Thanks to an $8.5 million renovation in the 1990s, the historic Ryman Auditorium (116 5th Ave. N., 615/889-3060, www.ryman.com , daily 9 a.m.–4 p.m., $12.50–16.25) remains one of the best places in the United States—let alone Nashville —to hear live music.
Built in 1892 by Captain Thomas Ryman, the Union Gospel Tabernacle, as the Ryman Auditorium was then called, was designed as a venue for the charismatic preaching of Rev. Samuel P. Jones, to whom Ryman owed his own conversion to Christianity.
Managed by keen businesswoman Lula C. Naff during the first half of the 20th century, the Ryman Auditorium began to showcase music and performances. In 1943, Naff agreed for the Ryman Auditorium to host a popular barn dance called the Grand Ole Opry . The legacy of this partnership gave the Ryman Auditorium its place in history as the so-called Mother Church of Country Music.
The Opry remained at the Ryman Auditorium for the next 31 years. After the Opry left in 1974, the auditorium fell into disrepair and was virtually condemned when Gaylord Entertainment, the same company that owns the Opry, decided to invest in the grand old tabernacle. Today, it is a popular concert venue, booking rock, country, and classical acts, and performers still marvel at the fabulous acoustics of the hall.
Seeing a show at the Ryman Auditorium is by far the best way to experience this historic venue, but if you can’t do that, pay the $12.50 admission to see a short video and explore the auditorium on your own. You can sit a few minutes on the old wooden pews and even climb on stage to be photographed in front of the classic Opry backdrop. A guided tour that takes you backstage costs $16.25.