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Nashville honky tonkin’ in heels

Hitting the Nashville honky tonks in high heels was not my smartest idea ever. But, despite the torture my feet endured, I was happily immersed in the twang of the guitar and the singer’s southern drawl.

That’s why I fell in love with Nashville. Live music is everywhere — the airport, the street corners, inside shops and, of course, at the honky tonks, “where the boots stomp all night.” (Sorry, as I write this post I just can’t seem to get Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here” out of my head. I definitely heard covers of it while at these honky tonks!) And, live music has this way of making me feel alive, young and free no matter what my footwear may be.

This recent trip to Nashville for a friend’s bachelorette party marked my first visit to Music City. As a fan of country music and the TV show “Nashville,” I was thrilled to visit the Lower Broadway honky tonks for beers and a boot-stompin’ good time.

Kickin’ off bachelorette weekend at Rippy’s

Our first night in Nashville, we walked into Rippy’s Bar and Grill. With bands playing on two levels, this lively atmosphere is a fun place to drink, dance and hear a mix of country, rock and a few surprises like a “Baby Got Back” breakdown in the middle of a country tune. The open-air second level is where the party is!

Like Willie and Patsy, drinkin’ at Tootsie’s

Night 2 of honky tonkin’ in heels took our bachelorette party to one of the oldest honky tonks in Nashville — Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Patsy Cline were early customers of the purple-colored bar. Check the Wall of Fame, you’ll find pictures of Dolly Parton and Tootsie’s other famous patrons. Kick back with a beer and listen to live bands in the same honky tonk where Hank Williams Sr. is rumored to have had a few too many before and after his Grand Ole Opry shows. Sharing an alley with the Mother Church of Country Music, Tootsie’s was once the unofficial green room for the historic Ryman Auditorium, where the Grand Ole Opry radio show was broadcast from the 1940s to the early ’70s.

At Tootsie’s, we pushed and nudged our way to the second level where we luckily pounced on a table as the previous patrons were leaving. We only had one round of beers at this extremely crowded honky tonk, but we heard an amazing singer during our short stop at Tootsie’s. She killed a Heart song and is clearly a powerhouse vocalist. You could easily call these honky tonks touristy, but that doesn’t mean the musicians aren’t incredibly talented. They are. And you never know when you might be listening to a future Grand Ole Opry inductee!

Dancin’ onstage at The Stage

Our next stop was just a few honky tonks down the block from Tootsie’s — The Stage on Broadway. Essentially a large dance floor, the open layout of The Stage makes it one of the best honky tonks for a little booty-shakin’, two-steppin’ action. Here we sang along to country and rock songs, including bar-crowd favorites, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”  and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” While some rowdy bachelor party was kicked out for continually going onto the stage, that didn’t stop our bachelorette from dancing with the guitarist!

Day drinkin’ moonshine at Bootleggers Inn

As part of the Hick Chick Bus Tour around Nashville, we stopped at Bootleggers Inn to try the flavored moonshines. I drank spicy Bloody Marys mixed with jalapeno moonshine, and I tasted the refreshing sweet tea moonshine in lemonade. I heard good things about the apple pie moonshine too. We arrived just as the bar was opening around noon. The bartender, one of the few Nashville natives we met during our long weekend stay, quickly mixed our tour group’s drinks as the musicians started playing a country cover of “We Can’t Stop.” It was a bit strange but downright awesome to hear a man singing a Miley Cyrus song.

Last night out in Music City at Legends Corner

Legends Corner is long and narrow. If you enter from the side entrance, you are upstairs, near a bar and have a decent vantage point looking down at the stage. The band that night played a lot of country music, but they also threw in a few surprises from the 1990s. The crowd here spanned the decades — more so than at Rippy’s or Honky Tonk Central — so it was really funny to see the majority of the crowd rapping, “In West Philadelphia born and raised ….” Yep. A honky-tonk crowd knew all the words to the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” theme song.

Rockin’ like a wagon wheel at Honky Tonk Central

Another multilevel honky tonk with live bands on each floor is Honky Tonk Central. It could have just been this particular Saturday night, but it seemed like a younger and rowdier crowd here. We didn’t stay here long before heading back to Rippy’s to close out the weekend the way it began, but we did hear a great cover of Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” on the lower level. Upstairs we commandeered the men’s room. Who thought it was a good idea to have only one single-stall restroom for women but two for men? Not bright.

Singing "Wagon Wheel" at Honky Tonk Central (Instagram via @erinklema)

Singing “Wagon Wheel” at Honky Tonk Central (Instagram via @erinklema)

Honky tonk hoppin’

NashvilleHonkyTonksAll the honky tonks are located on Lower Broadway within walking distance of each other, the Ryman Auditorium and many restaurants in downtown Nashville. Taxis are abundant along Broadway, so it’s easy to catch a cab back to your hotel. Some taxis are minivans, which worked out really well for our group of five to seven people.

Have you visited Nashville? Which honky tonks did you visit? Any favorites?

If you want my advice …

  • I had the most fun at Rippy’s on Thursday night. It was less crowded so there was room to dance and mingle.
  • The history behind Tootsie’s is interesting and the live music superb, but it’s too jam-packed to really move around at night. I’d recommend checking it out during the day.
  • If you are looking to dance, I’d suggest The Stage or upstairs at Rippy’s.
  • Drink beer. It’s your cheapest bet and easily contained. Bud Light bottles ran $4.25 at Legends Corner. A well vodka tonic was $6.50.
  • I really do recommend the moonshine drinks at Bootleggers Inn — even though the Bloody Mary was made with a packaged mix, it was a nice break from bottled beer and bottom-shelf mixed drinks.
  • Tip the band. You didn’t pay a cover after all!
  • Ditch the heels for flats, sandals or cowboy boots when honky tonkin’ in Nashville!

Wish you were here,



2 Comments Post a comment
  1. a honky tonk bar named Rippys? sounds like an instant combination for fun!

    June 18, 2014

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