On arriving in the afternoon, sunshine warming the distinctive AT&T building climbing to the sky, Nashville buzzed with an enviable rhythm. Summer crowds weaning, history soaked into the city’s veins, and predominantly urban vibes excited this city-slicker as we headed out for the evening (after an afternoon swim, of course. Where there’s a pool, there’s a twenty-one-year-old gal practicing her shabby butterfly stroke).
On a broad level, Nashville is fun. It embraces a youthful vitality and begs you to stay out way past your bedtime. Memphis’ flatlands had given way to the state’s northern, hilly terrain and to a louder, laid-back flair. And it is grounded in its roots.
Broadway is undoubtedly a little hokey, but where would the excitement in it be if it weren’t? Walking through throngs of cowboy boots and hats, parallel to pedal-powered bars, past one bar’s three floors of live music as it slips in and out of harmony with its neighboring businesses–sweet local flavor. The opportunities for a good time abound.
Check in: Hyatt Place, Downtown Nashville
Nashville, like New York City, is wanting for nothing when it comes to accommodations. The Hyatt is one of many in a six-block span, steps from Broadway, the Johnny Cash Museum, shops, and restaurants. Come back to a different musician performing in the hotel’s bar each night, and hang out with a Jack and Coke.
Things To See & Do
Johnny Cash Museum: A stunning collection of the Man in Black’s life. Through artifacts, photos, videos, and interactive audio, you can experience a taste of Cash’s complexities, career, and connectedness.
Ryman Auditorium: The original playhouse for the Grand Ole Opry, its walls transcend nearly two centuries of history. Self-guided, allot about an hour and a half of time. Don’t be surprised if you catch the staff preparing for an upcoming event–it’s still a wildly popular venue.
Grand Ole Opry: A 45-minute tour around the theater allows you to walk in the steps of country music brilliance. Begin with a film introduction of the history, continue with a look at performers’ dressing rooms, and finish with a stand on the main stage.
Hermitage: Andrew Jackson’s homestead rests about thirty minutes outside of Nashville, and makes for a poignant afternoon. See the rooms he dined in, explore the garden, and follow the path to the slaves’ quarters.
Centennial Park: Check out the park’s replica of the Parthenon. Sit and picnic, or just enjoy a sunset among pickup games and locals meeting up.
Scout out murals: You’ll need a car for this one, because they are spread across the city. Don’t miss the iconic “I Believe in Nashville,” Draper James, or “What Lifts You.”
Skirt the Outskirts
Franklin: We took a Civil War tour around this hip city, among modern eateries and plantation-style mansions. The neighborhood is younger and less touristy, making it a hip-happening spot to try.
Hendersonville: Johnny and June Cash are buried together in the Henderson Memory Gardens, which also isn’t far from the remains of his home on Old Hickory Lake. If you’re a fan, take a quick drive up to the peace of these points.
Where to Eat
The Row: I had no choice but to give their jalapeño margarita a try. Here, it’s called the Ring of Fire, and as a big fan of Johnny Cash’s, that would have been unforgivable to me. I loved it, despite the spice that quickly heated me up.
Come here for some delicious Southern classics, like chicken fried chicken. The Row also offers live music, but make sure to ask to be seated where the music is: otherwise, like us, you might not be placed there and be left wondering where it is.
Gray’s: Located in Franklin, Gray’s once served as a pharmacy and now proudly bears old prescriptions on its back walls. Rustic-chic decor perfectly complements their twists on old favorites, like their chicken salad sandwich.
Sprinkles: Cupcakes. Ice cream. A cupcake ATM machine. ‘Nuff said.
The Listening Room Cafe: A low-key listening experience, where the place is left glittering under twinkle lights and the crowd cozies up with a drink and eyes on the performers on stage. Amp up the typical restaurant and bar experience with what feels like a casual jam for rising country singers. Call to make reservations.
Luigi’s City Pizza: For a quick bite between places, head to this quirky little joint, just feet from the Johnny Cash Museum. Their thin crust pies are massive, so be ready to eat.
Mike’s Ice Cream: Homemade ice cream and flavors to keep you at the counter for days? I’m in.
I love the years that blanket the city, blending old sounds with new. This time around was not a nightlife trip, but the daylife has so much to offer.
Got more suggestions? Give ’em to me in the comments!