Oh Nashville, sweet sweet Nashville! Home of honky tonks, hot chicken, country music, and way too many coffee shops!
I’ve been in and out of Nashville for the past 8 years or so, and 2 1/2 of those 8 years actually lived there. I’d say that after all of that time I have a pretty good grip on what to and what not to do in the city. Like any other ‘it city’ or vacation city, there are many tourist traps *broadway cough cough*, but there are also some really awesome things that don’t typically make the top 10 lists. This guide will be a mixture of both of those things because sometimes those touristy things are still pretty cool to see!
Side note: After digging through my hard drive I realized that I never really took any pictures of the city. No skyline shots, not even the batman building! I did however take some pictures when I visited before moving there of a couple things and I always took my camera out when I would visit waterfalls and many times when I hiked. So there’s an abundance of those photos, but not much else! Whoops!
Alright, I couldn’t make a Nashville guide and not include this one because it is the most known tourist spot in the city. I’ll admit that I’ve been to Broadway many many times, especially the first summer I lived there ( don’t judge me lol), and while it’s constantly jam packed with tourists it’s still pretty cool to see. Now if you’re not going to Nashville just to get wasted and wear cowboy boots, I’m looking at you bachelor/bachelorette parties, I would recommend visiting Broadway during the day. There are a lot less people and even fewer drunk people running into you. The great thing about broadway is that they have musicians playing all day long. So if you’re going to hear some solid country music, you don’t have to wait until night time to hear it!
Like I said though, it’s the biggest tourist spot, and with that comes a higher price tag. Everything is more expensive on Broadway. Drinks are expensive, well they are all over Nashville really, but you can 100% count on it there. So if you’re going there to party, I would highly recommend pre-gaming it! Tourist gear, shirts and all that, are also more expensive down there. I’d recommend getting a Nashville shirt somewhere else. Opry Mills mall has some pretty cheap.
If you ARE going there to party, there is a plethora of bars both new and old. I personally am not a huge country music fan, so if you want to dance to more than Wagon Wheel, I always liked the third floor of Crazy Town and the underground level of FGL House (has a very NYC night club feel). Nudies typically has really great musicians playing and they have very nice and clean bathrooms. And it’s the longest bar and has a car hanging on the wall so that’s pretty cool! There are just so many bars in that area though it’d be too long of a post to talk about them all. Those three are just ones that I frequented!
Some other tips: walk or get a Lyft/Uber down there because parking costs are atrocious! And please be courteous and tip your bartenders, they have to deal with an absurd amount of wildly drunk bachelorette parties!
Head a little farther down Broadway and there is the Union Station Hotel. The old and very majestic looking train station turned trendy hotel. You can walk around inside and there’s a restaurant at the back of it.
Right next door to the hotel is also the Frist Art Museum, which is really neat to walk through. Check out their website to see the exhibits the have at the moment. If you’re there on a Friday, check to see if they are having a Frist Friday event. I went to the 1900’s Paris event and they had some really awesome performers, you can walk through the exhibit, and they have food, food trucks, and usually some libations as well!
2. Centennial Park
Centennial Park and the Parthenon are also a big tourist spot, but it’s actually a really nice place to visit! I use to live right down the street from it and I loved to walk down there with a blanket and just hang out in the grass. On the backside of the Parthenon there is a really beautiful garden area with a large pond that’s pretty to just walk around and enjoy the outdoors at. Then there is the actual Parthenon. It is so much bigger than you probably think it is just driving by. The outside is gorgeous if you just want to check that out, but there is also a museum inside and a huge gold statue of Athena, which is pretty awesome. It does cost to get in, but if you like history and art, I’d say do it!
3. Ryman Auditorium
The Mother Church. What else do I need to say! If you have the opportunity to see a show at this historical venue, do it. I saw Kaleo and ZZ Ward there and it was amazing!
4. Historic Homes
Being in the south there is a lot of history, and not always great history. Like many of the southern states, there are a lot of plantation houses and mansions. In Nashville and the surrounding areas many of them have been turned into museums and are open to the public to tour, with a ticket cost of course. I personally love history and visiting historical places so the ticket cost isn’t a huge deal for me.
Belle Meade Plantation: A former horse farm that owned famous thoroughbred studs such as Bonnie Scotland, gorgeous historical home with guides in period clothing, a look at what slavery was like at the estate, and a wine tasting at the end!
Carnton House: Site of one of the biggest civil war battles. The battle happened in their back yard and the home was turned into a field hospital. The guide is extremely knowledgable! You can still see the blood stains on the floor. Sad, creepy, and cool all at the same time.
Cheekwood Gardens and Mansion: a huge and absolutely gorgeous garden (spring is the best) along with its mansion, originally owned by the family who created Maxwell House coffee
One of my favorite things about living in Nashville was the hiking! Now it’s by no means majestic mountains, you can get that a couple hours out of town, but there are still some pretty gorgeous hiking spots. Edwin Warner Park has multiple trails both paved and unpaved that are always fun to explore. Radnor Lake is also a gorgeous spot with less trails, but its a nature reserve so you can usually spot deer right next to the trail and they are super chill.
If you are interested in water falls, there are quite a few around Nashville if you’re willing to drive a little ways. Cummins Falls is a great spot about 45 minutes out of town. You hike up through the river and can swim under the falls. Fall Creek Falls is about 2 hours out. Not much of a hike, but absolutely gorgeous. Machine Falls and Burgess Falls are also great spots!
Oh goodness, there are sooooo many restaurants in Nashville, it’s a bit crazy! Edley’s BBQ is a given, everyone in Nashville loves it and for good reason. It’s delicious. The brunch is also really good, I’d recommend trying out the East Nasty. Rose Pepper is my favorite Mexican spot over in East Nashville. In my opinion, they have the best queso in town. Graze and Sunflower Cafe are really great vegetarian joints. The 5 Points area in East Nashville has a lot of great spots to try out as well. 12 South also has some good spots like The Flipside, and there’s an Edley’s over there, but I actually prefer the Sylvan Park location.
You can’t come to Nashville and not try some Nashville Hot Chicken! Hattie B’s is a popular spot for that. Need some ice cream? Try Jeni’s Ice Cream. Absolutely delicious. Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro village is a great breakfast spot and Fido Cafe is delicious as well!
I honestly didn’t eat out a ton in Nashville because I like to cook and I was ballin’ on a budget, so I’m probably not the best person to give restaurant recommendations, but these are some that I frequented and are actually pretty reasonably priced!
There is definitely not a shortage of coffee in Nashville! It is everywhere! As someone who is addicted to coffee I was completely ok with that.
Some of my favorite coffee shops are Ugly Mugs Coffee, Red Bicycle Coffee, Crema, Headquarters, Frothy Monkey, and Three Brothers Coffee.
If you’re wanting to get away from the tourist bars I would recommend checking out East Nashville. There are lot of super chill bars over there that won’t be flooded with tourists. The Crying Wolf is the epitome of hipster dive bars if you’re into that vibe. Rosemary is a super cool spot that is inside of an old house and Pearl Diver is a trendy new tiki bar that is really fun too!
Patterson House is also a really cool spot with a speakeasy feel. It’s located in Midtown right by music row. And if you’re in Midtown, KungFu has a bunch of games you can play like giant Jenga which is always fun to do outside on the patio in the summer.
9. Live Music
They don’t call Nashville music city for nothing! There is music everywhere and on every night of the week. While country music is the most common, there are also quite a bit of other genres to catch around town too. If you want to hear country cover bands, Broadway is the place to go. Perhaps a writers round with local songwriters? They are all over, but Commodore Grille and Belcourt Taps has them every single night. Alternative/punk/rock/indie and all that you can typically find at places like The Basement and The Basement East, Exit/In, The Crying Wolf, or The Cobra. There is so much going on in Nashville, the best thing to do is google what shows are going on that night and there is a calendar that you can pull up.
If you’re going in August, make sure to check out Live on the Green. A FREE music festival with major touring acts!
If you’re one who likes to shop on vacation then Opry Mills is probably where you want to go. It’s an outlet mall, has souvenir shops, and is also right next to the Grand Ol Opry and the hotel (I love to roam around the gardens) so you can hit all those spots at once! For boutiques check out 12 South or Hillsboro Village. If you’re looking for some higher end stores there is Green Hills Mall.
Well, I think I covered quite a bit! I’m sure I’ve missed some things, but I feel like this is more than you can cover in one trip, unless you’re going to be there for an extended amount of time. Just have fun though, don’t take yourself too seriously and try something new! Those are some good rules to live by in general, but especially on trips. Please leave a comment or shoot me an email if you have any questions, I’d love to help you get the most out of your time in Nashville!