Meandering Around Music City; or, Three Days in Nashville: Day 3

 The residents of Hillsboro Village have been terrorized by this colorful dragon since 1995

The residents of Hillsboro Village have been terrorized by this colorful dragon since 1995

Our third day in Nashville began very much like the second: a late start and a stop at a popular breakfast joint for brunch. This time it was the Pancake Pantry on 21st Avenue, out by Vanderbilt University's Medical Center. Speaking of Vanderbilt, even though I'm no fan of the Southeastern Conference or its member institutions, I can only imagine going to school there, just outside downtown Nashville, must be some kind of life.

But where were we? Pancakes, right. The Pancake Pantry has been serving up delicious hot cakes since 1961, and it's fairly evident you're in an older establishment when you sit down to gobble them up.

The place had been another recommendation made to me by a friend. I think it was a good one, for the most part; the only issue was that our food was lukewarm by the time we got it. They were super busy, so I've got to give them the benefit of the doubt on that one — plus, our waitress was a somewhat older woman and a complete sweetheart. So we can hardly dock them any points, really.

 Mural number two, just before the rains came

Mural number two, just before the rains came

Murals, Murals, Murals

After inhaling our pancakes (mine were blueberry), we walked back outside to discover that we were sitting just on the edge of the Hillsboro Village neighborhood. And even though it looked like it was about to pour, I spied the colorful mural that can be seen in the photo at the top of this post, and who was I to say no to a Kodak moment like that?

In doing a little post-visit research, I see a website called Nextdoor, which calls itself "the private social network for neighborhoods," did some kind of poll last year and came up with a list of the locals' favorite places to shop, eat, and drink in Hillsboro Village.

It would have been nice to know of the existence of said list beforehand, which includes places like the Star Bagel Cafe on Murphy Road and Parnassus Books on Hillsboro Pike, but perhaps it wouldn't have mattered anyway as we were visiting the area on Easter Sunday and a lot of businesses were closed for the day. The one store we did manage to get a look at was A Thousand Faces, a shop containing "a plethora of neat stuff" right next to the Pancake Pantry.

As the rain continued to threaten on that cloudy Sunday afternoon, there was one more mural other than the dragon in Hillsboro Village that I was intent on seeing. That one can be described by four words alone: "I Believe in Nashville." There are actually four of them in the city — one each at 2702 12th Avenue (the original), 1402 Clinton Street, 1306 McGavock Pike, and 917 Woodland Street.

Simply because it was the closest at the time, we made way for the original mural on 12th Avenue, which stands in the heart of a residential neighborhood called 12 South. Maybe because it was Easter, maybe because the rain was about to come down, there weren't too many people lined up to take pictures with the mural — a stark contrast from the lengthy line we'd witnessed at the "What Lifts You" mural in The Gulch the day before.

 Records upon records line a wall of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Records upon records line a wall of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

And if it sounds like I've mentioned the word "mural" about three thousand times already, I assure you I could be mentioning it a lot more. Nashville is full of the things. Just ask Kristin Luna. The Nashville-based writer has a post on her blog, Camels & Chocolate, entitled "A Work of Street Art: The Best Murals in Nashville" that documents about 40 of them.

A Dose of Museum

After getting some final shots at 12th Avenue in, the rain was no longer threatening; it had arrived. Without an umbrella or any other kind of protection, we rushed back to the car without any certain plans concerning what we would do next. That's when I consulted my handy-dandy Field Notes notebook and it reminded me that we hadn't yet visited one of Nashville's main attractions: the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

It was about 3:35 p.m. when we trotted into the museum, which sits along 5th Avenue, kitty-corner to Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL's Nashville Predators (who are rather good this year). While the museum is filled with more musical artifacts than you'd know what to do with — including a wide swath of iconic clothing worn during live performances from country artists living and dead, plus a couple of tricked-out automobiles — the lobby itself is something to behold.

And that's a good thing, because we beheld it for about 25 minutes while waiting for the ticket price to drop $10 at 4 p.m., when the museum would only be open for one more hour. Once we'd purchased tickets, traversed that grand lobby, and headed up the elevator into the exhibit area, one of the first country stars we came face to face with was Shania Twain. She wasn't literally there, of course, but her expansive exhibit, complete with numerous outfits, plenty of backstory, and other memorabilia aplenty, sure was.

 Looking northwest down 4th Avenue from inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Looking northwest down 4th Avenue from inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

I think of Ms. Twain as more of a pop star, personally, and perhaps that's because her futuristic music video for "I'm Gonna Getcha Good!" is what most readily comes to mind when I think of her, but I see she holds the honorific title of "Queen of Country Pop," so I'm not too off-base, I guess.

The Everly Brothers, Elvis, Charley Pride, Reba McEntire, and Johnny Cash were among some of the other names I recognized while wandering around the museum. Toward the end of the exhibits, there is currently a large display telling the tale of Faith Hill and Tim McGraw — "Mississippi Man, Louisiana Woman," it is called — that explores the intertwined careers of the Grammy-winning superstars. And at the very, very end comes the actual Hall of Fame itself, a circular room showcasing the 138 inductees (and counting).

The Final Night

Our final dinner in Nashville wasn't much of a dinner at all, unless you count loaded nachos and skyscraper-tall glasses of beer as a wholesome meal. These we ordered at Dick's Last Resort on 2nd Avenue, a roadhouse-style bar and grill (with several locations around the U.S.) where the wait staff are purposely and famously horrible toward customers. Sitting at the bar, we didn't necessarily get the full-on Dick's treatment, but we saw plenty of others wearing makeshift dunce caps that said things like "It's just a rash, eat around it" and "My dick is so small, I pee on my balls."

So you know, an all-around family-friendly establishment. For real, though, it is pretty funny when people come in and have no idea what they're getting into. Scarfing down our nachos, we saw more than one group of people head right back out the door after being berated by the hostess.

A customary nap followed "dinner" and by the time we were up and raring to go once more, it was already about 10 p.m. Even though it was Sunday — and Easter Sunday, at that — there were still plenty of options for going out. Instead of hitting Broadway for the third night in a row, however, we elected to head over to an area of Church Street that our Airbnb host described as Nashville's hub for gay-friendly bars and clubs (that is what we call ironic, boys and girls).

We ended up at a place called Play, where a drag queen (and king) show was already in progress. Accompanied by colorful commentating from staff members, performer after performer took the stage to lip sync and wiggle along to the music. Surprisingly, it was all pretty PG-13, with the queens and kings focused more on entertaining than being overtly promiscuous. But maybe that's the norm with these kinds of things and I'm just naive?

In any case, I thought Play was highly representative of the diverse nightlife you can find in Nashville. Whether you're looking for a gay-friendly place like that, a good old-fashioned honky tonk, a rooftop bar blasting tunes, or a more intimate establishment with a live band, the city seems to have it.

That and all the other things we experienced over the long weekend, from hopping breakfast joints to sprawling city parks and a bit of history, made for an excellent road trip. That said, is there really any other kind?

-LTH