Friday, August 16

Nashville Day 3: Country Music Stars Tour of Homes, Opry Mills Mall and Grand Ole Opry

Disclosure: I received some free/discounted attractions and accommodations while in Nashville, for review purposes here on the blog. Opinions are, as always, my own.


After NYC’s Sex and the City Bus Tour of 2010, I knew I needed to wait several years before expecting my husband to hop on another tour bus, but I couldn’t pass up the Nashville's Homes of the Stars bus tour. Officially, I’m not sure how I feel about celebrities’ addresses being revealed to the public, but since I know I am not a threat to anyone’s safety or security I allowed my curiosity to overtake my morals and signed up for this tour.

The driver/tour guide picked us up right at our hotel, which is very convenient, and we were on the road. The country stars live outside of downtown Nashville, mostly in the Brentwood and Belle Meade areas, so we had a bit of a drive before we actually saw a celebrity residence. You should also be aware, if planning a trip of your own or just feeling utterly and painfully jealous of all of the cool things I got to do, that you don't actually get a great look at most of these homes. Some are better fenced than others, some are completely treed, and some actually in gated communities that you just drive by.

I managed to get some decent shots of Martina McBride and Dolly Parton’s homes (which I decided not to post, just to boost my perception of my own morality) and if we had gone more slowly past Taylor Swift’s I could have taken a great picture there too. (“She’s not home today,” our driver/guide informed us. “When she’s home, there are security guards pacing up and down the fenceline.”) He was able to tell us if most of the stars were home or not, as he was also aware of what they (and their partners) drive. Again, I’m not going to do anything with that information, but not sure if it should really be out there for the less stable members of the general population. We also saw the homes of Dierks Bentley, Charles Kelley from Lady Antebellum, Trisha Yearwood (though she and Garth reside in Oklahoma most of the time), and various other celebs.

When the tour was almost over and we were getting ready to head back downtown for hotel dropoffs (we had just gone by the Belle Meade residence of Big Kenny from Big and Rich) we stopped at the corner of a residential street, waiting to make a right turn...when we were struck by a turning truck. Right under my window. Did I make that sound dramatic enough? Actually, the truck barely clipped the bus but scraped off a chunk of bumper and it required a call to police and us waiting for another bus. Turned out it was a 17 year old boy who just got his permanent licence. His mom came to check things out, followed by his dad who, in a very classy gesture, boarded the bus and said “Well, since my son’s the reason you’re sitting here, I figured I’d hop on and share some more information with you!” He proceeded to share some tidbits about celeb homes in Nashville, including the fact that Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen had just purchased the house behind his, as she is pursuing a songwriting career. When one (bold, or perhaps just desperate) woman requested, he even took a small group back to his home to use the facilities!

To top things off, the mom came back with warm, gooey, delicious just-out-of-the-oven homemade cookies. If that kind mother ever happens to read this, I totally want that recipe. And I think you and your husband handled this situation in an admirable way (when you could have said "That's what you get for snooping around residential areas!"), which certainly solidified the positive reputation of the city with a bus full of tourists.

So, sure, we wasted some time waiting for a replacement bus to come and return us downtown, but it made for a good story, right?




Next on the day's agenda: a cab ride to the amazing Opry Mills Mall. After just a few moments inside, I was wishing that I hadn't just flown with carry-on luggage...especially since the first weekend of August is Tennessee’s no tax weekend (also their back-to-school weekend, believe it or not!)

My first purchase: I finally found myself  a pair of cowboy boots. I had looked downtown (there are several boot shops) but either the selections were too pricey (I wasn’t paying $300 for boots, and some ran as high as $1000) and my other problem -- be ready to sympathize here -- is crazy skinny ankles. Yes, I know it is a blessing not to struggle with weight issues, but when you put skeleton legs in size ten boots with wide tops, it’s hard not too look like a kid playing dress up. At "50 East Shoes" at Opry Mills Mall, a helpful saleslady told me to go with Dan Post boots, as they are designed with narrower tops -- and I found my ideal pair. (Look for them in the Grand Ole Opry picture below, since I wore them right out of the store!) Now, perhaps I could have found the same pair at a local store back home, but I like being able to say my boots came from Nashville. (Note to self: I think we need to have a cowboy/girl themed day for Spirit Week at school this year...)

I limited my other purchases to a Ralph Lauren polo sweater (30% off plus no tax...which is why I waited behind literally - and yes, I know how to use that word correctly - over a hundred people), as well as a cute Lego Friends set for the girls -- I figured it was appropriate based on not only their interests but also where we were:
LEGO Friends Rehearsal Stage 41004

Okay, enough with the mall. On to...the Grand Ole Opry! Probably the highlight of our trip, right?

Deep breath.

I pride myself on being honest with my posts/reviews, but it's a bit difficult for me to actually come out and say that I was disappointed with the Opry. Let me explain.






Obviously the Grand Ole Opry is a classic, renowned venue/stage/radio show, and a must-see for visitors to Nashville. When I started planning our trip, I made frequent visits to the website to see who would be performing this summer, but the problem is that they only confirm the artists for each show a couple of weeks in advance (in our case, the performers weren't finalized until three days before the show!) I didn't want to book a whole trip without knowing who we would be seeing, but with all of the other details I needed to confirm (flights, hotel, etc.) I couldn't wait until the lineup was announced, so we picked a night and hoped for the best. We kept watching to see who might be performing, and as each name was added, it was another name that we did not recognize. There were 13 artists/groups the Saturday night we attended, and I didn't know any of them...several were older performers and some were up-and-comers, but there was no big name that I knew...mind you, Carrie Underwood was scheduled to perform the next weekend, so this isn't always the case!

My advice would be that if you are a fan of very old country, or don't mind some "new" (to you) faces, then by all means book tickets in advance and enjoy. However, if you're hoping to see a current star, you really might want to play it by ear as much as your plans will allow, though you should also keep in mind that each artist only performs a couple of songs, so it's not like attending an actual concert. I also wish I had booked a daytime tour of the Opry in advance, since when we arrived that afternoon we were told that the rest of the tours for the day were all booked up. (That's what I get for trying to fly by the seat of my pants for once!)

And don't get me wrong, the show was excellent, if that's the sort of thing you're looking for. It still really is a radio broadcast, so there's an "On Air" sign, with an announcer who reads very old-fashioned messages from the show's sponsors...it felt like a bit of a time warp!

Speaking of time...ours in Nashville was quickly winding down...stay tuned for the final installment:

Nashville Day 4: Ryman Auditorium, Waterfront and General Tourist Tips

1 comments:

Elliott Cunningham said...

Dierks Bentley is gearing up for his eighth annual Miles & Music for Kids celebrity motorcycle ride and concert, taking place Sunday, November 3rd in Nashville.