Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Destination: Nashville

 Do you ever discover a new city on vacation and instantly feel like you could move there tomorrow? That's what Nashville did for me last week. John and I were fortunate enough to be sent there for a convention. It was a great mix of business and pleasure. Because the business side will bore you, here's what we did for pleasure!

We spent three nights at the Omni Nashville Hotel. Our room was $200/night before taxes but it's possible that may have been a group rate. The rooms were modern and spacious with a luxurious feel. Actually, everything in the hotel felt luxurious. The beds were comfortable, the shower was perfect and the room itself was so quiet. I didn't even need my earplugs. TOP TRAVEL TIP: Please tell me you pack earplugs when you travel. It will change your life! Nothing worse than noisy neighbors. There are several restaurants in the hotel and it happens to be attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We didn't have time to tour that but plan to do so in the future. Parking was a bit pricey at $32/night for valet but I think that's pretty comparable to other nearby hotels.

Outside the hotel, it was only a short 2 blocks to Broadway. Nashville is known as the Live Music Capital of the World and this is why! Starting in the afternoon and straight on through to the wee hours of the morning, each of these bars, honky tonks and restaurants has live music playing non-stop. It was incredible! If you're not a country music fan, never fear.

Great group at Robert's Western World -- view from the back balcony bar area

A lot of the groups played a mix of some fun, non-country hits sprinkled in. We had the best time at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Robert's Western World and Tin Roof Music Joint. Some of the places even had multiple stages and groups performing. The drinks were pretty pricey ($5/beer and $7+ for mixed drinks) but there are no cover charges. The bands play for tips and boy, do they deserve them.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge -- awesome fiddler!

We had a fantastic time dancing and singing along with our new colleagues and all the other tourists. We probably stayed out way too late but it was hard to leave! Our last night was just the two of us because our friend, Sarah, and many others had already gone home. It was fun but it's more fun with a bit of a group where you're all enjoying the energy. The whole area has a fun and funky vibe. Everyone is friendly and in a good mood. Please don't miss the honky tonks if you head to Nashvegas (as they say).

Let's talk food. If you are a fan of southern cuisine, you are in luck! If you need lots of green vegetables in your life, you might have a little trouble. We ate at Rippy's BBQ as a group one night with a buffet of pork, chicken, potato salad, and cole slaw. I'm not sure about the cost as it was included in our tour price but I'm guessing it was quite reasonable. We ate at one of the hotel restaurants one night as well, Barlines. Burgers were cooked well and sweet potato chips were crunchy and plentiful. Most meals, however, were eaten during meetings and they were all tasty too. The Omni knows what they're doing, especially with fried chicken. YUM!

We discovered a couple Tennessee delicacies, as well. There were Moon Pies and Goo Goo clusters in our welcome bags. Holy cow! I was not counting calories at all this trip. I'm praying the dancing and walking balanced it all out. And we DID run in the hotel gym one morning (very nice facility).

Besides the food and music, there wasn't much time for sightseeing outside of meetings. We didn't even make it to the Opry or the Ryman. We were able to take a bus tour as a group on Thursday night which took us to some further out areas in Nashville like Music Row and gave a good history of the region. The one place John and I did visit was the Johnny Cash Museum.

It happened to be open until 7:00 pm when all other museums were closing at 5:00. It was also the cheapest entry fee at $15/person. It's a small but well done museum and John is a big fan so he really liked it. Lots of memorabilia and information about his career.

I actually learned a lot about Cash that I didn't know which was nice. One of my favorite exhibits was an ipad that allowed you to hear his songs in all different mediums they were recorded (vinyl, cassette, CD, mp3). That was very interesting and the vinyl really did sound great. The cassettes, not so much. It took us about an hour to go through which was enough time to let the rain outside let up. We had hot, steamy weather all three days but it did rain for a couple hours on Friday afternoon.

Last stop, not to be missed, is Hatch Show Print. This is the letterpress company that prints all of the posters for the artists coming into town for concerts, among other things. This was also attached to our hotel.

We bought a couple prints as souvenirs and I'm excited to frame them in our house. This is one that we bought. I couldn't find the other two online but they are equally cute and will make nice memories from our trip.

I'm already plotting when we can return to this wonderful city. There is so much that we missed that must be seen! I also want to get some cowboy boots really badly. John wasn't into it, but maybe he'd let me go back for this hat?

Even if you're not into country music, I think everyone can find something they'd love about Nashville. It was about a 5 hour drive for us which wasn't bad at all. Very easy for a future vacation......

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