Getting downtown involves driving through a lot of road construction - so a stick shift is not fun. Once there it's fairly easy to drive around, but there isn't anywhere to park unless you want to pay. Believe it or not, finding a free parking space in San Francisco is a piece of cake compared to this! I was wishing I'd taken the city bus like last time - that was so much easier!!! If you choose to take the bus, it will pick you up at Opry Mills shopping mall & drop you off downtown. It runs pretty late so you can stay downtown until around 11pm or so and parking at the mall is free.
I've given up on finding a new all purpose best place to park in Downtown Nashville. The only decent deal is during the daytime: park in the Nashville Public Library garage (tell them you're going to the Library - even if the lot says full, they sometimes still have specific spaces available for library patrons), then GO TO THE LIBRARY and get your parking ticket validated - it isn't free, but will take a nice chunk off your bill and is the best deal I can find downtown. For obvious reasons, this will not work if you're gonna be hanging out downtown after the library has closed. The Library garage entrance is on 7th Ave North between Church and Commerce Streets. As for your hanging out downtown at night or all day & into the night - just prepare to fork over $10 for parking. My favorite lots are the Baptist Church open lot behind the Somet Center on 6th Ave South and the parking garage on Commerce St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues North. I like these for location (easy walking distance to everything) and the fact that they're newer than some of the other places, so parking spaces are a bit bigger and your car will actually fit in the space. If parking in the garage, I would suggest taking the stairs over the elevator - pretty much all parking garage elevators in Nashville stink like urine. Whatever you do, make sure you're in a designated parking spot that you have paid for - they LOVE to write tickets and tow cars for parking violations!
5/21/2010: Due to flood damage and new construction projects, parking in downtown Nashville has become even more scarce - especially during weekdays. Allow extra time to find a parking spot. The Mayor recently announced that LP Field (the football stadium) will have some free parking sections open during major events downtown and those who choose to park there can either walk over the pedestrian bridge to their destination -or- pay $3 roundtrip for a shuttle from the parking lot to downtown. This parking option is not available all of the time, so please contact the Nashville Convention & Visitor's Bureau to check on availability: http://www.nashvillecvb.com
All street metered spaces are free to the public Monday-Friday after 6 p.m. and Saturday after 12 p.m. and all day Sunday. (Note: some meters may have reserved jackets and are closed to public use during these times.)
Tennessee has a "MOVE OVER" law. This means that when you're driving & you see an emergency vehicle (police, ambulance, tow truck, etc.) with flashing lights pulled over on the side of the road, you are to move over (away) from the vehicle with the flashing lights. The idea is to have zero traffic in the lane next to the pulled over vehicle. If you absolutely can not get over a lane, SLOW DOWN. The reason for this law is that several law enforcement officers have been hit and killed by vehicles speeding by in the lane next to where they were pulled over. This law is not just for the freeway, you are to move over or slow down when driving ANYWHERE in TN and you see an emergency vehicle on the side of the road.
In many states when you stumble across a flashing red stoplight at an intersection ALL directions have the same flashing red light, everyone stops & then whomever got there first goes first. NOT so in Nashville! When you come across a flashing red stoplight, it is highly likely that the other direction has a flashing yellow caution light - they will NOT STOP and only slow down. So, you need to sit at your flashing red light until there is no traffic heading toward the intersection and there is plenty of space to cross before the next car gets there.
I found this out the hard way after almost getting T-boned and wondering why the idiot who didn't stop was yelling at me and using some quite interesting hand gestures. Turns out I was the idiot who pulled out in front of him when he had the right of way.
Nashville is a very easy city to drive to! I came from the north, so the easiest way for me to go was South on Interstate 65. It is easy to get to Nashville from other directions as well, though. Enter by Interstate 65 from North or South, Interstate 24 from the Northwest or the Southeast, or Interstate 40 from East or West! Each of these interstates will take you into Nashville, so no matter where in the United States you may be, you should have no problem finding Nashville!
Sometimes, one must drive for good service. Here's a story of two clowns, 1,000 miles from home...headed to Nashville for one thing...a Land Rover dealer. I love my Red Rover. On our trip back from St. Louis, we hit a bump the size of Hoboken, which knocked out the radio in the truck. It set the radio into alarm mode, and would not work again, not even letting me put the security code...all it did was beep consistently, and loudly. The nearest Land Rover dealer was 657 miles away in Nashville. Off we went.
They were so nice and accomodating. They got the truck fixed as soon as possible, then we had to high-tail it back to NJ. The funniest thing about the experience...the two clowns got their truck fixed by a mechanic who clowns for his church group on weekends.
Clowns of a feather...
They are located at...
3 Cadillac Drive, Brentwood
I would really advise against parking in the parking garage on Priner's Alley. While it might seem like a good idea (and very convienent if you plan on doing the bars) it's actually really tiny and hard to manuever around in. My boyfriend's small S-10 almost got stuck when he was trying to pull out of a space and the cars are packed in pretty tightly. I think the parking lot on 2nd Avenue by Hooter's is the better choice overall.
For us there were 2 preferred methods of transportation. Walking or by limo.
Nashville offers many easy forms of transport but the city is layed out well, beautiful and a delight to walk.
As evening encroaches we would head out in a limo. We had much hard work ahead of us each night, elbow sports at the clubs and such. This took care of any problems associated with driving or finding destinations. It also allowed for extra guests to join us.
You really need a car to truly see and enjoy Nashville. There is a bus system but it's not that reliable or convienent. I lived without a car for a long time and I felt really confined to my college campus. There are a lot of places outside the city limits that you can't access without a vehicle, too.
Look. If you want mass transit, go back to Europe. In Nashville, it's drive or die. And I don't like dying.
Traffic is lousy on the interstates in Rush Hour, but for the most part, it's not too bad.
Be prepared to get lost. Nashville is an organic city, meaning that:
1) It wasn't ever designed but used old animal tracks instead;
2) Most of the roads change name and/or direction without warning;
3) There is no order to block numbers; and
4) The river bends 180 degrees eight times within Davidson County.
While there was quite a bit of road construction going on during our visit, automobile remains the best way to get around, unless you are just shuttling between an airport and a hotel that offers a shuttle service.