3-Day Guide to Food, Music & More in Nashville, TN
Oh Nashville, my Nashville. My, how you have grown! Growing up in rural Kentucky, just 1.5 hours away, Nashville was our "big city." As an adult, I have lived and worked there in luxury hospitality. Nashville is a case study in contradiction: with one foot planted firmly in gleaming glass skyscrapers, James Beard chef-owned restaurants and new cultural masterpieces opening constantly. The other foot is planted in our incomparable history; sometimes a little rowdy, filled with neon signs and more wannabe music stars, but always ready to show our visitors a boot-scootin good time. You haven't lived until you've experienced this most American of city's. C'mon, y'all, next rounds on me!
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Where to stay
The Hermitage Hotel
Luxe property located in a 1910 beaux arts building with polished rooms and an on-site Southern restaurant.
$100 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Four Seasons Hotel Nashville
Delightful luxury hotel in Nashville's SoBro neighborhood with spacious rooms and a fine dining restaurant.
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21c Museum Hotel Nashville
With more than 10,500 square feet of art exhibitions, this high-design museum-hotel is one of Nashville's most celebrated.
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Day 1: Check in & start exploring
Check into your hotel downtown and even if not staying at the Hermitage Hotel, I recommend visiting this Beaux Arts historic landmark and partake in afternoon tea. This is the same hotel that the suffragettes made their HQ in 1919, lobbying tirelessly for the Tennessee State Legislature to be the definitive state to vote on the 19th amendment to the constitution. Their tireless work paid off, with the amendment ratified by only one vote, this giving women the right to vote for the first time in American history. If time permits, check out the incredible and new Tennessee State Museum next door to the Hermitage Hotel.
For dinner, head to the nearby 21c hotel's acclaimed restaurant Gray & Dudley where the smoked pork belly is sublime. Be sure to try one of their creativity named and wholly original cocktails (my choice - It's Probably Nothing but Think I've Just Killed a Man).
After dinner spend an hour or two pursuing the incredible contemporary art exhibits within 21c. It is free and open 24/7.
After all that excitement, I recommend a good night's sleep to prepare for a little obsession we southerners call 'honky tonkin'.
Day 2: Museums, BBQ & Honky Tonk Highway
In the morning, head to the Broadway adjacent neighborhood 'The Gulch" for a cinnamon roll and latte at Milk and Honey.
The Gulch is THE neighborhood to see and be seen in Nashville. It's fairly compact, incredibly walkable, filled with skyscrapers and didn't exist a decade ago. Spend some time shopping at the likes of Uncommon James, L.A. Green Nashville, Patagonia and many more. Make sure to take a selfie in front of one of the many murals throughout the neighborhood. Grab some of the best 'cue and sides in town for lunch at Peg Leg Porker BBQ.
Next, head back towards Broadway and stop in at the Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame, country music fan or not. Next, head to the all new 5th and Broad development, home to the must visit inspiring and incredible National Museum of African American Music. In the same development is Assembly Food Hall, home to over 20 'food stalls' filled with only locally owned outposts. Eat plenty of bread and keep the liquid intake strong, your body will thank you later.
That's because tonight is the night to venture out into the belly of the beast. The legendary, packed, historic 5 block stretch of Broadway known as the "Honky Tonk Highway." Literally packed with highly inebriated revelers and lined with bar after bar after bar, all with cheap beer, strong whisky and the absolute best bands you haven't heard of (yet) playing all hours of every single day. Its overwhelming, chaotic, a total sensory overload... Love it or loathe it, it's a huge part of the Nashville experience and identity. Start at the world famous (and bright purple) Tootsie's and just bar hop down Broadway towards the riverfront.
Don't forget to drink a ton of water back at your property!
Day 3: A day of music & culture
Today, start off your day with a collosal biscuit sandwich at any of the Biscuit Love locations spread throughout downtown.
Today, I recommend heading west on Broadway to the Midtown/West End neighborhoods. You must check out the impressive, century old exact replica of the Parthenon in ancient Greece (due to it's abundance of universities and cultural institutions, Nashville is known as the Athens of the West).
After exploring the Parthenon and Centennial Park, walk a few blocks and explore and admire the architecture and landscaping of the extremely prestigious Vanderbilt University and historic, southern gothic campus of Belmont University. Make sure to stop at Hillsboro village on 22nd St in between the two campuses.
Have an early dinner at iconic Nashville institution, Elliston Place Soda Shop. It practically invented the Nashville specialty of meat and three. Which is exactly as it sounds. With different, rotating options each night you choose one meat and three homemade sides. It's cheap, delicious and with huge portions.
Tonight, you must experience the vaunted, hallowed venue known as The Bluebird Cafe. This is a true singer/songwriter establishment that has seen every country legend imaginable. On any given night you may catch Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, Luke Combs, Reba McIntyre and many more. Here's the thing, the Bluebird is TINY and is a full house every single night. If you can't nab a ticket at their website, start lining up an hour or so before opening (with 100 of your new best friends) and as patrons leave, they will let the next in line enter. Keep in mind, this is NOT a wild honky tonk. This is about serious music lovers listening to the top talent in music today. Silence and respect are expected.
If time permits and your schedule aligns, seeing a show at the Ryman Auditorium (aka The Mother Church of Country Music) is an unforgettable, bucket list opportunity. Don't be picky, if there's a show of any kind while you're in town, do not miss out.
Be sure to check out the speakeasies and dusty bars in Printers Alley. Also check out what exhibitions are on display at the Frist Museum of Art, an architectural icon that showcases rotating exhibits from around the world.
Need to Know
For more Nashville travel tips, check out this guide by Fora Advisor Lana Jainarain: Local's Guide to Activities & Hotels in Nashville, Tennessee.
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