can tour the hillside Carnton Plantation where, in 1864, the Battle of Franklin became one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War with 8,000 soldiers killed. Julie and I could have spent all day shopping along Main Street, but pairing this with the town’s unique history made this a favorite stop along our road trip.