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There's a new bachelorette capital, and it's not Vegas

Locals say an abundance of party boats, beauty salons and rowdy music venues bring in 300-400 bachelorette parties every weekend to Nashville, Tennessee.

Posted: May 1, 2019 2:10 PM
Updated: May 1, 2019 2:10 PM

It's 11 a.m. and already hot as blazes when Ray Smitherman's truck pulls into the parking lot behind the bar.

The truck -- er, party barge -- has been outfitted to look like a boat. Cushioned benches line the periphery of the truck bed, and there's enough space for a gaggle of women plus their accoutrements.

A group of friends, their bare arms weighted down with six packs, bottles of liquor and other party favors, are ready to get this shindig started.

This is Nashville -- bachelorette capital of the world -- and the masses travel here to party.

For many bachelorettes, it all starts here, in one of Smitherman's Nashville Party Barges. Smitherman, who came to Nashville to be part of the music scene, says he's still a songwriter but admits that the party barge took over as his bill-paying career.

The business started with one limousine and has morphed into a fleet of five vehicles that are available for booking for two-hour stints anytime from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

After giving a brief rundown of what's on deck (they'll go through midtown and downtown where the main bar scene lives, and they'll learn a little bit about Nashville along the way), Smitherman hits the gas, and the girls commence drinking.

The bachelorette party — called a hen do in the UK — is ostensibly for the bride-to-be, but more often than not, it's just an excuse for friends to party.

Rowdy Nashville

Las Vegas has long held the mythical bachelorette capital crown, but Nashville insiders — and all of the women planning parties in said city — say Vegas is losing its sheen.

Party-goers are flocking to Tennessee in droves, and local business owners are into it.

Ryan Budden, who founded a concierge service designed to cater to these groups (he works with both men and women), Bachelor Party Nashville, is banking on things continuing in this upward direction/trajectory.

"Statistically, we now host a greater volume of bachelorette parties than Las Vegas does. Las Vegas does more money each year in bachelor and bachelorette parties," Budden says, aware of the way the price deferential has given his hometown a leg up, and not mad about it.

It's likely that Nashville's accessible price point is a contributing factor to the rising scene, but it's not the only reason the Southern city's bachelorette scene is thriving.

Nashville is all about openness and having a good time with everyone else around you, according to Budden who sees a distinct lack of exclusivity.

Broadway, the city's music center, is where most bachelorettes will wind up at some point during the weekend. This is where they'll find the city's honky tonk bars, described by Budden as "epic scale, large, live music venue," a conducive environment for just kicking back and having fun with friends and maybe even some locals too.

Make no mistake though: Having a bachelorette party in Nashville can be as quirky and eclectic as the bride-to-be and her pals wish.

The Nashville Party Barge and the river cruise offerings are a vehicle, literally, for getting exposed to Nashville's myriad offerings. If you think it, Budden's team can probably make it happen. From strip-tease lessons to gun range shoots to pig roasts, Nashville is here for it.

Hey, good-looking

While mileage varies from group to group, with some girls donning kitschy T-shirts or similar versions of the same dress in any color but white — that's reserved for the bride-to-be, of course — there's one constant: Getting ready to go out.

For many of Nashville's bachelorettes, primping is best left in the capable hands of others.

A perfectly coiffed Leslie Embry, owner of The Blowout Co., (with three locations in Nashville and one in Chattanooga) has an easy understanding of why bachelorette blowouts are a thing: "Everyone's always in a good mood because you feel beautiful when you leave here."

(The free Champagne probably doesn't hurt either.)

The salon specializes in blowouts and other pampering mainstays such as manicures and professional makeup application; the latter is especially helpful for surviving the incredulous humidity.

The salon has its regulars (some women who never do their own hair, in fact, Embry whispers), and then it has its bachelorettes.

"We get a lot of people from Michigan and Ohio, New York. We obviously get a lot from out in L.A., Texas. We have a lot of Canadians, also, that come here. There was just a group in here from Connecticut. Really all over," Embry says, ticking off a growing list of places.

Budden's groups have been more international: They worked with two parties from Australia last summer, and Smitherman says his bachelorettes come from all over the world — Denmark, Brazil, Germany. In high season, from about March 1 through the end of October, Smitherman's barge requests outnumber barge operators.

This is Nashville

You might bump into a country music star, but you won't be mowed down by paparazzi. Cowboy boots and cut-offs are absolutely acceptable attire for a night on the town.

The vibe from tourists and locals alike is welcoming. It's a friendly town, says Embry. "It feels really local and you can walk around, and feel safe down on Broadway."

The best Nashville experience may be the first one, according to Smitherman.

"We've had some crazy parties..." he says, trailing off, not sure how much he should share.

He doesn't have to say it, but the unspoken words linger in the air anyway: What happens in Nashville stays in Nashville.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 585607

Reported Deaths: 11536
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson851431591
Mobile48584864
Madison37411533
Shelby27192257
Tuscaloosa27145465
Montgomery26119627
Baldwin25207329
Lee17184181
Calhoun15382334
Morgan15147291
Etowah14928370
Marshall13079235
Houston12021293
Elmore10890219
St. Clair10737252
Limestone10699158
Cullman10503205
Lauderdale10240254
DeKalb9498192
Talladega8935188
Walker7775288
Autauga7537114
Jackson7384117
Blount7352139
Colbert6691142
Coffee6342132
Dale5605117
Russell478943
Chilton4763117
Covington4738125
Franklin456681
Tallapoosa4511156
Escambia439283
Chambers3936125
Dallas3742163
Clarke370563
Marion3455107
Pike332079
Lawrence3257100
Winston298373
Bibb289765
Geneva282883
Marengo262267
Barbour250661
Pickens245262
Butler240172
Hale235178
Fayette226765
Henry212845
Monroe201541
Randolph200344
Cherokee198848
Washington184339
Macon169752
Crenshaw167758
Clay165659
Cleburne161145
Lamar150938
Lowndes145355
Wilcox132331
Bullock126542
Conecuh120632
Coosa118129
Perry110328
Sumter110333
Greene99137
Choctaw64425
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