This is a plea to the airlines: please reinstate the direct flights connecting Milwaukee to Nashville.
For Milwaukeans, a long weekend getaway often translates to "Vegas, Baby Vegas." Which is totally understandable, especially in the deep freeze of winter when going west can offer warmth, sunshine and a "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" guarantee for alleviating cabin fever.
But right under our Midwestern noses, pretty much a straight shot south, is a city so full of culture, entertainment, food, sports, art, community and music that it’s almost a transgression of good tourism not to visit Nashville.
The city stole my heart about a year ago and I’m on a mission to position it side by side with Las Vegas as a preferred travel destination for Wisconsinites and beyond.
Although it’s a totally doable drive of nine-ish hours from Milwaukee, that’s still pretty much a whole day of travel. Unfortunately, about an equal amount of time can be eaten up by the inconvenience of having to take two flights to get from MKE to BNA.
Until the airlines wise up and restore the direct flights, it’s still totally worth the time and effort to investigate this booming city that has garnered the nickname "NashVegas." While a few days only allows for scratching the surface of the place that has become even more popular from its namesake TV show, Nashville truly has something for everyone.
History buffs will love the Civil War monuments / plaques documenting battles and notable sites across the landscape. Sports fans can take in a Predators, Sounds or Titans game. Nature lovers will relish spots like Radnor Lake, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Percy Warner Park.
Fans of quaint towns will fall in love with Historic Downtown Franklin and Leipers Fork and foodies will have constant full bellies from legendary establishments like Arnold’s Country Kitchen, Monell’s, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, The Pancake Pantry and the Loveless Café.
Music lovers will be sonically saturated in a city that literally vibrates with melodic sound. Be sure to check out venues like The Station Inn, Douglas Corner, Mercy Lounge and The Basement in addition to the obligatory stages like The Bluebird, Layla’s and Tootsies.
Architecture buffs will be impressed with the permeating new construction, art lovers can bask in the collection at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts or the edginess of the Fifth Avenue of the Arts / Historic Arcade.
There are lakes and rivers for warm weather recreation, a once-a-month flea market extravaganza for treasure hunters and more new local businesses than you’ll ever be able to visit on one trip.
Families can spend quality time at the Adventure Science Center or visit the Nashville Zoo.
Party people will find no shortage of bars, dance clubs and beautiful people full of Southern joie de vivre. In fact, Nashville was just named one of the happiest cities in America on Slate.com and this is evident in the celebratory nature of the social scene.
And of course, there is country music history coursing through this city’s bloodline.
The Country Music Hall of fame will educate and impress even the staunchest declarer of "I’m not into country music." Visits to "Broadway" and The Grand Ole Opry are a resounding must regardless of personal music preference.
Again, these are just a small spattering of "things to do" on jaunt to a locale with an undeniable familiarity.
Bay Viewers will be right at home in artsy, developing East Nashville, while East Siders will find a parallel with 12 South / Melrose / Bellmont-Hillsboro. Prospective and current college students will be right at home on the Vanderbilt or Belmont University campuses. Mequon / Brookfield suburbanites will relish in the beauty of Brentwood, West Meade and Bellevue. River Hills dwellers will find common ground in Green Hills / Belle Meade.
Back in February, I ran into a fellow Milwaukee lady, graphic designer Tavia Gavinski, while in Nashville. She was there on holiday and in line for a Burlesque Show in the heart of the Midtown district. It was an uncharacteristically cold evening and Gavinski stuck out in a very appropriate puffy down parka. Her furry hood and obvious contentment with her personal body temperature was in contrast to the Polar Vortexed- Nashvillians whose teeth were clacking in their thin overcoats.
I sensed right away this woman in the snowsuit was of Wisconsin blood. We established our "Midwest Mafia" status and then chatted while we waited to be let in to the club.
She’d visited Nashville once before in high school for a cheerleading competition, but had heard from clients / friends that Music City was "comparable in fun to Las Vegas." Aha! My suspicion was confirmed! Nashville was being touted as a Vegas alternative!
She and her girlfriend chose to fly out of O’Hare for the short, hour and ten-minute flight priced a little over $200. They stayed at the Union Station Hotel on points – a bonus. She was instantly captivated by the truth of Southern hospitality, the new construction downtown and the cleanliness of the city.
She told me, "The people are GREAT! So friendly. Down to earth. Going the extra mile to help out."
Like so many that visit from around the world, Gavinski was charmed and impressed by the amount of live music "everywhere!"
"Music is not only on Broadway, but at our hotel and even at the airport! We hung out on Broadway for the entire day on Saturday and had a blast listening to all of the music. I’m not really a country music fan, but we were out on the dance floor!"
Highlights of her trip included the The Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nash Trash Tour and eating her way through restaurants like Puckett’s Grocery, Saint Anejo and the Flying Saucer and Tavern.
She picked up some unique gifts in Hillsboro Village and even purchased the obligatory pair of cowboy boots as a souvenir.
Would she recommend Milwaukeeans take a Southern adventure?
"Absolutely! There are so many things to do – even if you don’t like country music. Everything is easy to get to. The airport is only a 10-15 minute ride to Downtown and we walked from our hotel everywhere!"
She plans to return for a girls’ trip and hopefully again before that. She summed it up by telling me the whole "Nashventure" was a perfect trip.
Let’s make going to Nashville from Miltown a little easier so these experiences can be enjoyed by more Wisconsinites. Frontier, Air Tran, Southwest, American, United … whoever is reading! I bet Midwest Express nostalgics are even willing let go of the absence of midair chocolate chip cookies if Brew City would get a convenient Sin City option – like a quickie, straight shot to Tennessee.
Come on y’all - offer a direct flight from Mitchell International to Nashville International again, ya hear!
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