Nashville is certainly synonymous with cowboy hats and country music, but there’s so much more to Music City than honky-tonk bars; however, if that’s your thing, you won’t be disappointed. Nashville is often described as a big small town, but it’s also a well-suited destination if you only have a few days to get away.
Where to Stay
A lot of changes have taken place in Nashville in the two years since I moved to town. One of the newest additions is the Omni Hotel downtown. I visited the new hotel during its opening week and found the rooms to be well appointed with spacious bathrooms. The exquisite chandeliers and music-themed décor throughout the lobby and hallways especially wowed me. The on-site spa will help you relax with a massage or you can hang out at the rooftop pool and enjoy the view of Nashville’s skyline.
The Omni is connected to the Country Music Hall of Fame by a walkway that extends from the lobby, which makes a visit to the Hall of Fame super convenient. I enjoyed the breakfast buffet at Omni’s Kitchen Notes restaurant: a medley of southern favorites such as gourmet biscuits, locally-made jams, and bacon and eggs cooked to order. There’s also a steakhouse, bar, and coffee shop attached to the hotel.
You’ll find many of the usual hotel brands downtown — Hyatt Place, Hilton, DoubleTree — but if you’re looking for standout luxury, the Hermitage Hotel is an upscale property with a flair for the elegance of the early 1900s. The rooms are especially large and the detail of décor in the lobby presents the feel of high society mixed with history.
If you prefer to stay outside of the downtown area, Opryland Hotel is about 10 miles away. Located adjacent to Opry Mills mall, the hotel is part botanical garden and part resort like something you might find in Vegas, without a casino.
The rooms are located around the perimeter, while the interior of the property is a maze of restaurants and boutique shops interspersed among landscaped walkways, cascading waterfalls, and a lazy river. Sometimes I go there just to wander around and admire the gardens.
Where to Eat
There aren’t enough meals in one weekend to fully experience the culinary scene in Nashville, but it’ll be plenty of time to give you a taste and leave you wanting more.
Whiskey Kitchen, in the Gulch area, has a rustic yet refined vibe. They serve wonderful sandwiches, burgers, brick oven pizza, and, of course, whiskey.
Loveless Café, located a few miles out of town, is a Nashville icon. If you’re looking for down-home, country cooking like Grandma used to make, you’ll want to make the trip to Loveless. Known for their biscuits and made-from-scratch eats, Loveless Café is as much about getting out in the country as it is about the delicious comfort food they deliver. Biscuits and gravy is one of my favorite meals, so I was delighted to order breakfast in the middle of the day.
As a side note, after you hit up Loveless Café, take a drive along Natchez Trace, one of the most scenic roadways in Tennessee. The on-ramp is just beyond the restaurant.
The Patterson House is one of my favorite places for cocktails. Since there’s no sign out front, you won’t be certain you have the right spot until you go inside this speakeasy-style bar. The bartenders are top-notch and will serve you a customized drink that caters to your preferences. If you’re open to something new, ask him or her to surprise you. Mixing cocktails is an art at The Patterson House and theirs are some of the best.
What to Do
One of the many things I love about Nashville is the variety of things to do, regardless of the season.
As you would expect, there’s no shortage of concerts in Music City. If you count the bars, cafés, and grocery stores with live music, there are hundreds of venues where you’ll have a chance to sample any genre you prefer.
If you enjoy outdoorsy activities, you can explore nature among the hills of middle Tennessee at Nashville’s several parks. Shelby Park, across the river from downtown, has a wide, paved trail that winds along the Cumberland River in east Nashville for several miles.
Percy Warner Park is an option if you want to picnic, go for a jog, or bicycle. Many of Nashville’s streets also have designated bicycle lanes, if you’d like to see the city on two wheels.
Radnor Lake State Park, south of the city, provides a combination of easy and moderately strenuous hiking trails. They wind up and over wooded hills and around the lake itself. The park is also a protected nature area. Every time I go for a hike at Radnor, I see wild turkey, deer, and other wildlife.
If you’re a fan of history, the Tennessee State Museum is a good place to start. Admission is free and you could easily spend several hours, like I did, perusing three floors of detailed exhibits. Nashville, as well as several small communities in the surrounding area, has many well-preserved Civil War sites, some with fantastic guided tours.
If you have an hour or two to spend, the Nashville Farmers’ Market is open year-round. In addition to locally grown fruits and veggies, you’ll also find artisan goods and products made locally in Nashville. Although the market is open 362 days a year, it bustles on weekends in the spring and summer months.
Nashville also likes to throw parties. Throughout the year, the city hosts a load of festivals and public events. Many of them are free and they always do it up right. When you visit, be sure to check out the events taking place while you’re in town. Some of my personal favorites are Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve Bash, Music Festivals, Beer Festivals, Food Festivals, and Film Festivals. And this year, for the first time, Nashville added a Mardi Gras Festival on the riverfront.
One of Nashville’s most sophisticated parties is the Iroquois Steeplechase, a horseracing event with tradition, society, and fanfare similar to the Kentucky Derby. It happens every year, usually the 2nd weekend in May. Spectators get dolled up in their Sunday best to sip on cocktails and cheer for a field of horses racing on a turf course, jumping over gates and hedges along the way. Celebrities who live in Nashville often come out to join in the festivities as well. When I went to Iroquois, I met all kinds of folks — college students looking for an excuse to party, serious horse enthusiasts, and people who were just enjoying a unique experience.
Photo Credits: Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, Omni Hotel Nashville, Gaylord Opryland Resort, Whiskey Kitchen, Loveless Cafe, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, Zepfanman.com, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, and Iroquois Steeplechase.