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Downtown Nashville, photo courtesy of Visit Music City

Nashville is known for two things—country music and barbecue. And while there are plenty of places to enjoy both, there are plenty of other unexpected surprises and classic attractions—besides the Grand Ole Opry—that you won’t want to miss.

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Country Music Hall of Fame, photo courtesy Visit Music City

1. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

This spot’s often called the “Smithsonian of country music” for its unmatched collection of artifacts, photographs, stories and sounds heralding the genre. But many tourists fail to opt in for the behind-the-scenes Studio B Tour for a glimpse inside the studios where the likes of Elvis cut records.

2. Musicians Hall of Fame

The spot offers a more up-close and personal glimpse of the musicians and the instruments behind the greatest recordings of all time.

Johnny Cash Museum, Nashville

Johnny Cash Museum | Flickr photo by sporst

3. Johnny Cash Museum and Patsy Cline Museum

Looking for that one-of-a-kind souvenir for an old-school music lover? The Johnny Cash Museum and the newly opened Patsy Cline Museum are filled with artifacts and personal belongings of two of country music’s greatest, including gift shops filled with eclectic souvenirs.

4. The Bluebird Café

See tomorrow’s Grammy winners at this cafe tucked away in a strip mall just outside the city. (But don’t be surprised to find one of today’s top country music stars performing there as well.)  It’s a small venue with only 100 seats so be sure to make reservations in advance.

Live music, photo courtesy Visit Music City

5. Honky Tonks

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the country music scene than touring the downtown honky tonks, where the music spills over into the street. Stop in for a bite or barbecue and a beer at Honky Tonk Central or Nudie’s Honky Tonk on Broadway.  There are a number of hip, surrounding neighborhoods that offer a more peaceful stroll like The Gulch, Hillsboro Village and 12 South.

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Frist Center, photo courtesy Visit Music City

6. Frist Center For The Visual Arts

Art and music go hand in hand in Nashville and the Frist Center features a world-class Art Deco collection, housed inside an old post office. But the standout attraction here is the hands-on art space where you can roll up your sleeves and create your own art at one of more than 30 stations.

7. The Nashville symphony

If you’re looking for more strings than twang, Nashville boasts a Grammy-winning symphony that performs year-round at the Schermerhorn concert hall.

Parthenon, photo courtesy Visit Music City

8. The Parthenon

Nashville is home to the Parthenon. Wait, what? Yep, Nashville is home to the world’s only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, a nod to Nashville’s nickname, ‘Athens of the South’. In the summer, it becomes the backdrop for the city’s Shakespeare in the Park series.

Belle Meade Mansion, photo courtesy Visit Music City

9. Belle Meade Mansion and Belmont Mansion

Nashville’s historic roots are best explored in the city’s two iconic mansions. Both are must-sees for anyone interested in Tennessee history and the Civil War.

10. Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art

When you’re feeling the need to walk off some of that barbecue, head over to the Botanic Garden where you’ll find an American art collection, flowers in bloom and a sculpture garden.

Bastion, Nashville

Bastion, Nashville | Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

11. Incredible dining options

Nashville may be in the South but if you come here thinking you’ll be eating collard greens and cornbread, think again. Nashville’s culinary scene is hot as some of the South’s best and chefs are ditching traditional Southern fare in favor of nouvelle cuisine. Make reservations early at critically acclaimed Bastion, Little Octopus, Rolf and Daughters, or Tánsuo. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is not to be missed—yes, it’s Southern fried chicken dipped in hot sauce; you choose the level of spice.

12. Bars and taps

Nashville has a burgeoning craft beer scene and there’s no shortage of taproom tours. Late night, visit the Patterson House speakeasy (if you can find it), where bartenders are more like drink curators where they can virtually read your mind and serve up something that suits your palate with ingredients you’ve probably never heard of. Be sure to follow the rules, yes rules posted at the door. And order the sage and rosemary pork rinds.

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Tagged: Feature, Nashville

Beth Graham
Beth writes about the things that feed her soul - food, wine and travel and blogs at MomUncorked.com.

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