My Nashville: the sports presenter

Born in California, raised in Washington State, and now a Nashville local, it’s safe to say that sports anchor Joe Leadingham has a soft-spot for his new southern home. From classic venues to the ultimate pre-game snack, here he takes us on a run through Nashville’s sporting standouts.

1. Nissan Stadium

Home of the Tennessee Titans, Nissan Stadium isn’t America’s most state-of-the-art, but it’s easily one the most convenient, located right in the heart of Downtown Nashville. There are eight home games a year, so you want to time a visit just right, between September and January when the NFL season begins and ends. Buy tickets to the game online or at the stadium.

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2. Bridgestone Arena

I’ve been on the road covering lots of hockey teams over the years, and I’ve never been anywhere with an atmosphere like the one at Bridgestone Arena. This is where underdogs-turned-Nashville-superstars, The Predators, won over the south, and the energy here is considered one of the best in US sport. Plus, you never know which Nashville celebrity is going to show up to sing the National Anthem during the playoffs. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood (married to Predator star Mike Fischer) can all be spotted in the stands on match days – and when the arena hosts the CMAs each June.

In Nashville, if you want to party, you can find one any night of the week – even on Mondays.

3. First Tennessee Park

Built a few years ago, the First Tennessee Park is the home of the Nashville Sounds baseball team, and another great sporting spot in the city. The park has everything, from a miniature golf course to cheap beer nights on Thursday. People come here just to hang out at the bar, whether games are happening or not. Catching a Nashville Sounds game on warm summer’s night is a great way to round off a fun day in the city.

4. Downtown

If you’re booking flights to Nashville, I’d recommend June. This is when the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the CMAs come to town, and, if the Nashville Predators make it to the playoffs, the city becomes one huge party. Downtown gets ‘crazy’ fun in June – last year, thousands of people took to the streets looking to experience hockey season and the county music event of the year. Luke Bryan played an impromptu concert at the top of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, it was madness.

5. Tin Roof

Here’s the thing about Nashville – you can spot a sports star almost anywhere. I’ve seen players at the Tin Roof on Demonbreun Street. In fact, anywhere on Demonbreun Street, Broadway or even Midtown is a really good place to spot a Predator or Titan making the most of their downtime. And because the stadium is so close to Downtown, it’s normal for players to hang out there and grab a bite to eat before or after a game.

6. Sports bars

HiFi Clydes on Church has loads of TVs and great food. They’ve also got ping pong and a foosball table, so you can entertain yourself in between games. Or, there’s the recent opening, Von Elrod’s Beer Garden, right across the street from the First Tennessee Park. They’ve got these huge, long tables and a great outdoor seating area for the summer. It’s probably the best place to mingle with the locals, because you’ll likely be sat next to people you don’t know.

7. Hot chicken

Hot chicken is the iconic Music City snack. Every restaurant and food truck has their own spin on it – from hot chicken sliders to hot chicken sandwiches, everyone serves it slightly differently. Hattie B’sBolton’s, and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack have all been doing hot chicken for a while, and are the destinations to check out if you’re looking for a spicy pre-game snack.

8. Topgolf

Topgolf just came to Nashville, and is located pretty close to the football stadium and Downtown. They provide the golf clubs and balls for groups between eight to ten people, and give each their own space in which to play. You don’t need any golfing skill, you just have fun, hit the ball and see if you can score it in the giant targets out across the range. I went there on a Monday night, and it was packed out. In Nashville, if you want to party, you can find one any night of the week – even on Mondays.

9. Cornhole

A summer game, cornhole is kind of like a bean bag toss, and when it’s warm outside, a lot of bars across Nashville set up their own games for customers to play. It’s a quintessentially southern game, played in teams with open hole targets for players to try and toss corn-filled bean bags inside. The Loveless Café has a cornhole game out front in the summer, so you can play before trying their out-of-this-world biscuits.

Joe Leadingham is a sports anchor for WKRN sports channel, currently covering the NHL in Nashville. Follow Joe @JoeLeadingham

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