Unless you plan to spend most of your time in a confined area like Opryland or Downtown, you'll probably want to rent a car to make the most of your visit to Nashville. Unfortunately, rapid population growth, a confusing street plan and a reputation for aggressive driving habits make Nashville an intimidating place for visitors to navigate by car. Here are a few rules of thumb to make the experience less of an ordeal:
As in any major metropolitan area, it's best to stay off the roads during morning and evening commute hours.
Arm yourself with a good map and, whenever possible, print point-to-point driving directions off the Internet. GPS systems come in extremely handy, too.
Drive defensively even more defensively than you usually do. Southern hospitality aside, you can't always count on Nashville drivers to cut you some slack as you merge onto a freeway or turn left on a yellow light.
Beware of metered street parking downtown where lanes must be cleared during commute hours; read the parking control signs carefully!
Consider staying off the road during intense summer downpours or freezing rain in winter.
Finally, if you're on your way to a business meeting, the Grand Ole Opry or some other time-sensitive appointment, leave early so you won't panic at losing your way or getting delayed in traffic.
Peak Seasons, Special Events & Weather:
Nashville is a popular destination for conventions, trade shows and music festivals, and at times there can be fierce competition for hotel rooms and restaurant tables, and the major visitor attractions can get uncomfortably crowded.
When planning your trip, check the convention calendar on the "Meetings" section of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau website (www.nashvillecvb.com) and try to schedule your visit around the larger gatherings listed. Click the "Visitors" link for a searchable calendar of live music performances, festivals, art exhibitions and other activities.
With five colleges and universities in town, hotels also tend to fill up around graduation time in May, and for home games of the Vanderbilt (www.vanderbilt.edu) and Tennessee State (www.tnstate.edu) football teams.
As for the weather, you're likely to find the most pleasant conditions in spring and fall, when there's a good chance of moderate temperatures and clear blue skies. Summertime is peak tourist season in Nashville, but it's also peak season for hot, muggy and sometimes rainy conditions, particularly in July and August. Although winters are generally mild, watch out for the occasional frigid storm that leaves a treacherous layer of ice on local roadways.
Music Row Caveat:
The area just east of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN known as Music Row holds a prominent place in local lore as the incubator of major country hits for more than half a century. Yet aside from the hope of seeing your favorite country superstar cruising by in a stretch limo, there's little here of interest to casual visitors. While there are many record company offices located on Music Row along 16th and 17th avenues, they are not open to the public.
One notable exception is RCA Studio B, a rather unassuming structure on 17th Avenue where some of the greatest country recordings from the 1950s onward were produced. The studio is open to guided tours as part of the "Platinum" ticket package at the Country Music Hall of Fame (www.countrymusichalloffame.com).