Alt-country singer Robbie Fulks, who semifamously excoriated Nashville in one of his songs, the title of which is unprintable, has described the Music City as having a "prevailing ideology of fatuous feelgoodism." But don't let that stop you from visiting. With a vibrant downtown, a funky college district, old-money neighborhoods, and music, music, music, Nashville makes for a great long-weekend getaway. And really, when you're a tourist, "feelgoodism" isn't such a bad thing.
The Loews Vanderbilt
The Loews Vanderbilt (loewshotels.com) has a music theme and is a short cab ride away from downtown and walking distance from a great park and the Vanderbilt campus. Rooms are nice with lots of amenities, but keep extras like parking in mind when considering the rates (from $199). Hutton Hotel (huttonhotel.com) is a brand-new boutique spot located downtown and loaded with style and perks, such as rooms with either a treadmill or elliptical (from $194).
EAT/DRINKFor one of the best cheeseburgers you've ever put in your mouth, head to local dive Rotier's (rotiers.com). The bun is French bread, which is a minor stroke of genius. It's popular with Vandy students, hipsters, blue-collar types, and tourists. For excellent live jazz, fine contemporary American cuisine, and a slice of old Nashville money, make a reservation at F. Scott's (fscotts.com)
EXPLOREMust-stops on Broadway Street are Robert's Western World (this former boot-and-hat shop still displays some wares on the walls) and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. Sometimes the lesser-known spots, like Second Fiddle, are less crowded. During the day head to the Country Music Hall of Fame (countrymusichalloffame.com). Don't miss the compelling Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy, which tells the story of Hank Williams and all his kin (through the end of this year).
SEEMusic permeates Nashville. Soak it up. Try to see a concert at the gorgeously restored Ryman Auditorium (ryman.com), which was home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The pristine sound makes up for the church-pew seating. Fans of contemporary visual art should check out the Frist Center (fristcenter.org), which is housed in a giant former post office.
Getting ThereIt's an easy, pretty, but longish drive. Take I-85 S to I-26 N to I-40 W. It takes a little less than seven hours and you'll cross the Great Smoky Mountains. US Airways also flies nonstop.
COURTESY NASHVILLE CVB; COURTESY COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME; ROTIER'S: KYLE DRIER