Live music surrounds you in Nashville. Not only are there dozens of clubs featuring live country and bluegrass music, as you'd expect, but there's also a very lively rock scene. Jazz, blues, and folk clubs are also part of the mix, as are nightclubs and songwriters' showcases. And, of course, there's the granddaddy of them all, the long-running country music radio broadcast known as the Grand Ole Opry.
Some of this music can be found in unexpected places: street corners, parking lots, parks, or hotel lounges. Like Memphis, the city overflows with talented musicians who play where they can, much to the benefit of visitors to Nashville.
If I've given you the impression that Nashville is a city of live popular music only, let me point out the city's well-rounded, if lesser known, performing arts organizations. Nashville boasts a vibrant symphony orchestra, opera company, ballet company, the state's largest professional theater company, and several smaller community theaters.
The Nashville Scene is the city's arts-and-entertainment weekly. It comes out on Thursday and is available at restaurants, clubs, convenience stores, and other locations. Just keep your eyes peeled. Every Friday, the Tennessean, Nashville's morning daily, publishes the Opry lineup, and on Sunday it publishes a guide to the coming week's entertainment. Nashville nightlife happens all around town but predominates in two main entertainment areas -- the District and Music Valley. The District, an area of renovated warehouses and old bars, is the livelier of the two. Here you'll find the Wildhorse Saloon and two dozen other clubs showcasing bands on any given weekend night. On the sidewalks, people are shoulder to shoulder as they parade from one club to the next, and in the streets, stretch limos vie for space with tricked-out pickup trucks. Within the District, Second Avenue is currently the main drag -- where you'll find the most impressive of the area's clubs. However, there was a time shortly after the Civil War when Printer's Alley was the center of downtown Nashville nightlife.
Within a few blocks of the District, you'll also find the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and several other clubs.
Music Valley offers a more family-oriented, suburban nightlife scene. This area on the east side of Nashville is where you'll find the Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville Palace, and Texas Troubadour Theatre, as well as the Opryland Resort, which has bars featuring live music. The neighborhood of East Nashville, just south of Music Valley, also has a growing number of excellent cafes and bars showcasing local talent.
Tickets to major concerts and sporting events can be purchased through Ticketmaster (tel. 800/745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com), which maintains a desk at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center box office. A service charge is added to all ticket sales. Finally, for a comprehensive list of live music, performing arts, and sports events, visit www.nowplayingnashville.com.
Music City Loves Jack White -- Nashville's "cool quotient" has gone up considerably since the enigmatic musician/indie record producer Jack White started calling it home. The multitalented Detroit native recorded Icky Thump here with his band the White Stripes. Other recent releases have included bluegrass romps with the acoustic group The Raconteurs (featuring Ricky Skaggs), and White's latest dark-rock ensemble, the Dead Weather. White's new downtown Nashville recording studio is home to his Third Man Records imprint. It's a one-stop production house with a rehearsal and photo studio and darkroom. Curious? Drive by and take a look: 623 Seventh Ave. S. (www.thirdmanrecords.com).
An ever-increasing array of nightspots keep Nashville jumping after dark. Redevelopment is bustling in the Gulch. Across the street from the venerable bluegrass venue the Station Inn is Sambuca, 601 12th Ave. S. (tel. 615/248-2888; www.sambucarestaurant.com), a Dallas-based newcomer with an eclectic menu and nightly live music -- with an emphasis on jazz. The upper-deck outdoor patio, with its cushy sofa seats and dazzling views of the Nashville skyline, make it a popular spot for a romantic date. Next door is another hipster hangout, Ru San's, 505 12th Ave. S. (tel. 615/252-8787; www.ru-sans.com), a vibrant, ultramodern sushi bar.
A few blocks west of downtown, Suzy Wong's House of Yum, 1517 Church St. (tel. 615/329-2913; www.suzywongsnashville.com), has just opened adjacent to Tribe, Nashville's best gay bar. Designer cocktails along the lines of the ginger-flecked "Lolita's Kiss" are all the rage, as is the late-night dining menu created by noted chef/restaurateur Arnold Myint. The new hot spot also has a smoke-free outdoor courtyard.
Farther south of downtown, Rumours Wine Bar, 2304 12th Ave. S. (tel. 615/292-9400; www.rumourswinebar.com), is a cozy house converted into a festive bar that offers more than 50 by-the-glass wines along with tasty tapas, flat breads, and fish specialties. The arty patio, with its whimsical metal sculptures, is an unexpected find.
Meanwhile, in the West End, Virago, 1811 Division St. (tel. 615/320-5149; www.viragosushi.com), is still the Vanderbilt University area's most sizzling sushi bar and a late-night gathering place.
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.