Nashville city guide
In Nashville, country music and its history are king — and, understandably, the reason why many tourists come to visit. However, that doesn’t mean that spectator sports has no place in Music City. It’s a relatively new development, since Nashville has only been represented in major American pro sports for some two decades, but sports is now a big part of life in Music City and a fine reason for visitors to drop in, as well.
If you’re a sports fan who’s itching to visit Nashville, you’ll want to spend time checking out the honky tonk scene while you’re in town. And there are a few other surprises worth seeing and doing as well. See what makes Music City tick and find out how to make the most of your sports-themed trip.
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Nashville’s sports scene was led by Vanderbilt University athletics, as well as the Triple-A Nashville Sounds baseball team, until 1998, when the Tennessee Oilers (now Titans) came to town after a season in Memphis. That same year, the Predators began play as an NHL expansion franchise, making Nashville a two-sport town.
While the Titans have enjoyed periods of popularity in football-mad Tennessee, the Predators seemed on the verge of moving away as recently as 2007. They have a strong and loyal fan base now, and it only grew larger when the Preds made a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
• Bridgestone Arena: Home of the Predators. Located at 501 Broadway.
• Nissan Stadium: Home of the Titans. Located at 1 Titans Way, across the Cumberland River from downtown.
• Memorial Gymnasium: Home of Vanderbilt basketball. Located at 210 25th Avenue South on the Vanderbilt campus.
• Vanderbilt Stadium: Home of Vanderbilt football. Located at 2601 Jess Neely Drive on the Vanderbilt campus.
Travelers to Nashville mostly arrive via Nashville International Airport (BNA), located some 10 miles east of the city center. Southwest Airlines is the airport’s largest carrier, but most major airlines serve the airport and offer nonstop flights to many major U.S. destinations.
Interstates 65, 40 and 24 converge in Nashville, connecting the city with nearby metro areas such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis and Louisville.
Where to stay
Downtown Nashville, naturally, is the center of tourist activity, and thus the highest concentration of hotels both name-brand and independent can be found in this area — all of which would be convenient to Bridgestone Arena and Nissan Stadium as well. More popular spots for lodging include the Midtown area, west of downtown and near the Vanderbilt campus, near Nashville International Airport and near the Gaylord Opryland Resort east of center city.
The car is your main option for traveling around town, as Nashville has only a bus network and no rapid transit. However, there is a free circulator that runs through the downtown area and stops at Bridgestone Arena, in case it’s a little too far from where you are (the city’s downtown does cover a pretty large area and can be hilly in spots). You can also use it to get to Nissan Stadium — get off at Riverfront Station and use the nearby pedestrian bridge to walk across the river.
Like many NFL venues, Nissan Stadium is surrounded by a number of parking lots, but they are permit-only and accessible mainly to season-ticket holders. Bridgestone Arena is more parking-challenged, it being in the center of the downtown area.
For both venues, one-time visitors are encouraged to check out the many parking structures and lots in the downtown area via the ParkIt website — some lots offer shuttle service to the venue depending on the event.
Everything country music
No visit to Music City is complete without experiencing the “music” part, and in Nashville that’s pretty easy to do. Start right at the doorstep to Bridgestone Arena, where honky tonk bars (many of which feature live music nearly on a nightly basis) line the blocks of Broadway leading to the arena. Also within close proximity are the historic Ryman Auditorium, original home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
As the capital of Tennessee and an important city to the growth of the South, Nashville has plenty of historical sights worth seeing. In the downtown area, you can check out the Tennessee State Capitol and the nearby Tennessee State Museum. Just north of the capitol is the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, which includes a number of tributes to state history including a large World War II memorial.
Hot chicken, BBQ and more
Nashville has been a big name in the food world in recent years because a local dish, “Nashville-style” hot chicken, has taken on a nationwide following. There’s no shortage of spots around town to try the fiery fried poultry, and there are a few other spots serving Southern specialties, barbecue and the like that are worth trying for the visitor. We’ve named a few of those eateries below (in cases of restaurants with multiple locations, addresses listed below are for either the original location or the one closest to downtown):
• Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack (123 Ewing Drive): The restaurant that invented hot chicken is located in the middle of a nondescript strip mall north of downtown, but it stays open late into the night on weekends and is typically hopping during those hours. If you’re interested in doing a sampling of hot chicken joints around town, make sure this place is on your list.
• Hattie B’s Hot Chicken (112 19th Ave. South): Another popular hot chicken purveyor, this one with multiple locations around town, including a busy spot in Midtown.
• Puckett’s (500 Church Street): Southern comfort food served in a general store-like setting, often along with live music.
• Acme Feed & Seed (101 Broadway): Situated at the foot of “Honky Tonk Row,” it offers Southern food, drinks and live music.
• Rotier’s Restaurant (2413 Elliston Place): Across from the Vanderbilt campus, it serves a cheeseburger on french bread that is consistently named among the best in the city.
• Jack’s Bar-B-Que (416 Broadway): Its downtown location is the most convenient BBQ joint to the downtown core (less than a block away from Bridgestone Arena), but it’s also considered one of the best in town.
• Peg Leg Porker (903 Gleaves Street): Another spot that frequently appears on “best of” lists, if not for their BBQ, then for their fried pie.
The Nashville Sounds, currently the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, play their home games at First Tennessee Park, which opened in 2015. The ballpark sits on the northern edge of downtown, a block from Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park.
Nashville is home to two other universities, Belmont and Tennessee State, with Division I-level athletic programs. TSU’s football team, which competes in the FCS, plays some home games at Nissan Stadium. Another major college, Middle Tennessee, is just outside Nashville in the town of Murfreesboro.
While you’ll find many around Nashville whose college sports allegiances lie firmly with the University of Tennessee, the home of the Volunteers is in Knoxville, some three hours east of Nashville.