Beyond the Music in Nashville

Joseph Sohm / Getty Images

Nashville, Tennessee is known as Music City. Home to honkytonks, dozens of recording studios, and the Grand Ole Opry, it has a well-deserved reputation for its musical cred. From the Country Music Hall of Fame and Ryman Auditorium to Studio B where Elvis recorded and the Johnny Cash Museum, you can fill your days with fun (and must-see) attractions. But Nashville is also home to a thriving art and cultural scene beyond the music and offers plenty of other fascinating experiences.

The Parthenon

The world’s only full-sized reproduction of the Greek Parthenon was built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition. The completely renovated building today houses the city’s art museum, with a permanent collection of 19th-20th century American art. But the focus of The Parthenon is the 42-foot tall sculpture of Athena that dominates one room and is the tallest indoor statue in the Western world. Athena is the creation of local sculptor Alan LeQuire, who has a gallery nearby that is open to the public.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts

The arresting art deco Frist building, formerly a U.S. post office, maybe as awe-inspiring as its art collection. The nonprofit exhibition center has 24,000 square feet of gallery space and offers ongoing events such as live music, film screenings, gallery talks, and programs for youth and families. “We feel if people come here, it’s an investment of their time,” says Ellen Pryor, the Frist’s Director of Communications. “Time is the only non-renewable resource that we have, and we want to make sure we pay a dividend on that investment.”

Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Home to the Nashville Symphony, this neoclassic revivalist concert hall is Nashville’s musical gem, opened in 2006. Regarded as one of the finest concert halls in the U.S., the Schermerhorn has remarkable acoustics and is one of the only major concert halls in the country to utilize natural light. From its spectacular concert calendar to free community performances and stellar education program, the symphony hall is a great place to visit.

The Hermitage

The home of Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States, is now a National Historic Landmark that is open to the public for tours. As one of the oldest and largest historic site museums in the country, approximately 15 million people have visited since its opening in 1889. Tour the mansion, 1,100 acres of grounds, and the tombs of Andrew and Rachel Jackson.

East Nashville

Called Nashville’s version of New York’s East Village, historic East Nashville is a hip, eclectic neighborhood with top-rated restaurants alongside food trucks, vintage and boutique shopping, and a thriving creative scene. Lots of events going on here, from food and pub crawls to art festivals.

Belle Meade Plantation

Called the “Queen of Tennessee Plantations,” this 1820s Greek Revival mansion was home to Kentucky Derby winner Iroquois and considered one of the premier thoroughbred racing and breeding farms in the south. Today, visitors can tour the plantation which includes the mansion, horse stables, carriage house, mausoleum, gardens, and a log cabin. Belle Meade also opened the only winery in Nashville, in 2009, and tastings are held daily.

Lane Motor Museum

Located in a former bakery, this unusual auto museum was established by enthusiast Jeff Lane in 2002. Lane specifically seeks out cars that are technically significant or unique, mostly European, and the museum is a must-see for any car enthusiast. Some of the autos on display include amphibious vehicles, micro-cars, cars that fold in half and are run by propellers.

Hatch Show Print

Even though this has to do with music, it can’t be left out as a “don’t-miss” sight. In operation since 1879, this letterpress printmaker has been creating handbills and posters for musical acts as well as the circus, vaudeville shows, and more for well over 130 years. You can take a fascinating tour of Hatch to see how it all works (still the old-fashioned way) and shop their gallery. Too cool to miss.

Adventure Science Center

For families on vacation, this interactive and educational children’s facility includes an Adventure Tower of hands-on learning, mazes, a state-of-the-art planetarium, and Space Chase – simulated astronaut training. Laser shows are also being held every Saturday throughout the summer.

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