Linking Nashville, Tennessee, and music together is common among travelers. It’s hard not to make the attachment with the many honky-tonks, country music shrines, and recording labels in the city, but Nashville is evolving. And as the 34th most populated city in the country, I found out during a recent trip that it’s growing and changing how it is defined.
In September, I made the easy two-and-a-half-hour drive down to Music City. My first stop was the long-standing Nashville landmark Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. A part of the Marriott family of hotels, the luxury spot attracts people of all ages to its beautiful rooms, fantastic indoor gardens, and delicious restaurants. New to the resort is the SoundWaves waterpark, which I was excited to learn more about.
SoundWaves is an outdoor and indoor waterpark, focusing on an upscale experience for guests of the resort. The facility includes slides, two “lazy” rivers, and multiple activity pools. The waterpark has only been open since summer of 2019, but already has claimed many designations and honors, including being a Time magazine top place to visit in the world, says Tammy Henry, director of marketing at SoundWaves.
“It goes to show what type of experience you can have here,” she says. “Our goal was that the vibe be comfortable and relaxing for all.”
The group I traveled with included other journalists from all over the country and Canada, and we spent our first night getting to know one another over dinner at Adele’s, located in downtown Nashville’s Gulch district. With a menu that pulls from seasonal food sourced from local farms and purveyors, Adele’s provided us a delicious meal of various dishes in a very open atmosphere. I could not get enough of the kale and pecorino cheese salad, topped with anchovy dressing and breadcrumbs along with chef Jonathan Waxman’s signature roasted chicken.
Day two brought us to the Wedgewood-Houston and Pie Town neighborhoods. These southern Nashville spots were brand new to me. I was particularly interested in the work of Bryce McCloud at Isle of Printing. With a lifetime of passion for the letterpress and printing, McCloud focuses his business on helping create public art to be incorporated in Nashville spaces for all to enjoy.
“People are valuing not just the quality of spaces, but how those spaces make you feel,” he says. “It allows artists like myself to continue doing what we do.”
Art and community were prevalent throughout Nashville during my trip. Though there still are music venues to visit (the annual AMERICANAFEST occurred during our visit), the city’s neighborhoods show roots that go deeper than music.
An example was our visit to Oz Arts in West Nashville, owned by the Ozgenger family. Former owners of the CAO Cigars company, the family transformed their former business headquarters into a contemporary performance and installation space and event center. Art displays during our visit included a sculpture garden and paintings from local artists as well as artists from across the country.
The Ozgener family also formed the nonprofit cultural institution OZ, which according to the organization was “a gift back to the city and country that have been so hospitable to them as first-generation, Turkish-Armenian immigrants.”
Tim Ozgener, president and CEO, says the basis of the formation of Oz Arts came from his father’s connection to art. After surviving a battle with lymphoma in the early 2000s, his father began to paint.
“He connected to the colors of nature around him, and he felt like he was healed because of art,” says Ozgener.
Today, Oz Arts continues to build on that, opening up an industrial area of Nashville to performances and art that brings a different flavor to the city as a whole.
For lunch, we made a stop at the well-known Hattie B’s to get our hands on some Nashville hot chicken. I wasn’t brave enough to try the extremely hot flavors, but the mild sauces, along with the mac and cheese and potato salad, were amazing.
Later that afternoon, we spent some time touring the gallery and studio of Alan LeQuire, the well-known sculptor of Nashville’s iconic Parthenon Athena and Music Row’s La Musica. The gallery’s size allows artists to showcase larger sculpture pieces.
“When we first opened 15 years ago, he wanted to support other figurative artists,” says Elizabeth Cave, gallery director. “The common thread through all of these is the artists have a common philosophy as Alan. You learn the craft through a master and then pass it on.”
I really enjoyed getting a glimpse into LeQuire’s studio and seeing his pieces on suffragettes. He is set to have an exhibit open in 2020 for the anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S.
On our final day, I was happy to touch on another aspect of Nashville — its history. Our group made its way to Hillsboro Village, taking a stroll around Belmont University. Atop a hill on the campus is the Belmont Mansion, a pre-Civil War era Antebellum estate once the home of Adelicia Acklen. Many of the rooms of the mansion are presented as close to historical accuracy as possible, showcasing the wealthy lifestyle of the former mistress of the home, but the tales of Adelicia’s life were just as intriguing as the furnishings, from her charity work in Nashville to her dealings during the Civil War.
Our final dinner as a group was at Ravello at Gaylord Opryland. Seated in the outdoor-like atmosphere of the Garden Conservatory Atrium, we dined on southern Italian-inspired dishes and desserts. I enjoyed the sfogliatella the most. A puff pastry filled with custard and sprinkled with powdered sugar, they are often referred to as lobster tails.
Next time you plan a getaway to the Music City, I encourage you to explore off the beaten path. More than ever, Nashville has a variety of fun and interesting places to see.
when you go
Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.
Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
Isle of Printing
Oz Arts Nashville
SoundWaves at Gaylord Opryland Resort