Nashville has long been known as Music City for good reason. The “Big Four” music labels—Sony BMG, Universal Music,Warner Music Group, and EMI—all have offices here, and honky-tonks and blues bars abound. Whereas Nashville was once thought of as country music haven, it’s now also known for its noteworthy restaurants and it’s fast becoming a fashion destination, too. The city is one of the fastest-growing in the nation, with startups and freelance workers being drawn to the Nashville’s strong cultural offerings, mild weather, and proximity to popular East Coast destinations.
Arrive in Nashville and get yourself settled before stepping out for lunch. The “meat and three” (a lunch or dinner plate served with one meat and three Southern-inspired sides) is a Nashville tradition, and no one does it better than Arnold’s Country Kitchen. Don’t be alarmed by the line out the door—it moves quickly—but get there early as they stop serving by 2:45 pm. Wash your plate down with a sweet tea; for dessert, try the chocolate chess pie.
Head to Ryman Auditorium for a self-guided tour. The former gospel tabernacle was the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. Restored church pews, stained glass windows, and a state-of-the-art sound system make this a venue for world class musicians and entertainers across many genres.
Time for some shopping. Nashville has become a fashion destination in recent years. Must-visits include FLIP consignment shop, where you can score deals on luxury apparel and accessories; Local Honey, where you can get your hair done in addition to new duds; and Batch, which sells locally made artisan goods like simple, stylish, and affordable handmade jewelry. Nashville is also the original location of Imogene + Willie, which is a great place to find the perfect pair of jeans for men and women. Chic and cozy White’s Mercantile has books, art, and home décor, while Hey Rooster is a modern general store with handmade crafts and one-of-a-kind housewares.
Freshen up for dinner at The Treehouse, a farm-to-table haven serving creative, modern cuisine with a Southern twist. Much of their fare comes from their farm, located 50 miles west of town. End your night at dive bar Santa’s Pub (the friendly owner looks like a cross between a Harley rider and Kris Kringle). This karaoke bar located in a double-wide trailer and decorated with Christmas lights might not look like much, but you may be surprised at the quality of the crooners who hang out here. It’s smoke-filled and you won’t find any fancy craft cocktails–just $2 beers and wine coolers–but that’s what makes it awesome.
Grab locally roasted coffee and a quick breakfast at Frothy Monkey. Everything is made fresh, including the bread and pastries. Then, head over to the iconic Grand Ole Opry for a tour. You can’t visit Music City without seeing this Nashville institution.
Speaking of institutions, for lunch today you’re having “hot chicken,” a Nashville-centric specialty of fried chicken that’s been battered in flour and slathered in a cayenne pepper paste. (Be forewarned: even the mild packs a punch, but if you like spicy food, you’ll love it. The original is Prince’s (average main: $8), but Hattie B’s has a better selection of sides, and root beer floats to cool you down.
Nashville has a fantastic greenway system, with more than 80 miles of paved, multi-use trails that run along the river, through forests, and right through town. Grab a bike from one of the city’s 31 B-Cycle stations ($5 for the first hour; $1.50 for each additional half hour) to cover more ground. Then take a drive around some of Nashville’s neighborhoods, including historic Germantown (which has a fantastic farmers market filled with local food and artisans, open daily), east Nashville (for snacks and craft beer), and the up-and-coming Donelson (or as locals call it, “Hip Donelsen”).
Sleep in, since you’ll likely be tired from all the fun you had last night. Then, fix yourself up for brunch, and don’t forget sunglasses. Choose al fresco dining at Fido, which offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan options (think sweet potato French toast and buckwheat pancakes), or opt for marina glamour on the Cumberland River at Blue Moon Waterfront Grille. Don’t miss the basil-infused grit cakes.
WHERE TO STAY
Pet parents will love The Hermitage Hotel (rooms from: $250)—Tennessee’s sole Forbes Five-Star, AAA Five Diamond property—where your fur babies will receive their own welcome goodie bag including a plush bed, porcelain bowls, a bag of treats, and their own room service menu. Groups will find Music City Loft (from: $250/night, two night minimum) a youthful, centrally located retreat. Some rooms sleep up to six people.