City Showdown: Memphis vs. Nashville

Memphis has traditionally held the title of “Tennessee’s Largest City,” ever since westward expansion post-Civil War brought settlers across the Mississippi River. But that honor changed hands not long ago. Nashville, the state capital, is now 25,000 people greater than Memphis in population. In fact, Memphis actually has fewer residents than it did in 2000!

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What is going on here? How can a city decline in population? And which city is the better one, really? Over the next several paragraphs, I’ll give my $0.02 on which city reigns supreme in categories of location, food, museums, parks and gardens, sports, nightlife, and – most important of all – overall livability.

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Top Ten Museums

Ten days ago I visited the Knoxville Museum of Art. This free museum, built on a bluff above World’s Fair Park, houses five galleries over three floors. As art museums go, the exhibits are only so-so, but it does include a nice collection of 20th-century art by Tennessee artists and/or about Tennessee itself. Most of what remains is abstract contemporary in nature – in other words, the kind of art that you don’t immediately “get” on a first viewing.

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