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Favorite experiences in Nashville

Favorite experiences in Nashville:  Frommer's picks for a great day exploring Music City
The Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, Tennes
The Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. This is the original Grand Ole Opry House. The new Grand Ole Opry is relocated across town.Neil Brake / AFP-Getty Images file
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Attending the Grand Ole Opry. This live radio broadcast is an American institution and is as entertaining today as it was when it went on the air nearly 80 years ago. Luckily, the current Grand Ole Opry House, 2804 Opryland Dr. (tel. 615/889-6611), is quite a bit more comfortable than the old Ryman Auditorium where the Opry used to be held.

Checking Out Up-and-Comers at the Bluebird Cafe. With its excellent acoustics and two shows a night, the Bluebird Cafe, 4104 Hillsboro Rd. (tel. 615/383-1461), is Nashville's most famous venue for country songwriters. Only the best make it here, and many of the people who play the Bluebird wind up getting "discovered."

Line Dancing at the Wildhorse Saloon. What Gilley's once did for country music, the Wildhorse Saloon, 120 Second Ave. N. (tel. 615/251-1000), is doing again. The country line dancing craze that swept the nation reached its zenith in this massive saloon. It continues today.

Catching a Show at the Ryman Auditorium. Known as the "Mother Church of Country Music," the Ryman Auditorium, 116 Fifth Ave. N. (tel. 615/254-1445 for information, 615/889-6611 for tickets; or call Ticketmaster at 615/737-4849), was the home of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 30 years. Now restored, it once again has country music coming from its historic stage. And, yes, the old church pews are still there and just as uncomfortable as they always were.

Spotting the Next Hot Band at Robert's Western World. Robert's Western World, 416 Broadway (tel. 615/256-7937), a former Western-wear store now transformed into a bar, helped launch the career of BR5-49. Since BR5-49 hit the big time, a band called Brazilbilly has been trying to fill their boots; though by the time you reach town, Brazilbilly may have hit it big and moved on, and this bar is sure to have another great band to take its place. Check it out.

Downing a Cold Long-Neck and Listening to Hot Country Tunes at Tootsie's. Sure, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, 422 Broadway (tel. 615/726-0463), is a dive, but it's a dive with so much history and so many country music ghosts haunting its stage that a person can get drunk on atmosphere alone. No matter what time of night or day, if Tootsie's is open, you can bet there's a band on stage.

Spending the Better Part of a Day at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Lots of interesting displays chronicling the history of country music make the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, 222 Fifth Ave. S. (tel. 800/852-6437), one of the most fascinating attractions in Nashville. Even if you never thought you were a fan of country music, you may learn differently here.

Cruising on the Cumberland. Cruising the Cumberland River on a paddle-wheeler gives you a totally different perspective on Nashville. Add food and entertainment, provided on the General Jackson showboat, 2812 Opryland Dr. (tel. 615/889-6611), and you have the makings of a memorable excursion.

Slurping a Chocolate Shake at the Elliston Place Soda Shop. Sure, every city has its retro diner these days, but the Elliston Place Soda Shop, 2111 Elliston Place (tel. 615/327-1090), is the real thing. It's been in business since 1939 and makes the best chocolate shakes in Nashville.

Listening to Tales of the Life and Times of Belmont Mansion's Illustrious Owner. Antebellum Nashville had more than its fair share of wealthy citizens, but you usually only hear about the men. However, at the Belmont Mansion, 1900 Belmont Blvd. (tel. 615/460-5459), guides will tell you all about Adelicia Acklen, a woman of means who meant business. Prenuptial agreements, hobnobbing with royalty in Europe, smuggling cotton, and double-crossing both the Union and Confederate armies are just a few of the fascinating tales told about this liberated woman of the mid-19th century.

Hanging Out in the Opryland Hotel Atriums. If you thought Orlando and Las Vegas had exclusive rights to fantasy hotels, think again. With three huge atriums, the Opryland Hotel, 2800 Opryland Dr. (tel. 615/889-1000), creates tropical fantasy gardens under its acres of glass roof. You can wander around, oohing and ahhing at the massive waterfalls, the quarter-mile-long river -- complete with boats -- and the fountains, streams, and ponds.

Guitar Shopping at Gruhn Guitars. There aren't too many stores where you can test-drive a $25,000 guitar, but you can here. If you want to be able to say that you've played a 1938 Martin D-38, drop in at Gruhn, 400 Broadway (tel. 615/256-2033), convince them you've got the money, and start pickin.'

Pretending You're a Star Shopping for New Clothes at Manuel's. Manuel Exclusive Clothier, 1922 Broadway (tel. 615/321-5444), sells work clothes -- work clothes for country music stars, that is. You know, the rhinestone cowboy sort of ensembles that look great under stage lights. Maybe these aren't the kind of duds your boss would approve of, but, hey, maybe one day you'll be able to quit your day job.

Spending an Afternoon in Lynchburg, Home of Jack Daniel's. Whether you drink Jack Daniel's or not, you've probably seen the magazine ads that evoke the people and processes of the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg. For once, it's just like in the ads. A tour of the distillery, lunch at Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding House (if you can get reservations), and a stroll around the town square will have you wishing there were more places like Lynchburg.

For more on what to see and do in Nashville, TN, visit our complete guide online at

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