- Distance from Atlanta: 250 miles
- Best time: July to October
- Best for: Girl's GetawayArts and CultureFood and Wine
Nashville has long been known as the Country Music Capital, but it's recently gaining ground as one of the South's most happening cities, thanks in part to the TV series Nashville that's filmed here, a thriving culinary scene, and celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Kidman singing its praises. Despite all the recent attention, Nashville retains a refreshingly down-home vibe, which is just one reason to round up a pack of your best girlfriends and scoot on over for weekend getaway. In addition to the friendly locals, Nashville boasts endless options for shopping and dining, with a new emphasis on organic, upscale fare and hand-crafted cocktails. And the city's world-famous music scene is about far more than country: you'll find plenty of spots to take in bluegrass, rock, and blues. Here, our favorite picks for a trip you and your girlfriends—you may just make this an annual tradition. –by Blane Bachelor
1 Your first stop: The Franklin Theatre, a Nashville icon since 1937. Brimming with charm and nostalgia, the venue houses showings of classic movies, plays, and musicals, enhanced by a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system. Adult beverages (beer and wine) are also on tap in addition to classic theater snacks like popcorn and candy.
2 For real-deal Southern cuisine and a vibe as warm as a Tennessee summer, Puckett's Grocery hits the spot. A country store-turned-restaurant that also serves as a music hotspot on the weekends, this down-home joint serves up hearty portions of Southern favorites like fried green tomatoes, chicken fried steak, and to-die-for fruit cobbler. Grab a table (with mismatched chairs) and a beer (served in a Mason jar) and tune into the live performances from some of Nashville's up-and-coming talents.
3 After dinner, it's approximately a 30-minute drive into Nashville proper. Cap off the evening (or get the party started!) at the Patterson House, whose speakeasy vibe, inventive cocktails, and skilled bartenders evoke a delicious Prohibition-Era ambiance. The extensive menu is organized by base liquor, but if you're stumped, the bartender will make a recommendation based on your tastes. Weekend nights can be crowded, so there may be a wait, but the experience is well worth it.
1 For breakfast, tuck into the tasty pancakes at one of Nashville's most famous restaurants, The Pancake Pantry. The star of the show is, of course, the fabulous flapjacks, in variations like Georgia Peach, Chocolate Sin, and Parisienne, though the menu also includes other breakfast staples, too. Weekend mornings are packed, with the line wrapping around the building, so try to arrive early.
2 No girls' getaway is complete without some shopping, and you'll start yours in the quaint neighborhood of Hillsboro Village, whose four-block radius spans boutiques and gift shops. Bookworms will love BookManBookWoman, with more than 100,000 books and a search service to help navigate them. For boho-chic jewelry, stationary, and gifts, pop into Pangaea, while the home décor and jewelry at Fire Finch has a vintage-y, international flair.
3 And because no Nashville getaway—girls-only or not—is complete without a trip to the Country Music Hall of Fame, that's your next stop. Located downtown, this state-of-the-art facility features more than 40,000 square feet of country music artifacts, archives, and theater space (adult tickets from $24).
4 Next up: the happening 'hood of East Nashville. Grab lunch at Silly Goose, a recently opened restaurant that offers organic, made-to-order salads, sandwiches, and desserts with names that are a blend of cheeky (the Gander and Jo C.D.) and naughty (the Reverse Cowgirl).
5 Continue the shopping spree in the Five Points neighborhood, a treasure trove of vintage boutiques. Pick up a pair of cowboy boots that won't break the budget at Goodbuy Girls, and complete your country rock star look at Fanny's House of Music, a female-owned music store just around the corner that sells guitars specially sized for women, as well as other music-themed vintage items.
6 Get gussied up for dinner at chic Virago, a current Midtown hotspot that serves up inventive sushi and Asian-leaning dishes like lobster tacos and grilled shrimp with ponzu sauce. Snag some spots at the bar, or grab a table in the swanky main dining room to gaze at the attractive artwork (and patrons).
7 Get those dancing shoes ready for the uniquely Nashville "honky tonk" experience. Some locally-recommended picks to include in your music-fuelled bar crawl: Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Robert's Western World, and Legends Corner, all of which helped launch the careers of many country music legends.
1 It's a see-and-be-seen brunch at Tavern, a new midtown restaurant that's all the rage among in-the-know locals. The menu features upscale pub-inspired fare with a twist, like the Nooner, a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, fried oysters, and potato hash. Try a Tomatillo Mary, made with tomatillo instead of tomato juice, to erase any lingering effects of last night's honky tonking.
2 Get inspired by Nashville's burgeoning arts scene at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. A former U.S. Post Office building, this center packs 24,000-square-feet full of art-deco exhibitions from local, regional, and international artists.
3 Before heading home, stop to grab a super-cool souvenir at the Hatch Show Print, which is one of America's oldest letter-press poster print shops. Owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame, the shop which has done posters for artists including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Coldplay.
Where to Stay
Keep your eyes open for touring musicians at the Hutton Hotel, an affordably swank hotel with art-covered walls and spacious rooms. Start or end your evening with a glass of bubbles at the on-site 1808 Grille (doubles from $209).
Hotel Indigo, just minutes from the downtown entertainment district, is fresh off a $5 million renovation and expansion, with a mural-covered lobby reminiscent of a speakeasy. Cheerful, quiet guest rooms have minibars and coffeemakers, and breakfast is included (doubles from $259).
When to Go
Whatever time of year you plan a visit Nashville, there's likely to be a music, beer, or food festival happening. However, fall is prime for music festivals, the most well-known of which is the Country Music Association Festival. A four-day musical extravaganza in downtown, the festival attracts more than 160,000 fans and 200 artists, who perform free concerts and do autograph signings. A notable newcomer to the fall festival lineup in 2013 is Zac Brown Band's Southern Ground Music & Food Festival (Sept. 21-22), which brings together some of the group's favorite musicians—Gregg Allman, Alan Jackson, and David Gray among them—plus excellent food and craft vendors.
Summer is packed with festivals, too. Nashville puts on quite a patriotic party in July with its Music City July 4th. The event spans three days of live music, including a spectacular fireworks display set to live music of the Nashville Symphony. Later in the summer, the Tomato Arts Festival (Aug. 10) is a locals' favorite; the free event draws about 18,000 people to celebrate the tomato, many of whom come in costume.
How to Get There
From downtown Atlanta, take I-75 North for about 110 miles until you merge on I-24 West (Exit 2). Take I-24 for about 112 miles and merge onto TN-840 West (Exit 74A toward Franklin) for 11 miles, and then take US-41A Exit toward Shelbyville/Lewisburg, and then after half a mile turn right onto Horton Highway. From there, take a left onto TN-96 for about 13 miles to arrive in Franklin.
From Franklin to downtown Nashville, take TN-96 East to 65 North, which will bring you straight into downtown.
Insider's Tip: To make the most of your honky-tonking, download the Nashville Live Music app, which lets you search for music by the area of town or venue name and will tell you exactly who's playing at each venue.