To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Nashville. I had conflicting notions of the city—it was a place clad with bachelorette parties, where wannabe country stars sing cover songs at honky tonks and Make America Great Again hats are plentiful. Simultaneously, it’s where Aziz Ansari hung out for Master of None and ate at my friend’s pizza place. It’s where local fare is celebrated, from craft brew to leather goods, and where all types of artists and creatives are welcome. Both of these preconceived notions were found to be true. What is cool though, is how all of these groups exist in harmony and together embrace Nashville as their home.
We were only there for a long weekend, but there’s enough to keep you busy for a lengthened trip. As someone who likes to experience the local spots of new cities and go light on the touristy destinations, it was soon discovered that Nashville is the perfect place to do that. (It probably helps having an up-and-coming musician friend as our tour guide.) From hot chicken to divey live music bars, we squeezed a whole ‘lotta culture in our two and a half day whirlwind of a trip.
E A T
If you know me (or simply follow me on Instagram), you know this girl likes to eat. I’m an unabashed foodie that is always up to try new dishes and restaurants, both in Kansas City and during my travels. Nashville’s food scene is limitless — come for the hot chicken, stay for the gourmet doughnuts and mouth-watering avocado egg toast.
If you’re looking for a place that is traditionally southern and is as local as it gets, you must try Big Al’s Deli and Catering. The hole-in-the-wall atmosphere makes you feel as if you were invited into the owner’s house for Sunday brunch. It feels like it’s been there for decades (the decor is made up of outdated soup cans and cereal boxes from the 1980s, but the place only opened a few years ago). It may have only been introduced to the city rather recently, but it feels so natural in the residential neighborhood—you feel like it’s a place your grandparents could have visited if they went to Nashville as twenty-somethings.
As it’s only open through early afternoon, the earlier you get there, the better. The place gets packed and it is community-style seating… be prepared to make a few new friends! We arrived around 11 and we got super lucky in that we didn’t have to wait for a table for very long (but you can also get it to-go!). I was in the lunch mood and ordered the Mahi Mahi burger, which was one of the best surf and turf burgers I’ve ever had. It was topped with bacon and a spicy condiment that reminded me a bit of sweet and sour sauce, and I am definitely regretting not figuring out exactly what it was.
Near our friends' place in East Nashville was a doughnut shop called Five Daughters Bakery. They served some great doughnuts as well as offering paleo and gluten free! Apparently they are known for their 100-layer doughnut, but I learned this after-the-fact. If you go here, order that and let me know how it is!
Another great on-the-go breakfast spot is Proper Bagel, located near Vanderbilt University. I'll admit, the black and white modern decor always pulls on my heart strings, but they also make a mean bagel. Be sure to pair your bagel with their fresh-squeezed lemonade!
I found my favorite restaurant basically ever in Nashville. Le Sel is the name and a dope brunch is its game (but really). This French bistro is located in Midtown on a cute little corner. A little pricey, but so worth it. Still have dreams about this place.💞
Cody ordered the salmon eggs benedict while I ordered the avocado toast and a mimosa. Definitely one of the best brunch experiences I have encountered, half because the food and half because the Insta-worthiness (see below). If you go to Nashville without hitting this place up, we are no longer friends.
After a weekend full of gluttonous food consumption, I needed some nutrients in my system. I Googled the nearest juicery and, alas, The Urban Juicer became our next food stop. Pro Tip: if you order an Acai bowl, get the Beauty Bowl (pictured right)! I got a pineapple superfood bowl (I can't remember the name) but it wasn't 100. We got lucky that the place was 'grammable, though!
D O 🏙
There's a lot of places in Nashville you can just be entertained by walking around. From the Bicentennial Mall Capitol Park to Centennial Park, and Belmont University and the Nashville Bridge, you'll be surprised how walkable this Southern city is.
First up: Centennial Park! This place is a must-see. If the weather is nice when you go, I would suggest having a picnic here or go for a run around the park (if you're one of those kinds of people). In the middle of the park lies the Parthenon (yep, you heard that right). Nashville is home to an identical replica of the Parthenon in Greece. That is, a replica of the Parthenon when it was first built and completely intact! This Parthenon is the home to the city's art museum. We didn't go inside, but I think admission costs around $6.
On our way to downtown, we walked along the Nashville Bridge and took in some great views. The bridge is built over the river and has the best skyline views of the city. Next time I definitely want to visit here at night!
Another beautiful (and free!) destination is the Nashville Public Library. It's worth it just to see the capitol building perfectly aligned in the second floor window. The upstairs was also home to a rotating art gallery. The photography exhibit that was there during our visit showcased the otherwise secret spots in Nashville that possessed a lot of historic value, from important civil rights-era markers to culturally significant spots in music history. A bonus to visiting the library is the French-inspired Provence Breads & Cafe that is connected to the main
Marathon Village is an indoor market with local shops and antique stores. As its namesake suggests, it originally was the site of a Marathon Motors factory, a car brand now extinct. Its setup reminded me a lot of Chelsea Market in NYC. It was connected to an antique shop that American Pickers sells some of their finds! A place that my parents would definitely enjoy browsing!
Additionally, don't miss an opportunity checking out the Farmer's Market on a nice, warm day! It's an indoor-outdoor venue that has everything from handmade clothes to flowers for your garden!
L I S T E N 🎤
It wouldn't be a Nashville visit without going to Broadway Street. Although I'm partial to avoiding touristy spots like this when visiting new cities, it felt wrong to not at least walk up and down the strip. It's quintessential touristy Nashville—with drunk bachelorette groups, live country music sang by cover artists in every bar and gaudy stores with BOGO cowboy boots sales. But, hey, if that's your scene then this is the place to be! I'll admit I did enjoy walking through the area and people watching—it was St. Patrick's Day weekend, after all!
But let's get to some cooler spots on the list. It's not a trip to Nashville without visiting Jack White's record store, Third Man Records. If you don't know who Jack White is, at least go to get some awesome photos (but also shame on you). Apparently he likes to show up to the store pretty regularly, so you might make a run in with him!
The best places in Nashville to catch some live music, though, are the hole-in-the-wall dive bars. We went to one right next to Centennial Park called Springwater and listened to some actually pretty good live music for a $5 cover. Our musician friend also raved about The Basement, but we unfortunately didn't make it there.
D R I N K 🍾
One of the coolest bars to ever exist is Urban Cowboy Nashville. The name basically sums up what you can expect: a luxury B&B created for rich, artsy hipsters (and the people who pretend to be, like us). The rustic, southwestern decor was the perfect vibe for the city, and I think it represents the up-and-coming art and culturally in-tune scene that is exploding in Nashville. The bed and breakfast rooms average to about $300/night, but have no fear: their community space doubles as a bar where the public is welcome. Anyone who visits here will feel like their cool factor just tripled. Regrettably, I wasn't able to get a good photo of this place since we went on a cold night, but their photo below would be way better anyway. (PS: Brooklynites, there is one in your neck of the woods, as well!)
Although we didn’t have enough time to make it to all the bars we wanted to, be sure to check out Greenhouse Bar because plants and L.A. Jackson if you're wanting some rooftop views.
C A F F E I N A T E ☕️
A caffeinated Erika is a happy Erika—no, really, I have a problem and need to seek help. Nonetheless, we made sure that finding unique coffee shops was a priority while here. We weren’t disappointed.
Upon some Instagram research, one place was at the top of my list. We headed to Three Brothers Coffee after driving through Vanderbilt University (which was just off-campus). In addition to the great latte, it was also very photogenic—isn’t that a requirement for coffee shops nowadays? The alleyway next to the front door was painted in black and white symbolic script (if anyone knows what this signifies, please let me know.)
We didn’t stop there! We also visited Barista Parlour, a hipster’s paradise, although slightly overpriced. This was a great place to chill for a few hours and refuel mentally and physically before going out on our next adventure. As it’s one large open space with ample seating and lots of room, you’ll surely find a spot no matter what time of day you go!
All in all, Nashville was an affordable weekend getaway perfect for foodies, music lovers and art-seekers. Lastly, I will leave you with this gem of a find that I highly relate to right now.
Still wanting more ideas for your trip to Music City? Check out @thenashvilleguide on Instagram—it was my go-to guide for all things Nashville during my visit!