By Laura Braden
What do Mumford & Sons, Jack White, Black Keys and Johnny Depp all have in common? They now call Nashville home (at least for part of the year).
As the capital of Tennessee – and arguably the most progressive/hip city in the Volunteer State – Nashville’s nightlife, culinary and arts scene has blown up on the national stage in the last year or so. Best known for it’s country music roots (the city has 3x the number of music businesses as Los Angeles), Nashville is quickly becoming known for it’s high quality of life (e.g. no state income tax) and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Consider the recent profiles:
- New York Times: Nashville’s Latest Big Hit Could Be the City Itself (…Portland knows the feeling. Austin had it once, too. So did Dallas. Even Las Vegas enjoyed a brief moment as the nation’s “it” city. Now, it’s Nashville’s turn…)
- Wall Street Journal: Insider’s Guide to Nashville
- Conde Nast: Best Places to Visit in 2013 (Nashville ranked #3)
- CNN Money: Nashville ranked #3 for startups/entrepreneurs.
As a native of Tennessee, I can vouch for the awesomeness of this dear little town, as I’ve spent a lot of time there for work and play. It’s the perfect weekend getaway because you can literally see everything (ok, almost everything) in 2-3 days. And crazily enough, I’ve had 1/2 dozen Sacramento friends travel here lately – prompting me to compile my recommendations into this profile.
Distance from Sacramento: Approx 2,270 miles. Southwest has the most/cheapest flights, ranging from 5.5 to 7 hours of travel for around $360-500.
Nashville has really matured/diversified over the last few years. You’ll fit in wearing cowboy boots and jeans as much as you will wearing in designer duds. Hipster artists, Vanderbilt students, ex-frat guys in suits and up-and-coming musicians all mix and mingle here with a friendly ease. A lot of graduates from the region’s universities and colleges (Ole Miss, Auburn, Univ. of Tennessee, Sewanee, Univ. of Alabama, etc) end up in Nashville so there’s a great singles scene filled with young professionals who are always down for a happy hour or concert festival. It’s definitely got a small town feel with big city amenities, but the neighborhoods are a bit physically disconnected (think San Francisco) so you’ll need to rent a car (parking is abundant) or prepare to cab it a lot.
Nashville isn’t super dog-friendly, but more and more hotels and restaurant patios are allowing them. As always, call/check ahead of time.
A Place to Lay Your Head
Nashville has all of the regular hotels (Sheraton, Hilton, etc) right downtown offering competitive rates within walking distance to the Capitol and tourist sites, but if you’re looking for something a little different consider…
Hutton Hotel (1808 West End Avenue) – Located just west of downtown (close to Vanderbilt), the Hutton is my favorite place to stay. It’s a hip and modern boutique hotel that pays attention to the details. Molton Brown products and an amazing waterfall shower head (one of my top 10 showers (yes, like naps I totally rank these) of all time) are just the start. They’re also incredibly dog-friendly – your furkid will be greeted at the front desk with a goodie bag of treats, and they have a dog walker on-hand if you end up staying out late.
Hermitage Hotel (231 6th Avenue North) – If the Hutton = modern, the Hermitage = Southern classic. Located right downtown (close to the Capitol), the Hermitage is historic (open since 1910) and sophisticated. Be sure to grab a drink and fancy snack at the Oak Bar where you’re likely to overhear legislators, lobbyists and consultants gossiping about the latest news and developments at the Capitol. The Hermitage is also dog-friendly and offer dog walkers, as well as in-room dining menus specifically designed for pets.
My perfect weekend in Nashville consists of the following…
FRIDAY – Get unpacked, freshen up and then hit the town. My new favorite restaurant is Silo (1121 5th Ave. North) in Germantown, just North of downtown. They have amazing cocktails/local beers, and their menu is farm-to-fork so it changes often. Last time I was there I had the Hangar Steak with Asher Blue Cheese Fondue, and it was delicious. Post-dinner, I’d hit up the bars in the super-hip Gulch neighborhood. Located between downtown and Music Row, it’s a quick cab from Silo and has a good cluster of bars within walking distance. For a laidback vide, try Jackalope Brewing Company (701 8th Ave. South), and if you want to combine shopping (yes please!) with craft cocktails, check out Kocktails and Kouture (316 11th Ave. South).
SATURDAY – Maximize the day by exploring Nashville’s arts, music, historic and cultural sites. Rather than pontificate on the benefits of museum X or music tour Y, I’m going to simply redirect you to VisitMusicCity.com. It’s a wonderful resource that captures the best of Nashville’s attractions. Bonus – if you’re traveling with kiddos, check out these options.
I’m not huge on visiting a city’s “top 10 tourist sites” – I’d rather wander around neighborhoods, stumble into cool places, and try to absorb the vibe like locals. However, I can vouch for the Country Music Hall of Fame because it shares the comprehensive history of country music from Patsy Cline to Carrie Underwood. And if you love music, check out the schedule at the historic Ryman, which has hosted everyone from Adele to Dwight Yoakum to the Temptations to Mumford. Tickets sell out quick so check the schedule and buy early.
After checking out the sites, get gussied up and ready to be twirled on the dance floor… But first, we need to carb up… For true Southern fare, try Whiskey Kitchen (118 12th Ave. South). If you’re in the mood for fancy sushi, try Virago (1126 McGavock St.). Both are hip and absolutely delicious (seriously, order whatever looks good – you can’t go wrong). They’re also both a short cab ride to Broadway Street, which is where I’m taking you next because it houses a large cluster of legit (mostly country) music bars. You can literally walk down this street at 1:00pm on a Monday and hear amazing live music streaming out of every door. The area is definitely touristy so there’s great people watching and cheap/stout drinks. My favorites are Robert’s (416 Broadway), which is an old school, Texas-style honky tonk and Paradise Park (411 Broadway), which is trailer-parked themed complete with astro turf carpet. You can also buy nice cowboy boots in all the stores along Broadway and most have a “buy one, get TWO free pairs” so treat yourself or bring some home for your friends!
SUNDAY – Nashville is a brunch town, and there’s no better option than Mad Donna’s (1313 Woodland Ave.) or Marche (1000 Main Street) in East Nashville. I LOVE East Nashville (quick cab from downtown) because it feels the most like NorCal. It’s where you’re most likely to run into Mumford or where your bartender is likely the next big Americana star. Wander around any of the shops in the Five Points neighborhood, and if you get thirsty, try Holland House (935 W. Eastland Ave.) for fun cocktails or the Pharmacy’s (731 McFerrin Ave.) beer garden for craft beer and gourmet burgers/tater tots. It’s technically an “up and coming” area, but I’ve never felt unsafe.
Whatever you do, avoid the Green Hills neighborhood. Tons of traffic and suburb-type bars and restaurants. There’s shopping but nothing Sacramento doesn’t have. For cute (and affordable) clothes/accessories, hit up Festivity (1814 21st Ave.) in Hillsboro Village, which is a quick cab from downtown and while you’re there, eat brunch at Fido (1812 21st Ave.) or lunch/dinner at Jackson’s (1800 21st Ave.).
And don’t bother visiting the Jack Daniels Distillery. Total bust unless you are a serious JD fan and/or collect uniquely labeled bottles (but you’ll pay inflated prices). It’s located in a dry county (welcome to the South!), and you only get a small sample after completing a two-hour tour. It’s a lovely facility filled with older tourists from New Jersey. The bfriend and I scouted the museum for about 15 minutes and then bounced.
Have any questions or want more recommendations? Hit me up at girlsonthegrid AT gmail DOT com. Happy travels!