I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
Welcome to Nashville, Tennessee! Also known as Music City, it's considered the home of country music. There's live music in just about every bar, and down on lower Broadway, there's no cover charge; just make sure you tip your servers well, ya hear?
The honky-tonk bars found in every nook and cranny on Nashville's lower Broadway have long been drawing visitors from around the world—some of them since the earliest days of country music as we know it today; for example, historic Tootsie's, where Willie Nelson was discovered.
And don't forget to keep a lookout for country music stars! It's not uncommon to see Justin Moore, Kenny Chesney, Jake Owens, Reba McEntire, and others strolling among the tourists or giving an impromptu performance on a club stage such as that at Honky Tonk Central.
The following 10 honky-tonks are assured to give you the best chance of seeing your favorite country music singer and having a fantastic Nashville experience.
What do the five original 78RPM Elvis Presley Sun Records, a set of KISS Dolls and a 12 string autographed guitar once owned by Johnny Cash have in common? They are all hanging on the walls at Legends Corner.
1. Legends Corner at 428 Broadway
That's only a small portion of what you can find at this Honky Tonk Row treasure. Thousands of albums and unique musical instruments from all over the world are among other fascinating memorabilia visitors will enjoy. Recently voted Number One Country Bar in Nashville by Nashville City Search, Legends Corner plays live music daily from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m.
2. Tootsie's Orchid Lounge at 422 Broadway
If the memorabilia-covered walls inside Tootsie's could talk, oh the tales they could tell. Tales of days when country music was just a hillbilly thing to today's country stars who are recognized by fans around the world.
When Hattie Louise "Tootsie" Bess bought the little bar formerly known as Mom's in 1960, she renamed it and hired a painter. Much to her surprise, he painted it purple. Always one to roll with the punches, Tootsie accepted the color and the Music City icon came to be known as Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.
Acts to appear at Tootsie's in recent years have included Keith Urban, Steven Tyler, Kenny Chesney, and Kid Rock, to name just a small few.
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge features live music 10 from a.m. to 3 a.m. daily. Visit their website for details.
3. The Second Fiddle at 420 Broadway
When Nashvillians decide to venture downtown, The Second Fiddle is one of their favorite destinations. A little less crowded than many other bars on this list, this nifty little honky has earned a reputation for having cheap, cold beer and some of the best live music downtown.
4. Nashville Crossroads at 419 Broadway
Beginning in 2004, Nashville Crossroads is one of Nashville's only live music venues to combine classic country music and southern style rock-n-roll—sometimes known as rockabilly. This place has the welcoming atmosphere of a neighborhood bar where you can always count on a friendly bartender and an ice-cold beer while enjoying the band. Nashville's Crossroads begins playing live music every Monday through Wednesday at 6:00 pm and Thursdays through Sundays from 2 p.m. until 3 a.m.
5. Robert's Western World at 416 Broadway
One of the oldest establishments on lower Broadway, Robert's Western World has certainly weathered its fair share of Nashville's ups and downs.
During the Civil War, the building now housing Robert's was used as a warehouse, office space for river merchants, and for a variety of other purposes. From the late 1950s to the early 1980s, the building served as the home of Sho-Bud Steel Guitar Company.
In the 1990s, Robert Wayne Moore opened Rhinestone Western Wear, a Western boot and apparel store. But he soon realized that since Nashville was still trying to overcome a severe economic slump in the area, boots and clothes just weren't enough. He then added beer, cigarettes, bologna sandwiches, chips, cold drinks, and a jukebox to his store offerings.
Robert's idea attracted a few more customers, but he continued to ponder what he could do to entice customers into his store. And then he did what no one had dared do on Broadway in years: replace the jukebox was live music.
It was an instant success! Read the rest of the fascinating history about Robert's Western World and how the founder helped change Broadway on their website.
"The Whiskey’s on Ice and the Music’s on Fire. The Stage on Broadway is a little bit Texas and a whole lotta Nashville. It’s Downtown’s hottest, edgiest place to party hard with all your rowdy friends."
6. The Stage at 412 Broadway
A huge mural on the wall and the original oil painting of The Highwaymen that once hung in the home of Waylon Jennings greets patrons of The Stage on Broadway. This downtown honky-tonk has been the site of filming for CMT's Nashville Star finals, Country Strong starring Tim McGraw and Gwenyth Paltrow, an episode of What Not To Wear, and several country music videos.
7. Paradise Park Trailer Resort at 411 Broadway
Originally born among the neon lights radiating off the historic honky-tonks of lower Broadway in the heart of downtown Nashville, Paradise Park has become known for $6 pitchers of beer, delicious all-American casual dining, and live music, not to mention a little rowdiness from the patrons from time to time.
8. Honky Tonk Central at 329 Broadway
Honky Tonk Central is Nashville's latest and greatest honky-tonk. There, patrons can enjoy three floors of live music, great food, and good times.
With country stars like Randy Houser and Justin Moore celebrating their first number-one hits at the bar, HTC is a premiere destination spot for those looking for a memorable Nashville experience.
9. Tin Roof at 316 Broadway
In 2002, the original Tin Roof opened near Nashville’s famed Music Row with a mission to give musicians a place to play and a place to hang when not on stage. The tasty food, fun, eclectic environment, community, and friendly staff quickly established Tin Roof as the place to be for musicians and non-musicians alike. In 2014, the location (but not the mission) relocated to its present location in the heart of the Honky Tonk District.
Over the years, [Tin Roof has] hosted the famous, the should have been famous, and everyone in between.
10. Tequila Cowboy at 305 Broadway
Tequila Cowboy's website describes itself as "an Authentic 'Honky Tonk' offering southern dining and revved up nightlife." The 25,000 square foot, two-story bar includes the Rock Bar with a live stage that is accompanied by a full band nightly. The Karma Lounge hosts a top-40 dance club that has a state-of-the-art sound system and light show. There is also a game room complete with pool tables and flat-screen televisions.
Visitors who are fans of the Nashville television series on CMT should saddle up to the bar here at Tequila Cowboy, which served as a filming location on numerous occasions for the show.
Plan Your Visit
Matthew Rodriguez for POPSugar visited Nashville and made a video about some great area hot spots, including downtown's Honky Tonk Row. Check it out below!
© 2016 Kim Bryan