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Home Places Destinations Beyond the Border: Nashville, Tennessee

Beyond the Border: Nashville, Tennessee

By Morgan Halaska

With 3,000 hotel rooms opening in the next 36 months, Nashville is certainly positioning itself to take center stage as a coveted destination for large meetings and events. The city made a case for itself at this year’s IBTM America, where 500 exhibitors and buyers from around the world discovered Nashville’s honky-tonks and learned that barbecue is a type of food, not a verb.

Speaking of a vast quantity of guest rooms—Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center’s room count alone is 2,828 and it also boasts 757,478 square feet of total event space, easily making it the state’s largest hotel. And that’s really just the start of it. Nine acres of indoor botanical gardens require a staff of 40 horticulturalists, 5Ks can be organized on the property for groups and it also houses WSM AM—the radio station that put country music on the map and broadcaster of the Grand Ole Opry. As testament to the complex’s magnitude, a wayfinding app is rolling out later this year to help guests navigate. But for how large Gaylord Opryland is, there’s no venue that streamlines conventions better than this one. During IBTM America, exhibitors and buyers stayed at the resort and occupied several of the 100-plus event spaces, making for a cohesive three-day trade show. And while there’s no real need to leave the property, Nashville is a city that begs to be seen (and heard).

Music City Center, Nashville’s latest convention center, opened downtown in May 2013. Shaped like a guitar (musical themes run rampant throughout many of Nashville’s buildings), the $585 million facility features 60 meeting rooms, 353,000 square feet of exhibit space and a 1,800-space parking garage; the Grand Ballroom is the largest in the state at 57,500 square feet. Thanks to a 4-acre green roof that houses four beehives and a 211 kW solar farm and its 360,000 gallon rain water tank, the building has achieved LEED Gold Status.

From theaters to terraces, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has it all and everything in between when it comes to unique event spaces (13 of them and the option for a full buyout). The museum’s exhibits display treasures from beloved performers (and no, being a country music fan is not a prerequisite for enjoying the museum). You’d be remiss to not pay the Hatch Show Print store a visit while you’re there; it offers private tours for groups of 15 or more of its letterpress print shop that’s been operating since 1879.

Connected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on three levels is the Omni Nashville Hotel, which opened in September 2013. The 800-room hotel boasts 80,000 square feet of meeting space. Its three-meal Southern restaurant, Kitchen Note, whips up family recipes and serves biscuits throughout the day. With décor found in local antique stores, it’s hard not to feel a sense of southern comfort here. Its private dining spaces, Half Note and Quarter Note, accommodate 25-40 guests and 13-25 guests, respectively.

Opened since 1892, the Ryman Auditorium has seen the best musicians pass through its doors; the Everly Brothers were even discovered in the venue’s back alley. On top of being a house for top-notch entertainment, this National Historic Landmark is also available to rent; the auditorium can accommodate 2,362 for a seated program or concert or 120- 1,000 for a building-wide reception. The stage itself can host 100-120 for a seated dinner or 180 for a reception.

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center opened in 2006, but its Neoclassical style makes it look like it’s been around for hundreds of years. The Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony calls the Schermerhorn home, but it’s fit to host high-end events as well. The Laura Turner Concert Hall, one of its many spaces, can seat up to 1,800 theaterstyle, or since the seating is retractable, layouts that include tables and chairs can be set up for up to 500. Acoustics here are, as you might expect, superb.

Benjamin and Max Goldberg have opened some of the hippest venues in Nashville— maybe even the country. Their company, Strategic Hospitality, has nine “one-of-akind concepts” in its portfolio, many of which have private dining and/or event space. At Pinewood Social, groups can gather at the vintage bowling alley, made of reclaimed lanes from an old Bowl O’ Rama in Indiana. The 4,000-square-foot Band Box found in right field of First Tennessee Park is available for private events, and Aerial’s glass-enclosed private rooftop that looks over downtown can accommodate up to 225 guests standing or 150 seated.