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Nashville is the promised land for country music fans
Nashville is the promised land for country music fans
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Nashville Spotlight

Known for its honky-tonk twang, Nasvhille has recently emerged as a surprisingly hip destination

By Anna Watson

March 9th, 2009

Nashville’s rich country music heritage may have earned it the nickname Music City, but in recent years that mold has been remade as an influx of creative talent has taken art, food, and even music in new directions. Attracted by its affordability and legendary Southern charm, artists and musicians are settling into gritty neighborhoods like East Nashville and 12South and infusing them with fresh energy. Downtown, once limited to office workers by day and tourists by night, has become central to the city’s arts awakening, a trend that began with the unveiling of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in 2001 and continues with forward-thinking galleries and artists’ cooperatives. All over town, chefs are opening restaurants in repurposed spaces like former gas stations and grand old houses, retooling classic Southern dishes with local ingredients. 

Nashville’s surprisingly diverse music scene means you might hear Elvis Costello perform at a used-record store or see Norah Jones do an impromptu midnight set with Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. Besides playing there, many high-wattage names now call Nashville home, including Sheryl Crow, Ben Folds, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, and Jack White and his supermodel wife, Karen Elson.

Our itinerary is ideal for a long weekend visit; you’ll need a car, but most drives are short. The city is divided into east and west by the Cumberland River, which runs along the eastern edge of Downtown. The iconic sights, honky-tonks, and best hotels are clustered here around Broadway, the main drag that runs west from the river toward Vanderbilt University. West of Downtown Nashville, in neighborhoods such as The Gulch, 12South, Sylvan Park, and Hillsboro Village, happening restaurants and shops abound. Across the river in East Nashville, a roster of independent stores, galleries, and restaurants has made the area a can’t-miss stop. Though it’s hard to pinpoint when a city is having an “It” moment, Nashville seems to be in the midst of one.

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