Nashville – Music City
Several months ago, five childhood friends decided to take a girls trip. A weekend away from their everyday routines and busy lives taking care of their families. After discussing destinations and travel options from four different states, they decided to boot scoot their way down to Nashville.
Home to the Grand Ole Opry, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Music Row and the historic Ryman Auditorium, Nashville has earned the nickname “Music City.” During our trip, we also learned that it has become a popular destination for bachelorette parties. (Watch out Las Vegas, now what happens in Nashville – Stays in Nashville!)
These five friends spent a long weekend enjoying all that Nashville has to offer – live music, great food, shopping and visiting the historic spots (like the Ryman). If you are planning a trip to Nashville, I’ve got suggestions on where to stay, where to eat, what to do, and of course where to hear live music!
Where to Stay in Nashville
Gaylord Opryland Resort – The resort is a destination all its own and our favorite family hotel to stay in during the Christmas holidays. It is about a 10 minute drive from the airport and from downtown, but next door to the Grand Ole Opry and Opry Mills shopping center.
Omni Hotel Nashville – Stay in the heart of downtown within walking distance to the museums, restaurants and live music.
Loews Vanderbilt Hotel – Located in the West End near Vanderbilt, you are still close to all the major attractions in Nashville.
What to Eat in Nashville
Acme Feed and Seed – This cool event space and restaurant sits on the corner of Broadway, overlooking the riverfront. Known for its live music and rooftop bar, the restaurant is more kid-friendly during lunch. The first floor serves traditional southern favorites while the second floor also offers sushi. Picnic tables on the first floor also make it ideal for large groups. The Rooftop is mainly for drinking, people watching and dancing on the weekends.
The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden – Grab a seat on the patio and order a beer and burger, with a side of sweet potato fries or tots. If beer is not your thing, they also serve delicious old-fashioned fountain sodas, malts and milkshakes. Worth the drive to East Nashville!
Puckett’s Grocery – Another Nashville favorite that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and live music nightly. Breakfast buffet, meat plates and sides for lunch and traditional southern cuisine for dinner. It was recommended to me by a Twitter follower but I did not get a chance to try it out so it is on my list for my next trip.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – When the line for a restaurant is out the door and around the block, you expect it to be good and Hattie B’s hot chicken did not disappoint. You can order your chicken at your own heat level (medium for me), along with two sides like mac & cheese, coleslaw, fries and southern greens. They have a few beers on tap or you can cool off with sweet tea.
Prince’s Hot Chicken – Prince’s is the reason Nashville is known for their hot chicken. For almost 100 years, they have been serving spicy chicken making them the original hot chicken restaurant. It is a must visit if you are on the north side of Nashville.
Fido – Once we checked into our Airbnb, we walked to Hillsboro Village for lunch and grabbed a table outside at Fido. It is a cool spot for coffee, breakfast or lunch that focuses on organic and local food. Choose from pancakes, bagel sandwiches, burgers, salads, and sandwiches.
Pancake Pantry – When I told friends and family that I was headed to Nashville, EVERYONE told me I had to eat at Pancake Pantry! Since it is a Nashville Hot Spot, you will want to arrive early to wait in line for a table. We waiting about 45 minutes and it was worth the wait! There are dozens of pancakes to choose from but I chose the pigs in a blanket (sausage wrapped in a pancake).
Edley’s BBQ – Known for the best BBQ in Nashville and all things southern, Edley’s is another spot that was on my “must visit” list but I ran out of room to eat before we got there. There are three locations in Nashville, don’t make the same mistake as me and miss out on Edley’s.
Biscuit Love – Biscuit Love started as a food truck before opening their restaurant in the Gulch neighborhood about two years ago. Open for breakfast and lunch only, they are known for their biscuits and their “bonuts”.
The Loveless Café – The café originated as place for travelers to stop for lunch between Nashville and Memphis, but now has become a destination all its own when you visit Nashville. Fried chicken, homemade biscuits and preserves make The Loveless Café famous (and means you will wait about an hour for a table. I was underwhelmed by my breakfast (half order of Loveless Country ham, eggs and gravy) but loved the Pork Barbecue and key lime pie! Biscuits and homemade jam made it worth the wait.
Monell’s – Gather around the table at the original Monell’s location in Germantown and enjoy family style-style southern food. The menu rotates daily with a choice of 3-4 meats (always including fried chicken), southern sides and biscuits.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – Yes, their headquarters is in Ohio but Nashville was the first place I tasted Jeni’s ice cream. You can also have pints shipped directly to your door, which is exciting and oh so dangerous.
Barista Parlor – When I spotted Barista Parlor on a list of the “Top 50 Coffee Shops in the US,” I made it a point to visit the next time we drove through Nashville. Almost too cool for me to hang with the kids, but amazing coffee.
Frothy Monkey – More than just a coffee shop, Frothy Monkey is a funky spot for breakfast, brunch and lunch. After 5 PM, you can order a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail to go with your dinner.
Portland Brew – After three days of drinking coffee in our condo, I NEEDED a latte and Portland Brew hit the spot.
What to Do in Nashville
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Downtown Nashville – Downtown Nashville is home to businesses, hotels, restaurants, live music venues, shopping, and museums. If you are short on time, head to downtown for a taste of Music City.
Ryman Auditorium – The Ryman Auditorium was built as a tabernacle for Christian revivals in 1892, then served as home to the Grand Ole Opry for 30 years (1943 – 1974). It is the spot where Johnny Cash met June Carter and where bluegrass was born. Today when you attend a show a the Ryman, you still sit on church pews instead of individual seats.
Johnny Cash Museum – Visit the museum that holds a collection of items that tell the story of the life of the legendary Johnny Case.
Grand Ole Opry – The Grand Ole Opry is Country Music’s most famous stage and home to music legends and current stars. You can take a backstage tour or plan your visit to Nashville around a live show on the stage. A show at the Grand Ole Opry includes multiple artists, giving you a sample of each of their sounds. Backstage tours may allow you to stand in the wooden circle on stage, where artists like Dolly Parton, Minnie Pearl, Carrie Underwood and hundreds of others have performed.
Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge – The best place for views of downtown and the Titans stadium, this bridge connects downtown with east Nashville.
Music Row/RCA Studio B tour – Music Row is not where you head to listen to live music (which is a mistake we made). However this is area southwest of downtown is home to hundreds of record labels, recording studios and the legendary RCA Studio B. We drove through this area during the Music City Rollin’ Jamboree tour bus tour, which by the way, is hilarious since it is an adult tour it is NOT appropriate for the under 21 crowd.
Radnor Lake State Park – A quick 20 minute drive south of Nashville will bring you to Radnor Lake State Park. My friend and author Annie F. Downs talks about Radnor Lake in her book “Looking For Lovely,” and ever since I have wanted to go hiking at Radnor Lake. Too much rain kept us from visiting but I hope to take the kids here the next time we are near Nashville.
Franklin, TN (America’s Favorite Main Street) – Another highly recommended place to shop, dine and explore is downtown Franklin, TN. Located about 20 miles south of Nashville, the Main Street area has been named America’s Favorite Main Street.
Live Music and Nightlife in Nashville
Grand Ole Opry – The famous stage of Country Music is the number one attraction in Nashville. Country legends have performed on this stage and up and coming stars know they have arrived when they get to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. If you don’t have time to attend a show, book a backstage tour for your chance to stand on the famous wooden circle on the stage.
Wildhorse Saloon – Not only does the Wildhorse Saloon have three levels, multiple bars, a restaurant and the big stage, they also offer free line dance lessons every day. However it is often rented for corporate events, so check to make sure what floors are open to the public when you visit.
Bluebird Café – With only 90 seats available for each show, tickets are hard to get for the Bluebird Café. This small venue in a strip mall features 3 to 4 up-and-coming songwriters each night and is known worldwide as a preeminent listening room. You may also recognize the Bluebird Café from the ABC show Nashville.
Tootsies Orchid Lounge – Tooties is a world-famous honky-tonk bar located on Broadway in downtown Nashville. Weekend nights are packed and loud, so go early if you want to skip the crowds.
Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar – A New Orleans themed bar in the middle of Nashville, this is the place to go for late night music and dancing. Get a taste of jazz and blues at this intimate bar, located on Printers Alley just a few blocks from 2nd Ave N.
Your Travel Guide to Nashville
Of course you can’t see all of Nashville in one day. A long weekend is the perfect amount of time to spend in Nashville, which allows you to hit all of the major attractions (but probably not all of the restaurants)! For your travel guide to Nashville, I’ve put together a couple of daily ideas so you can get the most of your trip.
You are probably just arriving in town and getting checked in to your hotel so I am going to skip breakfast on Day 1. For lunch, jump in line at Hattie B’s Hot chicken or Arnold’s Country Kitchen. Then stretch your legs by going for a walk along Music Row. Head over to 12th Ave South for coffee at The Frothy Monkey or Portland Brew, then pick up cupcakes from Sprinkles. Be sure to pop into Draper James, where they will offer you a sweet tea while you shop. Around the corner from Draper James is a common photo spot, the “I Believe in Nashville” mural. Finish off your first day in Nashville with dinner at Edley’s BBQ or Josephine.
Get up early and drive to Loveless Café for a big breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then head to downtown Franklin (about 20 miles south of Nashville) for some shopping. If shopping is not what you are looking for, drive up to Radnor Lake State Park for a beautiful hike around the lake. After working up an appetite, head downtown for an early dinner at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant or Monell’s, and finish the night with a show at the historical Ryman Auditorium or the Grand Old Opry.
Start your day with breakfast (or brunch) at Biscuit Love, then head downtown for a walk across the Pedestrian bride for cool views of Nashville. Grab one of the many tours of Nashville (like the Rollin’ Jamboree) before stopping for lunch along 2nd Ave at The Stillery or Bakersfield. After lunch, catch up on history at the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Johnny Cash Museum. Since you are still downtown have dinner at Acme Feed and Seed or Etch, then stay out late dancing and listening to live music at the Wildhorse Saloon, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, or Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar.
Start with breakfast at Pancake Pantry or Fido (if the wait is too long at Pancake Pantry), then visit the nearby shops in Hillsboro Village. You can choose to walk off your pancakes near the campus of Vanderbilt or visit the Parthenon (replica) just to the west of Vanderbilt. Drive to Arnold’s Country Kitchen or The Pharmacy Burgers and Beer Garden for lunch, then have coffee at Barista parlor. If you managed to snag tickets, go to the Bluebird Café for dinner and live music. If Bluebird Cafe was sold out, finish off the trip with dinner at The Southern Steak & Oyster, Farm House or Kitchen Notes.