All cities evolve, but few cities feel the visceral tug-of-war between the past and the future like Nashville.
Tradition and continuity are in the DNA of this Tennessee city, but the Nashville of the early 2000s understood it had reached a change-or-die moment in its history. The journey to "It City" stature has been exciting and unruly — rich with remaking, renovation and innovation.
The Shelby Bridge, a perfect place to start or end any visit to Music City, is a great example. Twenty years ago, it was an aging iron roadway connecting downtown to East Nashville. After it was converted to a pedestrian bridge with city parks on either side, one could walk from Nissan Stadium (home of Nashville's professional football team) to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center's front door with a dramatic skyline view along the way. It spoke to everything locals and tourists alike love about this city: an embrace of the arts, sports, public space and the Cumberland River, which is the reason there's even a city of Nashville to begin with.
401 Gay Street
This gem hides in plain sight in the lower level of one of Nashville's coolest structures, the 1960s Flying Saucer-style Municipal Auditorium. The focus here is not on the stars but on the working studio and road musicians behind the songs you love. Its various zones focus on iconic studios and studio groups, including Detroit's Motown Funk Brothers, the Los Angeles Wrecking Crew and Nashville's A-Team.
110 28th Avenue North
Formerly known as The Country, the new name reflects the eclectic, home-grown nature of this tap room and performance space. It's next door to Centennial Park with its century-old replica of the Greek Parthenon. Check the calendar for music, but we'd point you to Country Sunday Nights with Chris Scruggs, whose band of mid-career masters conjures 1940s and 50s country music.
1808 West End Avenue
As new as it is ambitious, the Hutton Hotel did a multi-million-dollar renovation that included the most luxurious, meticulously designed listening room in the city. It's a frequent hot spot for industry-only events so be sure to call ahead to ask about shows that are open to the public.
809 Gleaves Street
Yes, even Nashville's jazz is excellent, with tradition and history going back to the 1920s. At last, it has a home in the center city, one that's cozy and comfortable with good New Orleans-inspired food. With two shows nightly, there's always someone worth hearing taking the stage.
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