Sign up for our newswire newsletter


Nashville tunes in with a harmonious ensemble of venues

In Nashville, aka “Music City,” the song is king. While songs can be written alone, most of those written in Nashville are the product of collaboration, which is of course a key reason groups meet. On that note, those who are meeting in Nashville will find an abundance of that collaborative spirit throughout the city, especially in its music and nightlife options, whether it’s with the music that can be found on almost every street corner or in its vibrant arts scene.

Nashville’s “Music City” moniker can even be found on its convention center, which opened in 2013 in the downtown area and has a roof designed in the shape of a guitar. Though Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum and the huge CMA Music Fest, which draws more than 85,000 country music fans a day each June, all genres of music can be found in the more than 160 venues throughout the city, from classical to rock to blues to bluegrass to, yes, country.

Deana Ivey, chief marketing officer for the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, pointed out that a wide variety of music can be enjoyed just steps from the Music City Center in downtown.

“On one side of the convention center you have the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, which often has a guest artist performing with the orchestra,” Ivey said. “And then on the other you have the honky tonks and rock bands and alt rock, and nearby there’s jazz, R&B, bluegrass… really everything.”

The city also offers music-related museums and even music-inspired restaurants, making the options for post-meetings entertainment in Nashville seemingly endless. This creates a bit of a conundrum for meeting planners: With so many offerings for venues, how do you choose?

The first step is to pick a setting to base the meeting.

“We have two great options for meetings,” Ivey said. “The downtown setting offers the new convention center, while those who prefer a resort setting can find it at the Gaylord Opryland.”


With meeting space that can accommodate groups of up to 10,000 people, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, located 10 miles from downtown Nashville, is a full-service resort experience. And it’s expected to grow later this year with the opening of a four-acre, three-level indoor and outdoor water recreation area.

For evening events, the city’s famous Grand Ole Opry House is located steps from the resort. The venue opened in 1974, and except for the five months it was closed for renovations following the floods of 2010, it has continuously served as the home to the show that, as they say, “made country music famous.”

According to Wayne Chandler, director of sales and group services for Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry Entertainment Group, groups have a variety of options when it comes to holding events at Opry properties throughout Nashville.

“Experiences can be as intimate as having a ‘king’s dinner’ in the former home of the man known as the ‘King of Country Music,’ Roy Acuff, or a large dinner on the stage of the Ryman or Opry, or even our coveted ‘Exclusive Opry’ performances for up to 4,400 people,” Chandler said. “If a private event is not what a group prefers, attending a Grand Ole Opry performance is a must-do when visiting ‘Music City.’”



Opry Entertainment’s collection of venues includes the historic Ryman Auditorium. Originally built in 1892, the Ryman was the full-time home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974 and currently hosts more than 200 concerts a year, including the Grand Ole Opry during the winter months. The Ryman can also accommodate private events and recently underwent a renovation that included the addition of Cafe Lula at The Ryman, named after a longtime manager, Lula C. Naff.

“Our collection of venues allows a group to have an immersive experience in the exact spot where music history was and is still being made,” Chandler said.

Opening later this year, Ole Red Nashville is a collaboration between Grand Ole Opry member Blake Shelton and Ryman Hospitality Properties. The multilevel venue will include a two-story bar and restaurant, performance space, VIP booths for small groups, private event space and a rooftop with an indoor-outdoor bar and restaurant overlooking Lower Broadway.

Another ideal venue for large groups is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which offers rotating exhibits and a variety of spaces for groups of up to 1,200. For less formal events, it’s hard to beat the honky tonks and other music venues found in the downtown area’s Honky Tonk Highway, Lower Broadway and Second Avenue.

“There’s a diverse array of music, and it’s all free—no cover charge,” Ivey said. “You can go in and out and see what bands you like and stick with one or jump around.”

Ivey pointed out that in many of the clubs the bands actually start playing at 10 a.m., laughing that it’s something “meeting planners don’t like to hear.”
What they might like to hear is that the venues are eager to work with groups.

“The honky tonks and other music venues like to have conventioneers and will take care of them,” Ivey said. “You can do private areas, buyouts—they’re all open to it.”

Music venues can also be found in the Gulch area, including 12th & Porter, the Mercy Lounge, Cannery Ballroom and the High Watt. Venues for groups looking to wander a little farther include the Basement (and Basement East), the Exit/In and the 5 Spot.

For a more intimate experience, groups can book a “Songwriters-in-the-Round” show, where three or four local songwriters get together to tell the stories behind the famous songs they’ve written and then sing them.

“It’s incredible,” Ivey said. “You get to hear the song performed by the person who wrote it, and the story behind the song is never what you think it would be.”

One venue known for offering this experience near the convention center is the Listening Room Cafe, but the most well-known spot is the Bluebird Cafe, which gained recognition on the TV show Nashville. The 90-seat venue is located in an unassuming strip mall in the Green Hills area, but its popularity has led the owners to bring the experience to groups themselves.

“They can set up a private show for groups, small or large,” Ivey said. “Even big conventions can have an experience with local songwriters who can help them write their own song as a teambuilding experience.”

Art and Food

Music is also infused into Nashville’s art and culinary scene. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts hosts live music on Thursday and Friday evenings, and on the first Saturday of every month art galleries around the city offer free admission along with live music.

“You follow the live music in Nashville and might just end up at an art museum,” said Ivey, who noted that the city’s identification with musicians and songwriters is also creating a boom in new chef-driven restaurants in the city.

“We’ve had something like 100 restaurants open in the last year,” Ivey said. “Nashville is such a creative community, with musicians and songwriters, and that creativity brings in more creative people. Chefs are just as creative and they bond with the music people and want to move here.”

An example of a venue that brings all of those together is the City Winery. Located two blocks from the Music City Center, it features live music, an award-winning wine program, locally sourced cuisine and event space for groups from 20 to 1,200. 

A generic silhouette of a person.
About the author
Ann Shepphird