I fell in love with Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium. The Grand Ole Opry is often top of Nashville visitor lists, but I suggest the Ryman is a more soulful introduction to the history and identity of Nashville.
Founded as a Union Gospel Tabernacle, more than religion was celebrated at the Ryman over the years. A profound number and variety of religious revivals, ballet, political debates, jazz, Broadway musicals, along with the famous acoustics and Grand Ole Opry earned the Ryman two titles: "Carnegie Hall of the South" and "Mother Church of County Music".
Five separate videos anchor a self guided tour through Ryman history. Along the way you'll see a Patsy Cline gold record, costumes under glass, step on to the famous stage, take a seat in one of the church pews, and walk by the replicated stained glass. Peer around corners for a glimpse of the original Ryman twelve feet doors. Pay the extra dollars for a guided tour and you can visit dressing rooms where Elvis prepared for the stage and Dolly Parton still changes costumes.
A side exhibit of Ryman show posters are the work of Hatch Show Print, one of the oldest letterpress print shops still working in America. The hall of their Ryman show posters includes standard country names, Keith Urban and George Jones, and surprises like Tony Bennett and Coldplay. Coldplay at the Ryman, that must have been a show.
I want to sit in a Ryman church pew and wait for the music to start.