Yesterday I came across a snapshot of the DCXV Industries “Believe in Nashville” mural on People magazine’s Instagram (they’re in town for the CMA Awards tomorrow night) and I realized that it’s about time I finish posting about my June 2014 trip to Music City on The Blonde Banana. All I can say is better late than never, right? If you’re planning a trip to the Hollywood of country music, and you should because it’s an AWESOME city, here’s my guide to maximizing 48 hours in Nashville.
Kick off your weekend in Nashville with dinner at the trendy Pinewood Social. To be honest, this place isn’t anything like what I expected from Nashville, but it was definitely my favorite restaurant of the weekend. Part bowling alley, part coffee shop, part dining establishment, it’s the perfect place to fuel up on seasonal veggies and mingle with Nashville’s friendly hipsters. I’m serious when I tell you to eat your veggies – they’re probably the last ones you’ll eat all weekend! Plus, as obnoxious as this might sound, the kale was absolutely incredible. I’m not sure how it was prepared, but if all kale tasted like that, I’d be turning green from eating too much.
A semi-long walk or short taxi ride away is Downtown Nashville’s “Honky Tonk Row,” aka Broadway. All those songs about the neon lights? This is what they’re talking about. Are these bars cheesy and touristy? Yes. Are they super fun? Double yes. My favorite honky tonk was Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Do I dare to admit that I went three nights in a row? After trying some others, we kept deciding that Tootsie’s was our favorite and going back. They had consistently fun bands every night, and an outdoor patio made for excellent people watching from above. This is definitely not the kind of nightlife I’d ever experience in New York or Boston – even in bars that try to be country – so I was glad I had the chance to check it out in Nashville.
Another place I liked was Robert’s Western World (both pictures above), and a little off the main road and more laid back, the Silver Dollar Saloon. None of the honky tonks in Nashville charged a cover, but keep in mind that many of the bands aren’t getting paid to perform so you should keep some dollar bills in your bag to toss in the tip jar.
It seems like everyone we asked for Nashville suggestions pushed us toward Pancake Pantry, an iconic pancake house located in the Hillsboro Village neighborhood of Nashville. So one morning we made our way over and proceeded to wait over an hour to sit down for pancakes. Now these pancakes were good, but our time in Nashville was limited and we were hangry – hence why I don’t recommend going there, especially during a short trip.
Instead, head one block away for a place that locals are actually waiting in (a much shorter) line for: Fido. The coffee shop serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual setting, and it gets crazy busy during prime time. It’s easy to see why Nashville residents love Fido – the food is fresh, locally sourced and delicious (I had the huevos cubanos), the price is right, and the coffee is Instagrammable.
Now that breakfast is finally out of the way, it’s time to hit up Nashville’s top tourist destinations. While there are a *ton* of country music history sights in Nashville, there are only two you really need to see unless you are fanatical. That would be the Ryman Auditorium, located downtown, and the Grand Ole Opry, located a bit of a drive away from downtown. The Opry actually used to be located at the Ryman Auditorium, but obviously it outgrew the space and needed to expand.
Even if you’re not a country fan, you might recognize the names of both places from the show Nashville, where they’re talked about extensively. My favorite part, obviously, was seeing stars’ old clothes on display and getting a behind-the-scenes look at the dressing rooms at the Opry.
I have to say that the tour of the Opry was pretty fascinating, even for someone like myself who knew practically nothing about country music before visiting Nashville. The tour guide was really knowledgeable and passionate, and had a lot of great anecdotes about celebrities who had performed there.
And of course, we couldn’t leave without buying this cheesy photo. Totally worth the $20 when split among four!
Another short drive away is the next Nashville icon you probably recognize from the show: the Bluebird Cafe. On TV, people seem to casually breeze in and out all night long, but in real life that’s not a possibility. We found out the hard way that you need to make reservations far, far in advance. If you’re planning a trip to Nasvhille and want to attend a performance at the Bluebird Cafe, I recommend booking early so you don’t end up simply looking from the outside like we did.
A little bit of history for non-Nashville fans: The Bluebird Cafe is a small music venue that’s known for featuring both up-and-coming performers and lesser-known songwriters who are actually behind some of the biggest hit songs on the radio. There are two shows per night, and it’s one of the hardest tickets to secure due to the cafe’s fame and reputation in the music industry.
On Sunday morning, it’s time for more eating at a Nashville staple: the Loveless Cafe. This place is definitely way touristy – just take a look at all the celebrity guest photos covering the inside walls – but their food is good enough to make the trip. Just like Pancake Pantry, there’s a huge line to get a table every morning. But here’s an insider tip: instead of waiting to sit down, you can order take out. In about 20 minutes, your food will be ready and you can eat at one of the picnic tables. I actually enjoyed eating outside more, and it was fun to watch all the suckers still waiting to sit down entertain themselves by playing cornhole while we enjoyed our meal an hour ahead of schedule.
This is straight up southern comfort food, so throw concerns about calories to the wind and indulge in pulled pork omelets, casserole, bacon, eggs, and biscuits!
After finishing breakfast at The Loveless Cafe, the Bell Meade Plantation is right down the street. We chose to wander the grounds by ourselves as we weren’t in the mood for the full tour, but they do offer tours for $16 per person.
The Harding family, who lived on the plantation, was one of the largest slave-holding families in Nashville prior to the Civil War. They were also famous for their horses, and they maintained a large stable. Today visitors can walk through the slaves’ quarters, stables and old carriage house to get a taste of what life was like in the old south.
For a change of pace, it’s time to head to a neighborhood that has a completely different vibe: East Nashville. This area is definitely being taken over by hipsters, and you won’t have to go far to find a yoga studio or a juice bar. We had come for one reason: to visit the store Hail. Hail is known for having an extensive selection of oddities, from antique medical tools to taxidermy and human teeth. It gave me the shivers, but made for some interesting Snapchat moments.
Located on the same plaza was a small shop called DCXV Industries, which we were so happy we discovered. DCXV is a locally based apparel company owned by Adrien Saporiti, the artist behind the aforementioned “I Believe in Nashville” mural. His goal is to show that Nashville lifestyle isn’t all about cowboy boots and rhinestones. He was happy to recommend his favorite places in the city and told us about a few non-country music artists who are also from Nashville. After meeting him, we made it a point to go check out the mural.
Conveniently located next to it is one of Nashville’s top recommended barbeque restaurants, Edley’s. It’s located in a very trendy neighborhood called 12South, so if you have extra time, you can wander around local boutiques before or after eating. I’d recommend going to Edley’s for a late lunch or very early dinner, since they seemed to be sold out of the best things (brisket! sad face) by 5 p.m. It wasn’t the end of the world though, as my pulled pork was still pretty stellar.
And there you have the mural. It’s fun to stand by it and watch as every tourist comes by and takes the same picture of themselves jumping in the air!
"I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." It's a travel quote I see constantly on Pinterest and Instagram....