In between are scores of costume displays, audio and video clips, a wall of gold records that seems to go on forever and a grand, glassdomed Hall of Fame rotunda filled with the bronze plaques of inductees.
You could spend a lot of time here, especially if you pop for the one-hour guided tour of RCA Studio B, where such stars as Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison and many others recorded hits. We passed on the Studio B tour, but the museum is very cool.
From the big house to the outhouse, sort of, we next traveled about six blocks to the Hermitage Hotel, a grand property in the middle of the business district and home to two impressive-looking restaurants, including the very upscale Capitol Grille (no relation to the Capital Grille steakhouse chain, which is spelled differently).
But that's not why we visited. I was looking for the bathroom. The Hermitage, you see, was the grand winner of this year's America's Best Restroom award, which goes to the loo with exceptional hygiene, style and public access, and this I had to see. We strolled into the lobby and found the restroom without too much trouble. It was nice, elegant in a neutral hotel way and spotless. I wasn't dazzled.
We were heading for the door when Chris said, "Maybe that's not the right bathroom."
Hmmm. I approached the concierge desk and began a hem-and-haw inquiry. Apparently the hotel personnel get this question a lot, because the concierge stopped me in midsentence and directed me to the proper potty.
"We're very proud of it," she smiled.
As well they ought to be. This was a spectacular restroom, an Art Deco aqua-and-black, spotlit potty palace, a gleaming Royal Flush whose splendor made me feel, well, inadequate. I had no business being there. I snapped a dozen or so photographs and left, resisting the urge to bow.
We decided to put some miles on the car, so we zipped west to Music Row, because with a name like Music Row, it's got to be cool, right? With music?
Um, no. Music Row is great if you want to drive past rows of corporate headquarters for major and independent recording labels, and I guess you could hope to see a star walking in or out, but mostly it's a collection of impressive buildings open for business, not tours. Studio B actually is here, but you still have to buy tickets through the Country Music Hall of Fame.
But it was a pleasant enough drive, and it segued nicely into our short drive through South Nashville, where we saw signs for the Frothy Monkey coffee shop and Katy K's Ranch Dressing, which is just a great name for a westernwear boutique. And at the corner of 12th Avenue South and Kirkwood Street is a small office building with no sign, where we found Las Paletas, a Mexican popsicle stand operated by two sisters from Guadalajara.
They sell flavors such as watermelon, avocado and cucumber, along with more traditional flavors. The coffee and chocolate banana popsicles were wonderful, and the cantaloupe (which we bought for a little kid) was "great" (his word).
We had just enough time to get to the Ryman Auditorium before it closed. Everyone has heard of the Grand Ole Opry, which these days sits a considerable distance northeast of downtown, but Ryman Auditorium, just a half-block north of the honky-tonks that line Broadway, is the Opry's original home.
By day, the auditorium (a National Historic Landmark) is a museum offering self-guided tours of the main floor, balcony and stage if you're lucky (we weren't; they were setting up for a show). By night, it's still a functioning concert space with an eclectic performance calendar.
In the last couple of months, the Ryman has hosted shows by k.d. Lang, Ronnie Milsap, Robert Earl Keen, ZZ Top and Carlos Mencia. Not together.
Dinner was at City Tavern, a cute place in Germantown, an upscale neighborhood on Nashville's north side.
Chef Tandy Wilson crafts Italian dishes with a regional Southern accent, and he's revered for his salumi (including the belly ham that graced a thin pizza) and frico (montasio cheese and potatoes cooked to a crispy exterior, like the world's most heavenly hash browns).
There also was a yummy tomato and bread stew, meaty Georgia shrimp and cannelini beans seasoned with mint and lemon and, for dessert, assorted Italian cookies. It was all terrific, and I ordered way too much of it.