Nashville, Tennessee is known as the Country Music Capital of the World and for good reason. The major labels have offices here, along with the artist associations.
The honky-tonks and small venues have launched the careers of countless artists, along with the street corners of Broadway that almost always host musicians. Every year, big names flock to the city for CMA Fest, a celebration of country music.
The Bluebird Cafe
Opened in 1982, The Bluebird Cafe is responsible for making a name for countless singers and songwriters over the years. With only 90 seats, the intimate venue has hosted acts like Kathy Mattea, Taylor Swift, and Garth Brooks.
Located in an unassuming strip mall, it was also featured on the show Nashville often. There are rules to attending shows here, namely that the audience remains quiet while the performance is going on. Seating is first-come, first-served so attendees line up early.
Located near the campus of Vanderbilt University, Exit/In opened in 1971 to feature rock and alternative artists. The space holds around 500 people and has been seen in the film Nashville and countless music videos.
An elevated platform means there’s no bad seat in the house. There’s also an adjacent pub to eat and drink in between performances.
Grand Ole Opry
After years at the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry moved to Nashville’s northeastern suburbs in the 1970s, complete with top-of-the-line electronics and air conditioning. It’s here that big-name and up-and-coming artists still perform to packed crowds every week.
Layla’s Bluegrass Inn
Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, now known as Layla’s Honky Tonk, is a popular venue on Broadway. Covered in license plates from around the country, this space hosts mostly bluegrass artists.
Countless names have graced the stage, including Hank Williams III, Drive-By Truckers, and Ralph Stanley. They have a basic food menu with fried snacks and sandwiches if you get hungry.
Robert’s Western World
Robert’s Western World is a legendary country music venue and dive bar. Unlike other venues on Broadway, Robert’s doesn’t charge a cover fee. Located in a former steel guitar factory, the space opened in the 1990s.
They have a house band called “Brazilbilly,” a nod to the owner’s Brazilian heritage and love of hillbilly music. On Sundays, they even host gospel acts. Don’t miss their famous Recession Special, which is $6 for a fried bologna sandwich, chips, and a Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Called the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman Auditorium was built for traveling evangelists to preach their messages. But it’s best known for being the home of the Grand Ole Opry radio show for decades before its move to a new building.
The hardwood stage has seen the likes of Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, and Roy Acuff. Tour the space to learn about the notable names who have performed on the historic stage. The venue, which can hold over 2,000 on its pew-type seats, still hosts acts.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
You can’t miss the pastel purple paint of Tootsies Orchid Lounge, a Nashville icon. Owner Tootsie Bess purchased the space in 1960, painting its iconic color. She was in the music industry and the venue quickly attracted her fellow performing pals.
Among them were Kris Kristofferson, Patsy Cline, and Waylon Jennings. A young Willie Nelson got his start songwriting after performing here. Big names and up-and-comers still play here.
It’s also been used for movies, including W.W. & the Dixie Dance Kings, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and The Nashville Rebel.