Here’s a timely, 4th of July-inspired post for you.
And before I come across as unpatriotic, let’s get one thing straight: I never thought there was anything wrong with travel in the USA. After all, this is my home country and I’ve had my fair share of local family vacations. But up until last month, most of my time was spent plotting how I could leave America. Squeezing in a trip to Ecuador over a long weekend, saving up for a pricey international flight over the holidays and plotting a road trip to Canada – all of that was on the 2014 agenda. And while I had this trip to Nashville planned for over a year, I barely gave it a second thought. I was too busy researching the greatest restaurants in Copenhagen, planning my journey through the fjords of Norway and horseback riding in Ecuador.
Overall, I expected Nashville to be my least exciting trip of the year. So imagine my surprise when it turned out to be MIND-BLOWINGLY AWESOME. Basically the city has everything I ever wanted and everything I never even knew I needed.
Part of the reason I had such a blast was that I traveled to Nashville with a group of my closest friends, including my four college roommates. We were there primarily to attend CMA Fest (a big country music festival) but we still had plenty of free time to cause mayhem. As my mother’s side of the family would say, “the fun meter was on high” (they say all kinds of phrases like that, which I didn’t realize were weird until I went out into the world saying them myself and received strange looks).
Here we are shooting our album cover… obviously.
Shoe coordination at its finest.
#1 – Friendly hipsters. As much as I mock hipsters along with everyone else, I have to face facts: I eat artisanal pickles, wear thick-rimmed glasses, drink cold brew coffee, and the only time I go to Manhattan is for work. So why do I distance myself from the hipsters of NYC when their lifestyle is so clearly calling my name? Well, basically, they’ve got a reputation for being a bunch of snobs. Hipsters in Nashville, on the other hand, are extremely friendly, just like everyone else that lives there.
One night before the concert, we dined at the trendy restaurant Pinewood Social – part coffee shop, part cocktail bar, part organic quinoa-kale restaurant and part bowling alley. Basically, a hipster mecca. When a hipsterish waitress approached our table, I immediately felt embarrassed about the fact that we were dressed in our country outfits, complete with our CMA Fest badges on lanyards around our necks. But instead of rolling her eyes at our utter lack of coolness, she greeted us with a huge smile and asked if we were going to the concert tonight. She then proceeded to make fantastic food and drink recommendations. I think hipsters and non-hipsters could be friends in Nashville!
#2 – Amazing food. Southern food is so, so good. Give me biscuits for breakfast, pulled pork for lunch, and chicken fried steak for dinner and I’ll be one happy girl. But despite my full-fat cravings, I generally eat pretty healthy. So I was thrilled to discover that Nashville has an incredible restaurants scene full of both traditional Southern options and trendy, health-conscious organic eateries like Pinewood Social and Fido. The city’s proximity to so many farms means that fresh, locally-sourced menu items are easy to come by. So for every biscuit you eat, you can undo it with a kale juice. That’s how it works, right?
How much kale do I have to consume to undo this?
#3 – Live music, everywhere. If I never listened to a recorded song again, I could live with that. But only if I lived in Nashville. I must confess that I’ve never really enjoyed live music in a nightlife setting before. My college years were spent in Boston, where live music at the bar consisted of a cover band botching the latest from Lady Gaga, or indie bands that sucked (just being honest guys!), struggling to have their voices heard over their loud electric guitars. And in New York, I occasionally get dragged out to watch a friend of a friend’s band, the whole time secretly wishing I was on the dance floor somewhere else, shaking it to Beyonce. But in Nashville, every performer is beyond talented. We actually danced so much that my legs were swollen in pain when I returned to New York. It is called Music City, after all!
#4 – Beautiful outdoor spaces. Sometimes a trip to Central Park just doesn’t cut it when it comes to getting outdoors. The fact that I have to spend an hour searching for a free spot on the grass for my picnic just furthers my frustrations about NYC being too crowded. In Nashville, you can be immersed in nature only a few minutes outside the city. Just two miles west of downtown is Centennial Park, a 132-acre park that features a 1 mile walking trail, a lake, a garden, a band shell and volleyball courts. When we went, there were also a ton of food trucks parked alongside the street and a concert was going on (see! live music is everywhere). And slightly further away from the city you can go canoeing, swimming, horseback riding or biking in the great outdoors.
So there you have it… my 4 reasons that Nashville is the place to be. I felt pure happiness the entire time I was there, and I will even admit that there are now 6 country music songs on my Spotify playlist, right in between some 2 Chainz and Florence + the Machine (America is all about diversity, y’all).
This trip made me realize that I need to travel the USA outside of New York a little more often. America is not filled with $11 cold pressed juices, miserable subway riders and rude bouncers. We don’t have to fly to Europe or Asia for an amazing travel experience – there are extremely cool places to explore right here!
You can bet I’ve already set up flight price alerts for places like Savannah, Charleston, Charlotte, and New Orleans, which is actually another of my favorite cities (was I born in the wrong region? It’s a serious possibility). American South, here I come.
I’ll be posting about my favorite places to hang in Nashville, what I wore during my trip and my packing tips soon… stay tuned and enjoy the 4th of July long weekend. Happy Birthday America! You’re looking pretty good for 238.
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