Have a great time at the 2018 CMA Fest (CMA Country Music Festival) but be smart. Last year 782 people visited the medical tents for a variety of reasons including dehydration, sunburn and blisters. Don’t add to the number this year.
Here are some tips from CMA Fest veterans.
Beware the heat.
Dress in lightweight, light-colored clothes that breathe. If you’re wearing a hat, keep in mind that baseball caps and straw hats also breathe; felt cowboy hats don’t. Wear sunscreen; otherwise you be rightly mocked for looking like a lobster.
Maintain happy feet.
You’ll do a ton of walking at the CMA Fest so think about your feet. Every year I see dozens of people limping down Broadway in just-bought cowboy boots.They may be stylin’ but they’ll also be hurtin’. Wear comfortable shoes.
If you’re looking to buy a pair of boots, get advice from a boot expert.
Carry only the essentials.
Travel light but be prepared. Essentials: Photo ID, money/credit card, CMA Fest pass, water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, lodging key. Recommended: hat, band-aids, safety pins, phone, poncho (it seems always rain a few times), insurance card (in case of emergency), lip balm, contact info if you’re traveling alone. A lady who works at Ernest Tubb Record Shop jokingly claims there are more fanny packs here at the Country Music Festival than anywhere else in the world. For late-night purchases, see Corner Market below.
Drink a lot of water.
More than you think you need. Not to offend but, if your urine is darker than pale yellow, it is likely you’re dehydrated. Look for four water stations on the festival grounds plus CMA vendors who are selling bottled water for $1. There’s some disagreement about the hydration value of sodas and beer but neither is a substitute for plain ol’ water. And speaking of beer…
Know your alcohol limits.
I won’t stop you from wise and legal consumption but don’t be like the 25 people charged with public intoxication and the 23 cited for underage drinking in 2017. By the way, the legal minimum age is 21. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot (or anywhere else) and miss out on all the live music and attractions.
Plan how to get to and from CMA Fest events.
Visitors with disabilities–Please visit this webpage. Individuals with mobility issues might also want to check out my blogpost Navigating Nashville with a Wheelchair.
If you’re staying downtown, no sweat–because pretty much everything is within walking distance. If you’re lodging in a nearby hotel, check on the availability of a hotel shuttle; most provide rides to destinations within three miles–but may not run late into the evening. If you catch an MTA bus, the fare is $1.70 for most rides to and from downtown.
Of course, you can also hail a cab or ride-share but Uber/Lyft will probably be operating at their higher surge rates; still it may prove less costly than paying for downtown parking. But if you are driving…
Know where you’re parked.
Sure, you’re excited to dive into the festivities but STOP. Make a note of where you’re parking or take a picture of signs or landmarks within view. If you’re into apps, use one like Find My Car Smarter, Anchor Pointer or Honk that allow you to record the exact GPS of your vehicle. Just learned about ParkWhiz, an online service that allows you to reserve parking.
These parking tips came from downtown Metro police officers. Learn more on how to stay safe and smart downtown.
Utilize the “pedestrian scrambles.”
The what? See the big X in the lower portion of the photo? On the corners of Broadway and 2nd, 3rd and 4th Avenues, you can cross streets diagonally. Traffic will stop in all directions at the same time allowing pedestrians to cross . There are even signs to remind you that this isn’t just legal–it’s encouraged to improve traffic flow. And “pedestrian scrambles” aren’t just for CMA Fest.
Alert your credit card company that you’re traveling.
If you’re from Dallas or Dublin and suddenly there are charges from Nashville, it may be flagged as suspicious by your credit card company. Worst case scenario: your card is frozen until you track down a bank representative who verifies you’re you. Alert your credit card provider to your travel plans so Nashville charges won’t seem amiss.
Prioritize your daily activities.
This is a tough one because many of the CMA Fest events overlap. In addition to the official activities, there are pop-up events and non-publicized live music showcases. Never pass up the chance for air conditioning. By the way, some clubs are making performers pay to play; help them make that money back by tipping generously.
In the rush from one concert to another, you might be tempted to skip a meal. If you don’t have snacks with you, there are a few places for reasonably priced food to go. For example, Robert’s Western World on Broadway sells hot dogs for $3.75 and fried bologna sandwiches for $4; Mike’s Ice Cream & Coffee on 2nd Ave. N. sells muffins and bagels for $2.
Free music is everywhere.
There’s no cover at any of the honky tonks unless something special is going on. You’ll find live music in hotel lobbies, boot stores, street corners, the airport, restaurants including Puckett’s on Church Street. On Friday and Saturday evenings, Centennial Park hosts Musicians Corner in the park area next door to McDonald’s.
Download the CMA Fest app.
Probably the answers you’re looking for can be at your fingertips. Available for both Android and iOS systems. (Disregard the low reviews from previous years.)
GOOD TO KNOW
Where’s the closest drugstore?
Walgreen’s Our only downtown pharmacy at 226 5th Ave., N. Store hours: M-Fri 7am-7pm, Sat. 8am-7pm, Sun 9am-6pm. Pharmacy hours: M-F 7:30am-5:30pm, Closed on Sat-Sun.
RiteAid is at 1104 Rosa Parks Blvd. Store hours: 8am-10pm daily. Pharmacy hours: Mon-Sat 8am-9pm, Sat. 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-6pm.
Kroger is almost across the street from RiteAid at 800 Monroe Street. Store hours: 6am-11pm daily. Pharmacy hours: Sun 11am-6pm, Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sun 9am-6pm.
Where’s the closest grocery/convenience store?
HG Hill Urban Market at 415 Church St. on the street level of the Viridian high-rise combines a grocery, deli and hot food counter. Fashioned after an old-time general store, most necessities can be found here. Hours: M-F, 6:30-9:00pm, Sat-Sun 8am-9pm.
Corner Market at 300 Church St. crams a ton of merchandise in a slender space. If you need a cup of non-designer coffee, a toothbrush, Red Bull or Pepto-Bismol, these folks can hook you up. Note: they’re open later than the others. Hours: Sun-Wed 7am-10pm, Th 7am-1am, Fr-Sat 7am-2am.
Southernaire is in SoBro, south of Broadway at 150 3rd Ave, S.. You won’t find Cheerios or Gatorade here; it’s an upscale market with artisanal products, locally grown produce, a selection of bottled craft beers, a butcher’s counter and a prepared food spot for paninis and daily specials. Hours: M-Sat 10am-5:30pm, Sun Noon-5:30pm.
Turnip Truck , located in The Gulch at 321 12th Ave. S., advertises itself as “your natural grocery.” Translation: fresh, locally sourced, whole foods along with a juice bar, salad bar and hot food bar. Hours: M-Sat 7:00am-9pm, Sun 8am-8pm.
Kroger (details above) is the largest grocery but it’s beyond downtown to the north. Take the free Music City Circuit bus to Bicentennial Mall and it’s just two blocks away.
Where’s the closest walk-in clinic?
In addition to the first aid centers at CMA Fest staffed by teams from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, here are your options:
Third and Church Healthcare No appointment necessary. For new patients paying with cash, the basic rate is $85. The website lists insurance providers it accepts. Last patient check-in is 30 minutes before closing. Hours: M-Th 8am-5pm, Fri 8am-4pm.
All other walk-in clinics are located beyond the downtown area and none stay open beyond 8pm.
For after-hours care, the closest ER facilities are St. Thomas Midtown and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Call Metro Police at 615-862-8600 for non-emergency assistance.
♦Complete guide to every honky tonk and live music venue on Broadway.
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