In trying to decide how to guide visitors around Nashville, I’ve settled on a geographic approach. Therefore, please find my guide to Nashville below:
- Broadway – This is the main tourist strip. There are over a dozen honky tonks that will all have live music. It is absolutely crucial to at least walk up and down it to get a sense of the “country tourist version” of the city. I take guests there fairly frequently. I don’t think you can really go wrong at any of the bars. Just wander into whatever appeals to you. If you were to go “out out” on Broadway, I like Acme Feed and Seed, but I usually go when it’s not insanely crowded.
- 2nd Ave/Broadway – This is another little strip that is downtown and has some venues and restaurants.
- Printer’s Alley – You may hear people speak of this. It’s currently undergoing a renovation, which means some of the spots are closed, but if you find yourself walking by you should check it out. Skull’s Rainbow Room (not a gay pirate bar) is my favorite and there is apparently a great karaoke bar in the alley too.
- Omni Hotel/Country Music Hall of Fame – The Country Music Hall of Fame underwent a renovation with the opening of the new Music City Center (convention center) and they are now one massive complex. I’ve not been into the actual Hall of Fame (scandalous I know), but I enjoy Baja Sexto (the taco place inside), Hatch Show Print, and the Omni Giftshop (Five and Tenn). It’s surprisingly GREAT.
- Goo Goo Cluster Shop – If you want a good souvenir, get some Goo Goo clusters! They are made here. It’s a small shop, but in the back you can see them making some candy live on most days (they only make one kind in-shop).
- Johnny Cash Museum – This is a very well done (and manageable sized) museum about Johnny Cash. I highly recommend.
- Musician’s Hall of Fame – This is an underappreciated gem that’s attached to the Municipal Auditorium. There are tons of great exhibits here covering a wide range of music.
- Ryman Auditorium – This is the “Mother Church”. I’ve never done the official tour, but they just remodeled and have a new gift shop and cafe. It’s one of my favorite music venues in the city.
- Frist Center for the Visual Arts – I LOVE this museum and they can usually be counted on to have a great exhibit. The building itself is Art Deco and incredible for architecture nerds.
- There are COUNTLESS other things that I could mention, but I think this should be a good list. Please let me know if you’ve read about other places and want a second opinion.
Midtown contains Vanderbilt University and several great bars and restaurants. It’s a great location to be based out of and you can Uber/Lyft/Taxi everywhere.
Division Street – This is primarily the college bar scene plus some middle-aged people reliving their glory days, but there are still some good spots.
Patterson House – This has been and remains my favorite bar in the city. The drinks are SO SO SO amazing and they hand carve the ice (or something like that). It’s a speakeasy style bar. My only reservation is that you really need to go with people because everything is assigned seating, even the bar.
DeSano’s – If you like pizza – GO HERE. It’s thin crust, family style seating, but it’s amazing. I highly recommend it. DELICIOUS. If you go, look for the sign when you walk in that helps explain how it works. The restaurant is arranged a bit oddly and it can be intimidating for first-timers.
Centennial Park – This park is where you can see our “famous” replica of the Parthenon. Depending on the time of year you go there may be some fun weekend events. They do a big free concert series in the fall on Saturday’s.
The Gulch rose from an industrial area. Think of it kind of like a Liberty Village (Toronto reference), but a bit flashier.
- Bars – There are tons of places to check out. Many are chains (but still great): The Pub and Sambuca are neat
- M-Town Restaurant Complex – Here you have several choices all clustered together. Whisky Kitchen is my current obsession and Saint Anejo is also quite tasty!
- Yazoo- You need to get a ticket if there are still some available, or try your luck walking in, but Yazoo has a tasting room and tours that are open on Saturday’s. It’s our best known local brewery!
Wedgewood Houston/Chestnut Hill/Rutledge Hill
This is a fairly large area and some of things I’m going to mention aren’t technically in the neighborhoods above, but whatevs…
- Pinewood Social – A really neat place to hang out. It’s super hard to describe. Check out their website for more info. It’s a crazy concept that really works.
- Crema – COFFEE!!! This is my favorite coffee place in the city. I’m obsessed. If you like light breakfast/pastries this is your jam. They have croissants from a local bakery (Dozen Bakery) that are honestly some of the best I’ve had in the world. I also recommend the avocado toast.
- TN Brew works – An “industrial tap room” that is pretty popular. It’s off the beaten path and usually quite chill. Good beer!
- Third Man Records – Jack White has a little shop here that sells some Third Man Record Swags and some cool vinyl featuring artists he’s recorded on-site. It’s really small and worth a quick look if you’re into that kind of thing.
- Grimey’s – I think this is the biggest used record shop in the city proper. They also have a selection of books.
- Antique District – There are several vintage shops and such on 8th Ave. S. before you hit Franklin Pike. If you set your Uber destination to “Eighth and Roast” on 8th Ave. S. you’ll be in good shape.
This is probably where you want to go explore super trendy, Taylor Swift-esque vintage shops. There are tons of great food options here too. It’s super walkable, so instead of listing everything out, just start in the retail complex that houses Jeni’s Ice Cream (LIFE CHANGING) and walk south (south will be toward all the activity). If you like popsicles there is a place called “Las Paletas” that pretty much marks the end of the 12th South area. I’ve never had a bad meal in 12th South. If you are looking for BBQ, Edley’s is there (though I’ve been told that Martin’s is even better).
East Nashville could warrant a whole separate post. I have mixed feelings about the area (long story), but there is definitely a lot of fun to be had and great food and shops. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Wonders on Woodland for antiques and it’s next door to a few other fabulous shops that are housed in what look like shipping containers. It’s kind of a business incubator area. Truth be told, I’m not the best East Nashville expert, but Google can be your bff in this area.
There are several other things too (Opry Mills Outlet Mall, The Hermitage, Cheekwood) that are all great, but I’m not sure worth your time on a short trip.
If you are reading this, I hope to see you soon.