Smart discussions and networking opportunities are expected to go well beyond the hallways and conference rooms of the Opryland Resort and Convention Center this weekend.
As well as being the host city for this year’s Excellence in Journalism conference, Nashville is known for its nickname as “The Music City”, with attractions like the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The EIJ conference has a history of picking cities with a little more to offer, with Anaheim (the home of Disneyland) just last year and Orlando and New Orleans scheduled for the next few years.
For the city to be picked, the logistics have to be just right.
“It had to be September, maybe have a room rate that’s low, have meeting space… lots of things,” Chris Vachon, associate executive director of the Society of Professional Journalists, said.
But after the selection process, which involves the SPJ and RTDNA boards voting on proposed locations, some of the city’s culture seeped into the conference’s programming. As part of the schedule, conference-goers can attend Nashville-specific sessions including the “Echoes of Nashville” walking tour and the opening reception hosted at the Wild Horse Saloon downtown, both Sept. 4 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“The Wild Horse is downtown… there are lots of bars downtown, lots of country music,” Vachon said. “It’s a touristy place, but is really indicative of what Nashville is like.”
For those looking to sneak in a little more Nashville time outside of the scheduled events, the EIJ News team put together a day-by-day walkthrough of some of our favorite spots:
Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tour, 2804 Opryland Dr. Tours begin every 15 minutes beginning at 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is $20.
The first day is always the toughest. You may be tired from traveling, maybe even a little jetlagged, but a whole conference packed with informative and interesting sessions lies ahead. You don’t need to wander far to catch a break and see arguably the best attraction Nashville has to offer: The Grand Ole Opry. Conveniently located right here in Opryland, The Grand Ole Opry is dubbed “The Show That Made Country Music Famous.” Whether you love country music or absolutely loathe it, the Opry is a landmark for live music and the history behind Nashville’s nickname of Music City. Take a backstage tour and stand in the infamous #TheCircle, a six-foot wooden circle where countless country greats from Hank Williams to Carrie Underwood have stood and performed. If you can, catch a performance in the Ryman Auditorium and soak in stellar acoustics from your seat in a wooden pew on Friday or Saturday night.
Tennessee State Capitol, 600 Charlotte Ave. Open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Centennial Park, located on West End and 25th Avenue North: Dawn to 11 p.m. Admission is free.
It’s time to explore Nashville beyond the confines of Opryland. Some fresh air wouldn’t hurt, and nothing beats free attractions, so check out the Tennessee State Capitol. Perched atop a hill with a view ideal for a panoramic photo, the Capitol is a National Historic Landmark. Free guided tours begin every hour — ample time to admire decades-old chandeliers and regal legislative chambers. If you have time, take a stroll in Centennial Park. The 132-acre park features Lake Watauga, the Centennial Art Center, historical monuments, a beautiful sunken garden and more. You might think you’re in Greece for a split second, but the Parthenon replica, the park’s centerpiece, was built to celebrate Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition. Both the Capitol and Centennial Park are definitely Instagram worthy.
Robert’s Western World, 416B Broadway. Open until 2:30 a.m.
Honky Tonk Central, 329 Broadway: Open until 3 a.m.
EIJ is officially over, and while it’s a bittersweet feeling, it’s time to unwind. If you can’t get enough country vibes after the EIJ14 Dance, head to downtown Nashville for Robert’s Western World. The 4.5-star rated dive bar fulfills every desire for a healthy dose of nightlife. With a prime location on the vibrant Broadway strip, Robert’s Western World is a destination spot for tourists looking for a fun night out with southern charm. Robert’s doubles as a music venue featuring Robert’s house band Brazilbilly, which gained world-famous notoriety for blending traditional country with Latin flair. On a tight budget? Of course you are! You’re a journalist after all, so try the $5 Recession Special and indulge in a famous fried bologna sandwich, a Moon Pie and a cool can of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Still haven’t had enough of Nashville? Bar hop along Broadway or take a stroll down the block to Honky Tonk Central, a three-story bar pumping live music until 3 a.m. Late night Nashville lives and breathes here.
Loveless Cafe, 8400 Tennessee 10, Nashville, TN 37221
Have some spare time before your flight back home? Has your flight been delayed or cancelled? Drink a little too much last night on Broadway? Hail a cab over to the 53-year-old legendary Loveless Cafe. What was once a small motel founded by Lon and Annie Loveless for tired motorists traveling Highway 100 has transformed into a restaurant renowned for its authentic southern cuisine. While the Loveless Cafe has endured several management changes over the years, Annie Loveless’ recipe for delectable fried chicken and biscuits has remained a constant. The Loveless Cafe is no stranger to the national spotlight after being featured on Food Network’s “America’s Best” and “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” as well as the Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise.”
But hey, don’t just take our word for your experience in Nashville. Check out the New York Times’ 36 Hours in Nashville. Compare and contrast, and let us know how we did by Tweeting us @EIJ_News!