40 Things We Love about Nashville
As we watch the cityscape shift with new and higher outlines, we’re also marveling at what has made us who we are.
Written By: Nashville Lifestyles
40 Things We Love About Nashville
Authenticity. Southern charm. Collaborative spirit. Special sauce. Whatever you want to call it, there’s magic to this city that can’t be replicated—or diluted, no matter how many cranes you see waving across the skyline. As we watch the cityscape shift with new and higher outlines, we’re also marveling at what has made us who we are. We’ve compiled a list of the things that we think that make us us. Yes, there are probably far more than 40, but we hope it encourages you to share what you love about this town, too.
That ever-changing skyline. Even as the 505 and Bridgestone buildings reach new heights, we’re still suckers for seeing the tippy top of the Batman building (i.e., the AT&T building) as its spires come into view when we’re cruising into town on the highway.
Spider monkeys, a rhino exhibit, and Andean bears, oh my! The Nashville Zoo is going through far more than an exterior makeover. Along with the recently reinvented Entry Village, the zoo is aiming to open a 5,700-square-foot educational facility for veterinary education and hands-on learning. Add to that the zoo’s ongoing commitment to conservation, and we’ve got a world-class institution.
Speaking of updates, last year’s renewal of the Belcourt Theatre has everyone enjoying the iconic independent film house’s programming—midnight movies, Music City Mondays, family films—in a whole new way.
Thanks to an ongoing, ambitious fundraising campaign and a continual revitalization, we still, and hopefully always will, have Centennial Park, our own version of an urban central park, complete with the full-scale replica of the Parthenon and statue of Athena, as well as 132 lovingly landscaped acres.
Our biscuits are gloriously woven into the hospitality-focused fabric of this town. Take the Loveless Cafe, where you can still find the very same biscuits as the ones that were handed out by Lon and Annie Loveless starting in 1951. Yes, the place is busier and there’s a market and music venue onsite, but those biscuits, and the graciousness with which they’re served, haven’t changed
As the Athens of the South, our educational soil is a fertile place to grow young, eager minds—especially considering we have 32 institutions of higher education inside our city limits.
One of those, Belmont University, is rooted near the property of Adelicia Acklen, the woman who built Belmont Mansion. The property was later turned into a girls’ school before becoming an institution of higher learning. The mansion, meanwhile, contains many of Acklen’s belongings and celebrates her adventures.
Our Public Library pays tribute to the some of the most important moments of the Civil Rights Movement within its Civil Rights Collection, which includes images and materials that capture the Nashville-related events.
Our locals know how to give—so much so that we’re one of the top five most philanthropic cities in the country.
Our musical institutions are aging gracefully, with venues like the 125-year-old Ryman Auditorium hitting big milestones this year.
The Nashville Symphony, in its 70th season, has 11 Grammy Awards and a gorgeous home in the 10-year-old Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
Historic RCA Studio B welcomes travelers by the busload every day and is one of the main reasons Music City is a hot spot for recording artists today. Carrie Underwood, Elvis, and Dolly Parton have all taken their turn in that memorable space.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum opened in 1967. Meanwhile, a host of newbies, like the Johnny Cash Museum, Musicians Hall of Fame, and Patsy Cline Museum, are following its lead.
Also celebrating its 50th is the Nashville Songwriters Association International, or NSAI to the locals. This year also marked the 25th Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival.
For 35 years, The Bluebird Cafe has remained a Nashville treasure (and still survives the crush of crowds hoping to catch a glimpse of that storied television soap opera).
Since its inception in 2010, Musicians Corner has been the go-to spot for free summer concerts at Centennial Park. The weekend gathering fills the air with jazz, rock, and everything in between.
The first stars on Music City’s Walk of Fame were laid more than 10 years ago, with Reba McEntire and Ronnie Milsap among the first to be inducted.
Even our Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon, which hits 20 next year, is a musical treasure.
Green space: We have an abundance, from Radnor, Shelby Bottoms, Sevier, and Percy Warner Parks to our multiple, multi-use greenways and growing number of biking trails. And Cheekwood, our well-loved botanical gardens, is now on track to improve a small portion of that with the announcement that they’ve raised $20.2 million that will go toward restoration and work on their master site plan.
Broadway. Take it or leave it, we have a four-block stretch of colorful honky tonks and all-day saloons—where the doors are always open and someone’s always crooning.
Speaking of which: We’ve got live music everywhere, at all times of the day or night, due, in part, to those honky tonks, some of which have helped introduce the world to country music’s most iconic players. Slide into Robert’s Western World or Tootsie’s on any given night to see what we mean. (Tips are requested—we call them required.)
Did we mention that a lot of it is free? Including major rock and country shows, like Jazz on the Cumberland, Live on the Green, and that annual downtown showstopper, the July 4th concert jamboree.
But we also recognize that free ain’t cheap. We celebrate the hard work that goes behind the music, as in the work on the song itself. It’s why we appreciate the lack of grandeur found on Music Row and stay firmly focused on the music.
It seems like there’s a new craft brewery opening around the corner every week—and we’re not mad about it. Cheers to more beers!
We have Pie Town, a sliver of the city that was branded by its residents, including Isle of Printing, Third Man Records, and Tennessee Brew Works.
Our food festivals are way more fun than most, from Tomato Arts Fest to the annual Hot Chicken Festival and the now five-year-running Music City Food + Wine. Thirsty for more? We have more than a dozen beer-related festivals every year.
Our mural game is strong. From the freshly dried building-length originals in the Gulch to Charlotte Avenue’s growing Off the Wall Project, walls and buildings all over town are coming to life with public art.
Meanwhile, pieces like Alan LeQuire’s Musica, the bronze monument of floating figures set at the center of the Music Row roundabout, which was placed in 2003, still get heaps of attention—especially when the dancers find themselves clothed in the occasional Preds jersey.
Letterpress is alive and well in Nashville, thanks to Hatch Show Print. Isle of Printing, Sawtooth Print Shop, and Midtown Printing carry the torch, too.
We have an entire avenue dedicated to the arts. A hub of galleries along a four-block stretch of 5th Avenue hosts as many as 20 spaces that display art and during the First Saturday Art Crawl; you can pop into any one of them.
The 90-plus-year-old Grand Ole Opry continues to prove its relevance, with artists of every ilk being invited to perform on its legendary stage.
Okay, enough about the music. This is a healthcare town, too. And our hospitals are top-shelf, including the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, which is going through a massive, $100-million four-story expansion that will help continue its mission of national pediatric research.
From Vanderbilt baseball to the Preds; from the Sounds to the Titans to the Music City Mizfits—we’ve got a sport for every kind of fan.
Despite our crazy growth, everyone is pitching in to preserve our past. From restaurateurs, like Tom Morales, to musicians, like Ben Folds; from The Land Trust for Tennessee to Historic Nashville—public and private people and groups are doing their part to preserve the parts of our region that remain unique.
We have the country’s best celebrities. Our cover guy, Brett Eldredge, represents just one of the many well-known folks who call Nashville home, whether they’re Hollywood blockbusters, top-notch athletes, rock legends, or, of course, country artists.
But, no matter how star-struck, locals are dead-set on following that unspoken code: Leave the celebrities alone.
Creatives rule this town.
Big-city vibes, small-town feel. It’s one thing about Nashville that hasn’t changed.
Our mayor is a woman, and she rocks. This summer, through her Opportunity NOW initiative, Megan Barry has put at least 8,000 students, ages 14 through 24, into paid internship positions, giving them access to their first paying job, a chance to take on the responsibility of paid work, and a path toward confidence and opportunity.
We still, and always will, believe in Nashville.