The District, encompassing several streets of restored downtown warehouses and other old buildings, is ground zero for the Nashville nightlife scene. It's divided into three areas. Second Avenue between Broadway and Union Street, the heart of the District, was originally Nashville's warehouse area and served riverboats on the Cumberland River. Today, most of the old warehouses have been renovated and now house a variety of restaurants, nightclubs, souvenir shops, and other shops. Anchoring Second Avenue at the corner of Broadway is the Hard Rock Cafe, and a few doors up the street is the Wildhorse Saloon, a massive country music dance hall. Along Broadway between the Cumberland River and Fifth Avenue, you'll find several of country music's most important sites, including the Ryman Auditorium (home of the Grand Ole Opry for many years), Tootsie's Orchid Lounge (where Opry performers often dropped by for a drink), Gruhn Guitars, and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Along this stretch of Broadway, you'll also find Robert's Western World, the entrance to the Gaylord Entertainment Center, and the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau Visitors Center. The third area of the District is Printer's Alley, which is off Church Street between Third and Fourth avenues. Though not as lively as it once was during the days of Prohibition and speakeasies, the alley is an interesting place for an afternoon or early-evening stroll. At night, a few clubs still offer live music.
Located along 16th and 17th avenues, between Demonbreun Street and Grand Avenue, Music Row is the very heart of the country music recording industry and is home to dozens of recording studios and record-company offices. The neighborhood is a combination of old restored homes and modern buildings that hint at the vast amounts of money generated by the country music industry. This is one of the best areas in town for spotting country music stars, so keep your eyes peeled. Anchoring the Music Row "turnaround" (a circular roadway at the entrance to the area) is Musica. The 40-foot-tall bronze sculpture of nine nude figures was considered a bit shocking when it was unveiled in the fall of 2003. After all, Nashville is considered "the buckle of the Bible Belt."
The Gulch is a rapidly growing area just south of downtown that's being developed at a furious pace. An increasing cluster of buzz-worthy restaurants, such as Watermark Restaurant and Cantina Laredo, have ramped up the area's cachet with the in-crowd. Construction of $250,000 condominium and loft towers and other mixed-use high-rises is proceeding at breakneck pace. Retail has followed, with new eateries, clothing stores, and nightspots adding to the Gulch's urban appeal.
Eighth Avenue South & 12th Avenue South
While Eighth Avenue boasts the biggest cluster of antiques shops and consignment stores in the area just south of downtown, a few blocks away lies another unique neighborhood that's off the beaten tourist track. Known as 12th Avenue South, the area has undergone a refurbishment over the past decade, as home owners have moved in and spruced up their cute bungalows and established a real community presence here. The area, roughly bounded by Linden and Kirkwood avenues, is also home to several commendable restaurants and boutiques. There are a couple of clothing stores, including Serendipity Emporium and Katy K's Ranch Dressing. Start your sojourn into 12th Avenue South with a bite to eat at Mirror or MAFIAoZA's, browse the boutiques, and end the trip with a gourmet Popsicle from Las Paletas.
If you're looking for an antidote to the West End's pricey restaurants, college crowds, and frenetic social scene, look east. Across the Cumberland River from downtown Nashville lies the endearing community of East Nashville. A bit more affordable and a lot more laid back, East Nashville is a friendly and diverse neighborhood beloved for its bistros and bars, including Margot Café & Bar, Family Wash, and Lipstick Lounge. From downtown, take the Woodland Street bridge east and follow it a mile or so to reach the heart of the area.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort is a destination unto itself. Book a stay here, and you might never venture beyond the acres of parking lots surrounding the massive hotel complex. Opryland and the adjacent Opry Mills mall are the anchors for this entire geographic area, collectively known as Music Valley. However, aside from these two megaplexes, there is not much variety here. A few country-music souvenir shops and a couple of live-music venues are interspersed between chain hotels and restaurants. Increasingly, Music Valley seems to be attracting an older clientele -- including escorted tour-bus groups. The area caters to this demographic. Music Valley has its advantages if you just want to shop and to wander the vast corridors of the Gaylord Opryland Resort. If the urge strikes, from here you can book tours to other Nashville attractions, including the Wildhorse Saloon and Ryman Auditorium downtown, and the General Jackson Showboat.
Fisk University was founded in 1866 as a liberal arts institution committed to educating newly freed slaves. Prominent 20th-century cultural figures, such as educator W. E. B. DuBois, artist Aaron Douglas, and poet Nikki Giovanni, attended the school. Fisk is perhaps best known for its Jubilee Singers, an African-American singing group that preserved spirituals, or slave songs, from extinction. The choir's 1873 tour of the U.S. and Europe helped finance the construction of Fisk University. Jubilee Hall, one of the oldest structures on the campus, is a Victorian Gothic gem listed on the register of National Historic Landmarks. Now used as a dormitory, the building houses a floor-to-ceiling portrait of the original Jubilee Singers, commissioned by Queen Victoria of England as a gift to Fisk. In another building, a neo-Romanesque former church that dates back to 1888, is the Carl Van Vechten Gallery, which includes the prestigious Alfred Stieglitz Collection of modern American and European art. Works by Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, and O'Keeffe are among the unexpected treasures here. The museum is generally open every day (closed Sun and school holidays), but call ahead to be sure. For more information, contact Fisk University Galleries, 1000 17th Ave. N. (tel. 615/329-8720; firstname.lastname@example.org).
War-torn Cathedral Still Stands
Interesting architecture and history make the gentrified Germantown neighborhood just north of downtown a nice place for an afternoon stroll. Alongside expensive new condos and professional office buildings are 19th-century mansions, shotgun houses, and such unexpected gems as the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1227 Seventh Ave. N.). The cathedral was only a few years old when, in 1864, it was pillaged by soldiers during the Civil War. Beautifully restored, the Catholic church remains an active parish today.
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.