I’m finally getting around to writing about my trip to Nashville! My boyfriend’s company is based there, so the two of us spent a week in Music City in early December to attend the company’s holiday party. I’ve been wanting to go to Nashville for a while—it’s such a trendy destination—and was glad to have the excuse to finally make it out there. The city turned out to be so different than I imagined, though! I’m sharing some of the activities we did below and then some general thoughts on Nashville at the end of the post. I also have an outfit guide planned for next week that I’m very excited about.
Visit the Parthenon
On our first full day in Nashville, I planned a walking route so that my boyfriend and I could see and get a feel for the city. The first stop was the city’s art museum, called the Parthenon! It’s supposedly the world’s only exact replica of the original temple in Greece. The building was constructed for Tennesee’s Centennial Exposition in 1897, fitting for a city whose nickname is “the Athens of the South”. While we didn’t end up going inside the museum, we both really enjoyed seeing the architecture of the building and wandering around the surrounding park. It would be a really cute place for a picnic in the spring—unfortunately, it was rather brown and dead-looking when we visited.
The next stop on our walking tour was Vanderbilt University, which is close to the Parthenon. I’ve always enjoyed exploring college campuses, and since Vanderbilt is rather prestigious, I thought this would be a fun way to get a taste of the city. However, I think you can safely cross this off your must-see list. While some of the buildings are old and pretty, a lot of the campus was under construction—and it didn’t strike me as anything special. They do have the Vanderbilt Dyer Conservatory which seemed really cool, but unfortunately they weren’t hosting any events the week we were in town.
Eat at Hattie B’s
Apparently, Nashville is known for its hot chicken—which I had never heard of before. But on our first night in town after a long day of travel, we walked to a nearby Hattie B’s location to try the hot chicken for ourselves. Hattie B’s is a popular fast-food restaurant, and while the line is apparently always long, it goes by quickly. I ordered the grilled chicken tenders and cheesy grits, which felt like the appropriate southern side. It was really good! But I will warn you, if you’re gluten-free, watch out—they put a slice or two of bread as a little “bed” underneath the chicken, so just make sure to ask them to exclude it.
Listen to Live Music on Broadway
Of course, if you’re in Nashville, you have to visit the infamous Broadway Street. This is where all the tourists congregate to drink, listen to live music, and get rowdy. It reminded me of a Southern version of the Las Vegas Strip—crowded with lots of fun, neon lights. We stopped at the Jason Aldean Bar for lunch and to listen to music. The food was not good and overpriced, which I imagine is the case with most of the tourist traps on this street… Broadway was definitely a one-and-done type of thing for me but it’s one of Nashville’s claims to fame nonetheless. If I were to do it over again, I would eat elsewhere and then head to Broadway for an afternoon drink and a couple hours of music. At least the performers at Jason Aldean’s were amazing!
Take in the Views on the Pedestrian Bridge
After strolling by the Parthenon, exploring Vanderbilt, and experiencing Broadway, we finished our walk at the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, which spans the Cumberland River. This was a great spot for photos and views of the city, and we even saw a couple get engaged!
See the Grand Ole Opry
For me, the highlight of our Nashville trip was seeing the Grand Ole Opry. Admittedly, I didn’t know what that was before planning this trip (and I’m still a little confused about the name of the show versus the name of the venue—they seem to be used interchangeably), but the Grand Ole Opry is the longest running radio show in U.S. history. It is also widely considered the home of country music! I didn’t know what to expect, but they have several performers throughout the show and a radio host to narrate in between sets. While I can get down to some country music every now and again, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan—but the show was a blast nonetheless. I always love live music, and the venue was really cool (you sit in padded church pews!). Everything I read about Nashville said this is THE thing to do while in town. My boyfriend doesn’t really like live music and likes country music even less (ironic that his company’s based in Nashville, huh?), but even he enjoyed the entertainment factor of the show—we got quite the kick out of a couple of elderly performers who had no filters.
When I was doing my research, I found that you could also see shows at the Ryman Auditorium, which was the previous home of the Grand Ole Opry. Unlike the current venue of the show Opry House, which is about a 20-minute drive from downtown, the Ryman Auditorium is right off Broadway. I made a point to walk past it while wandering the street because it is a cool old building. We ultimately decided to see the Grand Ole Opry, instead of a show at the Ryman Auditorium, for a couple of reasons. First, the Grand Ole Opry happened to be cheaper than the other shows during the week we were there. Second, since we visited in December, the Ryman was hosting a lot of Christmas-related shows, and I knew I wanted to see just a classic country music performance. Lastly, it was hard to pass up the fame and namesake of seeing the Grand Ole Opry itself, but both venues are very famous and have a lot to offer!
Tip: We had a rental car the week we were in Nashville and weren’t sure what the parking situation would be like at Opry House. While there is paid parking, it turns out the venue is right next to a mall and a ton of people (ourselves included) just parked in the mall lot for free! Save the money but add a few minutes to your commute so you have time to walk from the parking lot to the entrance.
Shop and Take Photos on 12th Ave
We only had two full days in Nashville since both my boyfriend and I had to work most of the week, but I knew I wanted to check out some of the famous Nashville murals on our second day. It turns out that two of the most popular ones, the “I believe in Nashville” and the “Nashville looks good on you” murals, are basically right next to each other! The exact addresses are below:
“Nashville Looks Good on You” Mural: 2511 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204
“I Believe in Nashville” Mural: 2706 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204
We got brunch at the Frothy Monkey on 12th, which was recommended to us—but honestly I think you can skip out on it. While we didn’t do anything more than window shop, there were a lot of really cute stores on this street, including a Draper James! I also heard that Bar Taco on 12th is really good, although there’s apparently always a line.
Visit the Musicians Hall of Fame
Nashville has tons of museums and halls of fame—the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame—but most of them didn’t really appeal to my boyfriend nor I because they seemed to require rather specific knowledge/interests that we didn’t have (the Country Music Hall of Fame is obviously a big thing in Nashville but neither of felt like we would even know any of the names). We decided to go to the general Musicians Hall of Fame instead because it seemed like a safer bet.
At first, I was a little disappointed with the experience. The Musicians Hall of Fame is located in a rundown building in a less appealing part of town, and at $28 a pop, it wasn’t cheap. It was a little boring after a while because I could only be interested in seeing so many famous people’s guitars. But then… we saved the Grammy Museum Gallery for last and were so glad we did! It was an absolute blast and honestly one of the highlights of the whole trip. Basically, the gallery takes you through all the different steps of making music—from the instruments, to the recording process, and everything in between. We got to jam out on guitars, play with synthesizers, beat our hearts out on the drums, and then record in a studio (I sang in the live room—quite terribly I might add—while my boyfriend manipulated the sounds in the control room). We even got to sing with Ray Charles and the Raelettes as if it was karaoke—my boyfriend singing the lead with me on backup! It was so much fun and really saved the day after feeling skeptical about the whole experience.
If you decide to visit the Musicians Hall of Fame, I recommend doing a quick pass through the museum part and then saving most of your time and energy for the Grammy Gallery!
Dinner in Germantown
My friend lives in Nashville and invited us to dinner one night in Germantown, which is a really cool and modern-feeling neighborhood. We ate at The Goat, which had delish gluten-free pizza, but there were several other restaurants in the neighborhood that looked inviting. I liked the area because it felt far less touristy and more relaxed than downtown.
Explore One of the Famous Estates
Nashville has a lot of historical southern mansions you can pay to tour, including the Belmont Mansion, the Belle Meade Plantation, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, to name a few. Each of them costs around $25 or more, and I wasn’t sure how interested I was in going inside for a proper tour… But I was very interested in at least seeing the architecture from the outside and some of the surrounding grounds.
Since we had a rental car, my boyfriend and I set out on a driving route to find out which of the mansions we could see from the outside without paying. We stopped by Belmont Mansion first and were pleasantly surprised to find you could walk all around outside the mansion and some of the grounds, as it’s actually located on a college campus. The area was really pretty, and I’m sure it’s gorgeous and alive with blooms in the spring.
We also drove past the Belle Meade Plantation and Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, neither of which you could really see without paying. Regardless, I enjoyed the drive, and it gave us a sense of the Nashville suburbs and some of the southern architecture. My friend said the Belle Meade Plantation tour (and wine tasting!) is really fun, so perhaps we’ll have to try that next year if we go to the holiday party again.
Line Dancing on Broadway
One of the things I knew I really wanted to do in Nashville was go line dancing. I’ve always enjoyed it the few times I’ve gone in Denver and felt like it was only necessary to go in the country music town. I did a little research to try to find the best spot for it, and I landed on the Wildhorse Saloon, which claims to have downtown’s largest dancefloor.
While I enjoyed the experience, it was not what I had expected. For one, the dancefloor isn’t that big, and the venue allows minors until later in the night… so there were little kids playing and running around everywhere, making it difficult to actually dance. The kids left eventually, and the live band was fantastic, which really added to the atmosphere. I would say the venue was a good stress-free place for tourists to learn line dancing because there weren’t that many skilled, intimidating dancers on the floor, and there were teachers on stage who taught a few of the steps. While I much prefer the more serious dancing at the Grizzly Rose here in Denver, I do think this is a fun option for beginners while in a country town. There was no cover charge but we had to pay for parking in a nearby garage, which was $25 for the night.
A Fancy Dinner at Hall’s Chophouse
I don’t often recommend restaurants because it’s rare that I eat at a place once that’s good enough to recommend, but my boyfriend and I stopped into Hall’s Chophouse before going to his holiday party and it was delicious. We just ordered a few appetizers and drinks in the bar, but I think we would definitely go back for a proper meal. It’s pricy obviously, but the steak was so good!
General Thoughts on Nashville
Overall, while I enjoyed our trip a lot, I’m not sure I feel the need to go back to Nashville. I was surprised to feel like there wasn’t that much to do… There are lots of things to do, like the museums and estate tours I mentioned, but to do more than one or two of those activities would get very expensive very quickly. Additionally, there are lots of fun country music-related pastimes, but since my boyfriend and I don’t know that much about country music, we didn’t partake in many of those activities. Nothing against the city, but I think visiting Nashville would have been a lot more fun if we were true country music fans.
I also thought Nashville wasn’t the prettiest city. It wasn’t necessarily dirty or unsafe-feeling—in fact, I thought it was pretty clean—but it still felt kind of sketchy for some reason! It’s hard to explain, but my boyfriend agreed. I think part of it is because there was SO much construction everywhere. My friend said Nashville is growing like crazy so the constant construction is pretty characteristic of the city right now. It also explains the sort of interesting layout of the town—pretty spread out with cool, new neighborhoods in seemingly random places. Nashville definitely seems like the kind of city where you have to have insider knowledge to find the best spots. For example, outside of Broadway and downtown, it was hard to know where to go for meals and whatnot—I learned from some locals that all their favorite spots are in neighborhoods like Germantown or 12th Ave that would be harder to discover or know about as a tourist.
All in all, I enjoyed our trip, and I’m really glad I finally made it to Nashville. However, as I said, I don’t feel like I would need to visit again. My best recommendation would be taking a weekend trip there—I think three days in Music City would be the perfect amount.
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Have you been to Nashville? What was the best part of your trip, and do you agree with my assessment of the city? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Miles of smiles,