Honky Tonk Highway, also known as Lower Broadway, Music Row, Downtown Nashville, “The street with all the bars in Nashville”, etc., may go by a lot of different names but no matter what you call it, this street is always a hot spot for tourists in Nashville.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary a honky-tonk is a “usually tawdry nightclub or dance hall, especially one that features country music”. This definition made me laugh out loud because it is the most polite way to describe something called a honky tonk. This street is located on Broadway, with the main bars and restaurants in between the cross sections of 5th Ave S and 1st Ave S(which is right before you reach the river). Basically the street is filled with bars after bars that have live performers. It is definitely an interesting part of Nashville as the bars are preserved in their original forms, while the rest of downtown Nashville is made up of new skyscrapers or construction cranes building new skyscrapers.
I expected honky tonk highway to have a lot of tourist cliches, but I was still hoping for a more authentic Nashville experience. However, I was not impressed. I started out at the most well known bar on the street, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. I visited earlier in the evening(like 7ish), and already the crowd was so large I would have been forced to stand by the door if I decided to stay. The issue with all of the bars is that the popular ones are packed with people who find a seat and stay there until the bar closes, while the bars with space end up being empty for a reason.
Most of the people performing at the bars all sound the same as they cover predictable songs. Plus the shopping is minimal as the stores located on Broadway all offer the same key-chains, t-shirts, mugs, etc. All of the food offerings are bar food(think potato wedges, tater tots, and chips and dip), while most people were already drunk by 7:30pm. I also spent thirty minutes squished under a canopy right outside a crowded bar as it poured outside, although watching bachelorette parties on party bikes(which are basically people getting drunk while pedaling a giant bicycle for twelve) was very entertaining.
I’m sure many people enjoy bar hopping on Honky Tonk Highway, but I preferred the bars, restaurants, and shopping on 2nd street. This street is right off Honky Tonk Highway and is a little less crowded but there are actual sit down restaurants, stores worth your time and money, and bars with good live music but smaller crowds. 2nd street was what I expected from Honky Tonk Highway, and it was not overrun with tourist cliches.