Y’all, I love Nashville! And this summer, I was lucky enough to get back to Music City for the first time in four years. It definitely won’t be that long until I get back again!
My first trip to Nashville was with my family in 2004. I was 13, and we went on a road trip through Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. We stayed in Nashville for a night, and I remember we took a carriage ride through town and had dinner somewhere near Broadway. I (obviously!) hadn’t been around bars like the honky tonks before, and left thinking Nashville was a really weird place. Fast forward ten years, and my friend Emma and I went to Nashville for a weekend to visit her mom. I enjoyed it so much—we went to honky tonks, explored nearby downtown Franklin, TN, and walked around Centennial Park and Vanderbilt. The following year, 2015, I went to Nashville again, that time for my sorority little’s bachelorette party and I was able to explore Nashville even more. This most recent trip to Nashville two weekends ago was also for a bachelorette party in honor of one of my best friends. I got into town almost a day earlier than most attendees (I co-planned it with the other MOH!), and while a good chunk of that time was spent setting up for the party, I was able to explore Nashville on my own some, which I so enjoyed.
Surprisingly, I didn’t have any posts about Nashville here on the blog, so I’m excited to share all my recommendations with you here today! If you’re looking for an interesting read about Nashville’s recent growth and the bachelorette party culture, I thought this Buzzfeed article was great. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out in the comments below or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m working on a second post with details on the bachelorette party—how we planned it, what decor we ordered, our schedule—so stay tuned for that!
HOW TO GET THERE + GETTING AROUND NASHVILLE /
The Nashville airport is one fun place—a few of the honky tonks have outposts in the airport and there’s often live music playing at all hours of the day. Despite Nashville’s popularity though, I still think it’s on the pricier slide to fly to—at least from DC. I’d say the average round-trip flight is in the neighborhood of $350-450, even if you book several months in advance. When researching flights, definitely make sure you scan the Southwest website as I’ve found they usually fly to BNA cheaper than the other major carriers. The airport is a short 20-minute drive to downtown Nashville.
On previous trips to Nashville, I’ve stayed close to Broadway and easily been able to walk or Uber anywhere. Ubers in Nashville are very cheap and easy to come by, and there are also traditional cabs, which are easier to grab on Broadway (which is the street where all the honky tonks are) at the end of the night as bars close since they’re lined up and waiting for customers. On this most recent trip to Nashville, we also observed there were electric scooters on every street corner, so that’s a great way to get around between different neighborhoods.
Because we had a ton of grocery shopping for the bachelorette to do, on my most recent trip to Nashville, we decided to rent a car. Because Nashville is such a car-reliant town, parking is very easy to come by—pretty much every place we went either had free valet or free surface parking—meaning we didn’t have to pay much on top of the rental car fees to get around (really just gas—which we only paid $16 for!). Having a car was a great way to see more of Nashville and explore different neighborhoods. On my next trip down, I’d love to rent a car and explore some of the towns just outside of Nashville, like Franklin, better. That being said, if you’re planning to stay in Nashville’s downtown core and not venture too far away, you can definitely just get by on walking, electric scooters, and/or Ubers.
WHERE TO STAY /
On this most recent trip, we stayed at the cutest Airbnb that was just a five-minute drive to Broadway and 12 South, a popular shopping and dining neighborhood where Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James is, and within walking distance of The Gulch, another popular dining and shopping destination where Kristin Cavallari’s Uncommon James is. There are a ton of Airbnbs in Nashville that cater to the bachelorette and bachelor party crowd, and the earlier you book, the more affordable they tend to be. We rented a whole house that had four bedrooms and three full bathrooms, and slept 10 comfortably. (No more than two people in our group shared a bed, which was a requirement for us—we’re not in college anymore!) As you can see from the pictures above, the decor was stunning, which made an excellent backdrop for all of our bachelorette party decorations—which we kept pretty tasteful and, so we wouldn’t get fined, not taped to the wall. If you want the listing where we stayed, feel free to drop me an email—email@example.com.
If you’re looking at hotels, I’d recommend staying with in walking distance to Broadway, which are basically any hotels that market themselves as Nashville Downtown—I’ve stayed at the Sheraton Grand before and really liked it—or near 12 South or The Gulch.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK /
Nashville has some amazing, amazing places to eat and drink:
- 12 South Taproom—I loved this place so much that I actually ate here twice on my most recent trip to Nashville. If you’re looking for great bar food in the 12 South area, I can’t recommend this place enough. They’ve also got a great craft beer selection. I loved the Southwestern Cobb salad—it was the perfect healthy way to kick off and end my trip.
- The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden—located in East Nashville, my friend, Abbi, who lives in Nashville took me for dinner, and it didn’t disappoint! They’ve got a great outdoor space and amazing burgers and fries. They’ve also got a wide selection of beer and a cool old-time soda machine.
- Biscuit Love—this popular biscuit shop has now expanded to multiple locations in the Nashville area! If you want to see the lighted “Nashville” sign, go to the location in the Gulch—but expect a long wait on weekends if you go at peak time. They don’t take reservations, and you order at the counter and then the staff brings your order to your table. This past trip, we ordered online from the Hillsboro Village location and pickup was a breeze. I got the S.E.C., which is their sausage, egg, and cheese, with my egg over easy and it was so good. We also loved the breakfast potatoes!
- Adele’s—I enjoyed the best kale salad I’ve ever had at Adele’s! Not only would this be a great spot for dinner with a smaller group, it’s the perfect spot for a bachelorette party because they serve family-style dinners that prix fixe, but you pick the menu. For $55/person, we enjoyed bruschetta and the aforementioned kale salad to start, gnocchi, chicken, and fish as an entree, and a chocolate mousse for dessert. It was all SO GOOD!
- Mockingbird—while the space is really cute and they have free valet parking, I probably wouldn’t go back to Mockingbird for brunch with a large party again. The service was slow, they brought out our orders at different times, and one of our orders had to be sent back. That being said, their pastries were bomb and they serve cocktails in the Capri Sun pouches.
- Pinewood Social—we loved, loved, loved Pinewood Social! This was unlike any place I’d ever been before. They have a coffee shop, cocktail bar, restaurant, bowling alley, bocce, and a pool! We reserved a bowling lane ahead of time, which I highly recommend doing if you want to bowl, and were able to order food and drink right to our lane. They have beautiful large-format cocktails that serve 10 people that come in a giant punch bowl, so obviously, we had to try those. And, we also ordered the tater tots, which were SO GOOD!
- The Standard—this is definitely a splurge meal, but it’s one of the best meals I’ve ever had! I was lucky enough to eat here on my 2014 trip to Nashville, and had amazing wine and steak. The Standard is located inside The Smith House, which is only grand townhouse remaining in downtown Nashville—it was built in the 1840s and you can read about its history here.
- Hattie B’s—if you want classic Nashville hot chicken, this is your place. There can be long lines if you go on weekends during peak times, but I promise, it’s worth the wait! I go for mild and it’s still got quite a kick. Don’t skip the peach cobbler!
- Baked on 8th—if you want one of the cutest cakes ever for a bachelorette, birthday, or engagement party, order it from Baked on 8th! They also have all sorts of pastries, cookies, and coffee to enjoy at the shop—which was made for Instagram!
- Five Daughters Bakery—if you’ve got a sweet tooth and want another spot to check out in Nashville, add Five Daughters Bakery to the list. They’ve got several locations, including one in 12 South and serve up delicious “100 layer” donuts, which are really similar to cronuts.
- City Winery—a fun winery in town that also has food for brunch and dinner. If you’ve got a bride in your group, they make sure to treat her with a special commemorative bottle everyone in your group can sign.
- The Second Fiddle—this is one of my favorite bars in the US, and by far my favorite bar on Broadway. The Second Fiddle is on the smaller side—it basically is just a long rectangle with one bar running down the side—and they manage crowd control really well, meaning you never feel too cramped. Whenever I’ve been, they have an amazing live band that plays a great mix of the classic country hits and modern day favorites. If you go to one honky tonk, make it this one!
- The Stage on Broadway—The Stage is also one of my favorite Honky Tonks because they have a great rooftop that overlooks the third-floor stage, meaning you can get a great view of Broadway below while still enjoying the live music Nashville is known for.
- Honky Tonk Central—this is probably one of the more prominent honky tonks on Broadway because it’s bright orange building and three-story building are hard to miss! We watched the Kentucky Derby here one year and had a blast. If you’re looking for the classic honky tonk experience, this one should be on your list.
- Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge—a very historic honky tonk that still puts on a great party! Also located on Broadway, I love popping in here—but since it’s very well known, it’s very crowded, so I usually spend the bulk of my time at one of the honky tonks above. But good news—they are all basically right next door to each other, so it’s easy to bar hop.
- Winners, Losers & Rebar—these are three fun, no-frills bars that are all right next to each other near the Vanderbilt area. They’ve still got that Nashville vibe, and on the weekends, you can expect live music—but since they aren’t on Broadway, they attract more of a local crowd.
Two restaurants on my list in Nashville that I haven’t been to yet are Monell’s, which is known for their family-style southern cooking, and Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant, which serves up Nashville specialities for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’d also love to go to the world famous Bluebird Cafe, where artists like Maren Morris, LeAnn Rimes, Phil Vassar, Taylor Swift (she was discovered there!), and more have performed. (You may recognize it from the show Nashville!)
WHAT TO DO /
Obviously if you’re in town, you have to go to the honky tonks on Broadway! I’ve listed my favorites above, but you can easily just head that way and find the one with the best party the day you’re there. I’ve been during the day and night, and they are both fun—but I typically think the better live bands go on at night, so that’s what I would recommend. And, of course, if you’re looking for other party options, there are plenty—check out the Pedal Tavern, Pontoon Saloon, or the Nashville Tractor. (These type of tour are a dime a dozen in Nashville, so definitely search around for a good time and deal for your group!)
Close to Broadway is Centennial Park, which is definitely worth a visit. It’s a 132-acre park, but it’s most known for its full-scale replica of the Parthenon. It was originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition and now serves as Nashville’s art museum. The focus of the Parthenon’s permanent collection is a group of 63 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists.
The two main shopping areas I’d recommend are 12 South and The Gulch, both of which are recently gentrified neighborhoods. In 12 South, which I prefer of of the two neighborhoods, I loved checking out Draper James and taking our photo with the I Believe in Nashville mural, which is right next door. Down the street from Draper James is an amazing boutique that sells homewares, paper goods, and accessories that feels authentically Nashville called White’s Mercantile. It’s farther down the street, so if you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it—but, trust me, it’s worth the trip! In the Gulch, you can head to the OG Biscuit Love, Kristin Cavallari’s store Uncommon James, and many other shops and restaurants have moved into the area—so you could easily spend a leisurely afternoon walking around. The Gulch is also where the Nashville WhatLiftsYou Wings Mural is—we didn’t find a line at the ‘I Believe in Nashville Mural’, but the wings mural usually has a line, so just be prepared for a wait or go at an off-peak time!
I’ve never been to the Grand Ole Opry or The Country Music Hall of Fame, but both are on my list. On one trip to Nashville, I did see Sam Hunt and Lady Antebellum at Bridgestone Arena, which is right on Broadway, meaning it was so easy to hit up honky tonks after—so definitely check out if there are any good concerts while you’re in town!
For the bachelorette, we bought balloons at Vroom Vroom Balloons, and even if you’re not in town for a party, they had the cutest storefront with party supplies, cards, and other gifts. It’s not close to anything else on this list, but if you have some free time, I’d highly recommend it!
If you’re willing to venture away from Downtown Nashville, I loved downtown Franklin, Tennessee when I went five years ago. They have an amazing Main Street that is worth exploring. We ate lunch at Gray’s On Main and then shopped at the boutiques downtown—which is where I bought this dress! Another great option if you’re willing to leave town—about a 35-minute drive outside of the city is Arrington Vineyards, which is a great way to spend an afternoon. They have an amazing tasting room and plenty of picnic tables where you can enjoy a bottle of wine or snacks they sell on site.
As I mentioned above, I’ve been to Nashville several times before this trip—once in 2004 with my family, and then again more recently in 2014 for a girls’ trip and in 2015 for another bachelorette. I used to have posts about the latter two trips up on A Touch of Teal, but they predated the way I write travel now (aka—they weren’t that informative!), so I made them private a couple years ago. But, I thought it’d be fun to share a few throwback photos from those trips since I incorporated activities/restaurants from them in my thoughts above.
PS.—Can we also take a moment to appreciate how far iPhone photography has come?!