For a person who travels often, it’s a bit ironic that my first blog post about travel is about the city I’m blessed to call home: Nashville, TN.
From first visit, I knew in my heart I’d move to Nashville. I’ll admit, I got the Nashville itch that so many people catch (i.e. the immediate infatuation with Music City and complete compulsion to move). There’s a reason (many reasons actually) why this city is truly something else and has become a popular destination in the last few years. It’s so much more than the most popular city for destination Bachelorette Trips. It’s chock-full of great food, wonderful people, incredible music, beautiful scenery, and a seemingly never-ending list of things to do.
I’m lucky to have had a number of friends and family visit, which has given me an opportunity to play tourist in my own town. But I knew I’ve had others visit as well so I took to Facebook to crowdsource some suggestions to compile what I’m calling “MG and Friends’ Guide to Music City”. This list is by no means perfect or complete.
Let’s get this party started with my favorite topic: Food. There is no shortage of awesome dining options in Nashville. I’ve compiled some recommendations below for restaurants and spots for a bite around town:
Biscuit Love is one of my favorite spots in town. I typically order the East Nasty because fried chicken is my weakness. The lines can get pretty long so you’ll want to plan your visit accordingly. However, I can attest, it is worth it! There are also two locations in town, which can help with the lines. I find the Hillsboro location to have shorter lines. While you’re there, don’t skip out on the bonuts!
Pancake Pantry is a Nashville institution. There’s a reason why the line is often out the door and around the corner: The pancakes are divine. I’ve found the best times to go are mid-week and prior to 9 am. I will say the pancakes are some of my favorite.
Noshville was one of the first places I went to in Nashville for breakfast so it has a sentimental place in my heart. It’s styled to emulate a New York style deli so it has all the comfort food your heart desires. Places that serve breakfast all day have a special trust in my book.
The Sutler Saloon hosts a Bluegress Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays and it is one of my favorites. The brunch menu is diverse and the bottomless mimosas (one of the few places in town) are affordable. Nothing beats brunch with mimosas and Bluegrass music.
Right next to the Sutler, Sinema is an old movie theater turned restaurant that hosts brunch on the weekends. I have not personally been but multiple friends have suggested it!
Also coming highly recommended for brunch is Husk. One friend included “Brunch at Husk was incredible! I bet it's just as good for other meals. A must do for sure!!”
Proper Bagel is your spot if you need your bagel fix. Located right by Belmont University, Proper Bagel brings NY-style bagels to Nashville.
Lunch or Dinner
Rosepepper Cantina is high on my list for places to try in 2019. I’ve heard great things from multiple friends. One friend suggests its good for “potent and cheap margaritas, queso, and Mexican food.” Say no more, I’ll see y’all there soon.
Burger Up is a trusted choice of mine in Nashville. I’ve literally never had a bad time at Burger Up. The burgers are fantastic, the appetizers are delightful (ex: fried mac and cheese balls), and they have a great happy hour menu. There are locations in 12 South and East Nashville for your burger (and non-burger) indulgences.
Hattie B’s is one of my most consistent suggestions for visitors and places I take friends and family. Let’s be honest, I’ll accept any excuse to go to Hattie B’s. If you’re looking for hot chicken in Nashville, put Hattie B’s on your list. There is often a line (a theme with popular Nashville eateries)...so if lines aren’t your thing, you can order ahead online and pick it up to-go!
If you come to Nashville and ask me where to go to dinner, I will very likely suggest Butchertown Hall. I love this place, plain and simple. It meets all my qualifications: the food is fantastic, the drink menu is great, the ambiance is super cool. I sometimes dream about their brisket.
I’ve also heard great things about Coco’s Italian Market. A friend who used to live in Nashville raved about Coco’s and called it “our favorite date night.”
When you come to Tennessee (or anywhere in the South), you’re obligated to engage in some BBQ. It’s a rule. I don’t make the rules, but I follow ‘em. Please attend and let me know which is your favorite! Here are a few suggested BBQ spots to check out:
While I try to suggest options that balance quality and price consciousness, it can be nice to splurge on a nice meal from time to time. If you’re looking for some on the fancier side, here are some options:
Kayne Prime is a renowned steakhouse in town. One friend says “best meal of my life.” Read: OF. THEIR. LIFE.
Adele’s is a great restaurant in the Gulch with variety on the menu and great ambiance.
Cafe Margot is a French-inspired spot in East Nashville. It comes recommended by friends and is self-described as “French inspired cuisine with a southern accent.” I can get down with that.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is technically an Ohio-based company, but there are multiple locations in Nashville and it’s my favorite place to grab a scoop. And for my dairy-free friends, they have a delicious chocolate option! There are multiple locations throughout the city if you need a cold sweet treat.
Five Daughters is home to 100 layer donuts. Yes, you read that correctly: 100 layers of donut goodness. They are open until the donuts are gone, but don’t worry you can monitor via the donut cam to make sure you can still snag one.
Baked on 8th is a bakery I’ve heard a lot of great things about but haven’t gone yet myself! It’s on my list. If you get there before I do, let me know what you think!
The Well is my favorite coffee shop in town and I frequent the Brentwood location to write and work. They are a socially-focused company, utilizing proceeds to help build wells and provide clean drinking water to communities without access.
Frothy Monkey is a 12 South must. It is loved by visitors and locals alike. I have a friend from work who is on a first name basis with the baristas there. If you aren’t in 12 South and want to get your Frothy fix, there are multiple locations in the city.
Crema is also a great stop for caffeine. And one friend includes that is has “great views of the skyline!” Coffee with a view? Sign me up.
Dose is tucked right off of 440 and West End. While I haven’t been, I’ve heard great things from friends who live nearby.
Three Brothers is off West End practically on Vanderbilt’s campus. It is my go-to coffee shop when I’m working near campus and need a divine Matcha latte.
I suggest for every person coming to Nashville to tour the Ryman Auditorium. Even if you aren’t a country music fan, you learn so much about the history of a beautiful building that has played a huge role in the city of Nashville. The Ryman is absolutely one of my favorite places in the city.
After your tour of the Ryman, you’ll be itching to go to a show at the Grand Ole Opry. Having been a fan of country music my entire life, seeing my first show at the Opry was a truly magical experience. Just know, you won’t be getting your typical concert format since the Opry still operates as a live broadcast variety show. You can also take a backstage tour to learn more about the history of the Opry.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum captures so much of the history of Nashville. As one friend put “Country Music Hall of Fame is worth it even you aren't a country music fan.” The exhibits are interactive and entertaining for all ages. It is truly a beautiful building. Some exhibits are temporary so I’d definitely take the opportunity to go while you can! You can also swing by the Hatch Show Print shop to see how the famous concert posters are made. For Nashville residents, you can check out free museum tickets from your local library branch.
Take in the view of the Nashville skyline from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. I’m absolutely in love with Nashville’s skyline and one of my favorite spots to see it is from the Pedestrian Bridge. I always suggest looking up the sunset time, getting there a bit early, and snapping a picture at the golden hour.
Musicians Hall of Fame is another great way to learn about music and take in some history while in Music City. It is a super interactive museum with exhibits that let you play along! You can’t miss the GRAMMY Museum Gallery while you’re there!
Collect some Insta-worthy snaps in front of Nashville’s many murals. From the “I Believe in Nashville” sign in 12 South to the “What Lifts You” wings in the Gulch, it seems the murals in the city are multiplying. Even locals love a good photo in front of some of our favorite street art.
The Cheekwood Estate is home to a botanical garden and art museum. Cheekwood hosts a number of events and festivals throughout the year. It is known for its seasonal displays. If you’re in town during the fall and/or winter definitely stop by to see their fall display and winter lights.
Check out some famous Tennessee whiskey and take tours at Jack Daniel’s Distillery or the George Dickel Distillery. Both distilleries are outside the city so plan your transportation accordingly. Most distilleries have a dry option for those who don’t drink or for anyone under the age of 21.
Centennial Park is not from from the downtown area, across the street from Vanderbilt University. It is home to the Parthenon, with walking trails and swing benches. It is a great way to get outside and learn about some Nashville history.
Kick back with a glass at Arrington Vineyards. While Tennessee may be known for its whiskey, you can’t miss the wine while you’re here. Arrington Vineyards is owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn and is located 30 minutes south of the downtown area. I’m at Arrington often because I love the wine and the view is hard to beat.
Whether you’re wanting food, a coffee, or to bowl, Pinewood Social is a great spot for groups. With a vintage vibe, you can bowl a few games or check out their other outdoor games. Calling ahead for a reservation is highly suggested.
Stop in and tour the Belle Meade Plantation. While I haven’t taken the tour myself, visiting Belle Meade is recommended by many of my friends in the area and it is on my to-do list. Dating back to the 1800’s, Belle Meade is home to a historical mansion, grounds, and a winery.
In the city, you’ll see pedal taverns and party barge buses galore, but one of my favorite “party on a vehicle” experiences is the Pontoon Saloon. Bring your friends and drinks and head down to the riverfront for a few hours of music, dancing, and seeing the city from the water.
Roaming the Nashville Flea Market can be a great way to check out some local Nashville and Tennessee vendors. I’ve picked up multiple items for my house from the flea market. The market takes place at the fairgrounds and is normally held every fourth weekend of the month.
If you’re looking for an old fashion cinema experience, head 30 minutes outside of town to the Stardust Drive-In (open March through November)and watch a movie from your car.
You might have noticed that I’ve given you a lengthy list of things to do in Nashville but haven’t really mentioned Broadway. Your perspective on Broadway is very special when you live in Nashville. It’s truly a love-hate relationship in its purest form. While it is home to our historic honky-tonks (which I love dearly), Bridgestone Arena (which hosts many incredible events), and much of our nightlife (you might have heard of it by now), it can also be incredibly crowded and get expensive quickly. It is often the place that tourists go first and flock to in masses. Do I enjoy going to Broadway from time to time with friends? I surely do. While there are times that I curse the traffic, lack of parking, overpriced everything, and swarms of tourists, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Broadway is a part of Nashville’s charm and identity. So now that my small rant about Broadway is over, here are some of my suggestions for your time on Broadway:
Enjoy the rooftops. There’s an unspoken but very apparent rule that any bar on Broadway must have a rooftop (not really). Rooftops or bust! I’m really okay with this rule. I’m a fan of the afternoons or evenings because late night on Broadway can get really packed.
Find a spot or two you enjoy and stay put. The bars can get crowded and the lines can get long. Hopping from spot to spot can be tempting but you may end up spending your time waiting in lines instead of taking in the music.
TIP THE BAND. You’ll have a hard time finding a band on Broadway that isn’t talented. They are working to ensure everyone is having a great time. They are awesome, super fun, and want to play your favorite songs. If you want them to keep playing your favorite songs, toss them a tip! Buying them a drink doesn’t hurt either.
Be friendly to the staff, bartenders, security, and law enforcement. Their work is tough but they work to make sure we all have a great, but safe time. A simple “thank you” or “how is your night going?” goes a long way and can be helpful down the road.
Check out the new trendy spots but appreciate the originals. There seems to be a new bar or renovated spot popping up on Broadway each week. The newness signifies the excitement and growth in the city, but let’s not forget about the historic places that helped make Broadway what it is today. If you’re coming to Nashville for the first time, you’ve got to check out Tootsie’s, Nudie’s, The Stage, and Honky Tonk Central.
Some of my other favorite Broadway spots include:
There’s such a variety of places to explore on Broadway so soak it in. As one of my friend’s said “Acme and Tootsies have my heart for Broadway bars.”
Broadway is not our only spot for nightlife.
If you’re looking for a nightlife and some adult beverages beyond the honky-tonks of Broadway, you might enjoy the following:
The Patterson House is one of the highest rated bars in Nashville. It is speakeasy-style and they take their craft cocktails seriously. Limited phone use is encouraged so enjoy your cocktail and the company you’re with.
You’ll miss The Hidden Bar at Noelle if you aren’t looking for it. Also in speakeasy style, this small hidden gem is all about well-made cocktails and good conversations. It’s located in the Noelle, but it’s up to you to find it. Good luck!
The Bobby Hotel rooftop bar has one of the most unique views of the city skyline. It has a vintage vibe and is even home to an old renovated bus that serves as a lounge space for patrons. This winter they served up festive winter drinks in igloos, but they welcome in the summer with a rooftop pool.
Clyde’s on Church is restaurant-bar with games like ping pong, foosball, and shuffle-board. They also serve brunch is that’s more your style.
Old Glory is another semi-hidden spot that has a smaller drink menu that I’m looking forward to trying.
Greenhouse Bar is a laid back bar located in Green Hills. I enjoy the outdoor seating area when the weather is nice
Attaboy doesn’t have a menu—You just let the staff know what you generally like and they mix up something delicious. Attaboy has been on my list for awhile now so please someone come visit so I have a great reason to go.
Santa’s Pub is like no other. Mostly because it’s a double-wide trailer that serves as a karaoke bar. Whether you like to sing or you just like to people watch, Santa’s Pub is surely to be an experience. One friend describes it as good “for cheap bear and great times--but leave anything you want to re-wear at home.” As a note, it is cash only so come prepared.
Get a car.
Nashville is a much bigger and spread out city than most people think. As a friend who has lived here for most her life says “You can absolutely do Nashville without a car, but I think you miss out on some of the best parts of Nashville if you don't have one.” Even if you just rent or borrow a car for the day, it’ll be worth it to trek outside the main city area. I’m a fan of using Turo (like AirBnb for cars) when traveling in new cities and only need a car for a short amount of time.
Get out of town.
Don’t leave forever...but get beyond the main city to soak in the beautiful Nashville scenery. The rolling hills of Tennessee are something to treasure. Historic Downtown Franklin is just down 65 and makes for a great afternoon.
Take in some history.
Beyond being an epicenter for so much music and art, a lot has taken place in Nashville. You can easily spend your time throwing back drinks on Broadway, but to truly experience the city take some time to learn about its past.
Explore the many neighborhoods of Nashville.
While Broadway might be part iconic downtown Nashville, you can’t sleep on the many unique neighborhoods throughout the city that offer so much to visitors. Checking out some of the neighborhoods will give you a true Nashville experience. Here are a few of my favorites that also come suggested by friends:
Check out Nashville Guru’s, one of my favorite sites and resources, breakdown of all the Nashville neighborhoods.
Spread Love, It’s the Nashville Way.
The phrase comes from one of my favorite local brands, Project 615, but the sentiment is so true. The city is so wonderful because of the sincerely nice people that live here and visit. To have an authentic Nashville experience, spread some love and kindness. Tip the bands, hold the door open for the person behind you, give fellow drivers “the wave” when they let you merge on the highway, say “please” and “thank you”, laugh with strangers, and don’t forget to SMILE...you are in one of the best cities in the world after all.
Thank you to all my wonderful friends and family who have visited and shared their thoughts on this beautiful city. If you’re heading to Nashville soon and would like to connect or I missed a Nashville “must”, let me know!