I believe in Nashville.
It’s one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit. I simply can’t resist barbecue, southern cooking, live music and country history! I also love a city that loves food. So when Paul got booked into a conference in Nashville earlier this month – I finally had a great reason to visit.
The BEST thing we did was fly in early and book two nights at a hotel in downtown Nashville. Paul’s conference was in Opryland, which was 20 minutes outside of the core and not as convenient for getting around. You definitely don’t want to waste your trip going back and forth on the highway.
Getting There + Around – I was lucky enough to catch a direct flight from LAX to Nashville International Airport with a flying time of about 3.5 hours. I would say that renting a car is a must, it’s the easiest way to get around and everywhere we wanted to go was either a 10-minute drive or a 30-minute walk. There is public transportation, but the travel times could take up to 45 minutes as Nashville is quite spread out.
If you plan on drinking, Uber is available in Nashville for on-demand black car or taxi service. Our hotel also offered a shuttle service, so check with whom you’re staying with to see if this is an option.
Where to Stay – We stayed at the very stylish and centrally-located Hutton Hotel. This boutique property was anything but cookie-cutter and the majority of the things we did felt like it was only 10 minutes away from our hotel. Read my full post on The Hutton Hotel.
Hit The Biergarten – OMG this was one of the BEST burgers of my life. The cheeseburger at The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden is now in my personal top three. There’s just something about that soft chewy bun that looks like an English muffin that mushes all together with their 100% Tennessee-raised beef burger. Not only is the food a hit, the outdoor patio is fashioned after a German biergarten with string lights, communal picnic table seating with great beers and homemade sodas on tap. Don’t forget to add a side of tater tots or slaw and I am still dreaming of that burger bun.
Seating at The Pharmacy can be tough to come by and we waited 30 minutes for a table on a Thursday night around 7 pm. I would avoid The Pharmacy on a Friday or Saturday because of the long waits. Your best best is to come early on a weeknight or sit at the bar. If you’re starving, go across the street to Mas Tacos Por Favor for a quick fish taco while you’re waiting.
Go Bowling! – After our dinner at The Pharmacy, we decided to pay a visit to The Pinewood Social – a sort of hipster playground in an old warehouse in Nashville. It’s part restaurant, bar, coffee shop, outdoor patio with a pool and bowling alley all-in-one. Bowling is $40/hour and includes shoe rentals for everyone in your party. We sipped on a few delicious cocktails before our lane came up and before I killed at bowling.
Visit America’s Letterpress – On the main floor of the Country Music Hall of Fame is Hatch Show Print, a letterpress that still prints posters by hand. The large workshop offers daily tours ($15) and sells posters in their gift shop for a fun Nashville souvenir. They still design 500-600 show posters a year and have a small gallery of their latest artwork. Definitely a must-visit!
See a Piece of Country History – After wandering out of Hatch Show Print, Paul and I found ourselves in the lobby of The Country Music Hall of Fame. We spent about an hour wandering through this massive shrine to all things country that goes through chronologically. The building itself is stunning and it was great to indulge in some country history in the heart of music city.
Eat at a Meat + Three – After the museum, we walked about 10 minutes down the street to join the long line-up that was already forming at Arnold’s to get our first taste of some real southern cooking. You get a meat + three sides. For just $10, I got a homecooked meal of meatloaf, corn pudding, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, fried cornbread, a slice of pecan pie and a coke! All of it was amazing, however Paul ordered the roast beef and it was quite possible the BEST thing I ate on our entire trip – after the burger of course.
The fried green tomatoes are not to be missed – perfectly crispy and the pecan pie was some of the best I have ever had. The nuts have a smokey, toasted flavour to them – do not skip dessert! This is not the time to be counting calories.
Arnold’s is only open Monday to Friday from 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM and it’s a local favourite. Get there early! We arrived at 11:30 AM and the line was already 20 people deep – however it moves quickly and we were served cafeteria-style within 15 minutes of arriving. The menu and specials change daily and they even have a James Beard award!
Third Man Records – After lunch, we took a short walk over to Jack White’s Third Man Record’s shop and studio. The small store is packed with lots of interesting oddities, but do make sure you record your own record and take a few photos in the photo booth. Third Man has lots of great T-shirt, posters and CDs for sale.
See the Parthenon. Yes you read correctly. Surprise! Nashville has a replica of THE Parthenon that once existed in Greece. Nashville is considered the ‘Athens of South’ because of the number of educational institutions located here, so the Parthenon was built in 1897 as part of Tennessee Centennial Exposition.
It’s definitely worth a quick peek around and to say hello to the 42-feet statue of Athena Parthenos who resides inside of it. If you have some time, walk along the river or rent a bike to explore the grounds of Centennial park.
Tour an Artisanal Whiskey Distillery – We could not visit Nashville without trying some Tenneessee whiskey. Corsair Distillery is located right in Nashville and their tours ($8) sell out quickly. I booked ahead online and we took a tour of their small facility and learned how whiskey is made and all about the aging process. Included at the end of the tour is a whiskey and gin tasting – yum! Make sure you sample the quinoa whiskey.
Try the Barbecue – Next on my food hit list was some authentic southern barbecue and Peg Leg Porker came highly recommended by my concierge. They’re smokey dry rub ribs were tender and perfect for dipping in their homemade bbq sauce. Don’t forget the side of mac & cheese, green beans and baked beans (so good). This is a half rack above – and I could barely get through it – it was so big.
Shop it Out – One of my favourite shopping districts had to be the shops in the 12 South Neighbourhood. All of the stores are small, local and independent. You’ll even find some great vintage and antique spots along this strip as well. Not-to-be-missed shops include:
- Katy K Designs (vintage clothing)
- Imogene + Willie (casual wear and jeans)
- Las Paletas (for the best popsicle you’ll ever eat – try the grapefruit one!)
- Savant Vintage (antiques + vintage clothing)
- White’s Mercantile (home goods)
If you’re looking for a mall, head out to Opry Mills for a mix of your suburban favourites and outlet stores. It’s right next to The Grand Ole Opry, so just time your visit with that. If you have more time, it’s worth a visit to The Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It’s like an adult Disney World inside a biodome, complete with boat rides, waterfall and a lush tropical forest.
See Live Music – One of my must-do’s when planning my trip to Nashville, was seeing a country show at The Grand Ole Opry. There’s just so much country history here and the performers are all top-notch. I went on a Saturday night and it was sold-out. The variety radio show we watched was very entertaining and well worth the $40 I spent on my ticket. We even saw country greats like Kelly Pickler and Gretchen Wilson perform that night. Do buy your ticket well in advance to make sure you get the seat you want.
If you’re still seeking out some Nashville nightlife – stop in at one of honky-tonk bars on Broadway during a busy Friday or Saturday night. Favourites include Tootsies and Paradise Trailer Park Resort. There’s also a more lo-fi night of bluegrass & shepherd’s pie at The Family Wash out near Opryland. If you’re looking for a fancy nightcap, stop by The Crying Wolf for one last drink. If it feels more like a dance party kind of night, book in The 5 Spot in East Nashville for their famous Monday night jam.
The BEST Biscuits of YOUR Life – Are you ready for this? The Loveless Cafe is just 30 minutes outside of Nashville served up the BEST biscuit I have ever eaten. The secret recipe is still holding strong after 50+ years and pairs perfectly with their southern fried chicken. Bookmark this place and look for my review on the blog next week!
That’s it for Nashville! Have you been before? Are there any places I’ve missed that you recommend visiting?