On any day of the week, you can spot the Nashville tourists sporting cowboy hats and boots as they hit the lower Broadway strip known as the “honky-tonk highway.” Nashville has become one of the go-to vacation destinations in the world.
Why has Nashville become so popular?
Nashville's warm hospitality has drawn top talent in music, food, sports, and business. The lively “honky-tonk highway” offers live music, and Music Row continues to produce hit records. The city has a rich cultural scene, outdoor recreation, concerts, diverse cuisine, and exciting activities. Nashville is an ideal destination for visitors seeking a welcoming atmosphere and a range of entertainment options.
Why Have So Many People Moved to Nashville?
Nashville has become a popular destination to move due to its booming economy, job opportunities, and friendly environment. It strikes a balance between the benefits of a big city, such as cultural events and job opportunities, and the charm of a small city. Real estate prices are affordable compared to other parts of the country, making it a great place to live for people looking for a more affordable cost of living. Additionally, the warmer weather in Nashville compared to the north, proximity to outdoor activities like Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountains, and lack of income tax and low business tax all make it a very attractive location. All of these factors have contributed to the steady growth of Nashville as one of the most desirable cities in the United States.
Hi! I'm Alex. I moved to Nashville in 2012, and after working in the music, healthcare, and technology industries in Nashville AND having visited my fair share of honky-tonks, let's break down what all the fuss about Nashville is, shall we?
The Nashville Music Scene
The music scene is unique to Nashville, and millions flock to “Nash Vegas” every year to soak it in. Since the 1930s, Nashville has been an epicenter for music nationwide. It all started in the 1800s when Davy Crockett stepped out of the Cumberland River and onto Nashville shores. This was followed by the famous Fisk Jubilee Singers. Since then, music publishing has centered on Nashville, and it still does today.
During the days of the Grand Ole Opry, the best artists flocked to Nashville, often stopping in at Tootsies, to make their name in the music business. The best musicians worldwide still know that they can make it anywhere if they can make it in Nashville. Jimi Hendrix famously said that Nashville is “one of the hardest audiences in the South. Everybody knows how to play a guitar. You walk down the street and people are sitting on their porch playing their guitars…That’s where I learned to play, really, in Nashville.
Broadway is Nashville's leading live music scene, beginning at the river and stretching from 1st Avenue to Midtown and West End. Lower Broadway contains 32 honky-tonks, and almost half are owned by big-name country music artists. The buildings they are located in are as old as the music industry itself, being used to house hospitals and supplies during the civil war.
Every year, 15 million tourists flock to Nashville, and most will visit Broadway. Today, perhaps more than ever, the live music is world-class and fun.
Honky-tonks like Roberts Western World, Tootsies, and AJ's Good Time Bar are staples of Lower Broadway. Every year, Roberts is voted as the best country music on Broadway. Newer bars like Ole Red, Luke's 32 Bridge, and The Twelve Thirty Club have multiple levels and rooftop bars and play an eclectic range of music from country, jazz, modern rock, and blues.
Broadway is one of many places to hear live music. Other neighborhoods like Midtown and the historic Printers Alley provide a genuinely cultural musical experience unlike anything else.
Every night, the Ryman Auditorium is still putting on a diverse selection of shows, and the Grand Ole Opry still, after over 100 years, is going strong.
Artists still come to Nashville worldwide to “make it” in music. You should go and check it out, too.
Nashville has always been known as the best place in the country to taste real hot chicken. This fact alone is quite often the single reason that people choose to visit. On any given day, the lines around Hattie B's and Prince's Hot Chicken (the original Nashville hot chicken) can be as long as an hour. Sometimes, visitors will come straight from the airport before going anywhere else. I wrote a complete guide to Nashville hot chicken here.
Another reason to visit Nashville for the food is the southern BBQ. Nashville boasts some of the most well-known pitmasters in the country. This includes Carey Bringle, who founded Peg Leg Porker and Bringle's Smoking Oasis right here in Nashville. I wrote a complete guide to Nashville BBQ here.
Chefs and restaurants from all over the country are setting up in Nashville. Take for example, Sean Brock, who moved to Nashville in 2013 and opened the award-winning restaurant Husk, who said, “Here in Nashville, the energy is amazing right now, what you're seeing now is a bunch of young, enthusiastic, creative people.”
Another good example is Julia Sullivan, founder of Henrietta Red. Julia is a Nashville native who left to study at the country's top restaurants but found herself back in Nashville. Today, she combines wood-roasted oysters, caviar, and smoked mackerel to provide a truly unique dining experience in Nashville. Click the following links for complete guides to Nashville brunch, lunch, and Nashville's most trendy restaurants.
The energy going into Nashville dining is exciting. Chefs are relocating here to put their own twist that combines their own tastes and flavors with southern Nashville cooking.
Kathy Lee Gifford, the television host, singer, songwriter, and actress, said that “it's a culture of kindness in Nashville” as the reason she moved here. She told the Today Show that “they are authentically kind and joyful”.
Kathy isn't alone in her thoughts toward Nashville. Why is Nashville so popular? Yes, it's the music and food and culture, but I don't think people would flock here if it was just that. There is a sense of community in Middle Tennessee that you can't find anywhere else.
There is no paparazzi so celebrities' can feel comfortable walking around. It's a great place to raise a family, and it has a creative and fun vibe about the town.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck, formally on The View, moved to Nashville in 2016. She said, “Nashville is a city that has eyes that see other people, the space for kindness and the hands to lift someone up when they need it.”
Part of the draw to Nashville are those intangible but deeply felt feelings of community.
Visitors to Nashville quite often wonder what there is to do apart from live music and the lights of Broadway. The answer is A LOT!
To start with, Nashville is rich in museums as the city has gone to lengths to preserve it's history and culture. Museums of note include the following:
- Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum. Founded by the late Joe Chambers, a Nashville musician and songwriter, this museum has preserved the history of recorded music. They have an insanely awesome YouTube channel that you should check out here. Learn more here.
- Country Music Hall of Fame. The most popular museum in Nashville, it offers a great country music experience for families in downtown Nashville. Learn more here.
- Tennessee State Museum. Admission is free, and it is a good insight into Nashville's history and artifacts.
- Frist Art Museum. An exhibition hall located in the historic U.S. Post Office Building.
- Johnny Cash Museum. As the name suggests, the museum is located on Broadway, and although small, this popular museum plays an important role in maintaining Nashville's musical importance.
Cultural Locations of Note:
- The Parthenon. Located in Centennial Park, the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the Greek version as a tip of the hat to the impact that Greece had on the west.
- The Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman is considered the “mother church of country music” which is ironic as is was originally built as a literal church. To cover expenses they started renting the space to secular organizations and the legend was started. Learn more here.
- Grand Ole Opry. After retiring the Ryman as the location of the Grand Ole Opry radio show, it was moved to Opryland to facilitate the large number of people as it grew in popularity. Learn more here.
- The Hermitage. Did you know that a US President once lived in Nashville? President Andrew Jackson, the famous and controversial president, resided at the Hermitage which can still be visited today. I highly recommend the tour. They have preserved the house and artifacts from life in that day. Incredible.
The business climate in Nashville is appealing to businesses. Many businesses are being started or moving here from other states. This is due to a low corporate tax rate, low property taxes, and no state income tax. The major industries include healthcare, music, supply chain management, manufacturing, and corporate operations. Nashville is one of the fastest-growing regions in the USA, and the skyline proves it (it's filled with cranes!).
What is the Most Popular Part of Nashville?
The downtown area of Nashville is widely regarded as the most popular part of the city. This area contains several noteworthy features that contribute to its popularity. One of the most prominent attractions is the Lower Broadway Strip, which boasts numerous honky-tonks and music venues that attract both locals and tourists alike. In addition, downtown Nashville is home to many of the city's main tourist attractions, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium. The area also features a wide range of restaurants, many of which serve up traditional Southern cuisine. All of these factors combine to make downtown Nashville a highly desirable destination for visitors seeking to experience the best that the city has to offer.
Is Nashville a Big Party City?
Yes, Nashville is a big party city. On any given night, it doesn’t matter what time of day it is; lower Broadway, Midtown, and East Nashville are pumping loud music into the streets. On multi-floored honky-tonks like Tootsies, The Stage, Ole Red, Luke’s 32 Bridge, Honky Tonk Central, and more, you’ll find country and rock music flowing as smoothly as the alcohol.
Pedal bars, party tractors, and busses are moving up and down Broadway outside the clubs. It’s loud and fun (if that’s your kind of thing).
Welcome to rowdy Nashville, Tennessee!