Why You Should Visit Nashville

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From THESTREET.COM: The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., will on Friday open an exhibition celebrating the life of Hank Williams, the musician responsible for toe-tapping chart toppers like "Cold, Cold Heart," and "Hey, Good Lookin'." The exhibit will also focus on Williams' musical legacy through the careers of his children, singer-songwriter Hank Williams, Jr., who will open the exhibit with a performance and a live interview, and singer-songwriter Jett Williams, who will perform and be interviewed on April 12th.

If you're flying to Nashville to check out "Family Tradition: The Williams Family Legacy," why not make a weekend out of it? It's not called Music City for nothing -- the city where Elvis and Dolly Parton recorded their songs is still a place where music dominates.

In Nashville, real estate listings are likely to include a music studio. If you say you're a writer, you're assumed to be a songwriter. Waiters are said to attend carefully to your dinner conversation, in case you say something that's song-lyric worthy.

And there are lots of ways to scratch your country-music itch, even if you're not ready to change careers and give it all to the music gods.

Here's what not to miss:

Museums

Be sure to check out the rest of the Country Music Hall of Fame to get a grounding in the roots and history of country music, through a wide array of media: video interviews with the stars, panels where you can hear the songs that made them great, preserved costumes (don't miss the over-the-top designs of legend Nudie Cohen), and even a few of Elvis' famously tricked-out automobiles. On Saturdays, the museum offers songwriting demonstrations and performances.

Not far away from the main museum is Historic RCA Studio B, the oldest surviving studio in town. It's a place where over 35,000 songs were recorded, including one thousand hits. It's preserved as a working studio, so you can really get the sense of the Nashville recording industry in its heyday. Studio B is located on Music Row, so take a stroll around afterwards among the modern recording studios and their sidekicks -- the law offices.

Although it's less glitzy and polished than the Country Music Hall of Fame, true music buffs will not want to miss the Musicians' Hall of Fame, which celebrates the people who actually played the music that you've been listening to all of these years. While the singer is the star, the musicians playing the drums, the piano, the guitar, the violin etc. are contracted by the studio. They are at least lesser known, if not entirely obscure. This museum fills in the biographical information on the musicians and displaying the instruments that they used to record the songs that you know and love.

Music

After all this educating, it's time to hear some music. After the sun goes down, get a taste of the past and present by watching the recording of the Grand Ole Opry, the radio broadcast that's been spreading the Nashville Sound since 1925, or by catching a show at the historic Ryman Auditorium.

Check out the future at the Bluebird Café, a small restaurant whose walls are lined with the photos of famous musicians for inspiration. It's considered a proving ground for new songwriters, who perform new material during two evening shows, although many of the songwriters that perform are already writing for recording artists that you know.

Socializing

Then, it's time to hit the bars. (For nightlife info, check out The Nashville Rage).

Two great places to bar-hop: the so-called Honky Tonk Highway on Lower Broadway, which includes Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and Legends Corner, and the "Music Mile" clubs on Demonbreun Street.

Tips:

--The Hank Williams exhibit, will run through Dec. 31, 2009. If you're planning to catch the Hank Williams, Jr., performance and interview, you must make advance reservations, starting on Tuesday, March 25th (9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.) by calling 615-416-2001. Maximum of two tickets per sale.

--Stay: For luxury, try The Hermitage, a AAA five-diamond property. For something modern and fun, try the Hotel Indigo. For history, you can't beat Union Station , Nashville's historic train station, now a Wyndham property.

--Eat: Try locally hand-roasted Drew's Brews Coffee at Marché Artisan Foods, and sweet potato pancakes at Pancake Pantry. The hottest fried chicken you'll ever taste at Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. (Do not, no matter what you think your tolerance for spicy food is, order the fried chicken anything hotter than "medium"). For a modern take on southern comfort food, try Cabana's small plates: chicken sliders served on a sweet potato bun with peach preserves, fried green tomatoes with lemon pepper goat cheese, and Tennessee BBQ pulled pork on buttermilk cornbread -- you might never get to the main course.

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