Tourist Hell: Nashville’s Lower Broadway

You don’t need to spend much time in Nashville to realize that the city is much more than country music, barbecue, hot chicken and western chic.

That’s the way the city’s main drag, Lower Broadway, is avoided by locals as much as humanly possible. It’s some garish theme park of lameness that attracts loud tourists, dopey families on vacation, hucksters and bachelorette parties. Because of it’s concentration of bars that sell booze in mass quantity on the cheap, it’s like Bourbon Street without the charm.

After my visit to the nearby Country Music Hall of Fame and Hatch Show Print, I figured a quick walk up and down and pop into the famous honky tonk Robert’s Western World would get the touristy aspect on the visit out of my way.

It checks off all the aspects of what makes a tourist hell — souvenir shops selling crap (include one that sells confederate flags), chain restaurants, slow walking families, people dressed in costume asking for money, big lights, attractions whose soul purpose is to extract money from you, over-the-top candy shops and the fact that you would never want to drive through because of the foot traffic.

The myriad of bars with cover bands and singers playing cover song makes the street loud no matter what time of day. I headed toward Robert’s Western World because it’s the one I knew of from the band BR5-49, who use to be the house and went onto some notoriety. It’s also known for their fried bologna sandwiches, cheap beer and wall of boots.

When I got there at 2pm, there was old man playing, a few people at tables and a bored, indifferent bartender. I got the  fried bologna sandwich (meh), opted for a local craft beer and a sticker and matches. At least the bathroom was clean and there’s plenty of photos on the wall to look at.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s a mix of sad, kitsch and local flavor … if that flavor was 1950s, 60s and 70s.

If you find yourself in this area, and you want to do buy something fun, try the Goo Goo Cluster store, which is next to the Johnny Cash Museum (where you I got a sticker that says, “Johnny Cash Was a Friend of Mine”). Yes, you can get Goo Goo Clusters anywhere in Nashville, but the store sells a specialty one made with candied bacon!

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