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Getting your Nashville on: Where to hear great music, sleep soundly and eat well

This video shows just how jam-packed a musical weekend in Nashville can get, from the hordes in the honky tonks of Lower Broadway to the bluegrass fiddlers in the field for a full moon pickin' party, with the Station Inn and the Ryman Auditorium along the way.

Nashville is happening in a big way, and you can count this video — a weekend dash through several music events — as evidence.

To be more specific about the city’s popularity, census figures suggest that the Nashville metro area is gaining about 100 new residents per day.

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It’s also on a tourism tear. Nine new hotels opened in 2017. Seventeen more are expected to open before this year is over. (Some are listed below.) The 5th + Broadway development now rising downtown includes a National Museum of African American Music, to open in 2019.

Many locals credit the TV series “Nashville,” which debuted in 2012 on ABC, moved in 2016 to CMT and aired its finale July 26. But the growth started before that.

The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. counted 8.5 million visitors in 2008, 11.5 million in 2012 and a record 14.5 million in 2017.

Taylor Swift, who lived in Nashville from about 2003 to 2014 and played a show at the Nissan Stadium in late August, has a theory to explain this.

“In the last 15 years everyone else has realized that Nashville is just the best place in the world,” Swift said from the stage that night, according to Nashville Scene.

I was in town for several days in late August, working on an upcoming story. Everywhere I turned, it seemed, there were hordes of people playing music, listening to music or on their way to do so. This was mostly wonderful — except late Saturday night on Lower Broadway, where congestion approached full gridlock.

If you’re considering a visit, I’ve listed some ideas below, and many of them are seen in this video. (My story, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 30, will have more.)

Now, for any music people considering a move to Tennessee, I have one more statistic: The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says the Nashville metropolitan area has the greatest concentration of professional “musicians and singers” in the U.S. Ask any screenwriter in Los Angeles how that feels.

Two ideas for bluegrass:

Station Inn, 402 12th Ave. S, It’s in the restaurant-rich Gulch neighborhood near Music Row. Doors open at 7 p.m., with music at 8 most nights. The music is blues and Americana. The seating: first come, first served. Children are allowed. There’s minimal food — pizza, nachos, hot dogs and such — and full bar with several beers on tap.

Sunday night is bluegrass jam night (no cover charge) with an evolving set of volunteer musicians, including many accomplished pros. One night in 2016, John Prine snuck in for a secret show and played his first album (1971) from beginning to end.

Owner J.T. Gray often plays bass. Alison Krauss has played here, as have Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Gillian Welch, Ralph Stanley, Bela Fleck. Tickets typically $12-$20.

Full Moon Pickin’ Parties, 2500 Old Hickory Blvd.. From May through October, Warner Park Equestrian Center plays host to monthly Friday night bluegrass under the (full) moon and stars.

Listeners spread out on the lawn. Amateur musicians play and chat around the stables, food trucks park nearby. Admission is $25 per adult (including up to four beers), $10 for ages 7-17, free for kids younger than 7. If you bring an instrument, pay only $5-$10. Last dates of 2018 are Friday, Sept. 28 and Friday, Oct. 26.

Two ideas for eating:

Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant, 500 Church St. Comfort food and live music nightly in a family-friendly setting. Sandwiches $9-$12, dinner main dishes generally $14-$25.

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Loveless Café, 8400 Highway 100; (615) 646-9700. Seventeen miles from downtown and 500 feet from the eastern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway, this comfort-food café (and its throwback neon sign) is an institution that dates to 1951. It’s so well-known for its biscuits and country ham that its 122-person dining room often has long waits.

To keep those would-be diners busy, there’s a whole complex with gift shop, snack stand and art gallery, housed in the rooms of what used to me a motel. Breakfast, lunch, supper. Supper main dishes generally $11-$18.

Three ideas for sleeping:

21c Museum Hotel, 221 2nd Ave.; (615) 610-6400. Many hotels brag about their art, but this place emphasizes it, and rooms of its public spaces are filled with thought-provoking contemporary pieces.

So is the Gray & Dudley restaurant downstairs. (There are docent tours two nights a week.) The 124 guest rooms feature wood floors, high ceilings and playful splashes of color. Doubles generally start at $279.

Fairlane Hotel, 401 Union St. This new hotel, which includes Ellington’s Mid Way Bar & Grill and Mile End Delicatessen, opened in 2018 with 81 rooms. Lobby has the airy, genteel feel of a converted midcentury bank. Doubles generally $319.

Indigo Hotel, 301 Union St. This downtown lodging occupies a converted 1905 bank building. The interior, paying homage to neighboring Printers Alley, includes lots of typographical symbols and a wall of random red books. Doubles generally start at $236.

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