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Nashville – Music City

October 10, 2019 at 7:34 pm

There’s only one Music City!

Take in Nashville’s colorful sounds

Among all the places across the vast United States, there’s only one named Music City. Nashville lives up to its nickname with a dazzling array of musical delights for all tastes and ages. Whatever you seek – old country, new country, jazz, rock, hip hop, classical, folk and more – you can find it here.

Nashville, Tennessee, USA- June 14, 2013: Honky-tonks on Lower Broadway. The district is famous for the numerous country music entertainment establishments.

Country Music

Nashville and country music have danced arm in arm for decades. Home to many of the world’s finest country stars, session musicians and songwriters, Nashville’s the place to find this popular Southern-style genre. Here are a few of many fine options:

The place to hear country legends and today’s chart-toppers, the Grand Ole Opry has showcased the best of country music since beginning as a radio show in 1925.

This historic venue holds a special place in hearts and music, and visitors can see it first-hand with tours during the day and music in the evenings.



The Bluebird’s 90-seat listening room, a quiet and intimate place to hear top songwriting talent, has a “Shhh policy” meaning it’s only for those who come to listen.

  • Music Tours

Nashville, TN, USA November 7, 2010 Legends Corner is one of several live country music venues on Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee

A thriving variety of walking and riding tours celebrate Nashville’s musical history – its recording studios, music row, and the history behind some of music’s hottest legends.

Nashville Studio Experiences puts you front and center ; join a star in the studio and return home with your own recording!

And Much, Much More!

Opening in downtown Nashville in 2020, this museum encourages visitors to explore the myriad ways African Americans have contributed to more than 50 musical genres and subgenres.

Music and art are a great pairing, and the Frist Art Museum features a rich calendar of musical programs in many genres.

There’s always something playing at the Nashville Symphony, whether jazz, pop, children-themed and yes, even classical!

Take in some authentic jazz while enjoying a prohibition-era cocktail and New Orleans cuisine at this late-night jazz club, which also features a Sunday jazz brunch.

Have some fun learning about iconic musical entertainers from all across the U.S. with interactive exhibits, instruments on display, and more.



Planning ahead

Check out the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau’s concert calendar to see who’s performing during your stay.

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ Country Music series, released in 2019, is a wonderful way to become familiar with country music –its history, its greats, and why its heart-filled songs are popular and enduring. View the series before you leave on your trip to hear the sounds and stories of Nashville’s finest.

If you want to see America’s south, check out our Nashville & Memphis Vacation Package and start planning your getaway!

Nashville Food and Music

October 7, 2019 at 1:32 am

Music City’s Food Destinations Filled With Southern Fun and Flavors

Nashville’s culinary scene is as sophisticated and diverse as the city itself, with an influx of restaurants created by star chefs, and the soulful southern culinary culture that elevates a visit. There’s a destination to find every type of food – fun, fried, fiery, and fancy – and the perfect beverage to go along with it.

Nashville: Nashville is the capital of the U.S. state of Tennessee and home to Vanderbilt University. Legendary country music venues include the Grand Ole Opry House, home of the famous “Grand Ole Opry” stage and radio show. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and historic Ryman Auditorium are Downtown, as is the District, featuring honky-tonks with live music. Nashvill is known as Music City.

Southern Favorites

As part of America’s south, Nashville’s excellent southern-focused restaurants serve rich cooking, soulful flavors and deep-fried comforts. Fluffy, warm biscuits, grits, hot chicken and waffles, hush puppies, mustard greens, fried chicken, and mashed potatoes and gravy, served with a cold glass of sweet tea, are among the staples of the southern menu. Seek out these favorites at breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner to get the true taste of Americana, often at affordable prices, as well.

Homemade Nashville Hot Chicken with Bread and PIckles

Hot chicken

Take a stroll on the spicy side with one of Nashville’s most famous dishes – Hot Chicken – classic fried chicken served with a side of heat. You can find Hot Chicken places in most neighborhoods, and may even have the opportunity to put your request in for reasoning ranging from “mild” to “turn on the A/C it’s gonna be HOT”!

  • With three Nashville locations, you’re never too far from a great source for Hot Chicken – Hattie B’s . And, many Nashville restaurants carry this signature dish.


A little live music with your food?

When in Music City, why not enjoy some live music as you dine, and maybe a little dancing? A great selection of restaurants feature live music.

  • In the Printer’s Alley district, Skull’s Rainbow Room  serves a special mix of live jazz, craft cocktails, an award-winning menu, and more.
  • Robert’s Western World is a honky tonk and dive bar with live traditional country, western, and rock-a-billy music 7 days a week, 16 hours a day.
  • With two locations perfect for relaxing, The Stillery offers burgers, signature mason jar drinks, and a second floor music space featuring local up and coming acts on Friday and Saturday nights.
  • B.B. King’s Blues Club & Restaurant in “the District,” has live music, hearty fare, signature drinks, and dancing.

Nashville, Tennessee – October 8, 2017: Neon signs light the strip along Broadway in Nashville

Party wagons

Nashville’s cuisine isn’t just about the food. It’s also about the warm atmosphere, and of course, the beverages, adult and otherwise. Whether on a tractor, wagon, bus or carriage, Nashville’s parties on wheels invite you to hop on for some outdoor sightseeing while sipping an adult drink.

These BYOB (bring your own booze) party bikes are a great way to be outdoors, get a little exercise, see the sights, and party, drink in hand!

A tractor, a wagon, and moonshine make for a one-of-a-kind tour of Nashville!

  • Horse and Carriage Rides

Countless horse and carriage rides start from the vicinity of Second and Broad streets. No reservations are required – just walk up and ask “how much,” and if the price is right, step in and see the city at a horse-drawn pace.

Nashville, Tennessee, USA – April 5, 2013: A bachelorette party rides down Broadway in a pedal tavern in Nashville, Tennessee

Chef-driven venues

Nashville is an exciting place for food, with lots happening on the food scene all around the city. Restaurants run by world-class chefs offer a cutting-edge culinary scene on par with the best of New York City and beyond.

In 2019, The James Beard Foundation honored several Nashville restaurants as semifinalists:

  • Folk, semifinalist, Best New Restaurant
  • Margot Café & Bar, chef Margot McCormack, semifinalist, Outstanding Chef
  • The Catbird Seat, The Patterson House, Henrietta Red, and others run (Strategic Hospitality, semifinalist, Outstanding Restaurateur)
  • Bastion’s Josh Habiger, semifinalist, Best Chef: Southeast

For more information, visit the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

If you want to see America’s south, check out our  Nashville & Memphis Vacation Package

Sedona: Where Nature Calls and Culture Buffs Find Paradise

July 6, 2018 at 1:12 am

On one hand you’ve got your nature and adrenalin junkies. And on the other, you have your art and culture mavens. Deciding where to go to satisfy cravings of the two extremes is easy:  Sedona, Arizona.  The red rock mountains and cliffs jumpstart inspiration for paintings and sculptures, and they define the southwestern culture along with iconic trading posts and historic architecture.  A journey fulfills a dream trip on that Bucket List leaving a satisfying impression.

When you arrive on that undulating ribbon of road known as Highway 179, what sneaks up on you are the giant mountains so aflame in red and orange you feel physically hot. As the sun lowers, fellow tourists race to capture photos of the rocks intensifying with color with every second ticking away.

near Bellrock

  It’s no surprise Sedona is a hiking mecca.  Even if you shudder at the thought of wearing hiking boots, the allure of these sandstone landscapes beckon you to explore the nooks and crannies where the early Navajo and Yavapai called home.  You will want to witness Sedona’s miraculous formations for yourself – namely Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, the Snoopy rock, the battleship, the coffee pot, among others.

  To start, head to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. The staff is well versed in recommending trails of various difficulty levels.  Popular ones include the not-for-the-faint-of-heart Cathedral Rock trail with dramatic views and the easy-to-do, one-mile Boynton Vista Trail hike.

near Bellrock

And while you can trek all day on foot and love it, you can encounter Sedona’s red dirt a different way. Via jeep. That’s when a professional 4×4 driver takes over the steering wheel and sends your pulse quickening and hair standing on end. Adventure guides at Pink Jeep Tours guarantee thrilling off-road journeys on bumpy, uncharted paths.  If you are still unfazed, join a hot air balloon ride with Northern Lights Balloon Expeditions.  Imagine floating above ancient red pinnacles and spires that reduce to a pin head the higher you go.

  Back on land, exercise your eyeballs perusing collections in art venues such as the Lanning Gallery for fine art and the Sedona Arts Center for local works where you can also take classes.  Meander the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, an outdoor plaza with boutiques and all things handmade and Southwestern.

  Also classic to Sedona are Native American trading posts. Need a lucky rabbit’s foot, mountain lion jawbones, or a pair of antlers?  Poke around Clear Creek Trading where you can snap up gemstones, unusual ornaments, and all sorts of quirky affordable trinkets.

  A must see in Sedona is the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a modern church painstakingly embedded onto a rock face. Every local knows where it is. Surrounded by jagged mountains, the structure was completed back in 1955. This beacon of hope represents one of the most hailed destinations in Sedona. The idea for the architectural landmark came to artist Marguerite Brundswig Staude when she saw an image of a cross superimposed on the Empire State Building.  Later on, she knew this exact location in Sedona was ideal for the church after she spied nearby rock formations that resembled a pair of praying nuns and another set of rocks that looked like the Madonna and the Christ child.  When you visit, go early. Parking fills up quickly.

  No one can leave Sedona without sampling Southwestern treats, so leave your prejudices at home and let your taste buds run free. For cactus tacos, head to Oaxaca Restaurant. Find the ultimate prickly pear margarita at the Enchantment Resort. And if you have always wanted to try rattlesnake meatballs and buffalo skewers, look no further than the Cowboy Club Grille and Spirits.

  So go ahead and conquer that steep rock and scarf up those chili cactus fries.  The happy intersection of nature, art, culture, and cuisine makes Sedona a storied destination memorable and approachable for everyone.

If you are interested in visiting Sedona, please check-out our Sedona Vacation Package and start planning your next getaway!

Airport vortex

 Kathy Chin Leong is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,  Dallas Morning News, and many other publications. She is also the founder of www.bayareafamilytravel.com, a website for families who love adventure.

Sonoma Roars Back with Activities and Open Arms

November 3, 2017 at 9:28 pm


Sonoma vineyard

There was a raging inferno in Sonoma County last month as the world’s eyes were transfixed on the national news. But travelers should imagine another scenario now that the fires have been contained. Picture open tasting rooms with friendly wine attendants ready for conversation. Swimming pools and spas filled with tourists. Savory, tantalizing aromas emanating from the kitchens of Sonoma’s top restaurants.

Reflecting on the past few weeks, Sonoma officials are embracing visitors once again, and they remain grateful for those who helped save the community. “We are forever indebted to the heroes who fought these fires and kept our wineries and small businesses safe, and so many of our historic buildings intact and undamaged,” says Jonny Westom, executive director of Experience Sonoma Valley. “I, along with all of the businesses in the Valley, are eager to roll out a friendly wine country welcome to tourists near and far with the assurance that they will enjoy a wonderful vacation with us.”

In light of all that has happened, Sonoma as a fall getaway still provides guests a relaxing respite. In addition, folks who want to help Sonoma get back on financial track can do so by paying a weekend visit. You can explore more than 50 miles of Pacific coastline that forms Sonoma County’s western border.

Where else can visitors go and do? Emotions will probably run high on Saturday, November 18 when the city celebrates with an annual lighting ceremony at the eight-acre Sonoma Plaza. More than 150,000 holiday lights will light up the historic site at dusk. Marking the start of the festive season, the plaza will glow every night with more than 150,000 sparkling lights, strung across all eight acres along California’s largest historic plaza.

During your weekend pass to Sonoma, you can pay homage to the many wineries that are now open. It’s good to know that, thankfully, none of Sonoma Valley’s one hundred-plus wineries were destroyed. Today, tasting rooms are open for pouring ust as they have been before.

And since Sonoma Valley is entering shoulder season, you can nab great hotel rates and go to restaurants without much wait at all. You can find a variety of deals during this bonus time. Book a $150 Romance Package at the Kelley & Young Wine Garden Inn in Cloverdale. For other special offers, see www.sonomacounty.com/deals.

You can also bring your family and meet the furry friends who were saved at Santa Rosa’s Safari West. There’s so much more in Sonoma Valley for adults and families than meets the eye. There are lush hiking trails across 13,000 acres of state and regional parks, historic architecture peppered throughout the region, downtown shopping areas, spas and geothermal springs, and plenty of quaint towns such as Glen Ellen, Santa Rosa, and Petaluma.

Culture mavens can also have their ears, eyes, and appetites tickled on December 2. At the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, SVMA will once again present Pairings for the Senses. Folks will come together to enjoy featured exhibitions, poetry, and a sampling of regional cuisine. Tickets at www.svma.org run $35 for members and $40 for the general public.

When you want a curated itinerary so you don’t have to think about the details, the tourism bureau has several listed on its website aimed at different types of travelers and interests. See www.sonomacounty.com/activities/trip-itineraries.

“We invite you to come see us,” encourages Tim Zahner, interim CEO of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau. “Come help us recover from the recent wildfires by allowing us to delight you with world-class hospitality, awe-inspiring views, and sensory experiences unlike any other. It’s what we do best.”

If you need assistance planning your Sonoma vacation, check out California Tours Sonoma and Napa Vacation packages. (Note to readers: California Tours will be donating ten percent towards supporting the needs of first responders to the Napa fire).

Kathy Chin Leong is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times,  Dallas Morning News, and many other publications. She is also the founder of www.bayareafamilytravel.com, a website for families who love adventure.