Destination of the Week: Nashville
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There’s plenty of buzz around the Music City these days thanks to a blockbuster new TV show (are you rooting for Connie Britton’s Rayna James character, Hayden Panettiere’s Juliette Barnes?), and TPG flew to Tennessee just yesterday to attend the Country Music Awards, so for today’s Destination of the Week, we visit the hottest city down south: Nashville.
WHAT TO DO
Of course, you can’t come to Nashville and not visit some of country music’s most famous sights. Start with a tour (and a show if you can catch one) at the Grand Ole Opry, the most famous stage in the country music world thanks to weekly radio broadcasts which first began back in 1925. Of course now the performances take place in a blinged out auditorium in Opryland, but you can still visit the Opry’s original home of Ryman Auditorium downtown.
You can also visit Music Row between Vanderbilt and downtown around 16th and 17th avenues where you can see historical recording studios like RCA’s Studio B where tons of stars launched their careers.
For something a little more intimate, visit the renowned Bluebird Café in the semi-suburb of Green Hills where the seating is limited to just 100, and everyone from Garth Brooks to LeAnn Rymes come to play their own songs from time to time.
To get an overview of the music scene and its history, you can also make a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum downtown which has exhibits on music publishing, instruments, interactive exhibits, films and even stage costumes. Afterwards treat yourself to a little shopping and live music along 2nd Avenue with all its saloons and shops including the famous Wildhorse Saloon.
Those looking for a bit of non-melodic history have two major sights to see. The first was the home of the 7th president of the United States, Old Hickory himself, Andrew Jackson. The plantation where he lived from 1804 until his death (except for his years in the presidency) is called The Hermitage, and is now a museum where visitors can see the stately mansion he built as well as strolling the beautiful gardens.
The second is the Belle Meade plantation, which is now surrounded by one of Nashville’s toniest suburbs, and is open as a museum that explores daily life on a plantation in the Antebellum South and includes a visitor’s center, stables as well as reconstructed slave quarters. The Belmont Mansion is another famous Antebellum house built in an eccentric Italianate style whose original owner was a double agent for both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War.
For a bit of fresh air, spend an afternoon exploring the sprawling lawns of and artificial lake of Centennial Park about three miles west of downtown, at the center of which stands a majestic recreation of the Parthenon (Nashville is also called the Athens of the South) complete with a 42-foot statue of the Greek goddess Athena. The park and the Parthenon were both constructed for the 1897 Centennial Exposition and the building serves as Nashville’s defacto art museum with a small collection of American artworks. Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in the heart of the city is another popular spot to wander for a few hours on a sunny day with interesting features like a 200-foot granite map of the state of Tennessee and a 2,000-seat amphitheater plus park rangers reenacting famous historical figures like Davey Crockett.
Those who have a car and are interested can drive about 75 miles south to the town of Lynchburg to visit Tennesse’s most famous distillery, Jack Daniel’s – the oldest registered distillery in the US – and take a guided tour of the whiskey-making process and facility.
Though he hasn’t been in town long, TPG has already sampled some of Nashville’s delicious downhome cuisine. He got breakfast at the casually hip Noshville diner-deli where he spotted country music’s most famous redhead, Reba McEntire, enjoying the first meal of the day, then he stopped by Arnold’s Country Kitchen downtown for a plate of roast beef, fried green tomatoes and mac ‘n cheese for lunch.
Other recs from TPG readers include the Pancake Pantry for breakfast and Swett’s for soul food at its finest. For some experimental fine dining, try The Catbird Seat, which only seats 20 guests four nights a week around the chef’s table (there are 2 chefs, actually) for a seven-course supper of daring dishes like chile-flake-coated fried chicken all prepared before your eyes.
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.
Nashville International Airport (BNA) is located about 8 miles southeast of the city center. Your best bet to get around is renting a car, however, the Nashville MTA’s route 18 Airport/Elm Hill Pike bus runs between the Nashville International Airport and downtown for just $1.60. Visit nashvillemta.org or call 615-862-5950 for more information on schedules and pickup locations.
Southwest is the largest carrier serving Austin, Baltimore, Birmingham (AL), Boston, Charleston (SC), Chicago-Midway, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Greenville/Spartanburg, Houston-Hobby, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Newark (begins March 9, 2013), New York-LaGuardia (begins January 6, 2013), Norfolk, Orlando, Panama City (FL), Philadelphia, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, San Antonio, San Diego, St. Louis, Tampa and seasonal service to Fort Myers, Oakland, Seattle/Tacoma.
The airport is also served by Air Canada, American, Delta, Frontier, United and US Airways. When it comes to airline lounges, Nashville has two; a Delta Sky Club and an American Airlines Admirals Club. The Sky Club is located adjacent to gate B3 and American’s Admirals Club is located above gate C12.
Radisson Hotel at Opryland: Just across the street from Gaylord Opryland, this hotel recently went through a multimillion-dollar renovation. The guest rooms include interior rooms facing the atrium of the hotel and exterior rooms facing outside. All of the rooms feature Radisson’s Sleep Number Bed and all rates offer complimentary high speed internet access and complimentary parking. The hotel has a fitness center and indoor swimming pool. Rates in November begin at $119 a night or 38,000 Gold Points.
Hilton Nashville Downtown: This hotel in downtown Nashville features all-suite accommodations with Hilton’s Serenity Bed and Bath, flat-screen HD TV’s, microwave, refrigerator and pull-out sofa. Guests may use the hotel’s indoor heated pool and fitness center. The property has several restaurants which include The Palm specializing in steak and lobster. For breakfast, guests may dine at Marketstreet which features a full breakfast buffet. Rates in November begin at $179 a night or 50,000 Hilton Honors Points since this is a Category 7 property.
Other Hilton properties in the area include the Hilton Brentwood/Nashville Suites, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Nashville Downtown, Homewood Suites by Hilton Nashville-Downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites Nashville-Downtown, Hilton Garden Inn Nashville Vanderbilt, Home2 Suites by Hilton Nashville Vanderbilt, TN and the Embassy Suites Nashville – at Vanderbilt – the last three of which are near the Convention Center where the CMA’s took place.
Hyatt Place Nashville/Opryland: This hotel is located in the heart of Music Valley near the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center complex. The hotel has spacious guest rooms with Hyatt’s Grand Beds, 42-inch plasma TV’s, a sleeper sofa bed in the living room, and newly renovated bathrooms. The hotel provides complimentary wireless internet access and a complimentary hot breakfast for all guests. The lowest rates we could find in November were $124 per night. This is a Category 2 hotel, so free night redemptions require 8,000 Gold Passport points
There is also the Hyatt Place Nashville Airport which is a Category 1 hotel requiring 5,000 Gold Passport points per night.
Gaylord Opryland Resort and Hotel: As of this week, the Gaylord Hotels and Resorts brand has joined Marriott. This massive crown jewel in their portfolio hasn’t yet joined the Marriott Rewards program, but we’ll update the information here as soon as they do. In the meantime, guests can still enjoy the sprawling complex’s massive indoor gardens, the Relache Spa, twelve (yes, twelve) dining outlets including Old Hickory Steakhouse, 18-hole golf course and fitness center with indoor pool. The resort has a whopping 2,884 including 171 suites and 776 garden atrium view rooms, each with two queen or one king bed, work desks, armchairs, 32-inch LCD TV’s and high-speed internet access for a fee. Rates in November start at $169.
Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University: This property is located on the Vanderbilt University campus, and has 301 rooms and 6 suites. Guest rooms feature plush pillow-top mattresses with luxurious linens, 32-inch flat-panel TV’s and WiFi. The hotel also features a concierge level with concierge lounge which has a hot buffet breakfast, hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and complimentary non-alcoholic beverages. For dining, the hotel contains the Park25, restaurant which is an American bistro serving Southern flare. They also provide a free shuttle service available to many downtown attractions. Rates in November begin at $149 a night or 30,000 Marriott Rewards points since this is a Category 6 property.
Union Station Hotel, Autograph Collection: This landmark hotel is located in a historic 100-year-old train station in downtown Nashville. The boutique property has 125 guestrooms outfitted with pillow-top bedding, LCD televisions and marble bathrooms with walk-in showers. The hotel has a fitness center located on the 7th floor. When it comes to dining, guests may enjoy the hotel’s American restaurant Prime 108 which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Rates in November begin at $159 a night or 25,000 Marriott Rewards points since this is a Category 5 property.
Other Marriott properties include the Renaissance Nashville Hotel where rates in November begin at $199 a night or 30,000 Marriott Rewards points since this is a Category 6 property. There is also the Courtyard Nashville Downtown which features a renovated lobby area. This is a Category 5 property requiring 25,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.
Hotel Indigo Nashville: Guest rooms at this IHG property include complimentary WiFi access, 32-inch LCD TV’s and Indigo’s typically sophisticated decor. The bathrooms feature historic marble counters, terrazzo floors and have Aveda bath amenities. The hotel has a business center and fitness center for guest use. The main restaurant is 315 Bar & Grill which served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rates in November begin at $160 a night or 25,000 Priority Club points.
Sheraton Nashville Downtown Hotel: In the heart of Music City, this hotel has 472 guest rooms and 10 suites all with Sheraton’s Sweet Sleeper Beds. Other amenities include the hotel’s indoor pool, Sheraton Fitness, and the Link at Sheraton where guests can connect online in the lobby with computers with complimentary internet. The hotel also has the Sheraton Club for club level guests and SPG Platinum members, which offers complimentary breakfast, evening hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverages. The hotel’s main restaurant is Speakers Bistro, which serves all day fare. Rates in November begin at $139 a night or 7,000 Starpoints as this is a Category 3 property. (Note: TPG stayed here, full review to come!)
Other Starwood properties in the area include the Four Points by Sheraton Nashville – Brentwood, which is a Category 3 requiring 7,000 Starpoints per night, and the Aloft Nashville West End which is also a Category 3 at 7,000 Starpoints per night.
Fine Hotels and Resorts
Fine Hotels & Resorts is a program exclusively for American Express Platinum Card cardholders, who are eligible for extra benefits such as room upgrades, free continental breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, dining and spa credits and more.
The Hermitage Hotel: Nashville’s most famous hotel, this luxury property is downtown within a stone’s throw of the state Capitol and is Tennessee’s only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond hotel. Guestrooms here average between 500-650 square feet and include amenities like 42-inch flatscreen televisions, down duvets on the beds, iPod docks, free high-speed internet access, huge all-marble bathrooms with dual vanities and Molton Brown products, and nightly turndown service. The hotel’s Capitol Grille restaurant is one of the city’s most popular fine-dining spots thanks to ever-changing menus sourced locally by chef (and farmer) Tyler Brown. Rooms in November start at $239 a night.