Last fall, I crossed off a destination near the top of my bucket list — Nashville, Tennessee. A major music fan, I knew this lively city was going to leave a lasting impression (spoiler alert: it did).
My group and I visited during Nashville’s Americanafest, a six-day annual event that brings together fans and music industry professionals from all over the world through panels, seminars and networking opportunities by day, and raw, intimate shows by night. The festival celebrates the melting pot of genres that is Americana — roots, folk, country, blues and soul.
Today, things look a little different in Nashville, but the city’s energetic spirit is unwavering. With the presence of COVID-19, the city is making safety its top priority for groups.
“As the city continues to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Nashville looks forward to safely welcoming visitors and groups to the city,” said Laurel Bennett, vice president of tourism sales for the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. “Our hospitality safety program, Good to Go, is a group of over 600 area businesses who are committed to the highest level of safety standards and practices put forth by the Metro Health Department and the CDC.
“In and around Nashville, storefronts of participating businesses will be marked with a green music note decal to designate their participation, she said. “We encourage visitors to patronize businesses adhering to these rules to ensure their safety is top of mind while visiting Music City.”
Of course, when in Nashville, groups have to stop by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Not a country music fan? No problem. The museum has something for everyone.
“The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see when in Nashville,” Bennett said. “Visitors can learn the history of country music through artifacts, interactive exhibits, recorded sound and more. With new touchless entry protocols and timed arrivals, groups will be able to enjoy the museum safely.
“Groups may request priority tour times with morning hours and access to the galleries prior to the public,” she said. “Current exhibits include Kacey Musgraves: All of the Colors (through April 16, 2021), and Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ‘70s (through Feb. 14, 2021).”
After touring the museum for a few hours, our group stopped by Historic RCA Studio B, Nashville’s oldest recording studio. Built in 1957, the studio is known as the birthplace of the “Nashville Sound,” a style characterized by background vocals and strings that helped establish Nashville as an international recording center. Studio B was once home to musical legends, including Elvis Presley, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins and the Everly Brothers.
Being able to stand in the same room where these iconic musicians recorded was so surreal. We all got to sit down at Elvis’ favorite piano (a Steinway) and listen to some of the hits he recorded in that room, including “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”
Turn up the heat
Nashville is known for a lot of things, but its hot chicken rises to the top of the list. Nashville hot chicken has three major components: bread, chicken and pickles. Authentic Nashville hot chicken uses simple white bread. Each restaurant may have its own secret blend of spices, but the base remains the same — the chicken is fried and coated in seasonings, most typically in a “dry” sauce. And, it’s hot. As for the pickles, they must be dill.
Hattie B’s family-run business is one of Nashville’s favorite hot chicken joints.
“A trip to Nashville isn’t complete without a taste of famous Nashville hot chicken,” Bennett said. “With heat levels ranging from ‘Southern’ to ‘Shut the Cluck Up,’ it’s up to you to decide how adventurous of an eater you’ll be! Don’t forget some pimento mac and cheese, black-eyed pea salad and banana pudding.”
Full disclosure: I tried the ‘Shut the Cluck Up” heat level, and all I have to say is that it’s definitely true to its name.
My week in Nashville was incredible; the “Songwriting Capital of the World” definitely did not disappoint. Between exploring the vibrant neighborhoods and learning about the city’s roots and taste-testing the local fare, there was never a dull moment. I’m looking forward to visiting Music City again — there’s nothing quite like it.
For more information on Nashville, contact the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. at 800-657-6910 or visitmusiccity.com.