History pushes a city ahead in Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee
Tennessee is a mecca for lovers of history and heritage. With a rich past shaped by the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, an iconic music scene and more, history lives on in contemporary culture and has inspired a state and its people to innovate and break away from the rest. Experience these layers of time and culture with a walk down memory lane in Memphis and Nashville.
Music City, USA
Around the country, culturally speaking, what’s old is new again, and vinyl culture is a perfect example of that. But in Nashville, Tennessee, vinyl never left. A city so synonymous with melody it’s been dubbed Music City, USA, Nashville has been the heart of the music scene since the beginning of the business. Heck, it’s home to the Country Music Hall of Fame! The state capital has long been a hub for recording, of course, but also the manufacturing and distribution of song and sound. Are you an audiophile looking to round out your record collection? Head to the beloved Grimey’s and experience the unparalleled bliss of a needle dropping into a vinyl groove — sit back, relax, and listen. Speaking of listening, while there’s no shortage of venues to choose from in town, one of our favorites is The Listening Room Cafe. Check out local and out-of-town talent every night of the week, with cocktails and bites to eat to boot. You may just stumble upon a future chart-topper.
Symbolic Soul Food
If one thing is for certain about a visit to the South, it’s that there’s sure to be good eatin’. With staples from fried chicken to collard greens, black-eyed peas to grits, our mouths are watering just thinking about the mighty spread. But the story of Southern food is as much about a people as it is ingredients and dishes — it’s an identity, a narrative, and a way of life, seasoned by culture and tradition. Days are scheduled around lunches, barbeques, and low country boils because the gathering of folks around the kitchen table is where magic — and movements — happen. The Four Way is without a doubt one of the most renowned restaurants in Memphis, known not only for its delicious soul food but its place in American history too. Family owned and opened in 1946, the restaurant played a tremendous role in the Civil Rights Movement. A gathering spot for activists during tumultuous times, The Four Way hosted icons like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson as they organized and, of course, ate. We recommend the fried green tomatoes in a thick cornmeal crust! Come hungry and, trust us; you’ll leave happy.
The Tennessee Whiskey Trail
Tennessee’s role in distilled spirits production stretches back to long before the Civil War. In fact, the state made (and drank) so much Whiskey, that the then Confederate government banned its production to field and supply the army. Cut to, the nation’s first act of prohibition. They don't say, "smooth like Tennessee Whiskey," for nothing, so throw one back for Charlie and Andy Nelson — brothers and owners of Nelson's Greenbrier Distillery in Nashville. The pair discovered the history of their great-great-great-grandfather's prohibition-shuttered business and are reclaiming its place in the state's rich drinking culture. At the height of production — around 1885 — Great-great-great-great-grandfather Charles was selling two million bottles of whiskey a year, quickly growing it to the largest distillery in Tennessee. 110 years after the prohibition forced its shutdown, Green Brier is thriving under the family’s lead — and if you’re keen to imbibe in a little heritage and a lot of hooch, make this one a stop on your own Tennessee Whiskey Trail.
Art Equals Activism
Community is key in Memphis. In some cities, you have neighborhoods and pockets of town that look hip and make for fabulous Instagram fodder — but in Grind City, it’s the people who give the place its “cool without trying” spirit. Take Victoria Jones — community organizer, activist and long-time local. "This city has built everything on our legacy. We're set up with a reminder of what was, but you also get a chance to reflect on how far you've come." Jones is the Executive Director of The CLTV — or Collective — dedicated to elevating local African American artists, empowering black communities, and shifting the culture of Memphis through arts-based programming, workshops and community building. The CLTV’s CMPLX is a fabulous black art gallery hosting the works of Memphis natives, and a studio space for creators. As an inspired and inspiring leader in Memphis, Victoria’s roots give visions of the city’s remarkable future and you, traveler, some incredible art with which to interact.
For a hearty meal, smooth hooch, country hits, and one heck of a history lesson, head south of the Mason-Dixon line to Tennessee. You won’t be disappointed in this Southern state with roots that propel it forward.
“If You Go” Hit List
- JW Marriott, Nashville
- Urban Cowboy Bed & Breakfast, Nashville
- Marriott Memphis East
- The Peabody, Memphis
- Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville
- Grimey's New and Pre-Loved Music, Nashville
- CMPLX, Memphis
- Graceland: The Home of Elvis Presley, Memphis
Eat & Drink
- Tamp & Tap, Memphis
- The Four Way, Memphis,
- Nelson's Green Brier Distillery, Nashville