“It City” is enjoying its most popular time of year, when tourists from far and wide descend on Nashville to find out what all the hubbub is about. Admittedly, my family enjoys touring the city during warmer weather to check out what the latest tribe of summer travelers is up to, and I have to say, this year has been a real eye-opener. On our first downtown drive-thru of the summer season, we were at a stoplight when a large, topless bus pulled up next to us, complete with longhorns on the front and a bachelorette party on the back. One of its passengers was “WHOO-HOOOOOO”-ing while wielding an inflatable likeness of a decidedly male body part. We locked eyes — mine were wide — before she spotted my 2-year-old daughter in the back, whose eyes were also wide — and fixed on the gal’s party favor. Another block down, we spotted a Nashville Pedal Tavern full of pedaling passengers, and then a John Deere tractor pulling a flatbed of tourists; for a moment I thought they’d missed the pumpkin patch exit, but then I realized that this was yet another way to tour Music City in style(?). Yes, it seems the summer of 2017 offers a bevy of Nashville party rides, and at the very least, most of them get an “A” for creativity.
Having grown up in Nashville, I remember when CMA Fest was Fan Fair, when Opry Mills was Opryland, and when Lower Broad was nothing more than dicey shops, dive bars, prostitutes and peep shows. I have enjoyed watching the city evolve into a popular destination for transplants and tourists. But seriously? When the horse and buggies, pedal taverns, trolleys, double-decker buses, golf carts, Segways and rickshaws outnumber the plain old automobile, well, it feels a little other-worldly. I’m not alone in this sentiment. When I mentioned I was going to write an article on this phenomenon to my boss, she mentioned that a friend of hers, longtime Nashvillian Jennifer Baldock, was just commenting on the same thing on Facebook. Jennifer wrote, “Just now and just in the short distance between SatCo and TPAC, I passed a double decker bus, two pedal taverns, two extended golf carts (yes, on the road), a bike taxi and a thing called a party barge — all full of people who were (currently) having a really good time. I know this is the new normal here in Nashvegas — but really?”
As one who is always intrigued by absurdity, and dedicated to finding out more, I embedded myself in the downtown tourist scene on two recent evenings and a Saturday morning (pedal taverns don’t sleep, folks!) to get an up-close-and-personal look at what’s happening in my hometown.
From Hello Trolley to the Nashville Party Barge — and every Nashville Pedal Tavern and Sprocket Rocket in between — weird vehicles abound on LowBro. So slip on your buy-1-get-2 boots and straighten up your “Bride-to-Be” sash. Here’s your guide to the Nashville party rides that the out-of-towners — and perhaps a few brave locals — are taking this summer.
Your Ultimate Guide to Nashville Party Rides
Vehicle: Human-propelled bar on wheels
Max occupancy: 15
Cost: For private groups, prices range from $325-$440 for a two-hour tour; $38 for individuals (min. 8)
I kind of feel like the human-propelled tavern scene is where the madness began. At any given time of day, on any day of the week, you’ll likely see a pedal tavern cruising around downtown. The riders are rambunctious, and I swear, every single time I pass one, Spice Girls’ “Wannabe” is blaring while the girls gone wild scream along. “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta …” sit down and pedal, ladies! I have places to be!
Yes, the pedal taverns are quite popular. On one of the evenings that I was researching (a term I use lightly) for this story, there were likely more pedal taverns than actual automobiles on the road. Seriously. And pedal tavern riders are a tribe — when one tavern passes another, the riders ratchet up the “WHOO-HOOOOOOOO”s and start screaming their respective song lyrics a little louder, a pedal tavern front, if you will, reminiscent of the old high school chant, “We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got a spirit, how ’bout you?” It’s also not uncommon to see riders and pedestrians reach out and high-five one another, a move that seemingly elevates pedalers to a sort of celebrity status, if only in their minds. Regardless, it’s apparently a must-experience when you visit Music City, especially among the bachelorette party crowd.
Know before you go: You have to be 21+ to ride. If you are not booking the whole ride, note that there must be at least eight riders for the tavern to take off. And if the real Pedal Tavern is booked solid, there are plenty of knock-offs to which you can belly-up (we’re looking at you, Sprocket Rocket!).
Vehicle: Half-bus, half patio bar, all party
Max occupancy: 32
Cost: Private tours are $375-$475; single seats are $45 per person (min. 6)
Full disclosure: This vehicle — and its weenie-wielding passenger mentioned above — was the impetus for me writing this article. From my experience, the Honky Tonk Party Express is like a stage-in-motion that invites its passengers to let it all hang out — literally and figuratively. Short-shorts and crop tops are common, but from all outward appearances, it doesn’t matter what you wear — it’s always a good time. The Honky Tonk Party Express also isn’t exclusive to Lower Broad. When I snapped the photos below, it was cruising around The Gulch. Not the likeliest route for such a rambunctious ride, but to each ride its own.
Know before you go: The topless bus operates rain or shine and includes a bar, bartender and LED dance floor — all imperative for a two-hour Nashville tour. Riders must be 18+, but if alcohol is involved (which you know it is), riders must all be 21+.
Vehicle: John Deere tractor-pulled flatbed
Max occupancy: 20
Cost: $480-$500; single seats are $35 per person (min. 8)
Like a hayride without the hay, the Nashville Party Wagon (aka “Off the Wagon Tours”) reminds me of crisp fall evenings riding through a pumpkin patch with my kids. But it’s summer, and we’re not on the farm anymore. Interestingly enough, the Nashville Party Wagon website says, “This wagon does not have a cover. If it is heavy rain, we will cancel it unless you request to go in the rain!” And yet, when we photographed the wagon, it was after a stormy afternoon in Music City, and their tarp was still in place. Money talks, friends. Always.
Know before you go: All rides are BYOB, and no glass is allowed. And just to state the obvious, there are no bathrooms on the ride, so don’t break the seal too soon.
Horse and Carriage Rides
Drive by Second and Broad, and you may momentarily think you’re in New York City. The countless horse and carriage rides gathered at the corner await riders in search of a more slow-going Nashville tour. Make your visit to Music City a true fairytale with the Cinderella-style ride. Or if you prefer the more Amish-inspired covered buggy, well that’s an option too. Or there’s the NYC-style ride (just make sure the driver doesn’t feed the horse Beefarino). These relaxed tours offer an interesting juxtaposition — neon Nashville with a Victorian vibe. For locals? They also offer a bit of a headache when you’re caught behind one. Regardless, for those more interested in the city’s history than its honky tonks, this appears to be the way to go.
Know before you go: These are truly the type of rides you just walk up and ask, “How much?” A couple of them have websites and pricing info, but there are so many available, you can easily enlist an equine even on the busiest of weekends.
Vehicle: Motorized trolley
Max occupancy: Call for details
Sure there are several trolley options in Nashville, but Hello Trolley gets major points for its playful name. With four tour options, Hello Trolley offers a customizable experience for its passengers. Two- and three-hour tours offer the opportunity to just kick back and take in the Nashville landscape, or you can cruise and shop — that is, enjoy some libations and stop for a little bit here and there to shop, eat, drink, potty, whatever … it’s all up to you!
Things to know: Hello Trolley provides a cooler with ice and bottled waters, but it’s BYO for food and non-water drinks.
Vehicle: A super-sized low-rider with rails and life vests
Max occupancy: 15 riders
Cost: $300 up to 10; $25 each additional up to 15
Heading downtown one evening, I spotted the Nashville Party Barge filling up at the Exxon on 12th and Broad. The back was loaded with a bachelorette party that was rarin’ to go. But first, gas. The Nashville Party Barge is little more than a long (long!) pick-up truck, which begs the question — can this be legal? A self-described “pontoon on wheels,” this is no amphibious vehicle. It is indeed an automobile with a rock-solid theme and a playful approach. Think life preservers and rescue rings.
Know before you go: Just like your buddy with a real pontoon boat, the Party Barge folks provide ice and a cooler, but the adult beverages are up to you. Also, riders are welcome to use the vehicle’s auxiliary plug-in to stream their own tunes (Aka: DJ not included).
A vehicle more commonly reserved for golf courses and gated communities has become a popular option on Nashville’s bustling downtown streets. Two big names for this type of open-air ride are Cruzzin’ and Joyride, which by all outward appearances are just fancy golf carts. For riders more concerned with getting back to the hotel or maneuvering traffic more swiftly, these may be the way to go. Joyride offers several tour options, including a generic sight-seeing tour, “bar golf,” a mural tour and a brewery tour. Cruzzin’, on the other hand, is pretty basic. You can either “hitch a ride” for free (gotta tip your driver, though) or take the aptly named “Nashville Tour.”
Know before you go: Cruzzin’ prices start at just $15 and go up from there depending upon how long you wish to cruise. If you’re more into Joyriding, prices start at $30.
Vehicle: Topless bus
Max occupancy: Depends on bus
Cost: $39 for adults, $20 ages 4-11
Leave your poodle skirts at home, ladies. This “hop” is of the “hop on, hop off” variety. The two-story topless bus cruises the streets of Nashville making 16 stops at which you can get off, check out the attractions near that stop, and then hop back on when the next bus comes along. Track the bus locations on the website’s live map tracker, and you’ll never miss the bus again.
Know before you go: Tours run daily from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; special ticket savings are available on the website.
Though not quite as crazy, but no less special, rides like Lyft, bicycle rickshaws and Segways can still be found around town. But with all of these unique Nashville party rides, we would be remiss if we left out the original non-personal transport option that paved the way for them all. We’re looking at you, cabs. Your legacy doesn’t go unnoticed!
If you hop on one of these festive rides but don’t know where to go, might we suggest using the SB App? It’s the best way to do Nashville like a local. Find out the best places to shop and eat, fun things to do and so much more. Click here to download it — and guess what?! It’s FREE! Bet these party rides can’t say that, can they?! Have fun, be safe and party on!