Nashville’s music scene isn’t a tourist attraction; it’s an invitation into the hearts and minds of its creators. So, stopping in to hear some tunes while visiting isn’t a pastime, it’s a main event. Now, whether you are looking to see headlining acts, up and coming artists, or singer-songwriters, Nashville has got you covered.

Ryman Auditorium – This is the best place to see headlining bands. Known as “The Mother Church of Country Music” due to its congregational roots, this intimate space was home to the Grand Old Opry for over 30 years and has been rated the best live performance venue in the US four times. Being only a few blocks from the Nashville Arena, many big bands prefer to perform here instead, offering concertgoers a more intimate performance than is usually available to their fans. The line up is a mix of music stars and well known indie groups, so check out the line-up before making your trip.

Honky Tonks – These bars offer not only an amazing atmosphere, but also a chance to hear the rising stars in Nashville. Whether they come here to develop their stage presence or to try out new material in front of an audience, bands work hard to gain a space on these stages and know that their shows here can make or break their career. Every honky tonk has its own feel, whether its memorabilia packed Legends Corner or the two levels of The Stage. So try stopping a few over the course of your night, with no cover and drink specials, these places are a must. One thing to be on the look out for is a musical icon such as Toby Keith or Brett Michaels dropping by to sit-in with the house band and perform a few songs. Oh, and honky tonk isn’t a slur, it’s a badge of honor.

Writers Night and Open Mics – While you might not recognize their names, many of the singer-songwriters living in Nashville are responsible for chart-topping hits, and one of the only places to see them perform their own music are usually small clubs or open mics. While these cafes and bars give visitors a chance to see very intimate performances from some of the best and some of the most mediocre performers in Nashville, there are some places that will always impress. If you are interested in seeing one of these more personal shows, try the world-famous Blue Bird Café (get reservations well in advance) and 12th and Porter.

One final refrain: Don’t limit yourself to only the most-well-known venues, Nashville is literally alive with music and has great bands playing all over town every night of the week. Like seeing plays when visiting New York City, visitors to Nashville should try and catch a few live shows because there are few places on Earth where the performances are going to be as good as they are in Music City. Two of my favorite Nashville venues are the Exit/In and 3rd and Lindsley, and if I’m even in need of advice for what shows to see, I check out the website of Nashville’s Lightening 100 radio station.