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Nashville offers more than just music

Aug. 04, 2008 @ 12:00 AM

NASHVILLE -- Nashville is the heart of country music, but it also has a rock scene, history, art, competitive business and natural beauty.

It is also Tennessee's state capital. Even if you spend several days in town, you aren't likely to run out of things to do. You can drive there from Huntington in about five hours.

WHAT TO DO: They don't call Nashville "Music City" for nothing. The entertainment district has live singer/songwriters, along with rock and country bands nightly. While downtown, you can walk to most of the venues where many great performers got their start. You'll need a car for the Grand Ole Opry or the Bluebird Cafe. For a one-stop place to find upcoming concerts and buy tickets, go online to www.tennesseeconcerts.com.

For background on country music, head to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum (www.countrymusichalloffame.com). You'll hear the stars, see instruments, costumes and learn history.

There are lots of non-musical things to do in Nashville, too. When downtown, walk to Fort Nashborough, the river fort that started it all. A repository of interesting exhibits is the Tennessee State Museum (www.tnmuseum.org). Best of all, it's free. The Parthenon (www.nashville.gov/parthenon) is an exquisite recreation of Greece's monument.

For outdoor activity, go to Long Hunter State Park (www.tennessee.gov/environment/parks/LongHunter), with nature hikes along J. Percy Priest Lake and full-moon canoe trips. NFL fans cans see the Titans (www.titansonline.com). Adults and kids will have fun roaming the beautiful grounds of Cheekwood (www.cheekwood.org), the mansion/garden/art museum with children's programs. Historic Belle Meade Plantation (www.bellemeadeplantation.com) is where several great racehorses were sired. The mansion tours are educational and fascinating. The gift shop has unique items and the restaurant on the grounds, Martha's (www.marthasattheplantation.com) serves a terrific lunch and brunch, with an obsession for treasured local ingredients. Elegant southern favorites are all about $10.

WHERE TO STAY: As a major U.S. city, Nashville has a full range of accommodations. For a fantastic night's sleep with newly-upgraded beds, bunches of fluffy pillows, comforters and spacious rooms, the Downtown Sheraton Nashville (www.starwoodhotels.com) fits the bill. They have a fitness center and pool, two restaurants -- serving Tennessee favorites -- and very helpful service. It's in walking distance to the capitol, the convention center and lots of attractions.

Whether you're staying as a traveler or planning a very special event, the southern belle of Nashville hotels is the historic Hermitage (www.thehermitagehotel.com). They've got single rooms and suites befitting a star. Check out the special programs, like pampering pet services and tea/etiquette classes for the kids.

WHAT TO EAT: Nashville abounds with southern traditions like "meat and threes" (three sides), as well as "hot chicken" and other local flavors. The area is a wealth of heirloom produce.

The Capitol Grille at the Hermitage Hotel (www.thehermitagehotel.com) is where stars of music, movies and politics hang out. The atmosphere is relaxing, and the presentation is spellbinding. Local farmers approach the chef with the best of their crops. Food is a lighter touch of southern, highlighting natural flavors. Soup/sandwich lunch specials are $15. Try the Vidalia onion bisque.

When locals barge a place, you know it's good. The Wild Iris (www.wildirisrestaurant.com) fuses southern with global cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Seafood is lovingly prepared. Entrees range from $15-$20. Indulge in a comfort dessert.

A fun, casual restaurant with a romantic bistro atmosphere is The Yellow Porch (www.theyellowporch.com). And yes, they have a dining porch. Service is top-notch. Entrees are in the $13-$18 range. Food is sophisticated southern, with bold, mouth-watering flavors.

In the entertainment district is the family restaurant, Demos (www.demosrestaurants.com). It's comfort/family fare -- if your mom can cook as good as they do. They pride themselves on steaks and secret Greek spaghetti sauce recipes. They have $4.95 lunch specials.



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