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Cruises to Nashville

Nashville Skyline along the Cumberland River, Nashville, Tennessee, USA (Photo: OFFFSTOCK/Shutterstock)

About Nashville

If you've never visited Nashville you probably think the city's full of live music, cowboy hats, and the hope of becoming the next big country star. That's not far off, but it's also not the complete picture.

Nashville's nickname -- Music City -- fits like a fine pair of blue jeans because the city is the epicenter of country music and home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium and more than a hundred venues where live music is a nightly thing. But what you're able to hear in Nashville ranges far beyond the country, western (yes, there is a difference) and Americana you expect. There are plenty of cowboy hats, but more likely you'll find western shirts inspired by the likes of Nudie Cohn and Nathan Turk -- you know the ones: pearl buttons, fancy stitching at the shoulder. And while the city still draws plenty of next-generation musicians, you're more likely to find aspiring chefs, bartenders, brewers and artists -- and more than a few visitors enjoying the city -- while you're out and about.

Much of the music action is centered on Broadway Avenue, specifically Lower Broadway (which just happens to be near Riverfront Park, where many of the cruise ships dock), where honky-tonks and rooftop bars are interspersed with restaurants (featuring their own live music lineups), souvenir shops and boutiques. Printer's Alley, just a few blocks north of Broadway, has its own slate of bars and venues, and between Music Row and The Gulch, you'll find even more places to sip and listen.

You'll hear music all day from street corner buskers and coming from the stages of every open restaurant and bar you pass, but at night, things get hopping. Along Broadway, the sidewalks get packed and lines form at the most popular honkytonks, or at the ones where the band is playing a particularly hot lick at the moment. If you want a more refined music experience, those are available too. The Grand Old Opry, a radio show that started airing weekly concerts in 1925 and has hosted legends in country, bluegrass, Americana and even rock, records at the historic Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville and at the Grand Ole Opry House just a short ride away; no matter where the Opry is recording or who's on the show that night, this musical legend is worth seeing.

Given the city's musical history, several museums pay homage to the greats of country music. The Johnny Cash Museum, downstairs from the Patsy Cline Museum, is a good place to start as The Man in Black was a crossover artist who influenced artists from all stripes of the musical spectrum for five decades (Patsy Cline's story and musical legacy is strong today too). The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is jam-packed with memorabilia and music from the genre's past and present, and the Music City Walk of Fame Park spreads the love beyond the country borders. At the Hatch Show Print's Haley Gallery, you can see original concert posters and today's interpretation of the iconic designs: bold primary colors, big block lettering, prominent graphic of the artist on the playbill.

But Nashville's not all music, there's art, food and drink to be enjoyed, too.

The Rymer Gallery, Nashville's largest gallery of contemporary artwork, features work by more than 40 artists from the U.S. and abroad, and at Zeitgeist gallery you can catch performances and exhibits by established and emerging artists. Shopping at a bookstore like Parnassus Books, an antique shop like Antique Archaeology Nashville, or for delightfully tourist tacky souvenirs at one of the innumerable such shops that line Broadway makes for an easy way to pass an afternoon.

Nashville's food scene has made restaurants here a destination unto themselves, and new places and chefs continue to make a name for themselves. Spots like Acme Feed & Seed, located across the street from Riverfront Park, is a convenient meeting place for cruise lines and serves a menu that's expansive and tasty. Hot Chicken -- fried chicken with a spicy breading and spicier sauce -- is a Nashville original, but the two best places -- Prince's Hot Chicken Shack and Hattie B's -- will require a short Uber ride.

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  • More about Nashville

    Why go to Nashville?

    Pros: Fun for foodies and music fans.

    Cons: Broadway Avenue can be crowded and a little raucous at night.

    Bottom Line: With lots to see and do, Nashville deserves a few extra nights.

    Nashville Cruise Port Facilities

    You'll be docked in downtown Nashville's Riverfront Park at the foot of Broadway Avenue While there's no port facility at Riverfront Park, you are across the street from one of Nashville's main drags and all the amenities it brings. In this area there are plenty of restaurants and bars and a few cafes, where you can get a bite, soak up some free Wi-Fi and shop in local boutiques and specialty stores. There are bus stops nearby (Music City Star Riverfront Station) if you want to hop on the free Music City Circuit, and taxis frequent the area.

    Good to Know

    You won't pay a cover to get into one of the honky-tonks or bars in Nashville, but that doesn't mean shows are free. Instead of charging at the door, bands pass the hat -- usually a bucket, not much money fits in a hat -- a time or two during the show.

    Be ready to make friends when you're out and about as the city's one of the friendliest around. Don't be surprised if strangers join in a conversation while you're at the bar or a concert, and don't be surprised if when you leave your friends with your bartender, server and the people sitting at stools and tables around you.

    One last thing. Don't be offended if people call you "ma'am" or "sir," regardless of your age. Folks around here are taught to say "yes ma'am" and "no sir" and please and thank you, so please do the same; thank you.

    Getting Around

    On Foot: Many of Nashville's tourist attractions are found within a 20-minute walk of the riverboat dock, and the city's gentle grade and gridded layout makes navigation easy. From Riverfront Park, where the riverboats dock, walk up Broadway Avenue and you'll find restaurants, bars, honkytonks, boot shops, souvenir stores and some of the best people-watching in the South.

    By Bus: The Music City Circuit runs two free buses that travel between the Riverfront and Tennessee State University and The Gulch and Bicentennial Mall, which means they cover just about every block of the city's key tourist areas with regularity and ease. Between the two routes there are more than 75 stops across the city, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and bars and restaurants along Broadway and in The Gulch.

    Bus service to and from Nashville International Airport is available for around $2; simply take Route 18 Airport/Downtown. Know that most cruise lines offer a shuttle from the airport to the cruise terminal for a nominal fee.

    If you'll be in town for a while, one-day and seven-day passes are available (prices range from less than $4 to less than $20).

    By Taxi: Taxis are plentiful, as are rideshare options like Uber.

    Currency & Best Way to Get Money

    Nashville uses the U.S. dollar as the only accepted paper currency, though most businesses and taxis will accept credit or debit cards. ATMs are plentiful downtown, the nearest to the riverboat dock is at the corner of Broadway Avenue and Second Avenue South. The ATMs will be the easiest place to acquire U.S. dollars, though some larger bank branches may be able to exchange limited amounts of currency, if that's your only option.

    Language

    English, with a mix of country twang and Southern drawl, is what you'll hear in Nashville.


    Nashville Cruise Reviews

    American Duchess
    Ginny033
    Sail Date: Dec 2019
    Not a country music fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed Nashville. We got to see the Grand Ole Opry show and learn about Elvis on music row. Great city....Read More
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