Nashville has a reputation of being all about Country music. With over 300 recording studios it does have a huge hold in the music scene. That being said, Nashville as we know it now is not your parent’s town. Picture if LA and Brooklyn had a baby raised by friendly Southern parents, and you get Nashville. Nashville is experiencing huge growth. Until very recently an average of 100 people were moving to Nashville a day! With its hipster coffee shops, boho boutiques and Southern hospitality, Nashville should be at the top of your US destination list. Keep reading for my 5 Must Do’s in Nashville.
When planning a trip in the US, it’s easy to overlook some of our country’s greatest states and cities. I feel like people aim for the usual suspects, New York, LA, Vegas and so forth. While I love visiting places like that, sometimes you want something that is a bit more chill. So does that mean being in a cabin on a lake? Maybe. But if you want some excitement that doesn’t feel stressful, Nashville is a great compromise. I have visited several times now and each trip gets better and better. Here are my 5 Must Do’s in Nashville.
Must Do 1: Explore Nashville’s Unique Neighborhoods
- A great quality about Nashville is the actual size of the city. It feels big ‘enough’ but also you can get most places in 20 minutes or less. This is helpful because it allows you to be able to spend time in many of Nashville’s greatest neighborhoods. I mentioned above Nashville is growing and changing a lot, so neighborhoods are doing the same. What once was all houses is adapting and adding shops, restaurants and other services. Definitely take time to venture out of Downtown and visit some of these spots.
- 12 South: 12 South is one of my favorite neighborhoods. You can grab some amazing tacos on the patio at Bartaco or drink an incredible latte at Frothy Monkey. On the same couple of blocks you will stumble on some great boutiques. My favorite boutique there is Imogene + Willie. While you’re at it, grab a Paleo donut from Five Daughters Bakery.
- East Nashville – East Nashville has a wider range of restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques. A local favorite is Barista Parlor which has some epic biscuit breakfast sandwiches and incredible coffee. Some other popular spots for food are The Pharmacy, Five Points Pizza and Rosepepper Cantina.
- The Gulch – The Gulch is nestled near downtown and is more upscale than some of the other neighborhoods. We had incredible sushi at Sunda, which is actually a restaurant from Chicago. Sunda is our favorite place to get sushi in the US (aside from Sugarfish) so we had to go while in Nashville. Another place we walked by but didn’t get to try looked beautiful inside, it was called Little Octopus. The Gulch is a neighborhood I’d love to explore more on our next visit. Nearby is a super fun bar called Two Bits. Picture your favorite old school arcade games set to free play and great drinks. Really fun spot to go with friends.
Must Do 2: Honky Tonk your Badonkadonk
While I mentioned Country music isn’t the only thing to experience in Nashville, doesn’t mean you shouldnt. Nashville aka (Nash Vegas) has recently become the number one destination for Bacherlorette Parties in the US and it’s easy to see why. Grab your boots and hit up Broadway downtown any night of the week and you are guaranteed a good time.
- Tootsies is a must to check off your list. It’s history runs deep and was a favorite of artists like Jonny Cash and Patsy Cline to listen to live music after a show at the near by Ryman. The cool thing about live music in Nashville is that typically the bands don’t suck. The talent is so saturated there so musicians bring their a game.
- Swingin’ Doors Saloon – This is another venue we enjoyed, it was roomier than Tootsies and had a cool rooftop area where more music was being performed.
Something great about Broadway is there are so many bars and music venues, that if you don’t like where you’re at, you can pop next door and see what is happening at the next spot. You can’t go wrong having a night out in Nash Vegas.
If you had enough of wild country music and want something a bit more refined, definitely go to The Blue Bird Cafe out in Green Hills. It’s where you can hear some of Nashville’s best song writers that are behind the top hits on the radio perform their own music. It fills up quick so try and have tickets in advance or get there early.
**Transeau Travel Hack** If you don’t want too much crazy or being packed in a room like sardines, go to Broadway on a Monday or Tuesday**
Must Do 3: Shop till You Drop
Nashville has zero shortage on cute places to shop which could be a blessing or a curse depending on how much room you have left in your suitcase. Keep that in mind when you are packing your carry-on!
- Green Hills – A great place to start is The Mall at Green Hills. Yes you’ve got malls everywhere, but this was a super nice once. Great stores and everyone we talked to in the shops are so friendly. Nearby the mall is the Hill Center which offers local boutiques to Nashville like Hemline and Posh.
- East Nashville – Back over in East Nashville you can find the Idea Hatchery in Five Points, which is a cluster of small local startup businesses. Another option for unique and artsy finds, hit up The Shoppes on Fatherland.
Nashville has so many shopping options that it could warrant its own post. Maybe I’ll do that when we go back for another trip!
Must Do 4: Eat, Eat, Eat
I think one of my favorite things about Nashville is what a foodie kinda town it is but not in a stuck up kinda way. With so many imports from both coasts, you have some great restaurants popping up adding to the Nashville culture. Nashville is a great mix of new trendy spots mixed in with some true local favorites. My favorites from my time there are;
- Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – You guys, this place has lines out the door for a reason! Nashville is known for its spicy fried chicken and this is the place to have it. Hattie B’s is busy, so try one of its locations outside of downtown and you will have better luck avoiding the crowds.
- San Antonio Taco Co – This quick and casual Tex-Mex joint is something I daydream about often. Located near Vanderbilt University, San Antonio Taco Co. is in a fun part of town and has a great patio. More importantly, they have amazing tacos. Their tacos are Tex-Mex style which speaks to my Texan heart and small enough to try different varieties. My favorites were the fish taco and the chicken. Oh, and get their queso. Duh.
- House of Cards – On this trip to Nashville one of my favorite things we did was go to dinner at House of Cards. To say it’s just a restaurant is a huge understatement. You descend down a stone staircase beneath the Jonny Cash Museum. A moment later you are transported to a 1920’s Jazz Club. While you sip on some amazing craft cocktails and wait for your food, you can mingle at different tables with wait for it…MAGICIANS! Legit magicians performing card tricks and other illusions for your group while you wait for your meal. After dinner you get to see the main magic show which typically features a magician visiting from another part in the country. This is a 100% must do and something I know we will do again. Important to know they have a strict dress code, so check the website for details. It felt annoying to plan for but it adds to the ambience of the place for sure.
- Pinewood Social – Pinewood Social is a special and unique place at any hour of the day. It is a massive meeting place that has a coffee bar, a full restaurant, a beautiful bar in the middle of the building and 8 vintage styles bowling lanes. Outside you can find an airstream serving tacos by a pool. If you’re wondering wtf, wonder no more. It is as awesome as it sounds. Pinewood Social opens early at 7am and stays open late until 1am. You can find friends sharing a meal, couples on a date, families bowling and creatives working on laptops drinking lattes (or wine, depending on the time). A must stop for any trip to Nashville.
Must Do 5: Stay Like a Local
I have a love/hate relationship with AirBnB. Brian and I have had some great experiences while others resulted in a full refund and switching to a hotel. I think it can be a great way to travel and save money on lodging, but some cities are better for it than others. Nashville is one definitely one of those cities.
Hands down this is the best way to experience all Nashville has to offer. Pick from one of the neighborhoods I have listed and find a cute little bungalow to stay in. We have done this twice now on visits to Nashville and it really adds to the overall vibe! Also you won’t believe how amazing the houses are you can stay in and for very affordable prices.
We stayed at a home called Firefly Cottage with our friends Aric and Kristi. It was in a perfect location only a block away from 12 South so we could walk to anything we needed. Highly recommend this spot, check it out here.
If you haven’t signed up for AirBnB yet, if you sign up with my link you will receive $40 in travel credit and I’ll get $20 credit as well. It’s a win/win and you can use it towards your trip to Nashville!
That about wraps up my 5 Must Do’s in Nashville. Did reading this change your mind about what you thought Nashville was? Or maybe you’ve already been and have some favorites you’d like to share with me. Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
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