Day 1 – Thursday
Most of Thursday was spent driving from Cleveland down to Nashville. It was about an 8-10 hour drive, including stops. We were staying just outside of Nashville in Franklin, TN. For the weekend, our plan was to stick to local eating establishments to sample the local flavor. For the evening, we ate dinner at a local Franklin restaurant called Drake’s.
Being a sucker for a good burger, I chose their Tavern Burger as my main course.
We decided that with Friday being the more scheduled of our days, we wouldn’t drive into the city Thursday evening, so we spent some time for the evening at Drake’s before heading back to the hotel.
Day 2 – Friday
Friday was the more scheduled of our days in Nashville. We had pre-purchased tickets for a couple of guided tours as well as tickets to the evening’s Grand Ole Opry. Our day got off to a later start than we had planned. We had intentions of eating at a local establishment called Pancake Pantry, but by the time we arrived, the line to get in was incredibly long. And unfortunately we knew that there was no way we would be eating there in time and making our tour of the Ryman Auditorium in time. This forced us to derail that plan and eat a quick breakfast at Panera Bread.
After breakfast, we headed next door to the Ryman where we had a scheduled tour. If you ever go to Nashville, this is a locale and landmark that you do not want to miss. The auditorium employs very knowledgeable tour guides who guide tour groups through and give the impressive history of the building and its importance to country music history. During the tour, you are afforded the opportunity to go into the dressing rooms of the establishments, many decorated and designed to honor important icons of country music history, including Hank Williams, Johnny and June Carter Cash, and Dolly Parton, among others. Also during the tour is an opportunity to set foot on a small roped off area of the stage.
Later, you are able to conduct a small, less extensive self-guided tour. Seating area of the Ryman, still in its original church design with pews for seating, also features many historic artifacts of country music history.
The first part of the tour, right after the direct backstage area is the opportunity to step onto the Opry Stage itself and set foot into the famous Circle which was cut out of the stage floor of the Ryman Auditorium when the Opry was moved from the Ryman to the Opry House during the 1970s. Setting foot inside this Circle was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life. Just thinking about all the history of that one spot gave me so many chills.
An interesting fact that I learned here that I was never aware of is that all Members of the Opry have a mailbox on site. Upon check-in, when they are assigned their dressing rooms, they are also able to check any mail that has been sent to them at the location. This allows fans to personally reach out to favorite artists who are Members and send them mail directly without going through the standard fan-mail service.
After this, the tour goes on to show the dressing rooms that are used prior to the show. Dressing rooms are rarely the same for individual artists each time, but some of the rooms are specifically designed to be used by either groups or duos and are reserved in that manner.
The evenings featured from performances from the following performers
Riders in the Sky
By far, my favorite performance of the evening came from Kix Brooks. Brooks performed a song off of his album New to This Town called “Let’s Do This Thing.” Following that, he gave a very comedic interlude about some early days of Brooks & Dunn before performing “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone.”
The least memorable performance of the evening came from Chris Janson. I honestly can’t remember much of his performance. I do remember liking the second song he performed, but not enough to drive me to want to find out more about him.
The surprise performance of the evening, for me, was Sam Bush. I’ll admit to not having much familiarity with Bush or his music, which is more of the bluegrass style, but one of the songs he performed, “Same Ol’ River” led me to order one of his albums off of Amazon.
Day 3 – Saturday
Saturday was our less scheduled day. We really played things mostly by ear during the day, but we had a couple of planned events, but without the scheduling limitations of the previous day.
First, we ate breakfast at a fantastic local establishment called Monnell’s. Monnell’s isn’t a typical restaurant where you are given a menu and place an order. Instead, the restaurant features a defined menu each day. When you are seated, you are given a meal ticket and you pay a set price for the meal. Go hungry, because you will be bombarded with food that just keeps coming. For breakfast, they began by bringing out a big bowl of the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever tasted. Following that, a basket of biscuits with a big bowl of gravy is served alongside of corn pudding, cheese grits and fried apples. They barely give you enough time to get through that before bringing out a basket of fried chicken. Yes…fried chicken for breakfast. I suppose that being in the south, this shouldn’t have surprised me, but I’m from Cleveland. Tender, breaded and battered, the chicken was phenomenal. Next came the platter of sausage, eggs, and ham. Eggs and pancakes. This restaurant takes food coma to an unheard of level. It’s a restaurant well worth trying if you ever visit the city.
Next we headed over to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A large expansion has been done on the building since last year. On one floor, this expansion features the Taylor Swift Education Center. There’s nothing much exciting in this room. Largely, it is dedicated to glorifying Taylor Swift. There did not appear to be any “classes” going on in the classrooms of the wing when we walked through. On the floor below, the expansion hosts an interactive center. Again, this wing is largely dedicated to a more modern side of country music, but it is more diverse than its upstairs counterpart.
Also currently featured in the museum currently are exhibits on Kenny Rogers and his contributions to the genre as well as Miranda Lambert and the large success her career has already seen. The Kenny Rogers exhibit is very interesting to see, featuring items from his early career all the way through where he is currently. I’ll also admit to being a fan of Miranda Lambert’s and enjoying walking down a large glass display case and viewing aspects of her career.
Of course a trip to the Hall of Fame would not be complete without viewing the rotunda with plaques displayed of all the members. Below are some pictures of some of the more significant plaques I decided to snap photos of.