Nashville was built on a bend in the Cumberland River; this and other bends in the river have defined the city's expansion over the years. The area referred to as downtown is located on the west side of the Cumberland and is built in a grid pattern. Numbered avenues run parallel to the river on a northwest-southeast axis. Streets perpendicular to the river are named. Though the grid pattern is interrupted by I-40, it remains fairly regular until you get to Vanderbilt University, in the West End area.
For the most part, Nashville is a sprawling modern city. Though there are some areas of downtown that are frequented by pedestrians, the city is primarily oriented toward automobiles. With fairly rapid growth in recent years, the city's streets and highways have been approaching their carrying capacity, and rush hours see plenty of long backups all around the city. The most important things to watch out for when driving around Nashville are the numerous divisions of the interstate highways that encircle the city. If you don't pay very close attention to which lane you're supposed to be in, you can easily wind up heading in the wrong direction.
Main Arteries & Streets -- The main arteries in Nashville radiate from downtown, like spokes on a wheel. Broadway is the main artery through downtown Nashville and leads southwest from the river. Just after crossing I-40, Broadway forks, with the right fork becoming West End Avenue. West End Avenue eventually becomes Harding Road out in the Belle Meade area. If you stay on Broadway (the left fork), the road curves around to the south, becoming 21st Avenue and then Hillsboro Pike.
Eighth Avenue is downtown's other main artery and runs roughly north-south. To the north, Eighth Avenue becomes Rosa Parks Boulevard; to the south, it forks, with the right fork becoming Franklin Pike and the left fork becoming Lafayette Road and then Murfreesboro Pike.
There are also several roads that you should become familiar with out in the suburbs. Briley Parkway describes a large loop that begins just south of the airport, runs up the east side of the city through the area known as Music Valley, and then curves around to the west, passing well north of downtown. On the south side of the city, Harding Place connects I-24 on the east with Belle Meade on the west. Don't confuse Harding Place with Harding Road.
Finding an Address -- Nashville's address-numbering system begins downtown, at Broadway and the Cumberland River, and increases as you move away from this point. In the downtown area, and out as far as there are numbered avenues, avenues include either a north or south designation. The dividing line between north and south is the Broadway and West End Avenue corridor.
Street Maps -- You can get a map of the city from the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau Visitors Center, Fifth Avenue and Broadway (tel. 615/780-9401), which is located below the radio tower of the Sommet Center. Maps can also be obtained in many hotel lobbies and at the Airport Welcome Center (tel. 615/275-1675), on the baggage-claim level at the Nashville International Airport.
If you happen to be a member of AAA, you can get free maps of Nashville and Tennessee from your local AAA office or from the Nashville office at 2501 Hillsboro Rd., Ste. 1 (tel. 615/297-7700). They're open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.