Nashville is like a middle school cafeteria. You’ve got your hipsters on one side, your pep crew on the other, and everything else in between. It’s home to several colleges, three of which define the city: Belmont University (home of the hipsters and musicians), Vanderbilt University (home of preppy doctors and lawyers), and Lipscomb (home of the Christians). Plus, there’s “Nashvegas” – a word used to describe the main strip more commonly known as Broadway.
Anyone can benefit from a trip to Nashville. Take your pick – explore the coffee shops and taco restaurants, take tours of every museum in town, hike through every park or visit every bar.
For some of the coolest places to stay in Nashville, click here!
BEST NASHVILLE BARS
Rippy’s – This corner bar is sticky, gross, loud, and makes a damn good pulled pork for you to fill up on while you’re downing beers. Like every other bar on Broadway, there are different bands playing with different atmospheres on every floor – take your pick!
Honky Tonk Central – Another corner bar, Honky Tonk is about as touristy as it gets. You’ll pay $12 for a small plastic cup of something strong, and you’ll go deaf from crowding around the band.
Tootsies – You’re pretty much required to stop at Tootsies when you’re in Nashville. Classic country artists like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson used to stop in there. A few years ago, Keith Urban randomly played there. So, I’d add it to your list just in case.
The Wild Horse Saloon – Did you come to my city to line dance? Wild Horse is the place to go. There is always someone standing in front of the stage up front showing everyone how to line dance to whatever song the live band is playing. It’s lots of fun!
The Row – This place is really fun and it’s not in the heart of Broadway, so you can get away from that craziness. Also, if you’re in town because you’re trying to be the next Garth or Carrie, The Row hosts a great, comfortable open-mic night. They also advertise a great breakfast(M-F only), but I’ve never tried it…I can tell you that they make a mean burger (though if a burger is what you desire, scroll down to my section on burgers because Nashville has a lot to offer in that department).
The Country – I wanted to make sure this one was on the list because I just found out about it like a week ago and it’s a hidden gem. It’s off West End, which is a major street that eventually turns into Broadway. But it’s unsuspecting because it’s shielded by a McDonald’s. Oh 2016. Oh America. It’s one to hit if you’re looking for a writer’s round. You’ll find a lot of Belmont University students playing there, but don’t let the “students” part fool you – there’s a lot of talent. Like, a lot.
The Listening Room – Here you’ll find a healthy mix of professional songwriters and wannabes. Check the calendar before you go because sometimes they host invite or RSVP only nights. Also get the nachos.
The Bluebird – SO full of history and talent. The sad thing is, it’s become more known for it’s role in the TV show Nashville than for the brilliant writers that play there every night. Make a reservation way in advance. You’ll probably still have to wait in line, but at least you’ll be able to say you went and saw one of the guys that wrote “The House That Built Me” singing it himself.
THINGS TO DO
Downtown Shopping – In your walk down Broadway you will pass at least three boot stores. You’re going to think the “buy one pair get two free” deal is too good to be true. It’s true, but remember you aren’t buying ultimate hand-made real leather thousand dollar boots. They’re probably $60 faux leather that you’re spending $200 on and you’ll only wear them once. Pro tip: 99% of Nashville residents do not actually wear cowboy boots and I’m willing to bet 50% or more don’t even own any. Some of the downtown gift shops are pretty cool too, and I recommend stopping in the record store.
Country Music Hall of Fame – This is a great experience even if you’re not a country music fan because no matter what music you listen to, Elvis’ car is a freaking awesome thing to see. You can take an audio tour or just wander around yourself. P.S. – bring your own earphones so you don’t have to share with millions of other people (lol). Also, sometimes songwriters perform there and they have fun little events, so check out the schedule. ALSO, there are Studio B tours that leave from the hall of fame. That’s a good way to do it – knock out all the music history stuff in one shot.
all the Tacos:
Taqueria Del Sol – While not unique to Nashville, they only exist in TN and GA, so now is as good of a time as ever to try it out. They have a small menu but don’t complain about it because you literally cannot pick wrong. I love the fried chicken tacos because you can’t find that anywhere else, and their queso is delicious. One thing I love about this place is that the owner/manager (I’m not sure which) is always walking around, it makes it feel very mom-and-pop even though it’s really not.
Taco Mamacita – My absolute favorite restaurant in Nashville. They also have locations in Chattanooga and SC. Again, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, just make sure you ask for no spice if you’re not into that because almost everything has it. I’m going to say the queso is delicious again, but I will probably always say that because I love queso. They have a combo where you can get two tacos (feel free to mix and match) and a side for $8.99. You may think you don’t need a side, but this deal is like getting it for free, and the Mexican street corn is my favorite food in the entire world. That’s an exaggeration. I think. I don’t know. My favorite taco they have is the loaded gyro, but I enjoy all of them.
Nashville Hot Chicken:
Hattie B’s – They literally only serve hot chicken. The line will be out the door and around the corner but you absolutely will not regret waiting.
McDougals – The walls are packed to the max with license plates and the outdoor environment is great in the summer. They only serve chicken, just choose the sauces you want.
Martin’s – The best BBQ in Nashville, in my humble opinion. Try the Alabama White Sauce, pulled pork, brisket, or anything else on the menu. Super casual and sticky environment (how any good bbq place should be).
Edley’s – A little nicer than Martin’s in terms of the interior – it’s more like a sports bar that serves barbecue. I think the location is the best part about this place. It’s on 12 south, among several other restaurants including Las Paletas which you 100% need to hit afterwards for desert. They have 20 or so popsicle flavors to choose from and their menu is constantly changing.
Burger Up – Get the lamb burger. Add truffle fries.
PM – This is an ASIAN RESTAURANT and they have what I consider one of the best burgers in Nashville. Also good fries. You can also go there for sushi, if you’re into that.
I mean this in the nicest way possible when I say all of these are almost exactly alike. Bongo and Fido are owned by the same company. The look (slightly) different on the inside and have (slightly) different menus, but they all stem from the same basic idea: good coffee and a law that states you have to be a hipster (or at the very least, wish you were) to work there. There are more, but these are my favorites.
- Bongo Java (Belmont Blvd.)
- Fido (Hillsboro Village)
- Frothy Monkey (12 South)
- Edgehill Cafe (Near Music Row)
- Starbucks (Kidding.)
ICE CREAM AND DESSERT:
Mike’s Ice Cream – Another downtown charm. Mike’s is a great place to go post-line dancing at the Wild Horse or laser-taging. The ice cream is great, and they are an easy place to grab a sweet treat in between bars.
Cosmic Creamery – Are ice cream and cereal two of your favorite things? Have you ever tried them together? Now you can, at Cosmic Creamery! This place infuses their ice cream with your favorite sugary cereal flavors for the ultimate dessert.
Pied Piper Creamery – This local East Nashville sweet shop hosts unique and delicious flavors with punny names like, “Are you there, God? It’s me, Margarita,” “Cherry Springer,” and my personal favorite, “Some Like It Hot” (chocolate with cinnamon and cayenne).
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen – A southern candy store chain headquartered in – you guessed it – Savannah, Georgia. They have a Broadway location in Nashville, so it’s worth checking out if you a) don’t do the bar thing, b) have kids, or c) enjoy sugar.
J. Christopher’s – One of the most underrated places in town. Maybe it’s just because I’m a north eastern-er experiencing southern breakfast foods for the first time, but I can’t get enough.
Pancake Pantry – You’ve probably read about this on every travel site. If you don’t want to wait in line for an hour or two, go on a weekday after 11 or a weekend after 1. They don’t stay open past like 3pm, though so be careful. Half the things on the menu are sweeter than you’re going to expect, so be forewarned about that. This is located in the wonderful Hillsboro Village, near Vanderbilt University’s campus.
Find Southern Charm in Franklin
Downtown Nashville is perfect for a crazy Saturday night, but what are your plans for Sunday? You will LOVE driving down to Franklin, TN for a southern brunch, boutique shopping, civil-war era homes and tours, etc.
Just type “Main Street Franklin” into your GPS and look for the signs for the municipal (free) parking garage. Have brunch at Puckett’s, then shop around – find everything from unique clothing items to fresh spices and herbs.