Here is my write-up from my trips down from NJ as a tourist 6x in the past three years that I just did for my buddy who is going to see Jason Isbell at The Ryman the weekend of 10/26-10/28.
Shows at The Ryman
For lower level seats, Rows up to K are before the poles supporting the balcony and not under the balcony. Those are the best seats in the place.
But the balcony seats are just as good sound wise - no view issues from anywhere in the balcony. In the balcony using Section 10 as the example, Row F and Row K give you the most hip room, Row C and Row G the least as C and F have the same number of seats in a pie shaped section (as do G and K).
Well, in case you decide not to do a tour, you can check out the areas at either end upstairs for the history of the joint. But also to pick up a Hatch Print like these at the link below - they will sell out immediately after the crowd gets let in. Hatch does a Print for nearly every show at the Ryman. To purchase, go upstairs to the merch table and wait in line. Also, at times, artists like Status Serigraph will also do posters like those in the link below (my regret in 2014 was not buying the series so I could get the guitar one - we only have the bird on the left).
Hatch Show Print images for Isbell
Status Serigraph images for Isbell
Sights To See (in order listed) - The Three Must See Places for a weekend
(1) Johnny Cash Museum (downtown)
The Johnny Cash Museum is excellent, but probably the 2nd best museum in town after the CMHoF. But if you decide to flip and see AFTER the HoF, I think some of the luster will be lost after going through the huge HoF. So, I always tell people to hit this one first. If you arrive in town on an AM flight and settle at that hotel, easy to slot this one in after a late lunch (can’t do that with CMHoF).
(2A) Country Music HoF + Hatch Print add-on + RCA Studio A add-on (all downtown)
A must see for any music fan. Extensive background on the founding fathers and sisters of CM, this place is huge. Plan to spend a big chunk of time here. If you are debating having time for only one add-on, I actually think Hatch Print is the better of the two options (and you get to make your own).
(2B) Ryman Auditorium (downtown)
If you got to town the night before and want to break up your museum days, slotting the Ryman Tour ahead of the CMHoF is the smart move. Full tour is good and take time to appreciate the hallway with the signed Hatch Prints of shows in the past.
Other Cool Places to See (or options for the next weekend trip)
(3) George Jones Museum (downtown)
More modern than the Johnny Cash museum, but just a notch below. Too many things in here you are like, “OK not sure why we need to see that”, but still some worthwhile items to see about George’s career. Bonus for possibly seeing Nancy Jones in the elevator and this place has a great 4th floor rooftop deck over looking the Cumberland River and Nissan Stadium (can go to rooftop deck without going to museum).
Note: they have changed the layout since we went there in late 2016, remaking an extensive gift shop on the 1st floor into a bar area and introducing food into the mix. Not sure of what impact that had on the museum proper which is on the 3rd floor, as we have not been back to that floor since our visit.
(4) Grand Ole Opry (outside of downtown)
Neat to see and amazing how big this place is (compared to the cozy Ryman), but after seeing the Ryman, the Opry also suffers from “OK, I really saw all of this on the Ryman tour”. One benefit is getting to pay $20 for a picture standing at the WSM microphone stand, which the Ryman does not offer. Depending on when you go, Opry shows are actually held back at The Ryman during Nov-Dec. Holiday season, your loss from extra traffic getting to the Opry as it is next to a mall is offset by the great holiday display at the Opry hotel.
(5) The Hermitage (outside of downtown)
Home of former president Andrew Jackson, a well kept museum and great to see if you are into American history. Plan on spending a good part of the day out here.
Eats and Beverages (all downtown unless noted)
(1) The Stillery (two locations: (1) On 2nd Avenue, coming from Broadway it is before George Jones Museum, on opposite site of street with black awning about five or six storefronts in from Broadway or (2) at their midtown site near Vanderbilt)
Our favorite to go to, definitely our first stop for lunch/dinner when we hit town. The Mac & Cheese with hot chicken is a must, but you will wish it was bigger it’s so good. Everything we have had here (salads, burgers, pizza) was fantastic. Only downside is that they only have beer in bottles at 2nd Avenue location, but at least some are from local brewery Yazoo (the Midtown location was not open when we were last there in Oct 2017, so not sure if there are beers on tap there). At 2nd Avenue location, there is a 2nd floor with a larger stage area than the street level seating space adjacent to where the kitchen sits.
(2) Rock Bottom Brewery
Main site - https://rockbottom.com/locations/nashville/
A member of the same chain as Gordon Biersch, we probably have been here more than any other place on the list. They have their own brews (most are excellent) and some of your normal national bar beer standards if you really need/want to go there. While the burgers and entrees are decent fare on their own, the nacho tray with chicken makes an excellent starter choice if you are a long time from the last meal or want to hit something up in between. Big place so the wait is normally not too bad. Bar seats are first come, first served, but this does not apply to booths in the bar area. Sign up for their mailing list - they do run specials frequently. Killer tray of nachos.
(3) Puckett’s Grocery
Great breakfast spot - prepare to wait a bit. But worth the wait.
(4) Hattie B’s Hot Chicken (near Vanderbilt)
Never had it. Heard it’s good. Always a line outside.
(5) Flying Saucer
Located next to Union Station Hotel at 10th and Broadway, Flying Saucer is part of a southern U.S. oriented chain that specializes in beers on tap. Probably 75-ish at any one time. $3 drafts on Monday makes MNF a little more bearable to watch.
We have not been here yet, but multiple friends said it was really good. Probably the best bet for something a little more upscale on Broadway, but not a suit-and-tie requirement type of place.
Probably the best place to catch a guest appearance by a country star you may know by name. Crowded, convenient to Ryman and you can enter/exit through the back from the alley between the two.
(8) The Red Door Saloon (near Vanderbilt)
Chicago based dive bar behind the Embassy Suites near Vanderbilt. No reason to go there unless everything else in the Vanderbilt area has already closed. And then, still debatable as to the value added other than damage to your liver. All bets off on NYE from experience.
(9) Broadway Brewhouse
On Broadway, 1/2 way down on right walking towards the river, one of the better selections of beers on tap and sometimes they have 2-for-1 drafts on NFL Sunday. Food is average.
(10) Bailey’s Sports Grille
Well, it is a decent place to catch a game. Decent amount of beers on tap. Food is average - Rock Bottom would be a better food choice at not much more $, aside from the monster sized screens here.
(11) Another Broken Egg
Another breakfast spot we have not gotten to, a few friends have recommended this one.
Simple, family style diner-esque food. The price is right and although the meals are a little on the small side, they tasted pretty good.
(13) Tavern (near Vanderbilt)
Nice cozy and slightly upscale spot near Vanderbilt, decent food and beverage selection. Not open at 130AM on NYE.
Since most of these were not open yet when we were last there, we have not yet been to Jason Aldean’s, Luke Bryan’s, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey River, Blake Shelton’s Ole Red or Jon Rich’s place. While open, we also did not go to Alan Jackson’s Good Tyme Bar or FGL House. So, no opinion. But here is an article about them -