When in Nashville…A Business Traveler’s Guide to Navigating a Convenient Meetings Destination

They’re not just music contracts being inked in these parts.

With 50 percent of the U.S. population living within 600 miles of the Tennessee capital, Nashville is a geographic bulls-eye, making it a super-convenient meeting destination for business travelers hailing from the East Coast, South, and Midwest.

And while it may be known as the country music capital of the world, Nashville also is home to two award-winning convention centers—the Gaylord Opry Hotel and Convention Center (operated by Marriott®) and the Nashville Convention Center.

Here’s how to enjoy both business and a bit of listening pleasure the next time a corporate rendezvous lands you in Music City.

Where to lay your head at night

Here’s a little secret about Nashville: With more visitors flocking to the city than hotels can accommodate, occasionally there are room shortages that jack up the rate. However, relief is on the way with new hotel construction and an additional 2,000 rooms coming by the end of 2017, according to a Travel + Leisure report.

If you’ll be in town for a conference at the gorgeous Nashville Convention Center, may we suggest getting a room at Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown, just a five-minute stroll away?

Members of the Sheraton Club can enjoy free access to its private Club Lounge, an upscale space with complimentary breakfast and afternoon hors d’oeuvres as well as access to a copier, fax, printer, and free office supplies.

For something that playfully showcases a bit of Music City’s personality, the newly renovated Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel has Nashville-inspired graphic art, wake-up calls recorded by musicians Vince Gill and Sugarland, and a jukebox in the lobby that spins albums exclusively by artists who've stayed at the hotel. Additional complimentary perks include a Mercedes service available to transport guests within a three-mile radius and Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.

Or check out the Hutton Hotel, conveniently located a few blocks away from Music Row and Vanderbilt University. We simply love this affordable four-star venue for its ingenious idea: complimentary airline check-in service. Just visit the airline stand next to the concierge desk to drop off your bags at least three hours before your flight, and the hotel will take care of checking in your bags, collecting airline baggage fees, providing boarding passes, and transporting your luggage to the airport for you, all for free!

Getting around

From Nashville International Airport, it’s about a 20-minute cab ride to the downtown area, which will cost you a flat fee of $25. If your spouse, boss, or anyone else is tagging along, there’s a $1 charge for each additional passenger.

Nashville isn’t known for having the best public transit system, and most local residents get around town with their own set of wheels. But you likely are better off cabbing it in this fairly compact city than getting a rental car. Valet parking at the hotels can be pricey—of course, not as pricey as getting a boot and ticket for an expired meter for a parking spot on the street.

If you just need a quick lift around downtown, try the MTA’s Music City Circuit, a free bus service that runs three routes through the downtown corridor every 10 to 15 minutes, Monday through Saturday.

Also free to use: Nashville GreenBikes™—offering the perfect joyride for exploring the city on a sunny day.

Eat where the locals do

Or in the case of Bluebird Café™, a dinner-only eatery that doubles as a performance space, it’s where the local songwriters do. Featured in the ABC hit drama “Nashville,” this intimate club is where all the town’s best songwriters, many of whom have written chart-topping hits, perform their own ditties. It’s also where Taylor Swift was discovered.

For another unique local experience, you’ve got to get your mouth ready for the city’s super-spicy specialty: hot fried chicken. Go right to the source, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack™, named after the creator of this Nashvillian treat, Thorton Prince. (Though, if the legend is true, it was really the invention of his jilted lover who made the poultry with extra hot peppers and spices as an act of revenge. Alas, her spicy sabotage didn’t work—Thorton loved the dish and turned it into the classic it is today). Despite hot chicken now spreading to other parts of the South, the original at the Shack, now operated by Thorton’s great-niece, Andre Prince Jeffries, is still the gold standard.

While John Besh may not be a native of Nashville—the celebrity chef is from New Orleans—he has found a permanent home there with a pair of restaurants he opened in the spanking new Thompson Nashville hotel (a nice luxury lodging option to check out in the Gulch neighborhood). On the ground floor of the hotel is Besh’s Marsh House, an elevated, Southern-inspired seafood restaurant. On the rooftop is his L.A. Jackson, which serves up more casual fare and features one of the best views in town.

If you’ve got a few hours to kill…

No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to one of the world-famous honky tonks on Broadway. For tourist-tested, native-approved venues, hit up Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge™, Robert’s Western World™, or Layla’s Bluegrass Inn™. Or, check out the new kid on the block, AJ’s Good Time Bar™.

Avid country fans going for the full trifecta of iconic music landmarks must hit up the Country Music of Hall of Fameand Museum’s RCA Studio B, where Elvis Presley Roy Orbison, and Dolly Parton all have cut tracks, the Ryman Auditorium™, where bluegrass was born, and the Grand Ole Opry™, home of the radio show that “made country music famous.”

Beyond its music scene, Nashville is known for stately mansions and historical plantations. American history buffs certainly will want to step foot on the former cotton plantation, Hermitage, where the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, resided.

If making the 10-mile trek out to Jackson’s estate does not fit into your busy schedule, there’s another historic Hermitage in town to check out: It’s Nashville’s most opulent hotel, where Greta Garbo, Al Capone, Babe Ruth, countless presidents, and country singers all have been guests.

This Beaux Arts building serves up gorgeous architectural eye candy, boasting a stained-glass ceiling—the crown jewel of its spacious lobby—marble columns, and gilded plasterwork.

Airport survival

If it was all work and no play during your Nashville stay, you’ll have one last opportunity to squeeze in some local culture after checking in for your flight home. Proud of the city’s creative arts scene, the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority has a 239-piece collection of original artwork by Tennessee artists stationed in various nooks and crannies of the airport as well as regularly rotating art exhibits.

And it’s not just a visual feast to take in. The airport hosts more than 700 musical performances a year featuring country, rhythm and blues, jazz, pop, gospel, and bluegrass. Check out the stages located near the A/B and C/D greeting areas and in Concourse C.

And if the twang of country has become an earworm in your head? Well then, skedaddle on over to the massage parlor in Concourse B or C for some serenity now.