Third Man Records
623 7th Ave. S, Pie Town
Jack White—of White Stripes fame—initially launched Third Man Records in Detroit. The label moved to Nashville in 2009 and is now a sprawling complex that includes a record store, a distribution center, and a photo studio, as well as the actual offices. Come see a show, or book a tour to learn the ins and outs of the modern music industry.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
222 5th Ave S., Downtown
Not only is a visit to this museum a must for anyone with a passing interest in country music; it also provides a lot of context for the city as a whole. Every aspect of the industry is documented in painstaking detail. Standout exhibits include Sing Me Back Home, full of photographs and original recordings that go back to the nineteenth century. Kids get their own exhibits and programs—there are live instrument demonstrations, songwriting classes, and interactive galleries in the Taylor Swift Education Center.
Belle Meade Plantation
5025 Harding Pike, Belle Meade
More than just a farm, Belle Meade Plantation features a mansion, a winery, and was once the premier breeding farm for American Thoroughbreds in the South. The Harding-Jackson family lived here for over a hundred years. Bullet holes and other damage from the Civil War are still evident on the exterior of the Greek Revivalist mansion, and the winery is fully operational and produces traditional Southern wines like Muscadine and Blackberry. Overall, a visit here is a fascinating look into the area’s history.
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
1 Symphony Pl., Downtown
This neoclassical stunner looks straight out of the nineteenth century but was actually completed in 2005. And it’s so much more than a typical symphony hall. Aldridge is a fan of the movie nights, where feature films (like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Star Wars) are played with a live orchestral accompaniment: “It’s such a magical experience for families to hear the symphony play alongside classic movies,” she says. “We love watching Home Alone at Christmas. It’s fun for both grown-ups and kids.”
4104 Hillsboro Rd., Green Hills
Located just fifteen minutes outside of Downtown Nashville, this low-key spot hosts an open mic where you can hear up-and-coming and established singer-songwriters. Some of the biggest legends in country music have performed here, including Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, and Keith Urban. A typical nightly performance consists of a “songwriters in the round,” where three to four take turns playing their songs and accompanying each other instrumentally and with harmony vocals. This is another rec from Reese Witherspoon.
Ernest Tubb Record Shop
417 Broadway, Downtown
The Ernest Tubb Record Shop, with its vast array of bluegrass and classic country music, also hosts a live WSM-AM radio show each Saturday night after the Grand Ole Opry. It airs from the Texas Troubadour Theatre in Music Valley and was established in 1947.
116 Fifth Ave., Downtown
The Ryman was founded as a church in 1892, which explains the church pew seating. In the mid-twentieth century it came to house the legendary Johnny Cash television show and the weekly Grand Ole Opry concert and radio show, which was broadcast on WSM-AM. The television show is no more, and the Opry has moved to a new home at the Grand Ole Opry House, but the Ryman remains a must-experience concert venue for its spectacular acoustics. Definitely try to get tickets to a show there and skip the daytime museum tour: You can kill two birds with one stone and check out the display cases while you’re at the concert.
Grand Ole Opry
2804 Opryland Dr., Music Valley
Several times a week, the Grand Ole Opry takes place as a showcase of the best country, bluegrass, and folk bands in the country. The night GP caught it on a visit back to the Ryman, she saw the amazing Emmylou Harris, Carrie Underwood, and Vince Gill, just to give you an idea of the kind of all-star casts the Opry always hosts. The entire show is broadcast live on WSM-AM at 7 p.m. and is the longest-running radio show in history. People say the Opry is touristy, and this is true, but it is at the same time absolutely authentic and the quality of the concerts is truly remarkable.