Featuring a friendly, laid-back vibe and catchy music everywhere you turn, Nashville fully deserves its status as one of the hottest destinations in the world.
Music City is so hot that it’s been struggling to find enough room for visitors, but it’s making definite headway with the recent opening of properties such as the spectacular JW Marriott Nashville and the upcoming Fifth and Broad development.
Smart Meetings visited Nashville last month on a FAM trip organized by Marriott’s Convention & Resort Network, and quickly discovered what the buzz is all about.
Meet and Sleep
Our group stayed at the 34-story JW Marriott Nashville, situated in the heart of downtown, adjacent to Music City Center. It opened in July 2018 and features 533 guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows and 77,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 15,000-square-foot grand ballroom and the 17,000-square-foot The Green at JW, an event lawn.
We toured the 673-room Renaissance Nashville Hotel, which has undergone $50 million in renovations and additions in the past five years, including recently expanding its meeting space to 104,499 sq. ft., the most of any hotel in the downtown area.
The original Opryland Hotel opened in 1977, and was intended to support Grand Ole Opry, a Nashville country music institution. The hotel originally had 580 guest rooms and a ballroom, but it greatly expanded over the years; now known as Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, it has 2,888 guest rooms and 758,911 sq. ft. of meeting space. One of its newest features, SoundWaves, is an upscale water experience featuring 4 acres of indoor and outdoor attractions.
One evening, we dined at acclaimed chef and restaurateur Michael Mina’s innovative Bourbon Steak. Situated on the top floor of JW Marriott Nashville, it boasts 360-degree views of the city skyline and interior touches by renowned hospitality designer Tihany Design. Private dining rooms can be reserved.
Another memorable meal was offered at 5th and Taylor, chef Daniel Lindley’s homage to the American family meal. It features refined expressions of traditional fare meant to foster a sense of community among guests. The restaurant can be bought out, and customized meals are available.
Little Fib, located in Renaissance Nashville Hotel, is a retro restaurant that gives a nod to the city’s history in new interpretations of Southern cuisine, live music and specialty drinks. Private events, including corporate receptions, can be arranged.
One of the most exciting and ambitious projects in the city’s history, Fifth & Broad will be a downtown mixed-use area that features offices and residential units, as well as more than 200,000 sq. ft. of entertainment, retail, and food and beverage space. The retail podium in the center (which will include the 55,000-square-foot National Museum of African American Music), the office tower and the residential tower are expected to be delivered by mid-2020.
Grand Ole Opry, one of the major musical attractions in the United States, offers shows by country music legends several days each week. Groups can attend these shows, take one of several guided tours offered, as we did, or arrange for a show and tour package.
One day, our group headed over to Imagine Recordings, which has generated more than 500 No. 1 hits by a variety of artists, including Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw and George Strait. We listened to talented Australian singer-songwriter Kara Grainger record a song. It was a fascinating adventure—groups can have similar experiences there, observing artists recording songs or even recording their own.
Gaylord Opryland Resort’s General Jackson Showboat is a 300-foot paddlewheel riverboat that offers lunch and dinner cruises that include shows featuring talented artists singing a wide variety of beloved country songs.