Thanks in part to its wide-open landscape and sprawling interstate system, the United States has maintained a long-term love affair with the automobile. The romance certainly hasn’t waned over the years, as more cars were sold in the United States in 2015 than during any other year in history. Many of those sales were pragmatic vehicles like Crossover Utility Vehicles, but you don’t have to cover many miles to encounter far more interesting autos. So hit the highway and take the exit for these motor-friendly metropolises!
Portland may conjure up images of farm-to-table brunch spots and thick-bearded Millennials pedaling past organic coffee shops and tattoo parlors, but this hipster-friendly city knows how to burn some rubber. Portland International Raceway, just south of the Columbia River, features a full calendar, including Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) events, motorcycle road-racing, ⅛-mile dragstrip, karting, and unique events featuring vintage racecars, rally cars, British autos, and the surprisingly versatile Volkswagen Beetle. Sign up for their Pro Drive racing school and learn how to handle your car both on and off the track. If you’re more into aesthetics than pure speed, PDX Car Culture can point you towards the myriad car shows, cruise-ins, and custom builders in the area!
Often seen as Las Vegas’ smaller cousin, Reno provides a gearhead culture unlike anything Vegas has to offer. The National Automobile Museum presents The Harrah Collection, the eponymous casino-owner’s world-renowned collection of over 200 of the world’s rarest, most historic automobiles. Nowhere else can you see the 1938 Phantom Corsair, or the only original example of Buckminster Fuller’s “Car of the Future” – the 1934 Dymaxion – or the 1907 Thomas Flyer, the American-built car that conquered the world in the 22,000-mile 1908 New York to Paris Race. Once a year, Reno offers an adrenaline-pumping alternative to the static displays at the museum: the Reno Air Races, where some of the fastest propeller-driven aircraft in the world tear through the air at over 400 mph. At that speed, they could cover the 7-hour drive from Vegas to Reno in just over an hour!
Another Millennial favorite, Austin boasts something no other city in the contemporary United States can claim: a chance to see Formula One cars at full-tilt. This racing series represents the pinnacle of automotive technology, and, in terms of global popularity, is the soccer of the auto-racing world. The Circuit of the Americas also hosts a number of other high-octane events throughout the year, including a weekend of MotoGP in April (the motorcycling equivalent of Formula One), the Summer X-Games, and the Pirelli World-Challenge in March, contested by racecar versions of the world’s fastest street cars, including McClarens, Ferraris, Porsches, and American iron like Fords, Chevys, and Cadillacs. COTA’s Austin360 Amphitheatre also plays host to huge music and comedy events throughout the year, packing in upwards of 14,000 fans to see headliners like Duran Duran, Florence and the Machine, and Jeff Foxworthy’s RedFest.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is hallowed ground in the world of motorsport, and no tour of American automotive history would be complete without paying homage to ‘The Brickyard.’ Except for brief hiatuses during the First and Second World Wars, the world-famous Indy 500 has been run on this site every year since 1911. Contemporary racers cover the 500-mile distance in under three hours, at average speeds nearing 200 mph! The Brickyard also plays host to many other top-notch racing series, including NASCAR, MotoGP, and the Red Bull Air Race. For a more sedate experience, be sure to pay a visit to the Speedway’s Hall of Fame Museum, where a rotating selection of historically significant racecars, around 75 at a time, are on display.
Better known as the Country Music Capitol of the World, Nashville also offers a little something for those who prefer the music of internal combustion. While the Musician's Hall of Fame features musician-owned cars like Elvis’ Gold Cadillac, the true gearhead won’t want to miss the Lane Motor Museum. Featuring one of the most extensive collections of eccentric cars in the world, be sure to pay a visit to gawk at bizarre gems like their 1966 Citroen DS Ice Racer, the three-wheeled (and elegantly named) 1934 B.S.A. TW33-10-4 Cylinder, and the 1951 Hoffmann, which Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky gleefully dubbed "the worst car ever built." Who wouldn't want to see that?
No motorsport is more American than NASCAR, and no city in the United States is more steeped in it than Charlotte, North Carolina. Take a lap through NASCAR history at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, tour the headquarters of one of the many NASCAR teams who call Charlotte home, and feel the thunder of horsepower at the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway. In addition to multiple NASCAR races and events throughout the year – including the only Saturday night race in the NASCAR Chase – the Speedway hosts events featuring monster trucks, MXGP motocross, World of Outlaws, and the 8,000 horsepower, 320 mph acceleration-machines known as NHRA Top-Fuel Dragsters. Let your gearhead flag fly, and don’t forget your earplugs!
This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on February 15th.
The only people who think Nashville is a boring city are the ones who have never visited. As it turns out, the city can be a lot of fun even if you don't like country music. Just like the city has a habit of exceeding your expectations, so too do many of the hotels in Nashville. The next time you're passing through Music City, rest your head at one of these cool Nashville hotels.
Leading the pack as Nashville's most eco-friendly hotel, the Hutton Hotel is about as green as it gets. Located downtown, the hotel has flooring and furnishings made from reclaimed wood or bamboo, water recycling, biodegradable cleaning supplies, water-free urinals, and much more. In addition to this, one key feature puts the Hutton ahead of all the other green competition: a fleet of eco-friendly hybrid courtesy vehicles.
There is something about trains and train travel that is just downright cool. Toy trains are appealing to kids, and train rides always retain their charm, no matter how old you get. The Union Station Hotel, Autograph Collection decided to capitalize on this affection for all things train-related by converting an old train station and National Historic Landmark into a stylish modern hotel that still exudes all the charm of a hundred-year-old railway station. Staying here is like taking a trip back in time to the days when train travel was sophisticated and people dressed to impress.
More commonly known as the Opryland Hotel, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is different than any other hotel in Nashville. Opryland impresses everyone, even if you're not a fan of country music. The hotel's centerpiece is a five-acre atrium with a glass roof filled with trees and plants, brick-lined paths for walking, and even a river with boat rides. Scattered throughout the atrium are dozens of stores, restaurants, bars, and lounges. Don't miss the colorful light and water shows after nightfall. And while you are there, don't forget to catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry!
Originally opening its doors in 1910, The Hermitage Hotel is one of Nashville's oldest hotels, as well as the only boutique hotel in the city that is both five star and AAA five diamond rated. In 2003 the hotel underwent a massive and expensive renovation. Now calling this place lavish is an understatement. The men's room at the Hermitage Hotel was named the best bathroom in America by MSNBC.
The hotel's spacious and luxurious rooms have made this spot a favorite of the many country music stars who pass through town. They can often be spotted enjoying an evening drink at the Oak Bar, one of the hotel's top-notch dining and drinking establishments. However, it's the hotel's Capital Grille that really gets all the attention from guests at the Hermitage. This restaurant serves world-class food that is completely sustainable and all locally sourced.
Nashville is known as Music City and the city definitely lives up to its reputation. However, there is much more to Nashville besides just country music. From artwork to history to haunted locations, Nashville is a city that will keep you on your toes - if you know where to look and what to do. Check out these awesome off the beaten path ideas:
My first visit to Nashville was in 2010 on a road trip and I still remember the surprise at what we found on Music Row. Right there in the center of the roundabout is a massive 40-foot tall statue of nine larger-than-life naked people dancing, celebrating and acting free. The symbolism behind the statue is that dancing is the physical expression of music and a way of uniting diverse people.
Of course, Tennessee is the buckle of the Bible Belt, so not all the city's music lovers are also lovers of this statue, named Musica (one can only assume the name came from the fusion of music and erotica). Occasionally, clothes or sheets will be found on the statues in the morning, so feel free to help clothe the naked dancers if you wish.
There is no shortage of haunted locations in and around Nashville. From the history and legends of the Bell Witch Cave to the modern terror that at Nashville Nightmare, there is something here that will scare the socks off you.
Located about half an hour north of Nashville, the Bell Witch Cave is open for tours during the summer and autumn. As the legends go, back in 1817 the Bell family began being harassed by a witch before she eventually fled to this cave. The entire property, cave included, remains in the Bell family to this day.
Image copyright Denise Mattox
However, it's the haunted houses of Nashville Nightmare that will really give you goosebumps. These advanced, modern haunted houses are a more engaging "choose your own adventure" style experience and are designed to be scary for adults as well. Trust me, they will make all of the haunted houses you remember from you childhood seem like happy, cheery fairy tales.
Located in Centennial Park just a few minutes southwest of downtown Nashville, a life-size replica of the Parthenon was originally built for the 1897 Nashville centennial. Locals fell in love with it and in 1920 the temporary plaster Parthenon was torn down and rebuilt with permanent materials. Nowadays, this impressive structure serves as an art gallery with both permanent and changing exhibits. Its claim to fame is the life-size statue of Athena, painstakingly reconstructed to her original beauty.
Turns out that over the years lots of famous historical figures and musicians have been buried six feet under Nashville. Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, and James Robertson, one of the founders of Nashville, all are found in one of the cemeteries scattered around the city or Old Hickory Lake. My personal favorite was the Suicide Rock tombstone.
As the story goes, in 1836 Ann Rawlins Sanders jumped off a rock ledge to her death. Upon learning this, her boyfriend broke off the ledge so no one else could use it to commit suicide and somehow transported the large boulder into town, where it became Ann's tombstone, or so the story goes. Check it out for yourself at Old City Cemetery -- you can't miss it, it's huge!
Ready to visit Nashville? Check out Hipmunk for cheap Nashville hotels and other travel guides I've written.
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Certain locations are known all over the world for their biggest pastime. Las Vegas and gambling. Hawaii and surfing. New York City and sitting in traffic. And of course Nashville and country music. As anyone who has ever visited will tell you, country music is the soul of Nashville. To visit Music City even briefly and not experience its musical side -- even if, like myself, you are not a fan of country music -- is akin to heresy. Between history, food and nightlife there is something musical here for everyone, so c'mon and join me on a whirlwind tour of the authentic Nashville.
This is where it all began. The Grand Ole Opry is the weekly country music radio show. It has run for 90 years and all of country's greatest have graced its stage at some point in their career. As such, a visit to the Grand Ole Opry House on the outskirts of Nashville is a must for all first-time visitors. It will give you a sense of the history and spirit of country music. The offer daytime and post-show tours, as well as a backstage VIP special for the serious country music fans. After all, in the words of Garth Brooks: "No offense at all to the people sitting in the seats, but the real show is backstage. That's the Opry."
This unique little café is as known for their food as for their music. For over 30 years the Bluebird Cafe has been a favorite among Nashville locals, however few visitors stumble upon this hidden gem. It is the perfect place to enjoy an evening meal and an intimate show from one of Nashville's countless talented musicians. Of course due to the small size of the place, it's best to call ahead or place a reservation via their web site.
Now that you are well-fed, throw on your cowboy hat and dancing boots and get ready to go honky-tonkin' on Broadway, another Nashville must for first-timers. The giant ten foot guitar marks the home of Legends Corner, the perfect place to start a night out. Over repeated trips to Music City I've found that this bar consistently has the best live music and the strongest drinks -- a winning combination!
Located just a few doors down from Legends Corner, The Stage on Broadway not only has great music but the cheapest beer on all of Broadway too! Maybe that is why this place is the more popular of the two with younger crowd. They have nightly shows from Nashville locals, both veterans and up-and-comers, and don't stop rockin' until 3am. However the coolest thing about the Stage has to be their giant mural of country music stars past and present.
Ready to visit Nashville and get some country music in your life? Make sure to book a cheap Nashville hotel so that you can put the money saved towards honky-tonkin' the night away!