First 24 hours: Nashville, USA

As the first di­rect flights from the UK land in the neon glitz of honky tonk Nashville, dis­cover a grow­ing city that moves to a dif­fer­ent rhythm en­tirely, says Chris Moss

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - This Issue -

The first di­rect flights from the UK to Nashville have brought the honky-tonk city within earshot – here’s how to soak up the coun­try mu­sic cap­i­tal in a day

Be­fore you ar­rive

Nashville wasn’t al­ways the toe-tap­ping home of coun­try mu­sic. It be­gan life as Fort Nash­bor­ough, a stock­ade founded by Amer­i­can ex­plorer James Robertson and a party of fron­tier set­tlers in 1779. Named af­ter the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion­ary War hero Fran­cis Nash, it has been Ten­nessee’s per­ma­nent state cap­i­tal since 1843.

But be­fore it be­came ‘Mu­sic City’, an­te­bel­lum Nashville was a wealthy com­mer­cial hub, later emerg­ing as an im­por­tant trans­port and print­ing cen­tre. These days, how­ever, the rail­way line that cuts the ur­ban cen­tre is only used by freight trains as the city moved in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion en­tirely.

It was the ad­vent of the Grand Ole Opry ra­dio show in 1925 – and later the record­ing stu­dios of Mu­sic Row – that po­si­tioned Nashville as ‘Mu­sic City USA’, even if this nick­name was first coined by Queen Vic­to­ria af­ter see­ing the city’s African-amer­i­can Fisk Ju­bilee Singers in 1873. The Opry may have later moved to a larger venue out­side the city in 1974, but its old home – the Ry­man Au­di­to­rium – still stands and even hosts Opry shows in win­ter.

Un­til as re­cently as last year, Nashville was Ten­nessee’s sec­ond city, but it has just sur­passed Mem­phis in pop­u­la­tion size. To­day, it is a city on the rise in ev­ery sense, es­pe­cially in down­town where dozens of cranes work on sky­scrapers. The fa­mous Nashville sky­line is chang­ing, fast.

At the air­port

On 4 May, Bri­tish Air­ways be­gan fly­ing from London Heathrow to Nashville five times weekly, mak­ing it the first air­line to con­nect the city di­rectly with Europe. Flight time takes around nine hours.

Nashville In­ter­na­tional is 10km east of down­town and is more like a re­gional air­port in size, though it still has plenty of ATMS and shops. One nice touch is the live mu­sic that plays in its restau­rants and bars. A new in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal opens in 2023.

Get­ting into town

The pub­lic bus stop is lo­cated on Level 1 of the air­port – look for the blue-and-white MTA sign. Route 18 goes down­town and costs $1.70 (£1.25) each way. On the re­turn jour­ney from the city, take ei­ther the Air­port, Elm Hill or Air­port Ex­press buses (all marked ‘18’) from Bay 13 of Mu­sic City Cen­tral sta­tion. Ex­press trips take about 20 min­utes while those mak­ing lo­cal stops tend to take be­tween 34 and 45 min­utes de­pend­ing on traf­fic.

Ten firms (the usual sus­pects) of­fer car hire at the air­port. Or if tak­ing a taxi, there’s a $25 (£18) flat rate from the air­port to down­town or the Opry­land ho­tel area. Some ho­tels op­er­ate their own shut­tles.

Other ways to ar­rive

No pas­sen­ger trains stop in Nashville (the clos­est Am­trak sta­tion is in Mem­phis), but long-dis­tance Grey­hound (grey­hound.com) coach ser­vices ar­rive at the sta­tion on 5th Av­enue.

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