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Nashville tours and excursions

Nashville tours

Walking tours

For a good – and not too strenuous - overview of the city, the City Walk is a marked trail of 3km (2 miles), which begins at Fort Nashborough and ends at the Hatch Show Print Shop on Broadway. Visitors should either follow the blue line or obtain a leaflet from the Visitor Information Centre, Gaylord Entertainment Centre, 501 Broadway, corner of Fifth Avenue.

Tel: (615) 259 4747.
Website: http://www.visitmusiccity.com

Bus tours

Numerous companies offer tours, invariably focusing on the country music scene and often including a drive past the homes of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash. Grand Ole Opry Tours offers a variety, one including a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry. Other companies include the very irreverent NashTrash Tours.

Tel: (615) 889 9490 ; (615) 226 7300 or 1 800 342 2132.
Website: http://www.nashtrash.com

Boat tours

General Jackson Showboat takes you back to a bygone era aboard the 91m (300ft), four-deck paddlewheel showboat. Named after the first steamboat to operate on the Cumberland River, and namesake of the Tennessean-born US President, the General Jackson offers a variety of cruise packages, which navigate the Cumberland River from Opry Mills to Riverfront Park in Downtown Nashville.

Wanderin' Star Yacht Charters offers three-hour sailing cruises on Old Hickory Lake on a Catalina 25. Gourmet cocktail cruises or evening sunset cruises are the most romantic. Sailing lessons also available. Cruises and lessons run between April and October.

Tel: (615) 458 3900 ; (615) 851 4274.
Website: http://www.generaljackson.com

Nashville excursions

Nashville Zoo

Over 1,350 animals from 255 different species are on display in this innovative zoo, 3777 Nolensville Road, Grassmere, which covers 81 hectares (200 acres) not far from the centre of the city. There are Bengal tigers, cheetahs, an 'African Elephant Savannah', the USA's largest community-built playground for the children, the aptly named Gibbon Islands exhibit, an 'Unseen New World' exhibit (with over 200 reptiles, insects, amphibians and fish) and the old Croft House. This was built in 1810 and now houses a working farm exhibit and a young children's petting zoo. Newest exhibits feature ocelots, giraffes and alligators.

Tel: (615) 833 1534.
Website: http://www.nashvillezoo.org

Gaylord Opryland

One of Nashville's major attractions, located about 10km (6 miles) from downtown Nashville. Allow at least half a day to see everything. Opryland is a collective term for the whole area, also known as Music Valley, which contains the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Opry Mills and the Grand Ole Opry (temporarily closed due to floods at the time of writing, and rehoused in the Ryman). Other attractions include the Music Valley Wax Museum, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, and the Willie Nelson and Friends Showcase Museum. From Downtown, the area is easily accessed by the Opry Mills Express (bus 34).

Website: http://www.gaylordhotels.com/gaylord-opryland

Natchez Trace Parkway

No one should visit Nashville without sampling at least a short stretch of this unique drive, which begins about 24km (15 miles) southwest of the city centre. The whole parkway, one of the country's first interstate highways, runs for 715km (444 miles) to Natchez, Mississippi and was an ancient trading route for early European settlers and American Indians. Today, with a leisurely 80kph (50mph) speed limit and only recreational traffic, it makes a wonderfully peaceful drive through unspoilt scenery.

Tel: 1 800 305 7417.
Website: http://www.nps.gov/natr
A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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The Hermitage Hotel

Built in 1910 in the beaux-arts style, this city institution is the grande dame of local hotels. Smiling after an $18million refurbishment, the lobby is gilded plaster and stained glass windows, and the all-suite guest rooms boast Florentine marble bathrooms. Dining at the hotel’s Capitol Grille evokes an elegant wine cellar, and the Oak Bar has ornate woods and plasterwork.

Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel

Boasting one of the most modern looks on the Nashville hotel scene, Loews Vanderbilt Plaza has bedded many celebrities and country music stars. Artwork is a heavy motif, from the tapestries of the lobby to the in-house branch of the Kraus art gallery. The angular guest rooms are softened by plush curtains, and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is well regarded among local carnivores.

Days Inn Vanderbilt/Music Row

The rooms here are at least refurbished every few years to keep this good value motel at least comfortable. The property dates back to the 1960s, giving it kind of a retro cool, and the free local calls and internet don’t hurt the budget. The location is convenient, with Music Row and Vanderbilt University both within easy walking distance.

The Hutton Hotel

Opened in 2009, this property blends traditional southern touched with Manhattan-esque chic, the lobby a mix of luxuriant woods, abstract sculptures and oversized lampshades. It’s a bold attempt to steer away from the more laboured aspects of the city, and you won’t find country music being piped on repeat. The rooms are trendy but not pretentious, and the 1808 Grille brings a modern twist to down-home cooking.

Union Station

A former railway terminal is the home for this hotel, which dates back to 1900. The architecture is Romanesque-Gothic, and the property enjoyed a $10million facelift in 2007. The station’s main hall becomes a striking lobby, with vaulted stained glass ceilings. While the exterior is a National Historic Landmark, the rooms are contemporary, though light sleepers may want to avoid those that overlook the tracks.

Hilton Downtown Nashville

Another all-suite offering, this new Downtown hotel has plenty of room, with 330 units. The palm-lined atrium lobby lends a touch of sophistication to the hotel, but its main appeal is the location, within walking distance of LP Field and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The suites lend themselves to self-catered living, though there are also 3 restaurants on site.