Jim and I usually only go to the downtown Nashville bars for music & drinks whenever out-of-town guests are in town.
Maybe if we lived closer, we would go more frequently. But we’ve always lived south of Nashville — first in Franklin. And now in Spring Hill.
To be honest, I’m not all that interested in watching cover bands (which is what you find in some of the Nashville bars).
With the amazing quality of musicians, singers, and songwriters that we have here in Nashville, Jim and I prefer to hang out at the songwriter bars instead — like the Listening Room Cafe, 3rd & Lindsley, the Bluebird Cafe, and Puckett’s, to name a few.
So why would I want to have a night on the town in Nashville and just see cover bands?
Answer: because doing a pub crawl through the downtown Nashville bars and honky tonks can actually be a lot of fun! (And they’re not all cover bands.)
Pub Crawl: Broadway Bars
A pub crawl on Broadway is a lot of fun!
You enter through the front door of one bar, then exit out its back door. Enter through the back door of the next bar, then exit out its front door. And so on. The goal is to eventually get through all of the bars on Broadway.
I like the challenge of seeing how many bars we can visit in one night. (Not always drinking at each one, mind you.)
I also like the unique sense of nostalgia and memorabilia that you see along the way — especially when you’re doing a pub crawl through the downtown Nashville bars on Broadway.
Do you realize all of the Country music legends who have been in those same places? Many of them got their start here in Nashville and spent a lot of time in that alley between the Ryman Auditorium and the bars on Broadway!
As the Grand Ole Opry took its place at the Historic Ryman Auditorium and in music history, the nearby Honky Tonk clubs of Lower Broadway became a creative breeding ground for hopeful performers, musicians and songwriters yearning to make it in Music City. Part live music venue and part musician community, the clubs provided encouragement, a stage, and a tip jar for struggling artists. Honky Tonk Music has strong roots here and remains a major influence on today’s country artists with its raucous tales, country love stories, and sorrows to be drowned in the drinkin’ and dancin’ culture on Lower Broadway. Source
The Famous Ryman Alley
One of my favorite places downtown Nashville is Ryman Alley. It’s an alleyway that runs along the side of the Ryman Auditorium (at 5th Avenue) and behind the bars on Broadway (down to 4th Avenue).
Printers Alley might be more famous, and the tight passageway that runs between Union and Church streets bisecting The Arcade suggests a big-city ambience. But no other alley in downtown Nashville offers the spirit of musical legends than the asphalt stretch sandwiched by the Ryman Auditorium and the backs of revered joints such as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn. Over the years, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash — among countless others — have walked Ryman Alley, often to grab a cold beverage or catch a song at a honky-tonk as they prepped for concerts at the Ryman or decompressed after a sweat-soaked performance. Source
Not only did the legendary Country music stars pass through here back in the day, but today’s Country music stars still continue that tradition. After a show at the Ryman, artists leave through the side door, crossing over that famous “Ryman Alley” on their way to the honky tonks and bars on Broadway.
Ryman Alley is a popular downtown attraction with a colorful history as a way for Grand Ole Opry and other performers to move between the backstage of the Ryman Auditorium and the honkytonks of Lower Broadway. Source
Here are some pictures I’ve taken of the historic Ryman Alley:
Our Favorite Downtown Nashville Bars
Our favorites tend to be the old-fashioned honky tonks over the newer, trendier bars. Yes, the music is mostly Country, but it’s not always the classic, cry-in-your beer variety. Depending on when you go, you’ll find a good mix of classic Rock and modern Country as well.
We usually stick to the bars on Broadway between 2nd Avenue and 5th Avenue, starting at 5th Avenue with the Nashville bars that have the Ryman Alley out their back door.
These are the Nashville bars we go to the most often whenever visitors are in town and we’re doing a pub crawl:
- The Stage
- Second Fiddle
- Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
- Robert’s Western World
- Legends Corner
- Whiskey Bent Saloon