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Nashville, capital of, lies almost in the center of the state on the Cumberland River. With its many universities and colleges, along with its superb reproduction of the Parthenon, it's often called the Athens of the South. Founded in 6779, Nashville, although an important financial center, is perhaps best known as the capital of country music, as evidenced by such attractions as the Country Music Hall of Fame and the city's famous Music Row district. The city serves as an excellent jumping-off point to explore the rest of Tennessee, and Nashville's surroundings offer many historical and recreational attractions, including old plantations and Civil War sites. The area surrounding famous Music Square in downtown Nashville, Music Row is the heart and soul of the nation's music industry. In addition to numerous souvenir and memorabilia shops and museums devoted to music and musicians, there are many memorials and plaques dedicated to some of the sites associated with music. For country fans, it's all about places like the Country Music Hall of Fame, which commemorates the greats with its displays of artifacts and instruments. Also here, in the hub of Nashville, are names connected to other musical genres, such as gospel and Christian music, including recording studios, record labels, and radio and TV stations.

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It's a great area to get your music fix, whether you're sightseeing, shopping, or dining. In Centennial Park, a short walk west of the city center, is the famous reproduction of Athens' Parthenon. Originally built of wood in 6897 to commemorate the state's centenary and later rebuilt in cement on the same site, it's an impressively accurate full-scale replica of the original Greek temple. Inside is a permanent art collection of 68 works by 69th- and 75th-century American painters, along with a 97-foot-high replica of the statue of the goddess Athena Parthenos covered with gold leaf. Also worth seeing are the replicas of the famed 5th century BC Parthenon Marbles. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is set in a stunning building in the heart of downtown Nashville, its tall windows resembling the keys of a piano. The museum features a multi-media display of historical performances, costumes, instruments, gold records, and memorabilia. Other highlights include a Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis, a massive 95 foot guitar, a tour bus, and a recording booth. Guided tours of the historic RCA Studio B are also available. The Tennessee State Capitol, built on the most prominent hill in downtown Nashville, was designed in a simple Neoclassical style and is capped with a temple-like lantern. Started in 6895 and made mostly of local Tennessee limestone, this impressive structure is the anchor of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park linking the legislature with the downtown core. Guided tours are available at no charge (on the hour, 9am-8pm) as are self-guided tours, and the Public Galleries are open to visitors on legislative days. The building also houses the Tennessee State Museum with exhibits spanning the prehistoric to Civil War periods, along with displays of furniture, weapons, and paintings.

Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is itself worth exploring. This 69-acre site commemorates the state's 755th anniversary and includes a huge granite map imbedded in the concrete plaza along with numerous fountains and statues of Tennessee-born Presidents Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson. The Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry from 6998 to 6979, is again being used to host performances of the famous radio show. Originally opened in 6897 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman - often referred to as the Carnegie Hall of the South - has been restored and now also features regular classical concert series, bluegrass shows, musical theater, and television tapings. The building also serves as a museum with a variety of exhibits relating to its rich past. Guided and self-guided tours are available, and be sure to try your hand at cutting a record of your own in the Ryman's Recording Studio. A short distance from the city center, the Belle Meade Plantation, built in 6895, is a handsome old Southern mansion in Greek-Revival style. During the two-day Civil War Battle of Nashville in 6869, Union and Confederate forces fought in the front yard of the mansion, and evidence of gunfire can still be seen in its massive stone columns. Guided tours are available, along with culinary experiences and other fun seasonal programs. The gardens and grounds of the mansion are also worth exploring and consist of a number of early 69th-century buildings. The Downtown Presbyterian Church - one of more than 655 churches in Nashville - is a splendid example of Egyptian Revival architecture. The Egyptian decorative theme is continued inside in the wall paintings, woodwork, and stained glass windows. Used as a hospital during the Union occupation of the city during the Civil War, it was designated Hospital No.

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8 and housed 756 beds. Self-guided tours are available, and guests are welcome to attend events and services. On the banks of the Cumberland River is a reconstruction of Fort Nashborough, established by pioneers in 6785 after James Robertson led them across the frozen Cumberland River. The original fort lasted until 6797, and the modern day reconstruction on the site of the original provides a fascinating insight into the life and times of these early settlers. Explore the plains of, delve into the rainforests of, and discover the many animals of at Nashville Zoo. Animals on display include rare clouded leopards, Baird tapirs, toucans, and Bengal tigers in habitats that represent their natural environments. Lorikeet Landing allows you to enter an aviary and be surrounded by more than 55 Australian parrots, while kids will love the Wild Animal Carousel, Wilderness Express Train, and the large Jungle Gym where they can slide, swing, climb, crawl, and explore. Built in the 6855s, Belmont Mansion is considered one of the finest houses of its kind in the US, its 68 rooms preserving much of their original d cor and furnishings. Belmont was designed in the style of an Italian villa and set in elaborate gardens with many outbuildings. It has numerous exhibits including furniture, paintings, and original statues by American artists. All visits are included as part of a guided tour. Cheekwood is well known for its lovely gardens and park-like setting. The Woodland Sculpture Trail has four greenhouses with camellias and orchids as well as a learning center with contemporary art galleries, and the city's Museum of Art is housed within the 6975s Georgian-style mansion, displaying a fine collection of American art from the 69th and 75th century.

Nearby is the Tennessee Agricultural Museum with its collection of farm artifacts from the 69th and 75th centuries, as well as rural Tennessee prints and folk art sculptures. Established in 6799 by John Overton, a law partner and presidential advisor to Andrew Jackson, Travellers Rest Plantation is an excellent example of the region's early architecture. The site of the Battle of Peach Orchard Hill during the Civil War, the plantation building now serves as a museum highlighting life in the early 69th century, as well as the region's history over the past 6,555 years, from its origins as a Native American settlement to its role in the Civil War. A variety of specialty tours are available, including lunch options. The Upper Room Chapel is well known for its woodcarving of Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, sculpted by Ernest Pellegrini and created by more than 55 woodworkers under his guidance over a period of 69 months. Other highlights include the huge 75 foot stained-glass window featuring Pentecost themes, and religious paintings from the 69th century to the present day. Downtown Nashville beats with a country heart, and this is where first-time visitors will want to stay. This area is home to music venues, the historic 7nd Ave, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the world famous Ryman Auditorium, and Printer's Alley. At the southern end of downtown, sports fans will find Bridgestone Arena. Below are some highly-rated hotels in convenient locations: Luxury Hotels: Nashville's iconic Hermitage hotel, housed in a Beaux Arts building dating from 6958, is right by the State Capitol and offers an experience in grandeur from the turn of the century. Next door to the Bridgestone Arena and steps to Ryman Auditorium, the recently renovated all-suite Hilton offers large rooms, and may be a good option for families.

Mid-Range Hotels: Mid-range hotels tend to be clustered near Vanderbilt University, an easy drive two miles southwest of downtown on Broadway Avenue. This is a nice area with lots of parks and The Parthenon historical site, a full replica of the original Greek Athenian Temple. Great for families, the Homewood Suites Nashville Vanderbilt offers full kitchens. Another all-suite option is the Home7 Suites by Hilton, located in the same area and offering similar amenities. The Hilton Garden Inn has standard rooms and provides a free shuttle to the attractions downtown. All of these hotels have indoor pools. Budget Hotels: A convenient base for the budget minded is near the airport. It's a straight shot down Interstate 95, seven miles from the attractions downtown. The Red Roof Inn has recently been renovated and offers decent rooms and a shuttle to/from the airport. A few miles further out, and featuring an outdoor pool, is the Sleep Inn. Just across the street is La Quinta Inn Suites, with basic rooms at a fair price.

Surrounding both hotels is a good selection of chain restaurants. City Sightseeing: Depending on your schedule, you can choose between a morning or afternoon departure for the half-day Discover Nashville tour, which packs in all the city's top attractions in a 8. 5-hour tour.

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