Guide to Downtown Nashville's Top 5 Honky Tonks & Nightclubs
When the night lights of Music City are calling, you've just got to pull on your boots and hit the streets. Believe us, we understand! That's why we've created a list of our favorite Downtown Nashville honky tonks, clubs, and venues for live music. While there are plenty of venues located throughout the city, we're focusing this particular guide on those located on or near Broadway and Honky Tonk Row so that you'll be able to just walk the streets and pop in and out of the locations that sound like your kind of place? Ready to go honky tonking? Read on ...
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge
When folks think quintessential Nashville honky tonk, they think Tootsie's. This was the favorite watering hole of Grand Ole Opry stars during its classic years at the Ryman Auditorium (which is located just a few steps from Tootsie's back door), and continues to be a favorite for both local Nashvillians and Music City visitors. There's never a cover charge at Tootsie's, but there's always music from 10 a.m. until the wee hours of the morning. Tootsie's has two distinct rooms, including the front room where crowds get loud for artists and bands that focus primarily on favorite cover songs. Head up a few stairs into the back room, and you'll hear more great country music from artists who have developed loyal local followings and generally perform more original music with some favorite classics thrown in the mix. Tootsie's is probably the most packed bar on Honky Tonk Row, but is well worth fighting the crowd - or joining the crowd - to take in the experience!
Located just a few doors down from Tootsie's, The Stage is one of the Honky Tonk Row's largest venues with two floors of seating offering great views of, well, the stage. Like Tootsie's - and most of the honky tonks along this block of street - the music cranks from mid-morning to late, late at night, and there's never a cover charge hear, either. The atmosphere inside The Stage is akin to a true Texas dance hall, and painted likenesses of legends like Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash smile down from the wall murals. Plus, you never know what famous Nashville residents will drop in for a drink and a jam session. Stars like Joe Nichols, Toby Keith, Bret Michaels, Joe Diffie, and many more have visited The Stage in the past!
B.B. King's Blues Club
Unlike the honky tonks on Broadway, B.B. King's occasionally charges a cover for music performances, but it's usually a small price to pay for the trouble. While blues music is clearly the most frequently played music at B.B. King's, you'll also hear some artists and bands from other genres. B.B. King's also serves up great food (try the fried pickles!), so it's a great place to kick off the evening with a bite to eat before moving to some of the other downtown nightspots. Of course, if you're looking for a bigger space with more tables and sitting space than some of the other clubs, this is definitely a great spot to hit. (And really ... try the fried pickles). Got minors in tow? While the other clubs are strictly 21 and over, B.B. King's dual role as a restaurant allows those under the age of 21 to enjoy the experience up until 9 p.m.
Rippy's Smokin' Bar & Grill
Rippy's has the best of it all - live music, drink specials, great food, and an excellent location right across from Honky Tonk Row. Head upstairs to the open air patio where you'll enjoy the best views of Lower Broadway, or stick to the downstairs tables to hear the live music that plays every night of the week. If you're looking to eat, Rippy's can set you up with pulled barbecue, ribs, and more - even barbecue pizza. (Look out, 'cause it's spicy!). You won't have to worry about a cover charge at Rippy's, but you might want to avoid the joint right after a Nashville Predators hockey game at the Gaylord Entertainment Center just across the street - the place gets PACKED! But if you want to mingle with the locals, this is a great spot for it.
If you're walking down Lower Broadway toward the Cumberland River, the first honky tonk you'll come to is Legends Corner. With the Ryman Auditorium standing tall in the background, it is often a big draw for Nashville visitors. Like its next door neighbor, Tootsie's, the music cranks out all day and all night. Legends is often one of the more busy honky tonks along the row, so it's a great place to step into if you're looking for a fun crowd looking to have a great time.
More Downtown Nashville Nightlife Tips
There are no cover charges for most of the honky tonks along Honky Tonk Row on Broadway, so you can pop in, check out the scene, listen to the music, and move on if nothing strikes a chord with you.
If someone on stage at the honky tonk encourages a "Holler & Swaller," be prepared to join in by holding a drink high in the year, letting out a yell, and taking a drink of whatever is in your hand. This is a popular event among the Nashville honky tonk crowd, so you'll be in the know ahead of time!
Keep some loose $1 bills in your pocket. The performers in all of the clubs play for nothing but tips, so be sure to let them know you appreciate the entertainment by dropping in a dollar or two when the jar gets passed around.
Not sure where to start? Set out on the Nashville Nights Tour, which provides a quick evening look at the city before taking you to Honky Tonk Row to explore for a few hours. You'll enjoy a free drink at Legends Corner, a $10 "Entertainment Passport" to be used at various establishments along the trip, and transportation t and from your hotel.