Nashville is one those places that’s universally loved. Tell someone you’re going to Nashville and you’ll hear, “Oh, I loooove Nashville.” But can anyone completely explain why?
Maybe it’s the southern charm and hospitality. Maybe because the climate isn’t hideous. Or maybe it’s because people always seem to be drinking and dancing, with little regard for time of day.
We’ve been to Nashville many times, mostly for business. This time we decided to go into the belly of the beast: Nashville as full-on tourists.
The result? Yes, it was really fun. And yes, we, too, love Nashville.
But if you’re going to visit Nashville for a long weekend, go full-out and full-speed until you hit the wall on Sunday. No offense to Travel + Leisure, but we dug in for a test of eating and drinking endurance.
Land at BNA.
Drop the bags at 21C Museum Hotel in Downtown. (Choose this hotel, or the Bobby Hotel, if you want to be within walking distance of the crazy entertainment. Otherwise, stay at the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch.) Stretch the legs a little by walking down Broadway to hear the music in full swing at 3:00 p.m. Walk a loop up and over the pedestrian bridge to see the hundreds of tower cranes (thank you, Amazon) dominating the city.
That’s enough exercise; now it’s time to get serious with a pre-happy-hour. Head to the rooftop of the Bobby Hotel for first round of drinks.
When actual happy hour rolls around, swing by Pinewood Social and sit at the big central bar. You’ll be entertained by the bowling on one side and people lounging in front of their laptops on the other. Follow it with dinner at Margot Café & Bar in Five Points/East Nashville. The alternate to this plan is dinner at Husk, but only if you haven’t been to the original Husk in Charleston.
Head back downtown for the real party to get started. The best places on Broadway for live music are Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, Ole Red, and Robert’s Western World. The Minnesota Vikings were playing a Thursday night game, so we did double duty of music and football at Dierks Bentley’s to end the evening.
Head to the Frothy Monkey for a bite before walking the downtown area, original Nashville, and the Arcade, enjoying the quiet.
Plan the morning’s walking tour. For us, it started at the Farmers’ Market, heading through a more industrial part of the city to Marathon Village and Corsair Distillery (near Nelson’s Green Brier—more to come on that). Walk through the shops and try a late-morning gin if you can man up. I promise no one will judge you; it’s Nashville.
From there, walk to the Gulch and marvel at the lines at Biscuit Love. Have a noon happy-hour drink (multiple happy hours are always acceptable) on the Thompson rooftop, followed by lunch at Superica or Emmy Squared (a Brooklyn transplant). Walk off lunch and drinks by heading back downtown, and if you’re looking for a food break (we’re giving you side-eye here), bowl a few frames at Pinewood Social (but make sure you booked your lanes when you were there the day before).
Back to 21C to clean up and refresh. The off to Germantown for happy hour (only one nighttime happy hour the second day; we have an excess of restraint) at either City House, 5th & Taylor, or Rolf and Daughters, followed by dinner at Henrietta Red. This itinerary can easily be flipped; all four are great options for dinner in Germantown. Or do a progressive of apps and drinks and two or three of them, and call that dinner. If you’re still standing, head back downtown for more music (this time at the classic Robert’s Western World).
Breakfast is tough to choke down, but coffee always works. Today we stayed at Gray & Dudley right in 21C for a little bite and a lot of caffeine.
Head back towards Nelson’s Green Brier for what is probably one of the coolest distillery tours you’ll find, rich with a pre-Prohibition history you won’t believe. Then, yes, whiskey tasting. 11:00 a.m. and no one could care less.
Walk off the whiskey and head back to the Gulch for some duckpin bowling at the new Pins.
When it’s time for lunch, brave the lines at either Hattie B’s or Prince’s for some hot chicken if you want the full tourist experience. We opted for the Row in the West End instead. (A good alternate is the new Parson’s Chicken and Fish, which is a transplant from Chicago. Noticing a theme here? All the popular restaurants from other cities love it here, too.)
You’ll need the walk back downtown after that (assuming you can still move). Plan your route right down Broadway, as it transitions from Amazon’s massive construction site to the Bridgestone arena to the craziness of the music joints, always in full swing.
Today we needed a bit of a break. We left my brother and his wife on Broadway at Kid Rock’s ginormous music club and headed to the hotel to breathe for a minute.
Happy hour on our rooftop deck at 21C, followed by dinner at Folk back in East Nashville, or cocktails at the famous (and must-stop) Patterson House, followed by dinner at J. Alexander’s/Redlands Grill in the West End — the menu is perfect for crowds. Any of this should be followed by, you guessed it, more live music. This time we went to a venue outside of downtown and headed to 3rd and Lindsley (12th & Porter in the Gulch is also a good pick). Depending upon who’s playing, these are great places to see a band. Of course, we had to make one last stop at Ole Red to see who was coming on at 10:00.
Tonight we topped things off with one last digestif at the Black Rabbit, just down the alley from 21C—also a great place for an appetizer and drink.
If we weren’t heading home today, it would have been time to cry mercy. If you’ve got some time for breakfast or brunch, try Butcher & Bee (from Charleston) in East End, or the Redheaded Stranger in East Nashville (almost right next to Folk) for mid-morning breakfast tacos before heading to the airport.
As for that eating-and-drinking brawl: Us vs Nashville? I don’t admit defeat easily, so I’ll just say any longer and Nashville may have taken it.