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VOL. 35 | NO. 37 | Friday, September 16, 2011

Trash to treasures: A tour for all appetites

By Colleen Creamer

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While the Nash Trash bus is hot pink, the Jugg sisters’ narrative tends to be little blue.

-- Photo: Leigh Singleton

Sightseeing by tour bus has always been sort of a Nashville thing. Tourists come to Music City for very specific reasons and are serious about packing in the city’s sites while they’re here, and they like being driven around. Numbers are up, according to longtime tour operator Gray Line of Tennessee.

“We’re finding that it’s not a walking town,” says Pamela Johnston, spokesperson for Gray Line of Tennessee. “We are matching our sightseeing numbers from 2008 before the recession and before the flood, which is pretty phenomenal.”

The city’s numerous tours, both the serious and the silly, are listed below by Internet-pricing, generally a few dollars less expensive than over-the-phone registration. Most tours are handled by Gray Line (graylinenashville.com), but themed tours are on the rise. In no particular order, apart from starting with the silly, first up is the most famous and the raunchiest, the NashTrash Tour.

NashTrash Tour

1.5 hours $32

Ah, the pink bus that airs Country Music’s dirty laundry. NashTrash is Nashville’s outrageously popular travelling comedy act and is usually booked in advance. However, visitors can sign up to be in line for last-minute cancellations on NashTrash’s website. Much of the comedy is blue, but the consensus is that eyes are not on “sites” but the Jugg sisters, who pretty much command laughter. “Side-splitting” is mentioned more than once on TripAdvisor.com. Beverages are allowed. Don’t expect to be informed about Nashville, per se, other than maybe where George Jones wrecked his car. nashtrash.com/

The NashTrash Murder Mystery Dinner Tour

2 hours $47.50

New to NashTrash is the more family-friendly (still, no children younger than 13) “A Grand Ole Murder,” the Jugg sisters’ Murder Mystery Dinner Tour. The tour includes new faux characters such as Little Dickie Wiggins, Travis Brooks and Wanda Mae as they sing some of their greatest fabricated country hits. The “murder” takes place backstage at the Opry, so the fodder for laughter is pretty ripe, maybe more like low-hanging fruit. The tour ends with dinner with the cast at Monells at the Manor on Murfreesboro Road. nashtrash.com/

The Redneck Comedy Bus Tour

2 hours $32

It’s surprising that this didn’t happen sooner. New to the rolling yukfest franchise is The Redneck Comedy Bus Tour, where coolers are encouraged and shoes and teeth are optional. For eats, road kill is discouraged, but any other food item could become community. The bus answers the questions of where the free redneck hangouts are and what country stars do when not on the radio or in jail. The bus boards twice a day at in the parking lot of the Nashville Palace (2611 McGavock Pike) or in front of the Whiskey Bent Saloon (306 Broadway) depending on the day and time. theredneckcomedytour.com/

Nashville Haunted Ghost Tour

1.5 hours $17.95

This walking tour takes visitors along the “shadowy” streets of downtown Nashville and into the dark realm of country music’s connection to the spirit world. The tour includes the shenanigans of the Ryman Auditorium’s original owner Captain Thomas G. Ryman, who is said to show his displeasure at shows by turning lights off or creating distracting noises. It then goes on to stories that include several old churches used as hospitals during the Civil War. Cryptically, the website talks about a “bitter rivalry” between two men at the State Capitol that still continues. Do not Google this; it’s a spoiler. Sensible shoes required. nashvilleghosttours.com/

Discover Nashville

3.5 hours $47

The name doesn’t exactly scream excitement, but Discover Nashville is one of the city’s most utilized tours and has something for everyone. The first part of tour cruises through historic downtown, Fort Nashborough, the State Capitol, the Parthenon, Vanderbilt University and Music Row. It then winds up at the Ryman Auditorium for a brief look inside before going on to a full tour of The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Discover Nashville then winds down at a honky-tonk with live music and a complimentary soft drink. Given that the tour includes a full walk through the Hall of Fame, which charges a stand-alone price of $19.95, the tour’s price seems pretty much well worth the time. graylinenashville.com

Downtown Nashville Walking Tour

1.5 hours $12.33

Some tours are meant for walking. The research for this tour alone is worth the price. The Downtown Walking Tour is part NashTrash and part history but it aims for its underbelly. Billed as “naughty and nice,” there is streaming commentary on Fannie Battle, Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett. The tour touts a behind the scenes tour of The Ryman Auditorium “where Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley both played (and we don’t mean just their music!)” whatever that means. At less than $15, it won’t break the bank. Sensible shoes required. viator.com/tours/Nashville/Downtown-Nashville-Walking-Tour/d799-3131NWT

Nashville Homes of the Stars Tour

3 hours $40.95

Part plain ole rubbernecking and part historic tour, the Nashville Homes of the Stars Tour includes a drive through downtown Nashville, including Historic Second Avenue, the State Capitol, Fort Nashborough and The Ryman Auditorium.

The bus tours the neighborhoods of the “elite” country music artists who call Nashville home, cruising past the homes of Alan Jackson, Amy Grant, Ronnie Millsap, Dolly Parton, Bryan White, Martina McBride, Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks, the late Web Pierce, the late Hank Williams, Trisha Yearwood, the late Tammy Wynette and others. We have a lot of Country stars in Music City, and though the names may change, and do, the desire to see how the rich and famous (or infamous) live, apparently does not. Gray Line also offers a full day tour of the rich and famous combined with a visit to The Ryman, the Country Music Hall of Fame and downtown for $79. graylinenashville.com

Historic Tennessee

4.5 hours $57.95

The name makes you think this tour could take days, so thank goodness the two places the bus does go to are pretty compelling and historic.

Belle Meade isn’t not just known for old and/or new money. The Plantation was a 5,200-acre plantation and world-renowned stud farm and nursery in the 19th century. The present-day, much-reduced site features 10 outbuildings, including an 1832 slave cabin and a carriage house and stables.

After the Belle Meade Plantation, the tour heads to The Hermitage, the manor of Andrew Jackson, the home of the seventh US president and proud son of Tennessee. The tour meanders through the formal gardens, and, again, to the slave quarters, then onto the original 1804 cabin of the estate before the guide gets to the place of rest of President Jackson and his great love, his wife Rachel. graylinenashville.com

Music City Trolley Hop

1 hour $14.95

Gray Line recently scaled this back tour slightly because some patrons were not getting off the trolley at some sights. The tour runs on average 15 times a day on the weekend and is quite the fun trip. You can pretend you’re in San Francisco while getting a quick overview of a much more interesting city. The Trolley starts at Second Avenue and Broadway and rolls by, and comments on, The Ryman Auditorium, the State Capitol, Bicentennial Mall, the Parthenon, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts and The Country Music Hall of Fame. It’s cheap, outdoorsy and brief and a good way to become quickly oriented to Nashville. You hop off. You hop on. You hop back on. You get the idea. nashvillesightseeing.com

Nashville Nights and Lights

5 hours $40

This evening experience begins with dinner at a local barbecue restaurant, then a bus tour of Riverfront Park, the Ryman Auditorium, Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, The Country Music Hall of Fame, the State Capitol, Bicentennial Mall, LP Field, the Parthenon in Centennial Park and more. Then there’s free time downtown to listen to live music on lower Broadway. graylinenashville.com

Nashville City Tour and Grand Legends Tour

6 to 8 hours $78.95

This expansive tour has three legs: a drive by tour and commentary of pretty much everything noteworthy in Nashville, a “stop and tour” that includes admission to The Ryman and The Country Music Hall of Fame. The last leg tours the Opryland Hotel and Music Valley, Ernest Tubb’s Record Shop, a “choice of several Music Valley Museums,” a visit to the plaza of the Grand Ole Opry House, and a ticket to the Grand Ole Opry Museum. This is a whopper of a tour and probably not for young children who will wilt before the tour ends, but if your intent is getting to know Nashville in one fell swoop, this is your tour. nashvillesightseeing.com

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