Nashville is Awesome Even if You Aren’t a Country Music Aficionado
There are a handful of American cities that I would describe as just plain fun: for example, New Orleans and Miami. As of this past weekend, I’m adding Nashville to that list. A friend from high school and I went and discovered an up-and-coming city where we could relax, decompress, and have a good time! If you can’t take time off from work but still want a little getaway, consider Nashville: 48 hours (Friday night to Sunday night) was the perfect amount of time to get a sense of the city’s character without feeling rushed.
Like New Orleans, Nashville is basically a self-explanatory destination: show up, have a drink, and enjoy some great live bands. You might ask: what if I’m not a fan of country music? Well, bars in Nashville are fun no matter how familiar with the genre you are! (Also, you can pretty much find any type of music you want here.) Even if country isn’t your jam, this is the perfect place to open your mind and give it a try! As someone who has played classical violin and viola, I loved watching some really talented fiddle players rock out on stage.
In other words, Nashville is both accessible and easy to figure out, so this post will be short and sweet. Check out some info below that will come in handy for your first visit!
If you’re coming for bars and live music, you’ll be spending most of your time on Broadway between 1st and 5th Avenues. Try to find an Airbnb within walking distance of this area (we stayed across the street from the Tennessee State Capitol).
Since we stayed close to the action, we didn’t need to rent a car and only paid for Ubers/Lyfts a handful of times (on a side note, the drivers here are super friendly, and a lot of them have dabbled in the local music scene and have some cool stories to tell). The airport is close to downtown as well (15-minute drive), and traffic in Nashville doesn’t compare to anything you’d run into on the East Coast.
The center of Nashville is pretty condensed, but prepare to walk a bit if you forego a car rental. This is honestly pretty refreshing after a heavy southern meal or a few drinks (as long as the heat and humidity aren’t too unbearable)! Speaking of food and drink…
Culinary Highlights: Hot Chicken and Hot Dogs
A piece of advice: come to Nashville hungry and ready to feast! Cuisine here is filling and heavy but also packed full of flavor. The restaurants we went to are just a rough representation of what the city has to offer, but I think it would be hard to go wrong here. So let’s start with Nashville’s most important dish: hot chicken.
Hot Chicken at Hattie B's
Ok, I will say that you don’t have to have hot chicken at this exact restaurant, but you do need to have it before you leave. Hattie B’s was good and I really liked the sides and the banana pudding dessert. We went on a Sunday afternoon and had to wait for an hour to finally get our food. I think that this was just the after-church crowd though, so go on a different day of the week and you might not have to wait so long!
I ended up essentially asking for medium spice, and I must admit that it really wasn’t that spicy. At least here, the spice was more like a dry rub than a sauce which may have been why. Next time I would definitely go for their spiciest option, “Shut the Cluck Up” (lol).
A Fancy Dinner at Etch
Etch was the one truly upscale place we went and I honestly really enjoyed it! I reminded me of some of the higher-end southern restaurants I’ve been to in Charleston, SC. We started off with a cheese sampler and some bruschetta.
For dinner, I ordered venison with a Pharma-coe-pia, a gin-based cocktail with “chlorophyll” (that was actually what it said on the list of ingredients on the menu). The venison came with something called mint relish which had a very interesting flavor that I’ve never had before. It wasn’t a cheap meal but I would say this place is definitely worth splurging on if you’re in the mood for something nicer than bar food.
A Typical Brunch at Tavern
This place had a good but fairly run-of-the-mill brunch. I liked the burger I had as well as the garlic and parmesan fries we split. Brunch cocktails were standard, but they did have a two-for-one deal (you got a token with your first drink that could be used for one more).
This is Nashville’s signature late-night fare! Lines get long for the hot dog stands on and around Broadway past midnight. All I can say is try one (the more toppings the better).
Things to Do
Broadway (It's More Than Just Hot Dogs)
One awesome thing about Broadway is that it’s “open for business” almost 24 hours a day. Obviously, the peak time for a famous street of bars is Friday and Saturday night, but if you’re not a fan of crowds or staying out late, you can head over in the early afternoon and eat brunch or lunch while listening to live performances.
I liked Tequila Cowboy, Margaritaville, and this honky-tonk bar pictured below (perhaps because the band was also from Washington State)!
If you’ve made it to Broadway, then you’re only a few blocks away from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. This is the best place to get a view of the skyline. There’s also a cool little park on the other side of the river.
Centennial Park and Vanderbilt University
We spent our Sunday afternoon walking from downtown to Centennial Park, which was about 3 miles one way. The park’s main highlight is a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon. It houses a museum which we didn’t end up going into, but the outside is still interesting and the park itself is nice to walk around in.
Along the way we passed through Vanderbilt University. There wasn’t a lot going on since school was already out for the summer, but as someone who enjoys exploring college campuses, I enjoyed our little detour through the quad and grounds.
Union Station Hotel
If you do end up wandering west on Broadway, be sure to peek your head into the Union Station Hotel! This railroad-station-turned-hotel has a beautiful two-story lobby with balconies on the upper level. From floor to arched ceiling, the décor and interior design pay homage to the historic building’s past without making it feel outdated or stuffy. The lobby also has a café, a convenience store, and a bunch of really cushy couches to sit and rest on if you’ve been walking around for a while and need a break.
As you can see, Nashville is a straightforward, down-to-earth city that’s practically designed for a weekend getaway! There’s more to the city than country music, but if you go you should at least give it a try (I think you’ll end up liking it). I’m sure there are more hidden treasures to discover if you spend longer than a weekend here, but that will have to wait until next time. Have a great time and don’t stay out too late! 😉