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Long Weekend in... Nashville

Long Weekend in... Nashville


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Some go to Nashville for the music. I go for the creative inspiration that pours out of everything the gorgeous Southern city touches. It’s hard to do Nashville in a long weekend, so just know that you’ll be back and that all your preconceived notions will be blown to smithereens…

Here’s a fantastic weekend in Nashville.

Day One:

You’ll want to bunk down close to South Broadway, near the Ryman Auditorium and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where Willie Nelson sold his first song. It was called “Crazy” and he sold it to Patsy Kline for $25.

Check in to Union Station, a splendidly restored former train station (now hotel) with custom-made furniture and more than a century of celebrity stays including Mae West, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and mafia kingpin Al Capone, who was being escorted to a Georgia penitentiary. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Dave

Newman (newmanchu))

Every one of this boutique hotel’s rooms are different, but request one on the fifth floor that overlooks the stunning lobby with barrel-vaulted, 65-foot stained glass ceilings and gleaming Italian marble floors. Prime 108, named after Bully 108, the first steam engine to chug through Nashville, is among the city’s most celebrated restaurants.

After dinner, head to one of Nashville’s world-famous honky-tonks. Don’t miss Tootsie’s, the bright purple lounge that Tootsie Bess bought with her divorce settlement. She kept a pot of stew bubbling for the Grand Ole Opry stars who snuck over between sets. There’s still live music basically every waking moment of the day.

Just down the street is Robert Western’s World, a former western wear store that’s cramped, dingy, and incredibly hip. The burgers are 100-percent Angus and the desserts (moon pies or goo-goo clusters) are a mere buck. Friday and Saturdays, Jesse Lee Jones, the Brazilian proprietor who learned English watching Sesame Street, and his band Brazilbilly, spread the gospel of country music as it used to be.

Just around the corner is Wildhorse Saloon, a sprawling three-level former warehouse that happens to have Nashville's largest dance floor. Also notably large are the Texas-sized ribs, the stars (try Miley and her dad), the volume (if you want to whisper sweet nothings, steer clear), the number of dancers, and the fried pickles. Fifteen-minute dance lessons are held four times a night. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Neuski)


A Perfect Weekend in Nashville

Nashville, Tennessee, is all about fun. Live music, street art, rooftop bars, and some of the best food anywhere combine to make a weekend in Nashville one of the best trips you can take. There is never a shortage of things to do any hour of the day, and a quick trip here will leave you dreaming about how soon you can come back.

We’ve been to the city several times and have made it a mission to do see and do as many things as possible in Nashville. We’ve put together this Nashville weekend trip itinerary to help first-time visitors see the city’s highlights.


Lower Broadway

Things certainly look a little different these days, but music can still be found in every nook and cranny of Broadway. Even just walking down the street feels like you’ve been transported back in time to the days of dance halls, saloons, and speakeasies.

Plenty of places are open in some capacity that allows live music, and even if you’re more comfortable listening from outside, the magic hasn’t gone anywhere. Starry-eyed hopefuls belt ballads from wooden stages, and you can’t help but believe they just might make the big-time.

The neon stays buzzing and the heart stays beating in a way that only Nashville can achieve.

Moseying down Broadway is a great way to gain some context to the city, so make sure you knock this off the list on your first day. If you’ve got time for a longer walk, the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge offers some incredible views as well.

@karishea


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Transfer chicken to a serving platter and let rest for 3 minutes before serving. Brush with a little extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with a touch of Maldon sea salt, if desired. Serve with tzatziki and grilled lemons.

Grilled steak for two

1 bone-in ribeye steak or strip loin (about 16 oz or 450 g)

1 tbsp (15 mL) St. Lawrence Montreal spice (or preferred steak spice)

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter, room temp

In a small ramekin, combine the St, Lawrence Montreal spice with olive oil to create a paste. Massage the steak with the rub into both sides of the steak. Cover and allow to cure in the refrigerator for a minimum of six hours or overnight.

Remove the steak from the fridge at least two hours before grilling. It’s important that the steak is at room temperature before grilling, which will allow the meat to be evenly cooked.

Prepare a charcoal — or regular — grill. When the coals are glowing and hot, place the steak on the hottest part of the grill and sear on both sides until a nice char is achieved. Move the steak to the cooler part of the grill or lower the heat and continue cooking until the internal temperature is 120F (48C) for medium rare. Transfer the steak to a plate, put the butter on top and cover with aluminum foil. Allow steak to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Slice the steak and transfer to a serving plate. Crush a few pinches of Maldon salt of top and pour all the resting juices over the meat with a little drizzle of a very good olive oil. Serve with a tomato salad or a spicy salad like arugula, watercress or mustard greens.


The Complete Travel Guide to Nashville in a Weekend

Best Time to Visit Nashville

While Nashville’s tourist high season is from April through October, there is a case to be made for visiting the city year round.

If you visit Nashville in the summer months, you can expect an energetic, vibrant city full of outdoorsy things to do. The weather tends to be hot and humid in the summer months so keep that in mind if you don’t like the heat.

Visiting in the off season will inevitably give you lower flight and hotel costs, a cozy and charming atmosphere, and cooler temps (but still fairly moderate compared to other cities in the United States).

How To Get To Nashville

Delighting both Americans and international visitors, Nashville is home to its very own international airport. Nashville International Airport, about eight miles from downtown, services major airlines such as Southwest, Delta, Westjet, Alaska, American, Air Canada, and British Airways.

To get from the airport to downtown, we personally recommend using Lyft, which cost us about $15. Other options include taking the $2 hourly express bus service that takes around 20 minutes, or taxis for roughly $25.

How To Get Around Nashville

In addition to the airport ride, Lyft is one of the best ways to get around Nashville. While rental cars are available, going this route can be stressful and parking can get expensive.

Additionally, Nashville is home to a FREE bus system called the Music City Circuit that will take you to many of the key destinations. For other buses throughout the city, you can purchase an unlimited all-day bus pass for just a little over $5.

Things To Do in Nashville

Instagram Photo Tour

Between the great art, neon lights, and cute buildings, Nashville is one extremely photogenic place. The city is home to a bunch of funky murals, cute picture-perfect shops (like Amelia’s Flower Shop), lush parks, and a pedestrian bridge (John Seigenthaler bridge) that is great for photo shoots. Research your favorite photo spots beforehand and plan your own Instagram photo tour!

Visit The Museums

  • Country Music Hall of Fame: One of the world’s largest museums, the Country Music Hall of Fame is home to a vast array of exhibits, artifacts, and interpretations detailing the history and significance of country music.
  • Ryman Auditorium: The Ryman Auditorium is a magical 2,362-seat venue that was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Opened in 1892, the building has played host to many music greats, and is open for backstage and self-guided tours.

  • Johnny Cash Museum: The Johnny Cash Museum is an unrivaled collection of Johnny cash artifacts and memorabilia. Located right downtown in Nashville, this museum has been officially authorized by Johnny Cash’s estate.

  • Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum: A must-visit for all music-lovers, the Musicians Hall of Fame pays ode to well-known acts and session musicians regardless of genre or instrument. The museum hosts exhibits dedicated to topics such as Motown, L.A. music, Muscle Shoals, and the GRAMMY’s.
  • Hermitage Museum: Not only is Nashville’s Hermitage known to be the once home of 7th President Andrew Jackson, but it is also a great place to study up on the history of the early 19th century. Plus, for the more primal-minded, there is a whole exhibit dedicated to the art of duelling.

Watch a Live Show at Grand Ole Opry

Catching a live show at the Grand Ole Opry is a bucket list item for many, and for good reason. This 4,400 seat venue has been a stage for many music greats, and is also considered to be the largest broadcasting studio in the world.

Visit Opryland Hotel

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is an incredible complex featuring lush gardens, a spa, delicious food options, swimming pools, and live entertainment — which makes this a perfect spot for your Nashville weekend getaway. The resort is less than a mile away from the Grand Ole Opry, and is a must-see for all tastes.

Spend a Day/Evening on Broadway

For awesome live music and shopping, there is no better place to go than Broadway. A major thoroughfare running from 21st Ave S to First Ave, the street goes right through the heart of downtown.

For a night out on the town, head to Lower Broadway where you’ll find plenty of honky-tonk bars and restaurants.

Visit Centennial Park

Just two miles west from downtown Nashville, Centennial Park is a lush getaway from the excitement of downtown. The park covers 132 acres and is home to a replica of the Parthenon, a sunken garden for meditation, walking and biking trails, and even wartime memorabilia.

Must-Visit Restaurants & Bars in Nashville

For excellent drinks and appetizers, head over to Walden Bar in East Nashville. This place is not only great for tasty drinks and snacks, but the interior is perfect for photos!

Woolworth on 5th

For a fun dinner option as well as a great history lesson, head over to Woolworth on 5th. Located in downtown Nashville, this spot was one of the original “five and dime” stores that hosted some of the early lunch counter sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

Today, Woolworth on 5th is a great spot offering top-notch food, music, and dancing.

The Southern Steak & Oyster

Located in Nashville’s SoBro district, The Southern Steak & Oyster is the perfect spot to grab brunch. Offering up an “authentically southern experience with a twist”, this hotspot features a shuck-to-order oyster bar, sustainable seafood options, locally grown produce, and a wood-fired grill.

Known for their Nashville Hot Chicken, Party Fowl is a vibrant spot offering up live music, a great selection of over 20 craft beers, and mouth-watering food.

Biscuit Love

Another great brunch option, Biscuit Love serves up traditional southern biscuits, as well as other locally sourced eats. A Tennessee staple, part of Biscuit Love’s mission statement is to “serve food that feels like home” and to “provide service that welcomes all.”

Where to Stay in Nashville

SoBro Guest House

The SoBro Guest House is a downtown Nashville boutique hotel that blends just the right amount of kitsch and class. Its amenities include free parking, a kitchen grocery stocking service, as well as mobile-phone check in.

Kimpton Aertson Hotel

Located in Nashville’s Music Row district, the Kimpton Aertson Hotel offers a more upscale stay with all the amenities. Guests can expect a pool, a full bar, and a complimentary evening wine reception.

Nashville Packing Essentials

Summer Attire: Summer in Nashville tends to be hot and humid, so be sure to pack lots of light tops, shorts, breezy skirts, and sundresses. A cowgirl hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses can’t hurt either!

Winter Attire: While wintertime in Nashville can be unexpectedly cold, snow doesn’t usually stick around for long. Winter is the perfect time to bring out your jeans, light sweaters, and favorite jacket.

Cowgirl Boots: Would a Nashville outfit be complete without a pair of stylish cowgirl boots? A tip on this item is to buy your boots ahead of time and break them in a little before hitting the town save your feet!

Plan Your Trip to Nashville

After traveling consistently for over 10 years, we’ve come to trust and rely on a few websites to help us find the best deals on flights and accommodation.

Flights: Momondo is the first place we check when searching for cheap flights. It searches hundreds of sites for the best fare and includes both standard and budget airlines. The calendar (or “map”) feature shows the cheapest days to fly in your preferred month of travel.

Accommodation: Booking.com offers savings on hotels, apartments, and villas in 80,000 destinations worldwide. You can browse hotel reviews and find the guaranteed best price on hotels for all budgets.

Travel Insurance: We never travel without a travel insurance policy because it’s not worth the risk! We use and trust World Nomads, which we’ve used for the past 8 years.

About Christy Woodrow

Christy Woodrow is a travel photographer and professional blogger based in San Diego. She has been traveling around the world with her partner, Scott, since 2006. Join them in their quest to find off-the-beaten-path destinations by signing up for weekly emails. You can read more about her on our about page.


Trip Report: A Long Weekend in Nashville, Part 2

Once the sun on day 2 started to dip in the Nashville skyline, we decided it was once again time to head out to explore the city. We caught an Uber over to Centennial Park, a gorgeous green space just Northeast of the Vanderbilt campus in the area of midtown. And wow – this park was seriously gorgeous!

The front of the Parthenon in Nashville.

Probably the most unique feature at the park was the scale-model of the Parthenon. And this thing is no joke, size-wise. While we were too late in the day to check out the art gallery and sculptures inside, we did spy another breed of entertainment: Pokemon hunters!

People playing Pokemon Go in Centennial Park in Nashville.

We joined in the fun and caught a Squirtle or two, before our stomachs told us it was time for dinner. Luckily, close by was Hattie B’s, one of Nashville’s famous “hot chicken” establishments. Undeterred by the line wrapping around the block, we joined the crowds and prepared to have our taste buds scalded.

The menu board at Hattie B’s Midtown

The chicken here comes in six levels of hotness, ranging from “Southern” to “Shut The Cluck Up”. We ended up ordering a 1/2 chicken plus a tender at the “Hot!” level as well as cole slaw, baked beans, and pimento mac and cheese as well.

“Hot!” means pretty dang hot, y’all. At Hattie B’s in Nashville.

And the hubby loved it – already somewhat of a fried chicken connoisseur, he proclaimed this one of the best meals he’d eaten in months. (Pretty impressive, considering we ate at a Joel Robuchon restaurant recently…) As for me…well…let’s just say I might have been better off with “Medium”.

The neon lights of Lower Broadway in Nashville.

Once our tummies were full, it was time to quench the burn of that hot chicken with some DRANKS. So we headed off to “Lower Broadway”, aka NashVegas, aka the Bourbon Street of Nashville, aka Tourist Row. The street itself is lined on both sides with multi-level bars and clubs cranking out live music that is roughly 95% country and classic rock cover songs.

A rockabilly band at the Full Moon Saloon on Lower Broadway in Nashville.

The famous Tootsies was probably the most crowded of all the Lower Broadway bars.

Down on Lower Broadway, the cheap drinks are flowing, the bachelorette parties are omnipresent, and the bars are literally packed. We visited a number of bars up and down the row, before finally stumbling back to the hotel around 1am.

The next morning, we were up at a very cruel 11am for our next adventure, a ride on the Tennessee Whiskey Tours. Once onboard, we visited three local distilleries, partaking of tours and tastings at each stop. Only problem? We never actually got to try any official Tennessee whiskey – all the distilleries we visited were too new.

The H Clark Distillery made White Whiskey, Bourbon, and Gin, but not actual Tennessee Whiskey, which would have required charcoal filtering and barrel aging.

The Nelson Greenbriar Distillery were in the process of making a Tennessee Whiskey, but it hadn’t finished aging yet. Instead we tried their white whiskey and cask bourbons.

Our final distillery didn’t make whiskey either. They made a distilled sorghum spirit called Naked Biscuit.

We also visited what the tour guide claimed was “one of the best barbecue spots in Nashville,” which…if that’s true…I feel really sorry for any Nashvillians out there. Y’all come on down to Austin some time, let us show you how that’s actually supposed to be done.

Pork shoulder, mac & cheese, creamed corn, and an assortment of barbecue sauce at Jack ‘s BBQ. I’d give this place like a 3.5 out of 10. Our worst meal in Nashville, for sure.

After completing the whiskey tours, we got cleaned up and presentable for our dinner reservation at Bastion. This restaurant is somewhat new to the Nashville scene, having opened originally as a bar. Now, however, the restaurant functions as a reverse-speakeasy. The main space is a raucous bar in an old warehouse, but make it past a series of hidden doors and rude hostess and you’ll find a posh 24-seat, open-kitchen restaurant, helmed by Chef Josh Habiger of Catbird Seat fame.

The bar space at Bastion, where the cocktails flow and the music is loud.

The hidden restaurant area at Bastion, where everyone has a front row seat on the kitchen.

Here, we were treated to a six-course feast of innovative and meticulously plated dishes. You order from a slip of paper resembling a bingo card, X-ing out the dish you want for each course. The course descriptions are left intentionally vague so as to “maintain an element of surprise” but highly shareable for a couple looking to explore.

Some of our favorites from the meal at Bastion, clockwise from top left: mushrooms and barley in a rosemary broth, raw oysters with a watermelon mignonette, raw beef tartare covered with nasturium leaves with grated gouda, squab with local blueberries, a dessert of gelatos made with chocolate mint and chartreuse, and a custard made of uni with scallops and shiso broth.

When we pointed out the amount of foraged ingredients and flowers topping our first couple courses, we asked the chef (who was mere feet away from us through the entire experience) if he considered his style part of the New Nordic trend. He chuckled then replied, “Nah, it’s new Nashville.”

The brunch crowd at Biscuit Love.

The next day, after our fancy-pants dinner, our final day in Nasvhille got underway, and we decided to brave yet another wrap-around-the-block line to try out brunch at Biscuit Love. The shop specialized in — you guessed it — biscuit based dishes. And since I couldn’t leave Nashville having only tried hot chicken just once, I ordered “The Princess”, a piece of hot chicken on a biscuit, served with honey, dijon mustard, and pickles. It was a great way to start the day, though the chicken at Hattie B’s pretty much blew this version out of the water.

After brunch, we headed out to explore East Nasvhille, and specifically the Five Points Neighborhood. Apparently Sunday = 2-for-1s in Music City, so we soon found ourselves in a friendly (and surprisingly lively, for a Sunday) bar called the Three Crow Bar. Each drink you ordered came with a token that could then be applied to your next drink a pretty good system!

We explored the area a bit more, checking out the local shops and galleries, before ultimately stopping in for one final Nashville meal at the much raved about Five Points Pizza. Upon entering, we noticed our waitress was rocking a Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza t-shirt, one of our hometown Austin favorites. She then divulged that Five Points was based in both concept, style, and even recipes, upon Austin’s Home Slice Pizza.

Garlic knots at Five Points Pizza. These were indeed very similar to Home Slice.

The “Zeus” pie at Five Points. Tasty, but not nearly as good as the crispy crusts at Home Slice.

We tried the garlic knots and the “Zeus” pie, but in the end, Austin wins this pizza battle, hands down. Five Points was tasty and filling, but the crust was just too thick and the ingredients didn’t ever seem to meld. Still, even mediocre pizza is pretty good, so with that, we headed off to the airport, likely about 10 lbs heavier than we arrived, after a great weekend in the country music capital of the world.

What are your favorite spots in Nashville? Tell us in the comments!


A Long Weekend: Eating And Drinking In Nashville


Some go to Nashville for the music. I go for the creative inspiration that pours out of everything and the gorgeous Southern city touches. It's hard to do Nashville in a long weekend, so just know that you'll be back and that all your preconceived notions will be blown to smithereens. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/jeffreylcohen)

You'll want to bunk down close to South Broadway, near the Ryman Auditorium and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge where Willie Nelson sold his first song. It was called "Crazy" and he sold it to Patsy Kline for $25.


Check in to Union Station, a splendidly restored former train station-turned-hotel with custom-made furniture and more than a century of celebrity stays including Mae West, Franklin D. Roosevelt and mafia kingpin Al Capone, who was being escorted to a Georgia penitentiary. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Dave Newman (newmanchu))

Every one of this boutique hotel's rooms are different, but request one on the fifth floor that overlooks the stunning lobby with barrel-vaulted, 65-foot stained glass ceilings and gleaming Italian marble floors. Prime 108, named after Bully 108, the first steam engine to chug through Nashville, is among the city's most celebrated restaurants.

After dinner, head to one of Nashville's world-famous honky-tonks. Don't miss Tootsie's, the bright purple lounge that Tootsie Bess bought with her divorce settlement. She kept a pot of stew bubbling for the Grand Ole Opry stars who snuck over between sets. There's still live music basically every waking moment of the day.

Just down the street is Robert Western's World, a former western wear store that's cramped, dingy and incredibly hip. The burgers are 100 percent Angus and the desserts -- moon pies or goo-goo clusters -- are a mere buck. Friday and Saturdays, Jesse Lee Jones, the Brazilian proprietor who learned English watching Sesame Street, and his band Brazilbilly, spread the gospel of country music as it used to be.


Just around the corner is Wildhorse Saloon, a sprawling three-level former warehouse that happens to have Nashville's largest dance floor. Also notably large are the Texas-sized ribs, the stars (try Miley and her dad), the volume (if you want to whisper sweet nothings, steer clear), the number of dancers and the fried pickles. Fifteen-minute dance lessons are held four times a night. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Neuski)


There's a t-shirt in Nashville that says, "Music: It's why I get up every afternoon." Don't let that be you: There's too much to do.

To start, belly up to the Pancake Pantry for more than 23 kinds of pancakes made with fresh ingredients, family recipes and accompanied by homemade syrup. The line snaking out the front door -- part of the experience that often leads to celebrity sightings -- is a testament to these divinely-inspired stacks, especially the best-seller of sweet potato pancakes made with real sweet potato flakes and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/toastforbrekkie)

Next stop is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Once the Nashville Post Office, this 1934 art deco splendor morphed into an art museum in 2001 with exhibits rotating in and out every six to eight weeks. The black marble floors, gleaming silver fixtures, sweeping staircases and 22-foot-high ceilings make it an impressive spot to showcase its traveling exhibits. Showing through January 8 is "To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum," an exhibition of 4,000-year-old coffins, jewels and mummies from Egypt. I'm partial to the Frist's upstairs ArtQuest Gallery, a hands-on space where wannabe's can make prints, collages and start their own portfolio, all matted and scanned, in 30 unique, educational stations.

While you're in art mode, stop by the Rymer Gallery and ask if curator Herb Williams is in. Williams is also an artist, one who never quit playing with crayons. Only instead of using them to draw, the 30-something father of two makes giant sculptures using the crayons themselves. He has sculpted Marilyn Monroe, a life-size statue of Johnny Cash and a nine-foot cactus, all out of crayons. Marilyn Monroe alone took a quarter million crayons.

For lunch, head to Barbara Mandrell's house. Or rather, her former house. The 136-acre property where she and her husband built a 27,000-square foot log cabin, one of the world's largest, also has a farm-to-table restaurant. It's called, not surprisingly, The Farmhouse and serves locally raised beef, veggies and hand-crafted local cheese. Spend the afternoon touring Fontanel, the log cabin mansion where singing tour guides dispense gossip (Oprah Winfrey once cooked in Barbara's kitchen), play guitar and show you the six bedrooms, indoor shooting range, soda fountain and indoor pool.

Plan a late-afternoon pick me-up at Las Paletas in Nashville's trendy 12South neighborhood. Two Mexican-American moms dispense all-natural, handmade gourmet popsicles. An oft-erased chalkboard hangs over a freezer case with the day's two dozen flavors -- anything from mango and coffee to banana-nut or chocolate almond. Irma Paz-Bernstein and Norma Paz-Curtis never advertise and close up shop at 7 pm, and when chef Bobby Flay caught wind of the Paz sisters and challenged them to a "Throwdown" on the Food Network, he lost.

For dinner, don't miss Hutton Hotel's 1808 Grille. Since it opened three years ago, it has pulled down every award in Nashville. Executive chef Charles Phillips has cooked for everyone from Bill Clinton to Bill Gates and uses local, sustainable ingredients in his whimsical, yet healthy menu.

Although you hear live music everywhere -- "In a city with 1.3 million, at least 1.2 million of them are pickers and singers," says singer Steven Whitson -- Bluebird Café is tonight's destination. It's tiny and unassuming, but it is the place for aspiring songwriters. Garth Brooks, Keith Urban and Taylor Swift are just a few discovered there. There are two intimate, acoustic shows a night and reservations are highly recommended.

Have drinks afterward at the Patterson House. Named after former Tennessee Governor Malcolm R. Patterson who vetoed the return of statewide prohibition in 1909, this dimly lit speakeasy has dark wood bookshelves, damask wallpaper and more than 50 cocktails, carefully fussed over and poured over eight types of twice-filtered ice. Patterson's mixologists (don't dare call them bartenders) make such specialties as a bacon-infused old fashioned and the Jennings, inspired by Waylon, and made with Jack Daniels and hickory smoked cola, cooked with hickory chips right on the premises.

After a quick shot of caffeine at Bongo Java's, one of Nashville's local coffee shops, plan on breakfast at the Farmers Market. Unlike most cities that offer fresh, farm-grown produce on weekends only, the Nashville Farmers Market is open seven days a week. Its 16 acres feature nearly everything the Tennessee Organic Growers Association can come up with from organic beef, lamb and rabbit to goat cheese and pies for diabetics. Market House offers restaurants and a weekend Flea Market, too.

The Farmers Market is across from Bicentennial Mall State Park, named as one of the country's best lawns along with Central Park, Pebble Beach and Boston's Esplanade. Built to commemorate Tennessee's 200th birthday, the park stretches from the north end of the State Capitol and includes a 200-foot map of Tennessee, an 18,000-pound granite globe that floats on 1/8 inch of water and a wall of history with an actual crack to signify the Civil War. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/CJ Sorg)

One ticket gets you into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Studio B. More than a million artifacts and every country recording ever yeehawed can be found in this 136,000-square foot museum. You'll see Patsy Cline's cigarette lighter, salvaged from the 1963 plane crash that killed her, Willie Nelson's bandana, a signature Hank Williams suit designed by Nudie Cohen and Elvis Presley's custom 1960 solid gold Cadillac, sitting, of course, next to Webb Pierce's pistol-and-rifle-trimmed 1962 Pontiac Bonneville convertible.

Final stop and centerpiece is the Hall of Fame itself, a reverential circle honoring Patsy, Merle and dozens of others beneath the title of the AP Carter country classic, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken."

Studio B, also owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame, is located in Music Row where more than 100 music studios keep the tradition going. From the drab cinderblock building known as Studio B, more than 35,000 songs were brought to life including more than 150 recordings by Elvis Presley.

Next up is Loveless Café, a Nashville institution that won't be hosting Weight Watchers anytime soon. Since 1951, when Lon and Annie Loveless set up picnic tables in their front yard and sold pan-fried chicken to travelers on Highway 100, this icon of Southern cooking has been serving food it's best not to count fat grams by: country ham, red-eye gravy, made-from-scratch biscuits and dessert classics like sweet potato pie, peach cobbler and Red Velvet cake.

If you want to have a really good time, check out my Nashville Scavenger Hunt app on iTunes. First one to complete all 48 missions and snap a photo to prove it wins a grand prize worth more than a $1,000.


A Weekend In Nashville!

Last weekend I visited my longtime best friend, Shannon, in Nashville! She recently moved there from our hometown and was so excited to show me around her new city. Here are a few things we did during my first visit ever to Nashville…

When I arrived on Friday, Shannon had welcome drinks for us — orange wine! I had never even heard of this type of wine before and it was delicious. We excitedly caught up over a long happy hour walk around her cute new neighborhood before grabbing cocktails at Rosemary Beauty Queen and then pizza at City House.

Saturday it rained all day but we didn’t let it ruin our plans of hiking Percy Warner Mossy Ridge trail. It was wet and muddy but we had a great morning hiking through the gorgeous fall foliage. Afterwards we grabbed tacos at Taqueria del Sol in 12 South before heading back to her place to watch the latest true crime documentary on Netflix (fun fact: Shannon and I almost launched a true crime podcast last year together. It was going to focus exclusively on Florida cases.)

Saturday night we met some of her friends at Lockeland Table for dinner and then grabbed a drink across the street at Urban Cowboy, which is one of the coolest places ever. Before calling it a night, we made a brief tourist stop on Broadway, where I realized I am officially too old to hear in loud bars anymore but the people-watching was incredibly entertaining. After a fun night, I think we still managed to crash into bed by 11 pm.

One of my favorite parts of our weekend was the drag brunch on Sunday at Suzy Wong’s House of Yum. Oh my goodness, the show was incredible and the food was delicious. It was the most fun way ever to cap off a fun weekend with my bestie!


Things to Do in Nashville If You Have 2 to 3 Days

Definitely do the classic country Southern things you’re supposed to do in Nashville, but don’t miss seeing some of the new hotspots too. Here’s my must-do list:

#1: Go to a Concert at the Grand Ole Opry

First things first, the Grand Ole Opry is a must for everyone. It’s the longest-running radio show in U.S. history (started in 1925) and it put country music on the map.

It’s aired live from a concert-like setting and there’s simply no other music performance like it – you get to see eight or more performances in one show, one band after another so you never get bored (hello, musical ADD).

Watching Rachel Wammack at the Grand Ole Opry.

It’s usually a mix of famous and no-name performers with super-brief commercials spots in-between sets (and listening to the buttery smooth announcer do live commercials is kind of fun, too).

The night we went, there were 11 different acts including Rachel Wammack, Jimmy Wayne, Vince Gill and the Charlie Daniels Band.

#2: Visit Country Music Museums

If you’re a country music fan, there’s a museum for you here. Take your pick or do all of them:

  • Johnny Cash Museum
  • Patsy Cline Museum
  • Ryman Auditorium
  • Country Music Hall of Fame (the first floor is free to enter, so even if you’re not into country it’s still worth popping in).

#3: Eat Chocolate

Go to the Goo Goo Dessert Bar & Shop for a historical sugar rush. This company invented the first candy bar (the Goo Goo) in 1912. Pick up some of these clusters made from milk chocolate, peanuts, marshmallow and caramel to take home to your kids or pet sitter or just stuff in your face.

You can also sign up to take a candy-bar making class here on the weekends. But register in advance!

#4: Walk Over the Cumberland River

The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, one of the longest of its kind in the world. It spans the Cumberland River and joins downtown Nashville with East Nashville. If it’s a sunny day, you can snap some good shots of Nashville from the bridge and get even better ones at night when the waterline buildings are all lit up. Located on 3rd Ave.

#5: Grow Wings

Everyone and their mama want to pose with the city’s most famous mural: “What Lifts You.” It’s two sets of wings – one big and one tiny pair – that people can’t resist snapping a pic against (who hasn’t dreamed of having their own wings?). If you want a photo too head to downtown’s Gulch area, but prepare to stand in line. This mural is pop-u-lar!

Travel Hack: Instead of waiting in a long line (ain’t nobody got time for that!) we posed on the corner across from the mural. It’s like a faraway picture with the wings. I felt so clever until I realized that the wings look more like elf ears on me at that angle. But, whatevs.

#6: Check Out Marathon Village

One of my favorite downtown stop was Marathon Village, a former auto factory converted into a cool industrial space. It’s a group of 100-year-old brick buildings with shops and a small (but free) museum where you can see the Marathon cars that were made here in the early 1900’s, before Ford ran them out of business.

Look at those all bottles of moonshine at Tennessee Legend Distillery.

Things to do in Marathon Village include:

  • Pop into Antique Archaeology, the store made famous by the “American Pickers” show on the History Channel
  • Sip beer, moonshine and whiskey at the three distillery tasting rooms (the bananas foster cream liqueur at Tennessee Legend Distillery is so good!)
  • Pick up gorgeous scented candles (fruit tea is a Southern staple) and pillows that would make Joanna Gaines jealous at The Faded Farmhouse
  • Sample flavored olive oils and vinegars with the super-nice ladies at Nashville Olive Oil Company
  • Make your own wine slushie at Grinders Switch Winery, where you pick the slushie base and which wine you want to add to it.

#6: Dress Like Reese Witherspoon

America’s sweetheart Reese Witherspoon opened up a clothing shop and the flagship store is in the cutest neighborhood in Nashville: 12 South. As soon as I found that out, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage there. And it didn’t disappoint.

Posing outside of Reese Witherspoon’s flagship shop.

It’s a gorgeous, organized store filled with preppy, but feminine clothes with southern detail – gingham, lace, ruffles. You can find wrap dresses, delicate blouses, and lots of blue and white (just like the store’s mural above).

#7: Dive Into Tacos (With a Side of Guac, Naturally)

By far, Bartaco was the best restaurant that we ate at the entire trip. It helps that I’m a huge fan of Mexican food. But this modern taqueria gets bonus points for its beachy vibe and margaritas and mezcal drinks with fresh-squeezed lime juice. So good!

Order tacos by checking off which ones you want on a sheet of paper – like how you order sushi – along with sides. Everything was tasty, but the rock shrimp taco and guacamole were off the hook. This place is popular with locals, too, so expect a wait on the weekends.


Trip Report: Long Weekend in Nashville, Part 1

Howdy, y’all! Wanna hear a little country ditty I just wrote about our weekend in Music City? Ok, then!

Nah, just kidding. I don’t write country songs, I blog. But I am going to tell you about Nashville, and our recent trip there including where we stayed, what we ate, and all the things we did. Cool? Cool.

So first off, Nashville is yet another destination that we got to see primarily thanks to our Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to redeem a free ticket anytime the pass-holder has a ticket on any Southwest flight. As such, we transferred some points over to Southwest from our Chase Ultimate Rewards account, and were able to book nonstop, roundtrip flights that would have normally cost $736+ for the two of us, for free instead.

Then, we took a look at our hotel options. We knew we wanted to stay downtown to minimize the need for ground transportation costs, and so combined with the fact that we had plenty of Chase points that would also transfer to Hyatt (and that I currently have Diamond status on Hyatt) and it was an easy decision to book at the Hyatt Place Downtown Nashville.

And what a wonderful decision that was! I have stayed at Hyatt’s all over the country — the Andaz Maui, the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis, the Hyatt Olive 8 in Seattle, the Hyatt Regency in San Antonio — and yet I think I can say that this was my favorite Hyatt property to date.

First of all, the property is in a great location. Walking distance to most of the major attractions like Lower Broadway, the Ryman Auditorum, and the Country Music Hall of Fame, but also just a short cab or Uber (usually under $10) from the trendy Midtown and East Nashville areas. Plus, since we booked using points, we were able to stay for free – saving us another roughly $900, and meaning we’d only need to pay out of pocket for any activities we did on our trip. Winning!

Upon checkin, we were informed that as a result of my Diamond status, our standard room had been upgraded to a Deluxe King Room. It was spacious, well-appointed, and had a fantastic view of the Seigenthaler bridge and the Ascend Amphitheater.

Our spacious corner room at the Hyatt Place The comfy King bed at the Hyatt Place, with a cupcake and wine on the nightstand! A spacious bathroom at the Hyatt Place, though sadly no tub.

Our checkin agent also retrieved a welcome gift for us, two bottles of water and two local candies – Goo Goo Clusters. But when we made it up to our room we got yet another surprise: we’d been chosen as “guest of the day” and received a free cupcake and mini-bottle of wine. Thanks, Hyatt!

Once we’d unpacked and gotten settled into our room, it was time to go seek out some nourishment. So we walked over to the nearby Pinewood Social, a combo restaurant-bar-bowling alley-plunge pool spot in a former warehouse building.

Pinewood Social’s large central bar, with plenty of bearded bartenders. Pinewood Social’s bowling alley

There, we tried an assortment of appetizers, including the specialty toasts, pork rinds, elotes (Mexican street corn for the yankees…which the restaurant described as something totally different, but it was just elotes with chorizo on it…), and tempura fried pickles. It was all….ok. Nothing special. Not great, not terrible, just middling.

The apps we ordered at Pinewood Social were average, at best.

After dinner, we were pretty tired from our trip (and the hubby’s birthday shenanigans the night before), so headed home fairly early in order to get a jump on the next day. We kicked off Day 2 with a tour: the Music City Rollin’ Jamboree, which billed itself as a “singalong city tour and comedy show.” It was entertaining, and we certainly did do some singing along, but I wouldn’t really call it a city tour.

Our chariot for the “tour” was named Francis, the big red bus The performers/”tour guides “on the Rollin’ Jamboree

Still, we had a good time, and by early afternoon, we had worked up a pretty good appetite. So we headed over to the much lauded Arnold’s Country Kitchen for a plate of one of Nashville’s famed meat-and-three cafeteria style meals.

At Arnold’s, I got the fried catfish with green beans, mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes, and a slice of strawberry pie.

This was a great choice, and we stuffed ourselves super full of great Southern classics like fried catfish, chicken and dumplings, mac and cheese, and slices of pie. My personal favorite were the fried green tomatoes, which were some of the best I’ve ever had. Excellent food!

Afterwards, we decided we needed to wash down all that food, so we walked a couple blocks over to the Yazoo Brewery & Taproom. We tried a tasting of the local Yazoo beers, and then full of good food and good drink, decided we should head back to the hotel to wait out a bit of the afternoon heat before setting out on our next adventure.

Stay tuned for part two to see all the other great places we visited during our Nashville excursion!



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