Information for visitors to Nashville - TN, Tennessee
Downtown Nashville looks much like any other regional business center, dominated by office blocks and parking lots, and dotted here and there with major flagship structures like the gigantic Nashville Arena sports and entertainment complex at Fifth Avenue and Broadway, and the Country Music Hall of Fame at Fifth and Demonbreun streets. It's perfectly possible to spend a busy day in Nashville without coming into contact with country music. A good starting point is Riverfront Park at First Street and Broadway, a thin stretch of grass and terracing dipping down to the Cumberland River . A replica of the wooden Fort Nashborough (Tues-Sun 9am-5pm; free) stands on a promontory above the river as a monument to the city's founders of 1779. A few blocks away, the worthy Tennessee State Museum at 505 Deaderick St (Tues-Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 1-5pm; free) is strongest on the Civil War, highlighting the hardships of the ill-clad, ill-fed soldiers, of whom 23,000 out of 77,000 died at Shiloh alone. Other displays in this huge space focus on frontier life and on black Tennesseans, looking at slavery, Reconstruction, the founding of the Ku Klux Klan and the civil rights movement.
Marking downtown's northern boundary at Sixth and Charlotte avenues, the resplendent Tennessee State Capitol (Mon-Fri 9am-4pm; free), modeled on an Ionic temple, looks out across the city from its hilltop perch. Early in the twentieth century, this area was yet another "Hell's Half Acre," notorious for its drinking holes, gambling clubs, sex shows and dope dens; it's considerably tamer now, housing hotels and offices.
At the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, Nashville's "Athens of the South" exhibit featured a full-size wood-and-plaster replica of the Parthenon, which proved so popular with Nashville residents that the present permanent structure, in the middle of Centennial Park southwest of downtown at West End and 25th avenues, was built in 1931. This impressive edifice - familiar to moviegoers from the finale of Robert Altman's not-always-flattering Nashville - is now home to Nashville's premier art museum (Tues-Sat 9am-4.30pm; April-Sept also Sun 12.30-4.30pm). The lower level contains American paintings; the upper hall is dominated by a 42ft replica of Phidias's statue of Athena.
Just across West End Avenue, weather-beaten Gothic structures sit alongside more modern utilitarian buildings on the campus of prestigious Vanderbilt University . This bastion of conservatism was one of the very few colleges to witness student demonstrations in support of US involvement in Vietnam. Nearby Fisk University is one of the nation's oldest black colleges, and on campus is the excellent Van Vechten Gallery , at Jackson Street and D.B. Todd Boulevard (Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat & Sun 1-5pm; closed Sun in summer; donation). In addition to works by Picasso, Cézanne and Renoir, and a wide array of pieces by Georgia O'Keeffe, there are changing exhibits, many of them with an African-American theme.
Of the many buildings erected by Nashville's antebellum elite, none was more elaborate than the Belmont Mansion , a mile southeast of the Parthenon at 1900 Belmont Blvd (June-Aug Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 1pm-4pm; Sept-May Tues-Sat 10am-4pm;). This 36-room Italianate 1850 villa looks out across ornamented gardens that once kept bears and a lake stocked with alligators