Nashville Introduction Walking Tour, Nashville

Nashville Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Nashville

Nashville has always been about country music and creative energy. Places like the Grand Old Opry, the Ryman Auditorium, and the Country Music Hall of Fame are among Music City's main landmarks. Still, other than country music, there's more to Nashville than one can imagine. Find out yourself by taking this orientation walk and exploring all of downtown's top attractions.
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Nashville Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Nashville Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Nashville (See other walking tours in Nashville)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: anna
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Tennessee State Capitol
  • Downtown Presbyterian Church
  • Ryman Auditorium
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Frist Art Museum
  • Union Station - A Wyndham Historic Hotel
  • Music City Convention Center
  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
  • Schermerhorn Symphony Center
  • Robert's Western World
  • Lower Broadway
  • Johnny Cash Museum & Cafe
  • John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
Tennessee State Capitol

1) Tennessee State Capitol

Designed by architect William Strickland (1788–1854) of Philadelphia and Nashville, who is buried within the walls, the Tennessee State Capitol was built between 1845 and 1859 and is one of Nashville's most prominent examples of Greek Revival architecture. The building, one of 12 state capitols that does not have a dome, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and named a National Historic Landmark in 1971.

Monuments on the Capitol grounds include statues of two of the three Tennessee residents who served as President of the United States: Andrew Jackson by Clark Mills and Andrew Johnson by Jim Gray. The second President from Tennessee, James K. Polk, is buried in a tomb on the grounds, together with his wife, Sarah Childress Polk. Other monuments on the grounds include the Sgt. Alvin C. York Memorial by Felix de Weldon, the Tennessee Holocaust Commission Memorial, the Sam Davis Memorial, the Sen. Edward Ward Carmack Memorial, and the Memorial to Africans during the Middle Passage. The Charles Warterfield Reliquary is a group of broken limestone columns and fragments removed and saved from the State Capitol during the mid-1950s restoration, located near the northern belvedere on Capitol Drive.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place for a quick rest and sightseeing. The major rooms are open if not in session. The building itself sits on top of a hill which allows for very pretty views of downtown.

Be prepared to go through a metal detector and security before entering, but once inside you can wander around on your own. There is a brochure for self-guided tours, though going with a guide is also an option and is definitely the best way to see this beautiful, historic building in the span of an hour or so.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am–4pm
Free Guided Tours: 9-11am / 1–3pm (every hour, on the hour)
Downtown Presbyterian Church

2) Downtown Presbyterian Church

Sitting at the corner of 5th Avenue and Church Street, the Downtown Presbyterian Church probably can't match the history of its two predecessors (both of which burned down), but has built an international reputation for some rather unique architecture; in fact, mostly due to its distinctive Egyptian Revival style, it earned a National Historic Landmark designation in 1993. The two other surviving sanctuaries with such architectural themes in the U.S. are the First Baptist Church of Essex, Connecticut, and the First Presbyterian Church (Sag Harbor), New York, also known as the Whalers' Church.

Designed by William Strickland, who also designed the Tennessee State Capitol, the Downtown Presbyterian Church features exterior design elements such as Egyptian-style lotus columns and a winged sun disk, while interior elements include stained glass windows, woodwork and perspective renderings of Egyptian scenes on the walls. Besides, the twin towers are reminiscent of similar ones at St. Stephen's in Philadelphia, where the architect lived before moving to Nashville.

Check the availability of tours, but also get to know the people. This church has a limited membership yet offers a Saturday meal program for the homeless and works with a non-profit to train the homeless in restaurant skills. What a pleasure to find a place where the people are just as impressive as the building!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am–3pm; Sun: 11am–12pm
Ryman Auditorium

3) Ryman Auditorium (must see)

Nashville's most famous music venue, the 3,000-seat Ryman Auditorium was Architectural Digest's "most iconic structure in Tennessee" (2018) as well as being designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001. Known as the "Mother Church of Country Music" since the days of the Grand Ole Opry, the historic venue continues to book some of the best live acts in town, from just about every genre – rock, country, classical, plus comedy and more. Its hall has been praised for among the best acoustics in the world, and musicians love to show that off, often playing a number or two without a mic.

The extensive exhibits inside include photos and memorabilia of such stars as Kitty Wells, Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow, while some of the interactive videos are narrated by Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, and Little Jimmy Dickens. Among the other attractions are life-size bronze statues of Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff; a 100-seat theater experience called Soul of Nashville; and a gift shop with a selection of recordings and souvenir merchandise.

Why You Should Visit:
Fantastic acoustics, historic site and a cozy/intimate setting. No matter who you see here, you'll have a great time.
There are numerous autographed show posters on the top floor as well as costumes and props on the main level.

There are two options on tours; self-guided and guided. With the former you can roam about the amphitheater and balcony levels, enjoying the many displays on the auditorium, its history, and the many diverse artists and orators who have visited the stage. If you're really into it, buy the (extra-cost) guided backstage tour tickets, and the guide will take you backstage through many of the dressing rooms, with history about the place and the artists included. Ending up at the side of the stage at the control area where you can grab a pic looking out into the bowl, you are then free to roam around the rest of the place with the other visitors. Pictures are allowed everywhere except in the dressing rooms on the backstage tour.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–4pm
Christ Church Cathedral

4) Christ Church Cathedral

Designed by Francis Hatch Kimbal from New York City in the 1890s, Christ Church Cathedral is Victorian Gothic, an English architectural style that used to express the strength and solidity of the Industrial Revolution. The exterior is modeled after European cathedrals with wide stone steps leading to heavy oak doors that open into tiled vestibules or "porches". The church has a broad nave, with slightly pointed barrel arches supported by sturdy polished granite columns on heavy bases.

The Cathedral offers tours providing information regarding the history of Christ Church, the architecture and appointments of the Nave (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), and worship at the Cathedral. Tour guides are available for drop-in tours on Fridays between 12:30pm and 2:30pm, Saturday mornings from 10:30am until noon, and Sundays after the 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. liturgies (summer tours after the 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. liturgies).

Why You Should Visit:
The magnificent windows, the wooden arched ceiling, the gorgeous altar, and the organ with many displayed pipes all make for a truly breathtaking interior.
Frist Art Museum

5) Frist Art Museum

The Frist Art Museum is housed in a white marble building that was built in the 1930s to serve as the city's main post office. When the main post office was moved closer to the airport in 1986, the historic old facility became a downtown branch using only a small portion of one floor. In the early 1990s Thomas F. Frist, Jr., and his family, through the charitable Frist Foundation, decided the old post office building at 919 Broadway would be a good location for a proposed downtown art museum. In 2001, the Frist opened with about 24,000 sq-ft of gallery space that is used to present visual art from local, state and regional artists, as well as major U.S. and international exhibitions.

As a non-collecting museum, the Frist doesn't have a permanent collection in the truest sense; rather, it focuses on creating exhibitions as well as securing traveling exhibitions from around the country and the world, such as surrealism, printmaking, water color painting, cartoons and natural canvases by local and regional artists. Most impressive, the upstairs offers interactive activities for young and old, so make sure to try their hand at the different art mediums!

An example of Art Deco and Stripped Classicism architectural style, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Wed: 10:00am–5:30pm; Thu, Fri: 10am–9pm*; Sat: 10am–5:30pm; Sun: 1–5:30pm**
*Martin ArtQuest closes at 5:30 pm / **Café opens at noon on Sunday
Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day
Union Station - A Wyndham Historic Hotel

6) Union Station - A Wyndham Historic Hotel

In the heart of Nashville, within walking distance from the main strip with Tootsies Orchid Lounge and all the little dive bars that Nashville is famous for, the Union Station's newly imagined spaces pay homage to the property's rich history by seamlessly weaving stunning and timeless architecture with contemporary and provocative details.

Stylish, modern seating and original commissioned art inspired by the city's legendary music scene stand in contrast to the preserved soaring barrel-vaulted stained glass ceiling. Large-scale steel sculptures made from re-purposed and recycled materials and three 10-foot-tall chandeliers inject a sense of glamour and drama to the grand lobby's monumental space.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, train station continues to serve up tailored service, culinary delights, rich history, intriguing art, and of course – a true music experience. The vibe is contagious and the look is unique, so walk by and drop in, even if just to grab a drink at the lobby bar.
Music City Convention Center

7) Music City Convention Center

A beautiful facility with plenty of space for any large gathering, downtown's Music City Center is one of the better convention centers in the country, with the curvaceous outward appearance adding to its appeal. Opened in May 2013, the complex offers a large 1.2 million square footage of meeting space and exhibit options, and you may as well check out their website's calendar to see what events are coming up. The building itself is said to be shaped like a guitar, but the best part is that the exhibition hall actually has some natural light. There are a few permanent art installations and the country music songwriters' showcase, but the huge venue is also used for concerts and sporting events. See if you can catch a national volleyball tournament, a log home show and a concert all at the same time!
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

8) Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (must see)

The distinctive design is the first thing you will notice about this monument to country music. Vertical windows at the front and back of the building resemble piano keys; the sweeping arch on the right side of the building portrays a 1950s Cadillac fin; and from above, the building resembles a bass clef. The hall of fame was first established in the 1960s, and its first inductees were Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and Fred Rose. The original hall was located on Music Row, but in 2002 it moved to this signature building two blocks off Broadway. Country music fans are drawn by the carload to the hall of fame, where they can pay homage to country's greatest stars, as well as the lesser-known men and women who influenced the music. Those who aren't fans when they walk in generally leave with an appreciation of the genre's varied roots. The hall's slogan is "Honor Thy Music".

In addition to galleries, the museum has the 776-seat CMA Theater and the Taylor Swift Education Center, an interactive space upstairs where kids and parents can think creatively about songwriting and music making and, during scheduled programs, learn to play instruments (check schedules for dates and times). Other historic properties of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum include the letterpress operation Hatch Show Print (located inside the museum) and Historic RCA Studio B (located on Music Row), Nashville's oldest surviving recording studio, where recordings by Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, and many others were made.

Why You Should Visit:
Beautifully laid out for fans & non-fans of country music and situated in a great part of town close to live music, fun restaurants, the Bridgestone Arena & Broadway honky-tonks – just a lot of fun.

Be sure to check the museum website for live music options. Also, consider getting the RCA Studio B tour combo ticket.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm
Schermerhorn Symphony Center

9) Schermerhorn Symphony Center

The Nashville Symphony Orchestra is housed in this remarkable Symphony Center next to the Country Music Hall of Fame; a classical piece of architecture with an Art Deco flair (sounds odd, but really works). One of the downtown buildings that was renovated as a result of 2010 flood damage, it features beautiful and classic details everywhere, from the lovely entrance hall to the main Laura Turner concert venue – among the few nationwide to feature natural interior light through 30 special soundproof windows.

Nominated for 20 Grammies and selling more recordings than any other American orchestra, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra is a source of pride for Music City. With Costa Rican conductor Giancarlo Guerrero as its 7th music director, the symphony puts on more than 200 performances each year, including classical, pops, and children's concerts during the September-May period. Buying tickets online is a breeze, especially since you can easily choose where you want to sit. During the summer, the symphony plays its Community Concerts series at locations across the city.

Why You Should Visit:
Great acoustics, great elegance, many seating/price options (even on the day of the show), multiple bars, a gift shop...
You can't go wrong seeing a show here, and you may get to enjoy the award-winning Nashville Symphony (& Chorus).

If you attend a symphony performance, don't miss the post-concert talk with the conductor. It is intimate and a wonderful end to a great time.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am–6pm; Sat: 12–4pm
Robert's Western World

10) Robert's Western World

When visiting the honky-tonks in downtown Nashville, Robert's Western World is a fun place for a quick look in. The club, located on Nashville's Lower Broadway, reinforces the many themes of country music while showcasing the different desires and expectations of the country fan and of the typical Nashville tourist. A special emphasis on "traditional" country is reinforced through the performing bands' selected catalog of hits from the "classic" era and the continued reminder to patrons that they are indeed listening to the sounds of "real" country in a "real" honky-tonk in a "real" music city.

The wall décor, featuring shelves of cowboy boots, neon beer signs, decorative markers of rural authenticity, and photos of country music's most iconic performers such as Ernest Tubb, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl, Marty Robbins, and Roy Acuff; the costuming of the club's performers, which combines the myths of country music industry with those of Western film; and countless references to WSM (The Legend), the Ryman, and the Grand Ole Opry (which is only 15 feet from the club's rear entrance), affirm to fans that authenticity is heard not only in the interpretation of country songs but also in the performers' image, the venue's location, and the city's placement and history.

Try going on a Thursday – it is certainly less crowded, and you'll get to see some of the regulars, which makes the experience one-of-a-kind.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 11am–3am; Sun: 10:30am-11:45am (Morning Gospel) / 12pm–3am
Last call for Honky Tonk Grill: 1:45am; Bar last call: 2:30am
Open to all ages until 6pm; 21 and older afterwards
Lower Broadway

11) Lower Broadway (must see)

It may be known locally as honky-tonk, and it may be used as a noun (a bar that plays Western swing, where people dance), a verb (dancing to Western swing), or an adjective (a descriptor of the type of music), but one thing is for sure: in Nashville the honky-tonk music scene is as it ever was, alive and booming, allowing you to watch some great bands and singers.

The main strip of honky-tonks is found along Lower Broadway in the heart of downtown, which means you can easily hop around from one to another. They play a specific strain of country and western swing music, with a live band. Small or large, these venues all have some empty space to cut the rug because dancing is an essential part of Nashville honky-tonk.

The best places to go honky-tonking include the multi-level Tootsie's Orchid Lounge (with a nice rooftop bar on top), the cozy and not too crowded Layla's or Legends Corner, and Robert's Western World, whose house band is amazing. Most of these establishments are open to all ages during the day, but convert to 21 and up after 6pm. They typically don't have a cover charge, though when the cowboy hat is passed for the band, don't forget to drop a few dollars in.

Also on Lower Broadway are the Bridgestone Arena and the Nashville Convention Center, while the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum are both within one block away.
Johnny Cash Museum & Cafe

12) Johnny Cash Museum & Cafe (must see)

You don't have to be a fan of country music to admire and appreciate the life and legacy of entertainer Johnny Cash, one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. His biography, from the early years and Air Force days to the later stages of a brilliant music career is chronicled in this museum in the busy South of Broadway neighborhood.

Here's where you'll find the largest collection of JC memorabilia and personal effects anywhere, including stage costumes, handwritten letters and notes, handwritten lyrics, Gold and Platinum records, Grammy and CMA awards, personal belongings, JC's personal Bible, memorabilia from his days with the Highwaymen, the Cash family piano, even JC's birth certificate and a stone wall taken from his lake house in Hendersonville, TN. Two recent additions are Cash's first gold record, "I Walk The Line" (which is now certified Double-Platinum), and "The Man In Black" exhibit which focuses on Cash's all-black look. Other sections of the museum are devoted to Sun Records, the Memphis label that helped launch Cash's career, along with the careers of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis; an exhibit on Cash's TV and movie career; and the Patsy Cline Museum, which is located on the 2nd floor.

Why You Should Visit:
The museum has received numerous accolades since its opening in 2013, including "#1 Must Visit Museum for Music Lovers" by Conde Nast Traveler, "#1 Must See Nashville Destination" by Forbes Magazine, and "Best Culture Stop in Nashville" by Money Magazine. It also features a gift shop stocked with Johnny Cash souvenirs/collectibles, and a cafe with live music.

Opening Hours:
[Museum] Daily: 9am–7pm
[Cafe] Daily: 9am–6pm; (food served from 9am to 4pm)
John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

13) John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge (must see)

Built in 1909, what was once called the Sparkman Street Bridge was slated for demolition in 1998 after inspectors called its condition "poor" – but citing the success of the Walnut Street Bridge in revitalizing downtown Chattanooga, advocates succeeded in saving the structure and entering it into the National Register of Historic Places, due mainly to the unique truss design – the first of its kind in North America, while the superstructures are made of steel.

Today, the John Seigenthaler Bridge – named so in honor of the nationally known journalist and civil rights advocate who reported for the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean in the 1950s – remains among the world's longest pedestrian bridges (at 3,150 ft / 960 m), connecting East Nashville neighborhoods with downtown. It's been frequently featured on the TV show "Nashville" because of its great skyline views, and many get their iconic Music City photos taken here. At the base of the bridge's east side is Cumberland Park, and the East Bank Landing's kayak, canoe, and paddle-board launches.

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