From its honky tonks where talented musicans play for tips to its streets dotted with studios and musical institutions, Nashville is country music nirvana – and much more besides, says Abra Dunsby
Whether you’re a country music aficionado or not, it’s impossible not to be taken in by the boot-stomping beat of Nashville.
Step into any of the neon-lit, crowded honky-tonk bars on Lower Broadway and you’ll find talented young musicians strumming guitars and singing melodies for tips, to the delight of both the cowboy-hat toting locals and the wide-eyed tourists.
Music City’s reputation as the home of country music is unparalleled. It became a national centre for music publishing back in the 1800s, establishing iconic venues such as the Ryman Auditorium, and it has attracted hopeful musicians ever since.
Nashville’s strong music heritage has proved a hit with the Brits, and the city expects even more UK visitors, with a predicted 36% increase year-on-year for 2018.
The impending spike in numbers is partly thanks to a new direct flight to Nashville from the UK, served by British Airways from Heathrow beginning on May 4.
For agents, Nashville will be in the spotlight when it plays host to the Brand USA Megafam finale this year.
Laurel Bennett, vice-president of tourism sales for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, provides some insight about what’s in store for agents on the trip: “The Brand USA UK Megafam finale will include accommodation at the new Cambria hotel in downtown Nashville
and plenty of the live music and entertainment that Music City is famous for. Agents will fly back to London on the inaugural BA flight.”
For clients visiting for the music, a trip to the Ryman Auditorium is a must. It was built as a gospel tabernacle and evolved to host radio and entertainment show the Grand Ole Opry for 40 years, welcoming the likes of Dolly Parton, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash to its stage.
Another musical landmark is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Clients can experience the evolution of country music here, and see how it has influenced other genres, from bluegrass to punk. Clients can then hear some of that music for themselves, in one of the 150 live music venues that pepper the city.
Nashville has plenty to complement its music. The Tennessee State Museum is new for this year, telling the state’s story through interactive exhibits, multi-media presentations and artefacts.
Visitors can then quench their thirst on the new Tennessee Whiskey Trail, made up of 30 distilleries across the state.
Highlights include the Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery and Corsair Distillery’s Brewstillery in Marathon Village.
The former is a revival of a pre-prohibition era family distillery from the mid-1800s, with tours offering insights into its past.
Dutch courage established, clients can spend the evening as the locals do – with a beer and a swing in their stride, watching the talent at a live music bar. In Music City, it would be rude not to.