One thing is for sure. After this trip, I believe in Nashville! About 2 months ago, a friend and I spontaneously decided to book a trip to Nashville for our joint birthdays. Why Nashville you ask? Well, we both LOVE the show, so the prospect of meeting a Deacon like cowboy was enough to get us on a plane. We also kept hearing wonderful things about the city’s vibe and of course the food so the decision was pretty easy.
I’ve been asked a lot in the last week how my trip was and the only thing I can say is that I loved every minute. From the chill, laid back vibes to the Southern Hospitality we just couldn’t get enough. Whether you’re going there to celebrate a bachelor/bachelorette party (there are A LOT of them) or just looking for a easy weekend get away, Nashville should definitely be a spot to consider.
The flight from Toronto is only two hours. Doesn’t get any better than that. You also gain an hour on the way there so we were smart in booking ourselves on a morning flight to enjoy a full day of exploring. Our flight back did have a connection through Laguardia which wasn’t ideal given how short the direct flight is.
You will land at Nashville International Airport where low and behold, you can actually take Uber to get to your final destination. They even have a specific area designated for Ride Share pick-ups. If only other airports (ahem, Toronto) could please follow suit. We were staying in downtown Nashville so our commute out was less than 20 minutes.
Where to Stay:
Definitely downtown. The one thing I quickly learned about Nashville is that it’s a very walkable city but if you stay downtown you are right in the middle of it all. Downtown Nashville is centred along Broadway Street which is one of the main strips in the city and all the surrounding neighborhoods are an easy walk or Uber drive away.
We were staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites which was right on 4th avenue and a perfect location for walking up to Broadway/Honky Tonk Central or exploring the patio scene by the river. There are tons of hotels in this area varying in price range and Air BnB options if you want to feel more like a local. When doing our research, we realized the price difference between hotels and Air BnBs was minimal so we opted for the option of daily room cleaning and fresh towels.
Things to Do
Nashville is the home of country music so you MUST take a few hours out of your schedule and visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Ryman Auditorium and The Grand Ole Opry. We actually scored a package deal to see the Ryman and Opry in the same day for a discounted price through the Ryman website. Totally worth the time and it will take you at most half a day to do them both and get a delicious lunch in.
The Pedal Tavern tour was also one of the most fun and hilarious things we did all weekend. It’s exactly what you think it is, a trolley bus with bike seats that pedals you around a certain area of the city and takes you bar hopping. You can also bring your own alcohol and drink along the way. The driver will most definitely play some classic drinking games like flip cup so be prepared to be happily drunk after your two hour tour. Book your trip online and do it well in advance to get a good time slot.
Areas to Explore
As I was doing my research on Nashville, I learned quickly that the main core of the city is made up of smaller neighbourhoods each with its own unique charm and feel. There are things to DO that are very Nashville (see above) but I found that the real delight was picking an area and letting the day decide for you.
Broadway is one of the main strips in downtown Nashville spanning from 1st ave down to 12th avenue. We stopped in for lunch at Acme Feed & Seed which is right on 1st avenue and next to the Cumberland river. It’s a multi-level venue with an awesome open-air rooftop overlooking the entire downtown area. They have 28 beers on tap, communal tables and live music featuring local Nashville musicians. We took advantage of the beautiful day and indulged in some beer, tacos and hot chicken which Nashville is famous for.
With our bellies full, we started to make our way down Broadway. Down 2nd avenue is probably the most touristy attractions you can find including all the chain restaurants, Coyote Ugly and your standard Nashville swag shops. We didn’t spend much time on this street but not bad area to explore if only for the drink specials. Once you hit 3rd avenue you are entering Honky Tonk Central which is where all the classic dive bars that Nashville is known for are.
We bar hopped for a bit on this strip and our favourite bar was Nudie’s Honky Tonk, which is not a strip club even though the name would suggest it but in fact the LONGEST bar in all of Nashville. The best part? There is live music playing as early as 10AM. How can you go wrong!?
Oh and you can’t come to Nashville and not have BBQ. We ended up getting our fix right on Broadway at Rippy’s. Famous for its ribs, it was everything they described and more. Although we were also roaring drunk from the Pedal Tour so I feel like you could have put KFC in front of us and we would have thought it was gourmet.
One of my favourite places of the entire trip was Pinewood Social. It’s a little bit East of the main downtown core but still overlooking the river. On the inside they have a very industrial look and feel but the outside felt very much like The Addisons here in Toronto. They’ve created a little oasis with small tables, umbrella’s, turf and bocce ball. Around the corner there are also a few small pools if you like to be surrounded by ALOT of people. Inside is a very cool space which has communal tables with people working on their laptops, a little cafe and a BOWLING ALLEY. You could literally spend all day here.
Another small area/strip to take a stroll through is Printer’s Alley. It’s in between 3rd and 4th avenue and is small side street of restaurants and bars. Super cute – think twinkly lights, small patios and hidden from the craziness of Broadway.
Our last stop downtown was the Westin Hotel on 8th avenue. Probably one of the nicer rooftop patios with an infinity pool, cabanas and all white everything. Definitely loved it up here.
Aside from hotels, there’s not much to see beyond 5th avenue until you get to 11th and 12th.
Upon hitting 11/12th avenue on Broadway you are officially in The Gulch. It’s located in the middle of downtown and Music Row and is quickly becoming known as the cool part of Nashville. We spent some time here both during the day and the night and it’s probably the other area of Nashville I’d consider staying in on my next trip.
Near 12th Avenue, there is a group of restaurants from the company M Street – Virago, St. Anejo, Whiskey Kitchen and Kayne Steakhouse which we only heard really good things about from the locals. We had a chance to pop into Whiskey Kitchen to try one of their whiskey flights which was amusing nonetheless for two non-whiskey drinkers. Highly recommend sharing a flight for two people, ordering french fries and a big glass of ginger-ale.
The Gulch is also super famous for is their “What Lifts You” wings mural. You have probably seen every one and their mother take a photo with this mural so obviously we had to.
Don’t bother going to the Thompson Hotel rooftop. We were there for drinks and they were awful. The wine tasted like the bottle had gone bad and I’m pretty sure my glass of Prosecco was the most bitter thing I’ve ever tasted.
On our first night in the city we were in Music Row for drinks and dinner. We started out at Patterson House which is a cozy little speakeasy that I discovered and had to experience. There is a thick curtain that divides the waiting area and the main room providing that much needed mystery and allure to this pre-prohibition style venue. Upon entering the space you realize how intimate it truly is. There is a large bar in the centre of a candle-lit room and book shelves adorn most of the walls.
Picture Credit: Nashville Guru
I instantly decided I want my basement to look like this one day. Cocktails are their specialty here and they take their time to expertly craft each one. It was honestly a work of art watching the mixologists design our drinks for us. And finally my favourite part which I really didn’t notice before (and now feel bad about breaking one of them) – is the house rules. I feel like all bars need these!
Picture Credit: Nashville Guru
For dinner we went to Barcelona Wine Bar, which was probably my favourite restaurant of the entire trip. Not only did we get top notch service, but the venue was GORGEOUS complete with a lovely patio and ridiculously delicious food.
Picture Credit: Nashville Guru
It’s a Spanish tapas style restaurant which meant we had the hardest time trying to narrow down our selections. We both had a wine flight which ended up being a lot more wine per person than you would think. We really need more of these flights in Toronto. We also got a meat and cheese board to start, and the portion sizes of the cheese alone could ave been our dinner. It’s the worst picture ever but it gives you a good idea of what we started with.
For our mains we ordered the Marinated Olives with citrus, almonds and garlic, Chorizo with sweet + sour figs & balsamic glaze, the Hanger Steaks with Truffle Vinaigrette and the grilled asparagus. It was a lot of food. Extremely delicious, finger licking delicious food. And because of the tapas style of dining our meal was surprisingly inexpensive.
It was obviously too early to end our night after dinner so we found ourselves at another speakeasy style bar called Old Glory which was right around the corner from the resto. It’s very inconspicuous to try and find it since there is no signage or actual directions to get there. You pretty much go down an alley behind Taco Mamacita and then you will see a door marked with a golden triangle. We totally thought we were going the wrong way but thank god we found the it!
The venue itself is a 1920’s boiler room and the designers were smart enough to keep some of the original fixtures intact like the exposed brick, large blocks of cement, a towering smokestack, and high ceilings. They added in some bar seating, cool tiling, booths and a multi-level design making this one of the coolest spots I’ve ever been to.
Photo Credit: Nashville Guru
Photo Credit: Nashville Guru
If there was one word to describe 12 South it would be CUTE. This area finds itself south of Music Row. It is essentially a strip of restaurants, bars and boutiques along 12th Avenue and is surrounded by mostly residential housing. We spent the most delightful morning/afternoon in this area and saw the most of any of the neighborhoods.
Our first stop was to get caffeinated at Frothy Monkey, a super cute coffee house serving local coffee, tea and variety of breakfast and sandwich foods. They have both indoor and outdoor seating which makes it a perfect spot to start the day.
As we continued to walk through 12 South we discovered the famous I Believe in Nashville mural as well as a beautiful collection of other less photographed murals. Photoshoot central!
What’s an afternoon of exploring without some retail therapy? Our first stop was White’s Mercantile, the most charming little general store for house wares, bar accessories, gifts and souvenirs. No lie, we also saw Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth just casually shopping while we were in there! 12 South is also the home of Draper James, Reese Witherspoon’s boutique with the most adorable clothes and accessories. You get free sweet tea while you shop!
In and around 12 South you’ll also run into Amelia’s Flower Truck, Nashville’s very own mobile flower truck which I literally wanted to drive away with. And naturally another spot for a photo opp.
After walking around we decided it was time to hydrate with some local craft beers at The Filling Station. We planted ourselves in front of the shop, beer in hand and indulged in relaxing game of Battleship. Could we be more like Nashville locals right now?
Finally it was time to eat so we were off to Bar Taco, a stylish, modern, Mexican restaurant serving up fresh and inventive tacos, ceviche and of course, hand crafted cocktails. Sensing a theme here? This meal also ranked as one of my favourites of the trip. Super fresh, flavourful and the service was top notch. One of the waiters even took the time to basically plan the rest of our trip for us.
After lunch it’s only natural to want something sweet so we skipped off to Five Daughter’s Bakery to experience their super indulgent and unique doughnuts. And it was National Donut day after-all so we had to celebrate!
And so ended our tour of 12 South, cute eh?
German Town & Opryland
And finally two areas that we didn’t spend a ton of time but worth seeing. One of our evening dinners found us at 5th and Taylor in central German Town. Again, a simply beautiful venue with such attention to detail in their architecture and design. The space was originally a warehouse which was transformed into an homage to Nashville. Right in the center of the space is a life-size sculpture of General Francis Nash, Nashville’s namesake surrounded by banquette and table seating, larger than life planters, dim candle light and locally inspired artwork. The space also has strategically placed mirrors giving plenty of dimension and character to the rustic environment. There’s also a gorgeous back patio where you can enjoy drinks in the open air and even order food at the bar.
Picture Credit: 5th & Taylor
The food is inspired by the traditional Sunday dinner featuring twists on classics like bbq pork and roast chicken. We started with the bacon wrapped quail & dates, beet and avocado salad and finished off with the pork shoulder in a strawberry balsamic glaze on a bed of brussel sprout slaw. I still dream about that pork shoulder, after being braised for 12 hours, the slightly sweet and tart glaze was the perfect pairing.
The other spot in German Town we would have checked out if it had been open that evening was Rolf & Daughters. Similar in aesthetic but apparently serves a kick-ass brunch.
And finally Opryland. The Grand Ole Opry is actually not anywhere near any of these previously mentioned neighborhoods. It’s in an area known as Opryland. There’s really not a ton to do here aside from touring the Opry but it is the home of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, a very grand, Las Vegas, beach resort style hotel targeted mostly around families. Not my scene for where I’d like to stay but it was beautiful to walk around in and stop in for a meal.
And so concludes my Nashville travel guide. I can’t wait to go back again soon, wouldn’t be surprised if it’s for someone’s bachelorette party. I guess if I get to actually wear a cowboy hat I’d be okay with that.
Till the next adventure!