A few weeks back, my husband and I braved a 2020 flight and headed to Nashville for our wedding anniversary. To be completely honest we didn’t have many expectations, because we booked the trip last minute but the city was so much fun and we are already planning to go back later in fall to see the leaves change! Now let’s get down to business: where should you stay, what should you do and most importantly, where should you eat?
Where we stayed:
Nashville is divided into an east and a west side by the Cumberland River. I would recommend staying on the west side of the river as there are more places to explore by foot. We stayed at an airbnb (linked here) located in the arts district on the northwest side of town. It was a great find for the price, cutely decorated and the host was quick to respond. But, to be honest, if we were to go again we would probably look for a room in the Gulch because that is where we ended up spending a majority of our time. Like any big city there are a million options on where to stay, so you can find what suits you best.
We also visited two hotels as tourists while we were there. The first was the Hermitage, a luxurious and historic hotel that could easily be the setting for the next James Bond movie. It is not a huge hotel, but if you are in the area it is worth peaking your head into the lobby to see how the other half lives. We also visited the Gaylord Opryland Resort. It is a gigantic hotel about 20 minutes outside of town that houses botanical gardens, a spa, waterslides and even a golf course. It felt a bit like a Disneyland attraction so it would be a great stop if you have kids.
What to do:
The main “Strip” in Nashville is a street called Broadway that is lined with honkey tonks and bars that offer live music nightly. Because of the pandemic all the bars close down at 10:30pm instead of the usual 2pm, but there is plenty of live music still being offered. We spent most of our time off the strip, but the few places we did visit were monitoring the capacity closely and we were able to keep enough distance from everyone to feel safe. I hesitate to give you any specific recommendations for the main strip but instead suggest you walk around and just listen in and choose the spot where you like the music best.
If you walk just south of Broadway you will hit an area called the Gulch, which is a bit more chic. It has modern restaurants, rooftop bars, and upscale shops to explore. This area is also home to a variety of 5 star hotels so there are many high rises and rooftop bars that will give you a great birds eye view of the city. Once you are at the Gulch you can take an electric scooter or an uber up to 12South, a hipster neighborhood on the outskirts of the hustle and bustle. This area has local shops, bakeries and casual dining that draw a younger crowd.
If you need a little break from the city there are plenty of beautiful neighborhoods surrounding it. If you know me, you know my favorite pastime is strolling through upscale neighborhoods and gawking at all the nice homes so of course we woke up early one morning to explore. If you want to see some beautiful old homes built in the 1800’s I would recommend taking a stroll between Belmont University and Vanderbilt. If you rent a car while you are in the city you can drive south to Franklin which is known for having grande historical homes.
All of the aforementioned places are on the west side of Nashville, but if you have the time it is worth taking a trip over to the east side. You can get there by car or pass over the pedestrian bridge which lands you right at the Nissan stadium, home of the TN Titans, and a beautiful view of the city. There is also a small collection of local stores all connected to each other called “The Shoppes on Fatherland” if you want to support some local artists and vendors.
We did not rent a car for our visit so we were unable to venture too far outside of town for hikes. But I still wanted to share a few recommendations I got from local’s in case you, like me, typically choose the outdoors over the city. Both Radnor and Percy Warner were recommended to us as trails about 30 minutes outside of the city great for an easy hike to see the changing leaves in fall. If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous Burgess Falls and Cumming Falls are both said to have Stunning waterfalls but they are about two hours outside of town so it would likely be a whole day trip if you have a longer stay.
Where we ate:
The highlight of our Nashville dining experience was Husk. Husk is housed in a beautiful brick building constructed as a home in the 1880’s. The menu celebrates southern ingredients in a farm to table style with a menu that evolves with the seasons. Every dish we tried was delicious, the service was phenomenal and they took every precaution to keep their guests feeling as safe as possible in 2020.
We also had a lovely experience at LA Jackson, a rooftop bar located in the Gulch. We went for the view but stayed for the cocktails and the Garlic fries. I never thought I would be thinking about garlic fries weeks later but these really were incredible. If you enjoy your time at LA Jackson and want to hit up another rooftop bar I recommend visiting L27 at the top of the Westin Hotel. The food and the drinks weren’t anything to write home about but I would still recommend grabbing a glass (or a bottle) of wine and enjoying the breathtaking views during sunset (click here to see the views on my Instagram highlights).
If you are looking for a quick snack Jeni’s creamery lives upto the hype. There are multiple locations around town so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding one! I also had a wonderful autumn latte at Killbrew coffee in the Gulch if you need a morning pick me up. To get there you enter through the Thompson hotel which is the same hotel that houses LA Jackson. Lastly, as an honorable mention I want to share Five Daughter’s bakery. We did not make it there but I had a ton of locals recommend it to me so we can take their word for it!
I know this sounds silly but ask your UBER driver. I don’t know what it is about Nashville but we had the FRIENDLIEST uber drivers while we were there and they provided some really great recommendations for where to go and they knew exactly what was still open in 2020. If you aren’t renting a car, asking the server or bartender at a restaurant is usually a good bet because they can give you the low down on the local, lesser known spots that won’t be so crowded with tourists!
If you are planning on going to the bars on Broadway during the weekend I would recommend making a dinner reservation for 6 or 7pm then heading out after and choosing a bar by the music. If you want to stay outdoors look up! Many of the bars have rooftop patios with secondary bands!