With beloved nicknames like Live Music Capital of the World and Music City, it’s no wonder millions flock to find a new song and dance in Austin and Nashville each year. These capital cities have long reputations for putting on an epic show, but carrying a tune is only part of their setlist. So what sets them apart?
Let’s start with the obvious: Many assume Nashville’s country music scene is the biggest differentiating factor between the two cities. While there’s no denying it tops the charts for cowboy hats with iconic venues and attractions like Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville can’t be summarized in one genre. After all, the city houses the historic RCA Studio B, where Elvis Presley recorded over 200 songs. Since The King of Rock and Roll, many other rock, pop, punk and alternative bands and solo artists have come to the Southern city to write and record, including Kings of Leon, Paramore, The Black Keys, Kid Rock and Justin Timberlake.
While Austin can’t compete with the number of hit records that come out of Nashville every year – both country and otherwise – this spirited city finds plenty of ways to attract stars and their fans in one word: Festivals. From South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits to Fun Fun Fun Fest and Urban Music Festival, there’s no questioning why “live music” is included in the city’s nickname. Music lovers of all genres will find plenty of beats to tap their feet to – whether attending one of the annual festivals or two-stepping to the stylings of Willie Nelson at the Broken Spoke (that’s right, Austin has country music too).
Refueling after rocking out is essential, and these cities sure know how to make it worth your while. Both Austin and Nashville are home to restaurants run by award-winning chefs like The Catbird Seat, Uchi and La Condesa (to name a few), but that doesn’t mean their specialties are similar. The Texas Capital practically runs on chili con queso, breakfast tacos and refried beans, boasting dozens of renowned Tex-Mex originals including Matt’s El Rancho, Chuy’s and Maudie’s.
Nashville too has its fair share of spice, but in a different style. We’re talking about hot chicken, of course! Heavily breaded and coated in cayenne, the city’s fiery specialty is traditionally served on white bread and topped with pickles. While making an appearance on hundreds of menus all over Nashville, Hattie B’s Hot Chicken and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack are known for the most authentic experiences.
Raise A Glass
With so much to savor, it’s safe to assume both cities do a fine amount of sipping too. Much of Nashville’s nightlife can be found on Lower Broadway, known as the city’s Honky Tonk Highway. The row is made up of dozens of bars with neon signs and live music every night of the year, attracting the cowboy boots of both tourists and locals alike. While Austin doesn’t come close to Nashville’s number of country saloons, it too boasts a vibrant street for drinkers who prefer to sip to the sounds of live music, and that street is called 6th Street. In addition to regular shows, the hot spot is known for its rooftop dance floors, billiards bars and mechanical bull rides.
Looking for something more eclectic? Both cities have scenes that are sure satisfy. Austin’s Rainey Street neighborhood brings both day and nighttime drinkers to a collection of renovated houses turned into bars and beer gardens, while Nashville is known for notable dive bars like The Villager Tavern and Santa’s Pub, a karaoke bar in a holiday-themed trailer.
Fresh air is always a good remedy after a night of drinking, dancing or a little too much of both. Austin and Nashville have been blessed with rolling hills, lakes and rivers, giving tourists endless options for hiking, biking and kayaking just minutes from downtown. They both however let their personalities shine in their other outdoor offerings. Nashville’s most notable for Centennial Park, a 132-acre oasis complete with a full-scale replica of The Parthenon and a 42-foot-tall statue of the Greek goddess Athena. For an evening outdoors, grab a blanket and head to Cumberland Park to soak up views of the river and skyline at sunset. Children and kids at heart also enjoy playing in the park’s outdoor fountain.
Speaking of making a splash, there’s no shortage of that in Austin. The city is home to over 50 public swimming pools and natural springs, perfect for staying cool when temperatures hit above the 100s. Barton Springs is a staple for Austinites and also holds the record as the nation’s largest natural swimming pool in an urban area. For a different kind of water experience, hop aboard the Lone Star Riverboat for a sunset cruise and a chance to see the city’s thousands of bats make their evening appearance out from under the South Congress Bridge (best seen April through August).
Book Your Getaway
Ready to experience the sights and sounds of these musical cities for yourself? Check out Austin and Nashville vacation packages, and find exclusive rates on flights, accommodations and car rentals with Vacations by Marriott.