Contrary to popular belief, Nashville isn’t all honky-tonk and hot chicken. It’s a progressive southern city that is quickly attracting travelers and settlers alike—those eager for a bit of respite combined with those looking for a good time.
Regardless of where you land on your reasons for visiting Nashville, once there and gone, you’re bound to come away with a newfound appreciation for food, flavor, soul, and song. Below are three perfect days in Nashville, told through three different personas—all showing you the best of what this city has to offer.
#1. THE FOODIE
Source: The Hermitage
Where to stay:
The Hermitage Hotel is the crème de la crème of Nashville hospitality, and with current rankings on lists such as U.S. News and World Report’s “Top 50 Hotels in the United States” and Travel + Leisure’s “Top 500 Hotels in the World,” not to mention a Forbes’ and AAA five-star rating, you know this place is also going to deliver in the food department. And it does. The Capitol Grille has been around since 1910, and today it is leading the charge with a farm-to-table seasonal menu (all sourced from farms less than five miles away). Even if you never leave the hotel, you can rest assured you’ll taste some of the best bounty Tennessee has to offer.
Source: love & olive oil
What to do:
For the food-lover, doing is eating in Nashville. So if you’re not stuffed from a night at the Capital Grille, start your day with a fresh cup of caffeine at any number of the coffee hangs. Among locals, Bongo Java is a favorite as is Revelator, while the slightly more mustachioed clientele frequent Barista Parlor or Crema—especially for the avocado or ricotta toast. For something beyond the typical latte, head to Steadfast for their matchless coffee soda—it’s a bubbly concoction of espresso meets fresh orange peel, and will give foodies something to mull over. Don’t forget to stop for a doughnut at Five Daughters or Shipley’s, and get a “Proper” Bagel for a bit of Brooklyn in the south. If you still have room, line up at Pancake Pantry. They have all the classics, but the cornmeal pancakes are especially zesty.
Source: The Nashville Kid
And for lunch? Well, you’re just getting started. You can’t miss barbeque at Peg Leg Porker, arguably “the” place for BBQ in Nashville or—because you have to—the hot chicken at classic Hattie B’s. If vegetarian is more your thing, don’t worry. Hit up the kimchi spring rolls at vegan Avo (and be sure to go back for their avocado margarita at happy hour) or dive into the nachos at vegetarian Wild Cow. For spice? Go for the new Bajo Sexto Lounge in Sylvan Park, some Mas Tacos in East Nashville, or a burger and shake across the street at The Pharmacy—where a killer black bean and chickpea burger make the menu. While you’re at it, stop at Dino’s. Their no-frills burgers have been known to charm everyone from neighborhood regulars to the Biebs and Leon Bridges.
In Nashville, reservations are necessary for dinner, whether you’re hitting Germantown for locally grown deliciousness at Rolf & Daughters (or just their stracciatella) or some rustic Southern-slash-Italian fare up the street at City House. Across town, Adele’s will have you second-guessing Nashville for Santa Barbara, especially when it comes to their kale salad, as will M Street Virago or the new(ish) Otaku Ramen. Le Sel is worth visiting—their raw oyster bar is one thing, but so is the dreamy pink decor. Burger Up and Epice in 12 South are also fantastic, as is southern living-legend Sean Brock’s Husk.
Basically, you can’t eat poorly in this town.
Source: Robbie Caponetto
And finally, you’re ready for a nightcap. Oh, do you have your choices! The Patterson House is a favorite if you want a speakeasy with a side of tater tots (read: always). As is Holland House and the serene Bar Luca. Old Glory and Bastion will serve up a mean cocktail with a side of chic industrial grit, but head to “Green Hour” at Tempered for something really unique—it’s where you’ll find Paris’ Belle Époque with a wide variety of absinthe offerings.
#2. THE HISTORY BUFF
Where to stay:
Union Station is a splendor of architecture—it’s a boutique hotel nestled inside the remains of a 19th-century rail station. Be sure to schedule your reservation over a Thursday night so you have time to catch Riffs on the Rails, a local music showcase that takes place every other Thursday night in the grand lobby.
What to see:
Start your day with a tour of the Belle Meade Plantation. Not only are the grounds of this 1820’s estate beautiful, but also the aptly-dressed tour guides will give you a fascinating look at the family history that practically put Nashville on the map. It’s a must for getting your bearings, and the complimentary wine tasting isn’t bad, either.
Next, discover the unbelievable story of Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery, a former household whiskey name in the pre-Prohibition era. It was all but forgotten after it shut its doors in 1910, until a fateful road-trip in 2006 led the great-great-grandsons of Charles Nelson to rediscover their family’s legacy. You’ll want to get all the details, plus taste their sherry-cask finished bourbon, on one of their tours.
Source: Sarah Joelle Photography
After all the wine and the whiskey, take a breather with a stroll through Cheekwood. This beautiful estate and botanical garden once belonged to the Cheeks family, of Maxwell House Coffee fortune, and was modeled after some of Europe’s most pristine residences. This is truly a place to escape—you can wander its many paths so bring a book, leave your phone in the car, and see if you can forget where you are, even just for a little while.
Source: A Brit and a Southerner
Also worth squeezing in? The Ryman, of course! It’s the bonafide “birthplace of bluegrass.” It has played host to all the giants, so it’s a must on your list whether you’re clued in to musical greats or not. Be sure to sneak over to Printer’s Alley afterwards—this legendary location was once home to thirteen publishers in the early 1900’s. Nashville’s Frist Center for the Arts is also a must-see, both for its display of amazing Art Deco design and the latest exhibition on display within its walls.
#3. THE ENTERTAINER
Source: Nicole Ziza Bauer
Where to stay:
As we’ve shared previously, Urban Cowboy will make you feel like a rockstar on holiday in all the right ways. This East Nashville hideaway is dripping with coolness, plus cozy beds that you’ll want to crash in… if hitting the town is all you have in mind. (That, plus Sunday’s Bluegrass Brunch at The Post East.)
Where to go:
Pay homage to Johnny Cash with a stop at his museum, then get the rest of your country music fix with a few hours at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Since you’ll be in the area, stop over for a stroll down Lower Broadway before it gets dark—that’s when it’s taken over by tourists and neon lights. (But if that’s your scene, a-OK. Tootsie’s, Tin Roof and Acme Feed & Seed are some better options, as are the cocktails at Pub 5. Just a note.)
Source: Wear It For Less
Fans of the show Nashville will tell you to stop by The Bluebird Cafe, and yes, go, but don’t let it be your only stop. In-the-know musicians will tell you the “new Bluebird” is The Basement, located in the basement of Grimey’s, Nashville’s favorite record store. If you can’t get in for a show, you can also check out their east location or see who’s coming to Marathon Music Works.
And if it’s Monday, your best bet is The 5 Spot, where vintage Motown is on repeat. If you’re a swing dancer, get there around 9 p.m., as the less coordinated dancers (but ever so enthusiastic) crash the party around 11 p.m.
Source: Elsie Larson
And if you need a place to recharge, say maybe with a jump in the pool or to bowl a few pins, Pinewood Social is your haven, morning, noon, or night.
As with anything entertainment, ultimately networking will be your friend. Given the concentration of talent here, it’s simply impossible to list every must-see or can’t-miss place in Nashville. Luckily, Nashville locals are nice. Real nice, so ask your bartender, barista, AirBnb host, or Lyft driver for their favorites—everyone has a spot for where to scope out the best.
And if they don’t invite you along, they’re probably not from around here.