Nashville is a city that resonates with life and vibrates to the beat of every kind of song. It’s a town that harvests American music, Southern hospitality, unbelievable cuisine, and a boundless spectrum of nightlife.
Visit the Ryman Auditorium, also called the “Mother Church of Country Music,” The Ryman has had artists as diverse as Elvis Costello and Patsy Cline perform on its legendary stage since 1892. You can take a backstage tour and record your own song in the Ryman studio. The stars of the Grand Ole Opry take the stage every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday night (at the Ryman Auditorium November-January; at the Grand Ole Opry House February-October) with guest appearances by the biggest names in music. With 90 years of history, the Opry is the world’s longest-running broadcast and shows no signs of slowing down.
For more nightlife, take in Nashville’s Honky Tonk Highway in downtown Nashville including Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Legends Corner, The Second Fiddle, The Stage, Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, and Robert’s Western World. Another even better way to hear music in Nashville is at a songwriters show. Several singer/songwriters will play ‘in-the-round’ as they sit on stage accompanied only by a microphone, a guitar, and their immense talent. These shows can be found in small, intimate clubs all over town, including the famous The Bluebird Cafe in Green Hills and downtown’s The Listening Room Cafe.
Just across from the Vanderbilt University campus is Centennial Park with its full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The Parthenon houses an art gallery and museum as well as Alan LeQuire’s Athena Parthenos. Standing at almost 42 feet in height, Athena is the tallest indoor sculpture in the Western world. Continuing a little further east on West End/Broadway from Centennial Park brings you to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville’s main art museum. Further downtown (and close to the honkytonk district) is are the Downtown 5th Avenue art galleries. Other art galleries include OZ Arts Nashville, the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, and the Wedgewood/Houston galleries.
Nashville and surrounding area have played major roles in some of the seminal events of United States history. With a twenty minute drive from Vanderbilt University to the outskirts of Nashville, you can tour President Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Home. Two miles from Vanderbilt is the State Capital building, and its monuments include the burial site for U.S. president James Polk. Other historic home tours in Nashville include the Belle Meade Mansion, the Cheekwood Estate (and Botanical Gardens), and Traveler’s Rest. An hour drive down the beautiful Natchez Trace National Parkway brings you to the Meriwether Lewis Monument that marks the death site and burial place of Meriwether Lewis. This American explorer, along with John Clarke, led the first American expedition to the Pacific Ocean.
The area surrounding Nashville is rich in Civil War history. Union troops occupied Nashville for nearly the entire war. Visit Fort Negley state park just east of Vanderbilt University to see the remaining stone fortress and learn about the battle of Nashville. A twenty minute drive from Nashville brings you to the town of Franklin with historic Carnton and Carter houses marking the battle of Franklin, an hour drive brings you to the Stones River National Battlefield, and a two and half hour drive to the southwest brings you to Shiloh National Battlefield, one of the first major engagements of the Civil War, and the burial place of thousands of soldiers who died in the three days of battle there. A two hour drive to southeast brings you to the Chattanooga and Chickamauga National Battlefields.
Just past Chattanooga is Red Clay State Park, which marks the beginning of the Cherokee Nations Trail of Tears, the brutal force marched removal by Andrew Jackson that led to thousands of Cherokee deaths.
For more recent historical events, visit the downtown public library (about two miles from Vanderbilt) to see it’s permanent exhibit on the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, or visit nearby Fisk University (one the nation’s foremost historical black university) with its famed Jubilee singers, the Bicentennial Mall with its quarter-mile long wall of history and monuments.
Of course, Nashville’s history is also the history of music. The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is the world’s largest popular music museum and offers ever-changing exhibits featuring the legends of country music past and today’s hottest stars. You can also take a tour of Music Row and visit historic RCA Studio B, the famous recording studio where Elvis recorded more than 200 songs. Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold, and many more recorded classic hits here. The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum is housed in the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. From Hank Williams, Sr. to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Motown to Southern Rock – there is truly something of interest to everyone. Pay homage to the Man in Black at The Johnny Cash Museum located on 3rd Avenue. Featuring the most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world, this is THE Cash venue to visit for all ages. Then stroll up to the George Jones on 2nd Avenue, which offers visitors a never-before-seen look into the life and career of the musical icon.
Although the 2018-2019 schedules for various Nashville sports teams are not currently available, it is highly likely that at least some of the home teams will be playing during the conference weekend. Two miles from Vanderbilt University is Bridgestone Arena, the home of the Nashville Predators, the National Hockey League’s 2017 Western Conference champions. The Predators typically play several home games per week, making it likely that a game will coincide with the conference. About three miles from Vanderbilt University is Nissan Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Tennessee Titans. There is a 50% chance that the Titans will be playing a home game that coincides with the week of the conference. Although in college sports Vanderbilt is best known for its baseball team (National Champions in 2014 and National runner-up in 2015), fall brings SEC football (arguably this decade’s best Power 5 conference) to Dudley Field, located within a five minute walk from the conference venue. Similarly, Memorial Gym, home of Vanderbilt’s men and women basketball team is also less than five minute walk and the NCAA basketball season typically starts the week of Veteran’s day week.