by VICTORIA HENLEY
Throughout the years, Nashville has established itself as the “Country Music Capital of the World.”
Lynn Henley (@lynnhenleyphotography) and I scoured the city to scope out the best of the best lodging, entertainment, and nightlife options.
BELLE AIR MANSION AND INN
A sprawling, majestic southern mansion, featuring a grand entrance with an expansive rocking chair-lined porch, stately columns, and a delicious, elegant breakfast served each morning, Belle Air Mansion is a premier destination and lodging choice for Nashville tourists who enjoy the finer the things in life.
The Belle Air Mansion is the only historic bed and breakfast in Nashville. Itboasts a vast and intriguing history, transporting guests 200 years back in time with a nostalgic walk down memory lane.
Located only minutes away from some of the most popular and exciting music venues, attractions, and nightlife destinations in “Music City,” Belle Air Mansion also offers the convenience of state-of-the-art modern-day amenities with a historic atmosphere.
The bed and breakfast mansion encompasses 10 bedrooms each featuring their own unique name and style, conveniently located within the mansion for easy access to all the beautiful views and luxuries the mansion has to offer.
Read all about the rooms and suites online before your stay to select the choice that suits you best; however, rooms are extremely limited and fill up quickly, so keep in mind that it is preferable to book well in advance.
Located just a few short paces from the breathtaking mansion is the Retreat House, which features a beautifully designed array of five rooms, which are ideal for larger groups or families traveling together. A peaceful and tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville, the Retreat House is a respite from the stressors of everyday life and a magnificent journey back in time. Each retreat house room is also decorated in accordance with a carefully selected theme.
Lynn and I had the pleasure of lodging in the “Captain’s Room,” a maritime-themed room with an extremely comfortable king bed, spacious closet space with ample room for storage, a large shower, and all the aforementioned amenities included in all of the Belle Air Mansion’s rooms.
Available from 8:30 -9 a.m. daily, an exquisitely prepared breakfast is offered, featuring a rotating line up of seven different menus. The menus we experienced during our visit were a sausage casserole accompanied by flavorful sweet bread slices and a cup of blueberries topped with a light whipped topping and strawberries, as well as a French toast casserole, served with a side of scrambled eggs, thick cut bacon, and fresh fruit.
Assistant Innkeeper Debbie provided superb hospitality with a smile. Staff member Clarence was also highly accommodating and courteous; both eager to help with any needs or requests we had throughout our stay.
Initially built in the 1830’s as a wedding present for Elizabeth Clay, heir to the Belle Meade Plantation, the Nashville landmark once also served as the home of the city’s mayor, William Nichol.
Visionary couple, Lewis and Connie James bought the dilapidated home in 2016 and embarked on the journey of a daunting and costly renovation to restore the Greek Revival Style Mansion to its original splendor, converting it into the immensely popular full-service bed and breakfast that it is today.
PHONE : (615)880-6889
Featuring sleek, modern architecture, joyously colorful decor, and a unique and unmistakably “pop art” design aesthetic, The Gallatin offers a feel-good stay in one of Nashville’s most artistic and creative neighborhoods.
Your spirits will instantly be lifted by the creatively curated lobby and hotel rooms, but you can also feel good about the fact that your stay helps the Rooms for Rooms program, created to help individuals struggling with homelessness.
The Gallatin is conveniently found near some of Nashville’s most innovative and unique places to shop, dine, and play. Large group spaces, including multiple seating and relaxation areas, several expansive lawns and a common area (complete with comfortable couches and a microwave) are also available, perfect for relaxation after a busy day or night out on the town.
A 24-hour coffee bar featuring varieties of flavors including French Vanilla, Donut Shop, Colombia and Rainforest blend is available in the lobby area for guests, as well as a variety of teas and fresh sparkling water on tap, accompanied by a variety of honey and sweetening options. Also available 24 hours in the cheerful and welcoming lobby space is a photo booth, where guests can pose for as many selfies as they wish, taken on a timer-set camera system, on which you can securely type in your cell number, email address, and /or social media handle to get your own digital copy of the photo, which you can keep to cherish the special memories you made at the Gallatin.
During the age of social media, the Gallatin serves as a beautiful backdrop to snap some envy-inducing vacation photos, featuring a plethora of rainbow colors and endless artwork that will create a picturesque setting for all your photo ops.
Each room is accented with unique, pop art decor, complete with photos of music icons (including Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton), beautifully stylized and multicolored shower tiles, as well as mini refrigerators and spacious closets. Snacks from local food companies (including Music City Popcorn, a No Bake “Grab and Gold” chocolate peanut butter snack bar, and a Colts Chocolate Company peanut butter cup…which all did not last very long) as well as custom Gallatin swag, including drink koozies and pens, are included free with each stay.
A large array of lodging options are available to suit the unique needs of each individual guest.
PHONE : (615) 861-1631
THE 52nd ANNUAL GMA DOVE AWARDS
Since 1969, The GMA Dove Awards have honored outstanding achievements and excellence in Christian and gospel music, with the Dove serving as the highest and most prestigious honor an artist or group can win in the aforementioned genre.
The 2020 ceremony was held only virtually due to the pandemic; therefore, a distinct and palpable energy and excitement filled the air throughout the packed Allen Arena, as artists, bands, and countless other music industry professionals celebrated being able to join once again to celebrate. Brandishing the hashtag #StrongerTogether and proving that nothing can stop the Christian Music industry’s biggest night, the Dove Awards produced one of the most well attended, expertly executed, and exquisitely orchestrated award ceremonies ever, featuring a stellar line up of live performances by mega-stars including Lauren Daigle, The Isaacs, Zach Williams, Cain and Maverick City Music.
Beautifully hosted by Natalie Grant (who performed a stirring and powerful number, backed up by a full choir, including two of her daughters) and Jonathan McReynolds, the Dove Awards’ star-studded line up of presenters included Lecrae, Jason Crabb, Francesca Battistelli and Chris Tomlin.
The red carpet pre show interviews and press room offered lots of excitement and priceless quips, advice, and information from the event’s top personalities including Lauren Daigle (who provided exclusive insight as to how she feels about being cited a “crossover artist”); For King and Country (the immensely popular duo hailing from Australia who dished on how their famous collaboration with Dolly Parton came to be); the legendary Isaacs (who spoke on their recent Grand Ole Opry induction); and Selah (who spoke about their honor of being on of the most decorated Dove Award winning artists of all time.
Exclusive interviews with Victoria Henley for Backstage Pass on IHeart Radio and FCB Radio Network are available on a Dove Awards Special, so be sure to search “Backstage Pass with Victoria Henley” wherever you get your podcasts, subscribe, download, and share for all the inside scoop with all your favorite Christian Artists.
GRAND OLE OPRY: DAYTIME BACKSTAGE TOUR
Offering guests an exclusive, once in a lifetime chance to experience the Grand Ole Opry just as the legendary performers who have graced its stage throughout the decades, The Opry’s daytime tour journey begins in the onsite custom-built theater, which comes to life with an immersive film experience, 3-D film images, priceless archival footage, and mega-star hosts, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.
Our tour commenced down the halls where some of the greatest and most iconic names in country music have walked in preparation for their evening performances, and shortly after, we made our way through the outside grotto and into the main stage area, decorated with brightly colored life size portraits, dedicated to Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff, often endearingly referred to as the “Parents” of the Grand Ole Opry.
Maddy Henderson, an extremely knowledgeable and accommodating Opry staff member, served as our personal tour guide, taking time to diligently explain the variety of artwork, memorabilia, and backstage production spaces that we saw. Henderson guided us down the winding halls of the massive space toward the backstage dressing areas, each featuring a different theme (including “Famous Duos,” The “Minnie Pearl” room, “Women in Country” and the special space where performers making their Opry debut stay in nervous preparation for their breakout performance).
Each tour member is given the opportunity to stand encased in the velvety curtains of the Opry wings before stepping out on the grand stage, and finally, into the “Circle”, offering the opportunity to stand in the same place where all country music’s greatest trailblazers including Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Bill Anderson have stood throughout the establishment’s storied history. A professional photographer stands in position in front of the legendary “Circle”, to take your photo, which will be available in the gift shop within a custom, Opry-themed keepsake folder.
Guests can take unlimited non-flash photos through the tour to capture their special memories to treasure forever, and a gallery of images, highlighting some of the most legendary Opry performances, featuring all your favorite artists including the Oak Ridge Boys, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash and Reba McEntire.
OPRY COUNTRY CLASSICS
Following our daytime Opry Backstage Tour, we booked an evening of world class entertainment at Opry Country Classics, The Grand Ole Opry’s resident variety show, featuring a rotating line up of guest emcees, opening acts and headlining performers, including surprise appearances from the superstar line up of Opry Members, including Carrie Underwood, Jeannie Seely, Garth Brooks and Darius Rucker.
Our evening’s performance kicked off to a high energy start with great comedic quips and anecdotes by the evening’s guest host, Larry Gatlin (of the Gatlin Brothers), who entertained the crowd with endless funny stories, exchanging witty banter throughout with the show’s announcer, Bill Cody, who recently celebrated 27 years on the airwaves of WSM, broadcasting live from the Opry Stage.
Gatlin entertained with many of The Gatlin Brothers’ most widely recognizable songs, including the chart topper, “All the Gold in California,” “Loving God, Loving Each Other,” and “Goin’ Out of my Head.”
Darin and Brooke Aldridge, a husband-and-wife duo with a soulful Americana/ bluegrass sound, performed numerous country classics as well as a particularly show-stopping cover of Patsy Montana’s iconic yodeling classic “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” Rhonda Vincent, widely lauded as the “Queen of Bluegrass” took the stage with her take on an array of classics from the Golden Age of the Country Music genre, while showcasing her phenomenally diverse instrumental skills, for which she has become world renowned.
Craig Morgan (best known for mega hits “International Harvester,” “Redneck Yacht Club” and “Something to Write Home About”) was the evening’s Spotlight Artist, belting songs including a powerful rendition of Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” and hilarious Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson impressions.
Morgan also treated the show’s attendees to a bonus Christmas concert, as the venue’s large stage was transformed into a winter wonderland, while he crooned holiday hits including “A Country Christmas” and “The Christmas Song” for a pre-recorded holiday television special.
The energy in the Opry Building is both palpable and undeniable. It is an absolute must-see experience on any Nashville trip.
PHONE : (615) 871-6779
MUSICIANS HALL OF FAME
A massive, stunningly curated tribute to the greatest musicians throughout history, spanning a wide variety of music genres, The Musicians Hall of Fame is a premier Nashville attraction and bucket list item of all music enthusiasts, set apart from the rest in that it is the only museum in the world that honors the talented musicians who actually played on the greatest records of all time.
An introductory film featuring some of the most decorated and acclaimed musical artists in the world begins the tour experience, with special appearances by visionary director, Joe Chambers, who supplies insight into what guests can expect from their upcoming self-guided tour.
Jay McDowell, the upright bass player from BR5-49, who is featured with a special dedication in the museum, served as our personal tour guide throughout our museum tour, supplying extremely informative information and insights into the career origins of some of the brightest stars in history and the inspiration behind some of the world’s best-known, chart-topping hits.
The Musicians Hall of Fame also serves as the home of the Grammy Museum Gallery, which explores the history of the Grammy Awards with video clips, real life Grammy award statues and intriguing reading materials. The interactive part of the museum allows music enthusiasts of all ages to interact with every aspect of the recording process, using sound mixing boards, drum sets, keyboard, and bass, all with a privacy of headphones so your special sound doesn’t disturb the other guests.
Walk inside the Enactron, a portable recording studio where some of the greatest names in music recorded some of their biggest hits, and get up close and personal with costumes, instruments, record players and clothing articles belonging to some of the music industry’s brightest shining stars.
Located on the first level of the prestigious Nashville Municipal Auditorium, The Musicians Hall of Fame is also a perfect space to rent for private and corporate parties or functions.
PHONE : (615) 244-3263
JOHNNY CASH MUSEUM
An 18,000 square foot museum found in the Heart of Nashville, dedicated to the legendary “Man in Black,” features the largest and most comprehensive collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia in the world and is one of only six attractions in Nashville to receive the coveted AAA Gem Rating.
Ranked the #1 music museum by Forbes, Condé Nast, and National Geographic Traveler, the museum includes a trove of memorabilia, including letters written by Cash in his youth, old records, articles of clothing, video and audio footage and other rarely-seen materials sure to delight both ardent Johnny Cash fans, and members of the younger generation who may be just discovering this legendary artist.
Photos and factoids from The House of Cash, a museum dedicated to the singer, which was formerly found in Hendersonville N.C., are on display along with a montage of video clips from Cash’s impressive (and often overlooked) acting career, including roles in “Murder in Coweta County” and “Stagecoach” and TV appearances including “Saturday Night Live” and “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” Materials and video clips from “Walk the Line,” the 2005 award-winning movie documenting the rise of this country legend (starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter) are also shown in a part of the museum, illustrating the undying popularity Cash’s legacy has left throughout the decades.
Additional standout segments of the museum include a patriotic tribute to “Ragged Old Flag,” the 47th album released by Cash, a tear-jerking cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt”, recorded shortly before his death, and various photos gathered from his modest upbringing in Kingsland Arkansas (including a yearbook album in which he was voted as “Most Droll” by his high school peers.)
Cash’s lengthy career, spanning from 1954 to 2003, included the release of 97 albums and over 170 singles in several record labels. It brought us, arguably, some of the greatest songs in the history of music, including “Ring of Fire,” “Folson Prison Blues,” “Riders in the Sky,” “A Boy Named Sue,” and, of course, “I Walk the Line.”
PHONE: (615) 256-1777
HOUSE OF CARDS
Modeled after the famous Hollywood based magic Mecca, The Magic Castle, this highly original and unexpected speakeasy-style dining and entertainment experience is, quite literally, a hidden gem in Nashville.
Neatly tucked away in the lower level of the Johnny Cash Museum. The House of Cards features elegant ambiance and outstanding decor paying homage to the greatest magicians, illusionists, and fortune tellers throughout history, including a handcuff device created, owned, and used by Harry Houdini; one of the world’s finest collections of playing cards, dating back to 1490; and a cigar humidor with a comprehensive choice of cigars and private lockers.
House of Cards also highlights live magicians nightly, performing dazzling and inexplicably complex sleight of hand for hours on end.
During our visit, Terry Hedges, one of the featured magicians, performed mystifying acts of illusion, ranging from mind reading and mentalism, to translating the numbers of the cards Lynn and I selected during his act onto a business card in real time, which we got to take with us as a souvenir.
Consistently voted as “Best of the Best” by top media outlets throughout the United States including Open Table, Eater Nashville, and Only in Your State, House of Cards is at once a nostalgic step back in time and a celebration fine dining, world class magic and expertly crafted cocktails.
House of Cards has quickly built a reputation of having some of the most delicious and creative cocktails in Nashville, and below are our top recommendations, made by masterclass bartender, Derek.
Old Forrester base
Bitters made in house
Logo on ice cube
BULLET CATCH (Named after the classic “Bullet in the Teeth” magic act)
One of the establishment’s most popular cocktails including:
We recommend enjoying your hand-crafted cocktails in the secluded and tranquil garden, centered around a stunning 19-foot water feature.
Each chef-prepared entree is accompanied by a live performance in the 10,000 square foot space’s charming showcase area, which features headliners specially flown in by House of Cards for the occasion. Lucy Darling (as seen on “Penn and Teller’s Fool Us”) performed the evening of our attendance and did not disappoint with her signature wit, campy Eastern European accent and wry audience interaction as she performed dizzying and mind-boggling acts of illusion using simple standard items such as champagne and liquor bottles.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO:
A strict dress code is enforced for all guests (ideally a cocktail or evening gown for ladies and a sport coat or suit for gentlemen), and dress code requirements can be viewed on House of Cards’ website. Photography is strictly prohibited at HOC, to preserve the magic and authenticity of the 1930’s speakeasy aesthetic, and in an age of feeling pressured to obsessively document each happening on social media, House of Cards’ no photo policy feels like a refreshing consent to be present in each moment.
You’ll need to input the Johnny Cash Museum in your GPS in order to access House of Cards.
PHONE : (615) 730-8326
FRIST MUSEUM OF ART:
Formerly known as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and housed in a large, impressive structure which formerly served as the city’s historic US Postal Building (listed on the National Registry of Historic Places), the Frist Museum of Art is the premier venue to enjoy and explore art in the heart of downtown Nashville.
Holding the unique aim to make art more accessible and less intimidating to the general public, The Frist Art Museum presents extremely comprehensive reading materials and audio guides to accompany each display, which is featured in the expansive lower-level rooms of the museum.
The exciting and wildly diverse line up of current exhibitions includes:
ART DECO: DESIGNING FOR THE PEOPLE
Now through Jan 2, 2022
Appropriately presented within the Frist’s own art deco interior during the museum’s 20th-anniversary year, this exhibition offers an overview of an international style that manifested stateside in decorative arts, fine arts, architecture, and design during the 1920s and 1930s.
A LANDMARK REPURPOSED: FROM POST OFFICE TO ART MUSEUM
Now through Jan 2, 2022
Celebrating the museum’s storied 20th anniversary, this exhibition highlights the landmark building’s role as a civic institution from its creation as Nashville’s main post office in 1934 to its reopening as a museum on April 8, 2001.
MARY SIBANDE: BLUE PURPLE RED
Now through Jan 2, 2022
Johannesburg, South Africa-based Mary Sibande creates hyper realistic figurative sculptures, photographs, and virtual reality installations that address inequities of race, gender, politics and economics in postcolonial South Africa.
Thought provoking works of art centered around topics and genres are highlighted including Harlem Renaissance, Jazz Era, the Prohibition Era, Economic depression and stimulus (including a striking array of photographs illustrating the tumultuous and bleak life of farmers during the Great Depression), and Americans on the Move (with fascinating pieces centered around Native American culture).
An upstairs interactive area is sure to delight the younger members of your party and creative individuals of all ages, featuring opportunities to create art by mixing and matching your own unique color pallets, creating art in accordance to musical notes, and my favorite: sketching a life size “Flapper Girl” statue at a sketch pad station, where guests can take their special creations home with them to commemorate their visit to the museum.
PHONE : (615) 244-3340
Victoria Henley hosts “Backstage Pass” on iHeart Radio and FCB Radio Network and is a regular contributor to CTFashionMag.com.