Smashville (aka, Nashville)

Smashville (aka, Nashville)

Last year my hockey buddy Caitlynn and I made a vow to visit every arena in the NHL at least once. Not including the Dallas Stars, that leaves us with 30 teams we would need to visit. 30 teams and 30 cities we get to explore! So really, this doubles as a chance to indulge our hockey obsession along with my desire to travel.

And what better way to get the ball rolling than with a visit to the Predators in the Music City, Nashville! Lucky for us the schedule lined up perfectly, so we were able to watch our beloved Dallas Stars on the road during the regular season for the first time (we had watched them play at T-Mobile Arena against the LA Kings during their Frozen Fury preseason exhibition games).

Nashville is probably the NHL city closest to us, but even then it’s still about 630 miles away. We decided to road trip instead of flying, both because it was cheaper, and because we actually really enjoy long road trips (yes, really). We left Friday morning, and came back on Monday.

The trip there was rather uneventful, because really, I mean, it was mostly through Arkansas. We left Dallas at 6am and arrived in Nashville at around 7pm.

And the very first thing we did was stop at Hattie B’s for some hot chicken! And that set the tone perfectly for our visit…

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I fantasize about this hot chicken to this day…

I could write a whole piece about my love for hot chicken. It was recommended by a friend back home, and I’m very glad we took her suggestion. A Nashville specialty, it’s basically fried chicken seasoned with cayenne pepper and other spices. We tried hot chicken that had the seasoning in the batter, as well as another variation where they added the seasoning as a sauce after the chicken was fried. I’m not sure which was the more authentic version, but either way, it was delicious and spicy and wonderful.

After our late dinner and a quick trip to Target (gotta stock the room with snacks and drinks), we finally checked into our hotel. We took the opportunity to make actual plans for the next couple of days…at that point we only had the game on Sunday, so we needed to find stuff to do the rest of our trip.

So we decided to make the hour long drive to Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniels distillery early Saturday afternoon. Now that drive was slightly more interesting as we headed out into the rolling hills of southern Tennessee. Lynchburg itself is a tiny town, with the distillery the only major attraction.

The tour was fascinating. Every bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey we’ve ever purchased was made and bottled in the same place and the same way as Jack Daniels himself did over a century ago. Which is insane to think about. We were led around the grounds and got to see every step in the process from fermentation to mellowing to aging, and then finally bottling. And of course we got to sample some of their most popular products!

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From there we headed back to the hotel room to get ready for infamous Broadway Street. We were determined to fully experience everything that Nashville had to offer, which meant we needed to check out some honky tonks to get a taste of that country music life. Full disclaimer, I am not a fan of country music. But watching it live was a different experience. The crowd’s energy was infectious. And I won’t lie, the drinks helped quite a bit…Broadway St. is basically a street full of bars and honky tonks, with Bridgestone Arena nestled right in the middle of it all. So we just walked down the street ducking into places that looked and sounded interesting. Being a Saturday night, we had plenty of company. Some of the more entertaining places were Acme Feed and Seed, Tequila Cowboy, Tootsie’s, and Big Bang.

Although I will say that our Saturday night shenanigans came at a price, at least for me. So Sunday morning we kinda chilled in the hotel room to try to recover in time for the game. But some hot chicken (which I learned is great hangover food) and a bottle of Gatorade later, I was feeling completely normal in time to hit up the Johnny Cash museum before watching the game.

With the museum being a few yards away from Broadway St and the arena, we were able to walk over a little after the doors opened. We had planned to get there early to explore the arena before warm ups began.

Let me just say that Nashville absolutely loves their Predators. The crowd was  into it. They cheered non-stop, even when down (believe it or not, we were actually up by three goals at one point…). No lie, I am extremely jealous, because hockey is just not a big deal in Dallas, not when we have to compete with the Cowboy, Rangers, and Mavericks. So our arena tends to be on the quieter side. But Nashville, they have chants and jeers, and an amazing atmosphere that I just have never experienced before. And the Nashville culture is very present in all they do in the arena. I mean, they even have live country bands perform during intermissions. Their goal song (which we unfortunately heard too often), is a Tim McGraw song. So yeah, the game was really something.

Their arena is relatively new and modern, and they have so many unique food options. We chose to eat dinner from the grilled -cheese stand (I had a delicious hot chicken and waffle sandwich), but they had everything from BBQ, to Mexican and everything in between. And despite us being Stars fans in our Victory Green jerseys, everyone we talked to (Preds fan or not) was incredibly nice. We even bumped into several fans from Dallas that had also made the trip for the game. So even though we lost, we had a blast.

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Our view for the game

After the game I did end up stopping by one of the fan stores to buy a Predators magnet (I’m sure that looked kind of silly) to add to my collection. I also bought myself an ornament from a souvenir shop on Broadway to commemorate the trip. Then we just went back to the room to pack and rest up before hitting the road Monday morning. After a quick breakfast (Waffle House, because what else?), we were on our way back home. And the way back was just as uneventful as the way there…

All in all, I was really charmed by Nashville. And I’m really eager to go back soon, with more friends in tow. But yeah, I’m still not a fan of country music.

Thank you for reading!

Italia