10 Ways to Get You Started on Your Nashville Experience

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AORN’s premiere annual gathering of perioperative professionals returns to “Music City USA” (Nashville) next March 9-12, and local ambassador Elizabeth J. Williams, MSN, RN, CNOR, RNFA, can’t wait for attendees to experience all the city has to offer. We asked Williams for some insider tips on music, food, culture, and under-the-radar attractions.

Preparation for AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo 2024 in Nashville continues to ramp up. And as your local ambassador (formerly known as the volunteer coordinator) for the conference, I can’t wait to welcome everyone to Music City! 

Nashville is all about great food, music, and amazing experiences that can change your life. It brims with history, musicians, storytellers, creative spirits, and old-fashioned southern hospitality.

So, as you start planning for the conference next March, think about extending your visit and exploring some of the attractions that bring people from all over the world to this city of cowboy boots, country roots, and Nashville nights.  

Here are mix of 10 things to get you started on your experience in middle Tennessee:

  1. Visit Centennial Park. Tennessee was pivotal in fueling the movement for women’s rights to vote. So don’t miss the chance to visit the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument, which features five important Nashville suffragists who contributed to the ratification of the 19th Nashville-based sculptor Alan LeQuire designed the monument along with the Musica Statues on Music Row and the Athena that stands inside the Parthenon (the only life size replica in the world) in the park. The park also features the Taylor Swift Bench that was given to Taylor and all her “Swifties” as a tribute.
  2. Get in the “Que” – the BBQ that is. You’ll find West Tennessee whole hog and dry rub barbecue spots around areas far west of Nashville. However, Martin’s BBQ and Peg Leg Porker are two award-winning places where you can treat your tastebuds.
  3. Do it day style. Late nights on Broadway are a staple in Nashville, but the day crowds are known to be more laid back, and it’s a better environment for meeting good country folks. With a more casual vibe, it’s less crowded and the music is a little older. I would recommend starting at Legends Corner with a world class bloody mary that isn’t meant to be fancy (but yes sirree it is).
  4. Enjoy the view from Fort Negley. If you want to feel like you’re out of the city for a bit, check out the view of Nashville from Fort Negley. This free park with an easy paved trail sits south of downtown. It’s quiet most days, and if you get lucky, you can see the local sheep that earn their wage by keeping the landscaping in shape.
  5. Radnor Lake. For another healthy dose of the outdoors, Radnor Lake lies within a 10-minute car ride south of downtown. It also boasts easy, safe hiking trails that the likes of Mick Jagger have visited.
  6. Experience a “Nashville Moment” at The Listening Room. Ever have an unforgettable moment when a song or a voice stops you in your tracks and you ask yourself, "what are you doing here?” This is the essence of Nashville, where at The Listening Room, both seasoned and up-and-coming singer-songwriters take the stage daily in front of a live audience. You might even find yourself hearing legendary songwriters who’ve written hits for artists like Garth Brooks.
  7. Think like a local and visit the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman Auditorium is known as the mother church of country music. And the Ryman Alley behind it has just as many amazing stories to tell (and it’s free to visit). In the early years of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman, the backstage was cramped with so many performers that many would head down the back stairs and across the alley to historic places like Tootsies and what is now Robert’s (see more below).
  8. Get to the Station. The Station Inn in the Gulch neighborhood has been the home to bluegrass pickers since 1979 and is rife with Americana history. It’s the kind of place that no matter where you go, the person on stage is going to be special. The cover is cheap, the beer is cold, and you get to find out what a “thing of popcorn” costs.
  9. Robert’s Western World. It started out as a boot shop, but now is always near the top of every local’s list of spots to take an out-of-towner. The music here is what makes you feel good about being in Nashville. The Recession Special has been on the menu for at least 20 years and is an absolute must – a fried bologna sandwich, bag of chips, and a cold can of PBR for $6.
  10. Be a neighbor. Nashville has grown into a great collection of neighborhoods that are worth exploring on foot. I’d recommend visiting 12 South, Hillsboro Village, East Nashville/5 Points, Germantown, and the Gulch. Conveniently, these neighborhoods are just a short walk or Uber ride away from downtown, and they all feature amazing restaurants and artisan stores. They also have their own personalities and unique community feel, so look closely to see where new hip and old school Nashville meld together.

I am so excited Nashville is hosting the AORN conference again! Be on the lookout for more fun ideas and experiences to be had, and trust me, you will want to plan a few extra days for this trip. Hit up your friends you have connected with before, thanks to our amazing AORN networking platform, and schedule some get togethers. You won’t regret it. See y’all soon!

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