Written by Sarah during her trip to Nashville, TN.
Tennessee is known for its own style of BBQ, world-famous distilleries (enter Jack Daniels), and the Bonnaroo music festival. But statistically this state is known for something much more iconic. Drawing a blank? Let me give you a couple of hints: Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton, Roy Orbison, Jackson 5. By now you would’ve guessed that I’m referring to Nashville, TN. This state capital is known by many names and for countless reasons, but probably the most renowned can be inferred through its nickname Music City, U.S.A.
Remarkably, this city has so much to offer a visitor besides country music. Foodies will be satisfied by dozens of food options, including southern classics, tacos, and BBQ. Sports fans can take in the magnitude of Bridgestone Arena and Nissan Stadium. Artists can visit the Frist Art Museum as well as gaze at the impeccable wall art throughout the city. Even historians can appreciate the city as they meander around the massive Parthenon replica in Centennial Park or tour the famed Studio B.
Since I am a mix of all of the above, the following list outlines 13 of my not-to-miss experiences in Nashville, Tennessee.
- Discover Hidden Gems in East Nashville: One of the most popular neighborhoods to live in, East Nashville has been dubbed the coolest neighborhood in the city. Filled with the cutest bungalow homes, unique small businesses, and Nissan Stadium (the home of the Tennessee Titans), this area is worth a stroll in the early morning or evening. Be sure to stop at The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden for some of the most creative homemade sodas and brews you’ve ever tasted. If the wait to too long, head across the street to Mas Tacos, featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives–if it’s good enough for Guy, it’s good enough for us. Storefronts like FLWRS offer unique takes on standard, everyday items, like flower bouquets.
- Take Your Photo in Front of Nashville Wall Art: A surprisingly playful activity, one of my favorite experiences I had while in Nashville was strolling through neighborhoods and admiring the wall art. From the complete sides of commercial buildings to the base of lightposts, little splashes of art can be found everywhere. In addition to the most famed wings in all of Nashville in The Gulch, here are a few others we enjoyed in 12 South and Downtown: Nashville Looks Good on You, I Believe in Nashville, Make Music Not War, Flower Wall, Small Penguins, Nashville Peace Sign, CASH wall.
- Bar Hop on Lower Broadway: Known as the Las Vegas of the South, Lower Broadway is constantly referred to the cheaper strip of the southwest. With over 30 bars on Lower Broadway alone, you can find hundreds of young women and men celebrating a bride- or groom-to-be. This district has plenty of options if you’re looking for a little live music or a chance to line dance to your heart’s content. If going out honky tonkin’ isn’t your idea of a root-scooting good time, the bars on Broadway typically have rooftops that offer smaller appetizer menus and exotic drinks with softer music to people watch the night away.
- Take a Hop-on Hop-off Tour to see the Highlights of the City: Want a cheaper way to see the attractions? Purchase a hop-on hop-off ticket. These trolleys and double decker buses loop around the city, stopping at key locations to let passengers off to explore more on foot. Many of these tickets are good for two days and some even include passes to some of the museums and additional tours around the city. Our one regret was that we didn’t purchase one of these sooner–so much money could’ve been saved on ubers.
- Shop the Boutiques on 12 South: If spending your hard earned cash on some of Nashville’s rare fashions is a goal while visiting, head down to 12 South. This street is home to Draper James (Reese Witherspoon’s boutique), Moda, Hero Boutique, Vinnie Louise, Serendipity, imogene + willie. You’ll want to uber back to your hotel/airbnb after a morning trip here with all of the bags you’ll be carrying.
- Stroll around The Gulch: Considered the youngest and newest neighborhood in Nashville, The Gulch is also one of the most chic, high-end, and energy efficient districts in the city. Originally home to the local railroad for over 50 years, this geographical depression of the city is now home to residential and commercial spaces. Oh and let’s not forget the shops and restaurants. Be sure to visit Two Old Hippies and The Pub and keep an eye out for one of Amelia’s’ Flower Trucks–they’re the cutest.
- Walk around Music City Convention Center: This 2.1 million square-foot sustainable structure is located in the middle of downtown. The space houses everything from conferences, exhibits, and events, to beehives located on the green roof, built to resemble the rolling hills of Tennessee. The free Songwriter’s Hall of Fame Gallery is located on the first floor of the MCC and allows interactive experiences that celebrate the long-standing history of songwriters in Nashville.
- Go Back in Time and Absorb Country Music’s History: One of the best feelings I had while visiting Nashville came after walking around the Country Music Hall of Fame. A young child turned to his mother and said, “I want to listen to that Johnny Cash guy tonight. I want to know more about him.” That’s what this place does to visitors and fans alike; it takes them back in time and teaches them about the founding members of country music, deepening a respect from all. I also highly recommend taking the Studio B tour. Setting foot inside the halls of the studio of a thousand hits is a chilling experience unlike any other.
- Head to Opryland: Located just 20 minutes northeast of Nashville, this area of Tennessee was originally home to Opryland USA, an amusement park with rides like Screamin’ Delta Demon and Grizzly River Rampage. Today, this 120-acre destination is home to the Grand Ole Opry and a mall that would satisfy any 90s baby. A new, but always fun, attraction is Madame Tussauds wax museum. What better way to take those prized selfies with your favorite celeb than at a destination where they can’t run away?
- Devour the Dishes Tennessee has to Offer: I think this experience is self explanatory, so I will just leave my list of favorites here for your salivating-inducing pleasure: Frothy Monkey for lavender honey latte and biscuits and gravy, Las Paletas for gourmet popsicles, Martin’s BBQ for real Tennessee BBQ, Milk & Honey for chicken biscuit breakfast sandwiches (order extra honey hot sauce), Lower Broadway honky tonks for mac and cheese, cajun pasta, and soft pretzels.
- Listen to Live Music: With a nickname like Music City, U.S.A., live shows are sure to be prevalent. Nashville has its pick of venues from the intimately, historically small to the modernly, contemporarily grand. Check out this list of hot spots and be sure to check out tickets online before going down; some of these are extremely exclusive: The Bluebird Cafe, The Listening Room, The Ryman Auditorium (original home of The Grand Ole Opry), The Grand Ole Opry House, Bridgestone Arena, the bars on Lower Broadway.
- Find a Rooftop Pool: This one is a little harder to come by, but if you can pull it off, it’s worth it. Like many of the major cities in the US, Nashville’s development is booming. They have experienced rapid growth in the last five years, and as such the locals will have some complaints (no public transit, traffic, higher rents, etc.). But this is also leading to some pretty impressive buildings, including apartment complexes with all the amenities. Pools are a must in these structures due to the blazing heat the majority of the year. Find one downtown, and more than likely it’s on a roof. Concrete jungle views poolside? What could be better. Here are some spots to check out: L27 Rooftop Lounge, 500 Fifth Ave, Omni Nashville Hotel.
- Gaze at the Skyline: New cities bring new skylines. Nashville is no different. Get ready to photograph cranes in every direction (really not kidding about their rapid development), but it’s still worth it. Two of my favorite spots are the Pedestrian Bridge and The George Jones. The bridge, complete with lookouts strategically placed at great viewpoints, takes 10 minutes to walk across the Cumberland River. The George Jones is a restaurant that has three floors, the rooftop offering views that the others on Broadway don’t. Pro tip, be sure to order fried green tomatoes as you gaze upon the river, stadium, and footbridge.
Have you ever visited Nashville? How about Tennessee? What are some recommendations for our next trip to The Volunteer State? We’d love to hear from you, share in the comments below!