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.
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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. 8 and housed 756 beds.