When you are visiting Nashville it is almost a responsibility to visit the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country-music stage concert which was founded on November 28, 1925, by George D. Hay as a one-hour radio “barn dance” on WSM. It is the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history. Dedicated to honoring country music and its history, the Opry showcases a mix of famous singers and contemporary chart-topping performing country, bluegrass, Americana, folk, gospel, and comedic performances and skits. The Opry’s primary slogan is “The Show that Made Country Music Famous”. Membership in the Opry remains one of country music’s crowning achievements.
We took the daytime Backstage Tour of the Grand Ole Opry. Our virtual tour guide and host was Blake Shelton. At the beginning of the tour and at stops along the tour we heard Blake tell us about the Opry and its membership. Our actual guide shared stories about the Opry and country music greats, past and present — from Minnie Pearl to Carrie Underwood, from the Opry’s biggest moments in history. We went in through the artist entrance where legends, new artists, and superstars alike walk into the Opry House on the night of an Opry show. It’s possible to have the chance to step on stage and into the famed wooden circle (saved from the original stage) as generations of artists have done, but unfortunately they were setting up for a show and we could not get onstage.
As we walked through backstage, we were able to look into the stars’ dressing rooms. I thought it was neat that they were numbered with a guitar pick symbol. Each dressing room is decorated around a unique theme. The “Cousin Minnie,” “Wagonmaster,” “Little Jimmy,” and “Mr. Roy” dressing rooms honor music greats Minnie Pearl, Porter Wagoner, Jimmy Dickens, and Roy Acuff, respectively. It’s definitely a tour highlight!
After we left the Grand Ole Opry, we took a bus to downtown to visit the Bicentennial Capitol Mall. The bus dropped us off right by the Capitol Building and we went in to explore. At the security entrance we were shown where we could pick up a self-guided tour. As we strode through the building we saw busts of famous dignitaries. It was interesting to note that, in addition to Andrew Jackson, two other Presidents were from Tennessee – Andrew Johnson and James Polk. Other dignitaries included David Crockett who, in addition to defending the Alamo, served in the Tennessee and the U.S. House of Representatives. The other was Admiral David Farragut, famous for his quote, “Damn the torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” during the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War.
Our intended destination was Bicentennial Park. Located in the shadow of the Capitol in downtown Nashville, the Bicentennial Capitol Mall gives visitors a taste of Tennessee’s history, natural wonders and serves as a lasting monument to Tennessee’s Bicentennial Celebration, which was June 1, 1996. The Bicentennial Capitol Mall is Nashville’s Central Park. Because of its natural attributes, the historic French Lick that attracted wildlife, Native Americans, trappers and settlers to what would become Nashville.
As an outdoor museum, the mall features a series of design elements that highlight the natural and cultural history of Tennessee.
- Tennessee Map Plaza is a 200-foot-wide granite map of the Volunteer State. One of the largest and most accurate depictions of a geographical region, it includes every city, county, river, highway and railroad in the state.
- Rivers of Tennessee Fountains is a collection of 31 geyser-like spray fountains commemorating the state’s major lakes, rivers and tributaries. Inscriptions provide details about these waterways. A large trough represents the Mississippi River. On hot days, visitors cool off by splashing in the water jets.
- Located in the middle of the park is the 2,000-seat Tennessee Amphitheater, which features terraced lawns and a dramatic view of the State Capitol. It is patterned after the Greek amphitheater at Epidaurus. It is the setting for outdoor concerts and other theatrical productions.
Next to the park is the Nashville Farmers’ Market. Dating from the 1800s, and covering 16 acres, the Market House has a variety of vendor stalls, eateries and other merchants along with a weekend flea market and various special events. We took advantage of the Market to take a break for lunch from a couple of the vendors.
We spent the rest of our time wandering in the downtown area, going past the Musician’s Hall of Fame and Museum. It was featuring a Rolling Stones exhibit. While we didn’t have the time to explore it, we did get a picture of the signature Rolling Stones “Tongue and Lips” logo.
There are many campgrounds in the area to stay while visiting Nashville, but we chose one a little ways out of town that was more pleasant than some of the ones closer to Nashville. It is a Corps of Engineers campground called Seven Points. With our Interagency Senior Pass we were able to stay for half price in a nice, wooded setting. It is on the shore of the J Percy Priest Reservoir and it was a great place for our morning walks.
On Thursday, May 10th we pulled out of our site and headed north to St. Louis, IL.