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As Nashville’s food and hospitality industry continue to grow, its art scene has been getting more attention than ever. It’s fitting, then, that contemporary art museum-cum-hotel chain 21c chose Music City for its latest property. The 124-room hotel has 10,500 square feet of exhibition space, filled with collectors-quality works by emerging and established artists. And once you’ve gotten your fill, the downtown location is the ideal launch point for exploring the city.
Budget Level: Upscale (average starting rate is $299 per night)
Lodging Type: Large Hotel (100+ rooms)
The early 20th century Chicago-style façade, cornice roof, and interior cast-iron columns contrast the edgy, contemporary artwork that covers the interiors. In the lobby, a large glass window overlooks the main basement level gallery. Art installations continue throughout the restaurant, bathrooms, and even the elevators. The guest rooms have wood floors and high ceilings, large windows, bold contemporary furnishings, and floor-to-ceiling striped drapery.
Everything revolves around the art. During our visit, a steady stream of locals and tourists stopped in to walk through the exhibits. A few young artists sat at the bar, and a group of neighborhood children came and gawked at the works hanging in the hallway. The art itself -- which ranges from video to painting to installation -- creates a buzz of its own. The Gray & Dudley restaurant (named after the former hardware store) has large wrap-around booths and tall ceilings popular among large parties and the city’s established creatives.
Who Will Love It
Art fanatics will love having museum-quality art at their fingertips, while those with a moderate interest will love that it’s free to browse. Discerning travelers will appreciate the luxury amenities and the location -- a short walk from the city’s most popular sights, while tucked away enough to avoid the noise and crowds.
Who Might Not
Traditionalists and those who don’t care for contemporary art may dislike the constant stimulation of video exhibits in the bathrooms and halls, and may feel uncomfortable with some of the edgier pieces, including a kaleidoscope of snakes in the elevator and rabbits hanging in the dining room.
The art -- particularly how accessible it is to the public. Curated by the hotel owners, the exhibits are open to the public 24/7, free of charge, and 21c offers guided tours with a docent on Wednesdays and Fridays at 5 p.m.
This isn’t the bland art that is common to most hotels; 21c exhibits are more interested in opening minds rather than decorating walls. For instance, the boundary-pushing and politically charged inaugural exhibition Truth or Dare: A Reality Show, explores the complicated nature of truth in Trump’s America through painting, sculpture, photography, video, digital animation, and installations. There are also three suites -- designed by artists Sebastiaan Bremer, Yung Jake, and Adrian Grenier -- that completely immerse guests in their work.
Room rates include complimentary WiFi and bottled water, a Nespresso coffee machine, a minibar, Malin + Goetz bath amenities, a bathrobe, and of course original artwork. Stay also includes access to the gym and spa (treatments are available for an additional cost).
Fees and Extra Costs You Should Know About
You’ll pay standard taxes and fees on the room. Food and beverages in the minibar and meals in the hotel’s restaurant cost extra.
How to Get a Deal
The best way to get a deal on a room is to check for one of 21c Nashville's packages, which change seasonally. For example, the Easy Escape Package includes a $100 value for $50, including a meal credit, discount at the Museum Shop, and complimentary valet parking.
In the Neighborhood
The hotel is steps from the Cumberland River, Printer’s Alley -- the center of publishing and nightlife in the late 19th century -- and Nashville’s famed honky tonk bars on Broadway. It is also a 10-minute walk from the Ryman Auditorium and a 20-minute walk, or a 5-minute Lyft ride, from the hip Germantown neighborhood.
Nashville International Airport is a quick 15- to 20-minute drive from the hotel, depending on traffic.
Nearest Public Transit
There are a variety of bus stops close to 21c Nashville as part of the system, such as the 2nd Ave N & Church St NB location, which is only a block away.
The Bottom Line
A hotel and an art museum in one, the 21c Museum Hotel Nashville is the ideal accommodation for art-lovers and art-makers.