Firmly in the South, Music City has always been a bridge between regions, with huge intellectual and cosmopolitan communities centered around Vanderbilt and other universities, and folks from all over America and the world. Founded in the late 1700s, one of the first major towns west of the Appalachians, Nashville straddles the Cumberland River, surrounded by lush countryside, fruit orchards, tobacco and corn fields, and of special note, the famous Tennessee walking horse farms.
Nashvillians, as they like to be called, pride themselves on being different from others in the South. At the center of Middle Tennesee, it's also the state capitol. During the Civil War, Nashville itself was divided; East Nashville staying Northern, the rest going to Dixie. The Battle of Nashville was especially bloody, but Nashville was captured by the North early in the war.
Still, a real Southern flavor pervades this sexy, culturally exciting hub, especially in the folksy neighborhoods, where most gay establishments can be found. The Grand Ole Opry is a world center for country music, and scads of country-music bars line Broadway and other streets around it. But that isn't all there is to Nashville. The Nashville Symphony, one of America´s finest, also contributes to it's reputation as Music City USA.
The Nashville gay scene has been evident since the early 1900s, and thrives today with more homo establishments per capita than most any other Southern city. Gay Nashville is trendy but also unusually friendly – the locals are quite easy to meet. A tourist might find himeself invited home to meet mom and dad – or even Grandma – over some old fashioned country fried chicken and cornbread.
The Nashville International Airport – easily reached from almost any major US city, and many overseas – is just a fifteen minute taxi ride, but taxis are expensive here. Cheaper alternatives are a 30 minute ride on the MTA Elm Hill Bus - just $1.70 to Downtown Music City (Broadway); or the Jarmon Transportation vans and minibus shuttles, departing every 15 minutes to and from all Downtown and Metropolitan Nashville Area hotels, for $14 each way ($25 roundtrip).
Amtrak no longer has trains to Nashville. Memphis or Charlotte NC are the closest stations on their grid. The Greyhound bus terminal is at 1030 Charlotte Avenue.
Local services on the MTA will get you around the city for a basic $1.70 fare, or all-day pass for $5.25 that can be bought on the bus. Service can begin as early as 6:30am, and run until midnight. For the Andrew Jackson Hermitage mansion or Opryland, the RTA Music City Star Regional Rail has a stop in Donelson. Other MTA public transportation is a bit slow – so renting a car is a good idea for venturing further afield and for staying out late.
Gay bars and other venues are clustered in at least four separate areas, too far from one another to walk: Midtown around Church; the West End (near Vanderbilt University), East Nashville, and the Trebecca area south of the city.
Media & resources
Out & About, the local gay newspaper with news, reviews, and communtiy resource listings, has a good website and pdf downloads of their print editions. Inside Out, another gay Nashville paper, ceased publication in 2014.
The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (892 South Cooper), celebrating 25 years of service to the Mid-South, provides LGBT services, social events and information for their local community.
The Nashville Scene is the general public alternative weekly paper for events, reviews and listings.
For map locations and links to businesses listed below, and more, see our gay Nashville listings pages.
Blue Genes (1715 Church St), juke box karaoke, neighborhood crowd friendly to newcomers, home-style food.
Lipstick Lounge (1400 Woodland St), women and everyone else, hip-hop dance club, lounge, karaoke, food, live music, free WiFi
Mad Donna's (1313 Woodland St), restaurant, burgers to veggie options, brunch and full dinner, late-night menu; Loft Lounge bingo, music, karaoke - something every night.
Play (1519 Church St), big dance floor, parties, Play Mate drag shows, Student Body contests, foam parties, girl's nights, guest porn stars and performers, Wednesday College Nights.
Stirrup Nashville (1529 4th Ave S), Levi/leather and bear club nights; sports, beer busts, leather fests, games, darts, patio.
Suzy Wong's House of Yum (1515 Church St) Asian lunch, dinner, open late (4am weekends), take-out; Drag 'n Brunch Saturdays and Sundays, cocktails, karaoke night, next to Tribe, near Play.
Trax (1501 2nd Ave S), neighborhood men's bar, sports, patio deck, easy conversation --good palce to meet locals over stiff drinks or a game of pool.
Tribe (1517A Church St), video and party bar, beer busts, Boy Bingo, Nashville Grizzlies rugby, special parties, Sunday showtunes; next door restaurant open late.
Vibe (1713 Church St), diverse crowd dance club, good sound system, hip-hop, Latin music, all ages and types, shows.