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A Guide to Nashville Honkytonk

By: Margaret Littman

November 17, 2014

Honkytonk. Depending on how it is used, it can be a noun, a verb or an adjective. In theory, one could go honkytonking at a honkytonk and listen to honkytonk music. No matter how you use it, though, it refers to Nashville’s best music experience. For those looking to unlock this particular element of local culture, we’ve created an essential guide to Nashville Honkytonk.

Along Lower Broadway in the heart of downtown, as well as dotted across the city and state (and country) are honkytonks, bars where one can go to listen to a specific strain of Country and Western swing. The bars are open to the public and typically have no cover charge (although when the cowboy hat is passed for the band, don’t forget to drop a few dollars in). Small or large, these venues all have some empty space to cut the rug, because dancing is an essential part of Nashville honkytonk.

So, grab your boots and head to The Strip; what some call the rows of honkytonks along Broadway. Most of these establishments are open to all ages during the day, but convert to 21 and over after 6 pm. Take a look at our pick of places to go honkytonking.

 

Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge

 

A Guide to Nashville Honkytonk | Tootsies
Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge © Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (NCVC)

 

Perhaps the best known of all Nashville honkytonk venues, Tootsies has been giving people a place to dance and swing for 54 years. Like most of the honkytonks on the north side of Broadway, it has entrances in the front and off the back alley, and multiple stages. Its annual birthday party in November is a street-closing festival. Look for its orchid purple façade.

 

Layla’s Bluegrass Inn

 

A Guide to Nashville Honkytonk | Laylas
Layla’s Bluegrass Inn © Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (NCVC)

 

With a smaller, more intimate space than the other honkytonks, Layla’s Bluegrass Inn often feels like a place where people go to listen to the band, rather than drink (although, of course it is a bar with great drink specials). Despite the name, Layla’s isn’t just about bluegrass. You’ll hear all manner of country and American played here.

 

Legends Corner

 

A Guide to Nashville Honkytonk | Legends
Legends Corner © Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (NCVC)

 

Memorabilia of Nashville’s past adorns the walls at Legends Corner. On the corner next to the Ryman, Legends is smaller than some of the others, but has the same all-day live music.

 

Robert’s Western World

 

A Guide to Nashville Honkytonk | Roberts
Robert’s Western World © Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (NCVC)

 

In a row of honkytonks, it’s Robert’s Western World that’s often voted the city’s best by locals. Originally a store selling boots and cowboy hats, it morphed into a bar and nightclub with a good gift shop and even a Sunday morning church service. (Yes. You can still buy boots here along with your PBR.)

 

The Wheel

 

A Guide to Nashville Honkytonk | The Strip
Exploring The Strip © Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation (NCVC)

 

Located on the opposite side of the street to the other honkytonks, The Wheel is lesser-known. Sometimes that can be a plus: when the others are crowded you can still get in here to listen to Western swing, bluegrass, rockabilly and country all night long.

 

Our partnership with Delta means we can connect you to and from a wide range of destinations across the United States and Canada, making it easier for you to book a trip to Nashville.

Have you discovered the upbeat world of Nashville Honkytonk? What are your favourite honkytonks in town? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Written by Margaret Littman

Margaret Littman

Margaret Littman [www.littmanwrites.com] is a Nashville-based journalist who covers small businesses, travel and all manner of other topics. She is the author of many travel guidebooks, including Moon Tennessee and the Moon Nashville, which will be updated for 2016. Since moving to Music City she has acquired a 1967 Ford pickup and a lot of pairs of boots, but still not the ability to carry a tune.

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