Nissan held an event in one of the Music City’s nicer suburban neighborhoods, but I also had enough down time to explore some of the city itself.
Visitors often harp on the contrasting elements of cities, and Nashville is anything but homogenous. However, that doesn’t really add much to its charm.
Home base for my two-day stay was the Omni, a brand new hotel abutting a brand new convention center, a new-ish sports arena, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. You’ll never see sidewalks as free of gum and urine stains as the ones that surround this block.
This seems to be the image Nashville is trying to project. Almost everywhere I went, I saw new construction or vacant lots ripe for development. It’s a landscape of avant grade restaurants improbably wedged into industrial ruinscapes.
Yet just a block from the Omni and its pristine sidewalks is Broadway, the heart of Nashville’s tourist district. This is where you’ll find all of the honky tonks, novelty Elvis statues, and cowboy boots you’d expect of the home of country music.
This area is definitely not pristine. Everything’s chintzy, worn in, and a bit dirty, as a stereotypical tourists district should be. It’s also hermetically sealed off from the rest of Nashville.
Heading further downtown, there wasn’t much else to see. It’s full of buildings, all in good repair, but there’s nothing really there. Maybe I missed something during this admittedly brief visit, but I couldn’t find a reason to stop until I reached the Tennesse State Capitol.
This may have actually been my favorite part of Nashville. The building sits high on the hill with great views, and there’s an epic statue of Andrew Jackson standing over a small memorial containing the remains of James K. Polk, his presidential protege. The symbolism was fantastic.
So while there were many postcard views, Nashville just didn’t seem like a real city. It was decidedly urban, but it’s hard to imagine what people actually do there when the tourists go away.
Or do the tourists just never go away?