You’re not a true fan of the Queen of Country Music until you’ve seen these Music City landmarks where she made her name.
It’s hard to find a person who hasn’t heard of Dolly Parton, the country music legend and movie star who has her own theme park, and who, through her Imagination Library, has donated over 100 million books to kids in five countries. Though Dolly is from the Great Smoky Mountains of Eastern Tennessee, she made her name in Nashville. Here are the important Dolly Parton landmarks in Music City you can still visit—or at least see from the outside.
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Country Music Hall of Fame
A tribute to the roots of country music and its biggest stars, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see attraction in Nashville. A poster of Dolly Parton hangs in the museum’s rotunda with the other 138 members of the Hall of Fame (Dolly was inducted in 1999), and she’s featured in the 2020 American Currents exhibit at the museum alongside contemporary British singer Yola, whose music is influenced by Dolly.
RCA Studio B
This famed recording studio is known as the place that gave birth to the “Nashville sound,” characterized by its use of string instruments and background vocals. Elvis Presley recorded some of his biggest hits at Studio B, as did Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Charlie Daniels, and Connie Smith. Dolly Parton recorded some of her most famous songs there, as well, like Coat of Many Colors and I Will Always Love You. Though Studio B is part of the Country Music Hall of Fame, it’s a separate place with its own tour.
Music City Walk of Fame
Located directly across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame in Music City Park, the Walk of Fame commemorates Nashville’s biggest country music stars, including, of course, Dolly Parton. The park is also home to the Nashville Music Garden, a public garden in which all the flowers are named after the city’s country music stars. Dolly’s rose is “the color of her lipstick,” according to breeder Joe Winchel, who also praised the plant’s “big blooms.”
What was once the center of Nashville’s printing industry—the city’s two largest newspapers were once based here—is now a collection of nightclubs showcasing some of Music City’s best up-and-coming musical acts. Jimi Hendrix, Barbara Mandrell, Hank Williams, and, of course, Dolly Parton all cut their teeth in Printers Alley.
The Graduate hotels are known for taking the best parts of a city’s culture and showcasing them in a tongue-in-cheek way. Case in point: Graduate Nashville, which has rooms themed after some of the leading ladies of country music. The Dolly Parton-themed room has a portrait of her above the king-sized bed, topped with a floral canopy against pink- and white-striped walls. The hotel’s karaoke bar, Cross-Eyed Critters Watering Hole, (temporarily closed due to COVID) features an animatronic “house band” that performs songs, including a fox in a pink dress with sky-high blonde hair, who performs Dolly’s mega-hit Jolene.
The Graduate Nashville’s Dollyest touch of all, though, is White Limozeen. This rooftop bar is all Dolly: it’s named after her 1989 album of the same name, which features a country girl living an opulent lifestyle, and the decor and menu match her outsize personality. The poolside furniture is covered in pink roses and shaded by pink-fringe umbrellas. The menu has caviar, champagne jello shots, and a “millionaire’s twinkie.” And best of all, there’s a giant Dolly sculpture watching over the scene.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
A famous music landmark in Nashville, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge came about by mistake. When owner Hattie Louise “Tootsie” Bess purchased the bar in 1960, she reportedly asked for a painter to touch up the place, only to have him paint the entire space light purple—and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge was born. When Dolly Parton moved to Nashville on the day after her high school graduation in 1964, Tootsie’s was one of the first places she performed. This 1988 episode of The Dolly Show has Parton going back to her roots at Tootsie’s; it’s also where Willie Nelson got his first songwriting gig after a performance there.
Inca Hoots Productions
Dolly’s star has risen so high that now, instead of recording in other people’s studios, she has her own. Inca Hoots Productions, an unassuming Mission-style compound on 12th Street, is Dolly’s production studio and management office. It’s closed to the public, but you can tell if she’s there because her massive tour bus will be in the gated courtyard out front. The name itself is a bit of her famous sense of humor: split up the letters differently and you’ll get the real meaning of the company name.
Grand Ole Opry
A rite of passage for any burgeoning country musician, the Grand Ole Opry has been showcasing new and established talent since 1925, and it broadcasts its Saturday night performances all over the world. Dolly Parton made her first appearance on the Opry stage at age 13, in 1959, and she was inducted as a member in 1969. Dolly celebrated her 50th anniversary of membership with a huge gala performance in 2019 at the Opry’s new location, and there was an accompanying exhibit of her glitzy costumes.
Dolly’s Former Home on Glencliff Road
Ah, the days before social media, when celebrities could live relatively normal lives. The home Dolly Parton shared with husband Carl Dean from 1980-1996, 3146 Glencliff Road, looks just like any other home. The four-bedroom, three-bathroom house is in full view of the road, protected only by a chain-link fence and a big front yard. It’s where she lived when she starred in all her biggest movies, like 9 to 5 and Steel Magnolias.
The Ryman Auditorium is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” because it was first a church and the seats are still pews. The Ryman was an early location of the Grand Ole Opry, housing the show from 1945-1974, until the Opry moved to its new home at the Opryland Hotel. The Ryman is where Johnny Cash first saw his future wife June Carter—when they met there in 1956 he said he’d marry her someday. It’s also where Dolly Parton made her Opry debut, and where she was inducted into the fold.
This affluent suburb, just south of Nashville, is where musical luminaries like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Jack White, and Amy Grant and Vince Gill live. From the street, all you can see of the home Dolly Parton shares with famously reclusive husband Carl Dean is the front gate, some landscaping, and red roofs. But the house is more than just a home—it’s a compound. There, she has her own chapel, a pool and a tennis court, some smaller buildings, and several barns. Some are for farm equipment and her tour buses, but rumor has it that one of the buildings is just for her wigs, and a family member lives on the property to care for them.
Willie Nelson and Friends Museum
A Nashville souvenir shop that’s been around for over 40 years, the Willie Nelson and Friends Museum and General Store has a lot more to offer than guitar-shaped magnets. A museum built by a country music fan, the place has more than 35 exhibits inside devoted to country music luminaries like Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Tammy Wynette. An exhibit about the early days of country music has costumes worn by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on The Porter Wagoner Show, on which Dolly had her first big break and became a household name.
Dolly Parton Mural
If you’ve ever watched Nashville, you’ve likely heard of The 5 Spot, a music club in East Nashville. Artist Kim Radford had already started on her mural of Dolly Parton on the side of the building when Parton’s Billboard interview in praise of Black Lives Matter came out. So, Radford added a quote from the story above the mural, which depicts Dolly surrounded by her signature butterflies. Since its completion, the artist has been contacted by supporters from around the world.