Welcome back friends, happy Friday! Today’s post is a full recap of my trip to Nashville, This post will be broken up by neighborhood, including what we did and ate in each area. As usual, I won’t include any of the things or places I didn’t enjoy on this review and will only talk about the places I would recommend to everyone! Michaela has celiac and eating out on vacation can be frustrating for her, so I included her reviews in italics!
Play: Broadway’s “claim to fame” is a string of honky-tonk’s playing live music at all hours of the day. It’s really strange for a couple of Bostonians to see people drinking in a dark bar with live music at 11AM, but alas, ’tis the Broadway way.
Downtown Nashville is rapidly expanding, a fact you can see for yourself from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. It’s a beautiful view of the skyline and gives you a great idea of how quickly the city is expanding based on just how many buildings are under construction at one time!
A lot of the mainstream attractions are also located in this area, which makes this Music City Total Access Pass worth the price. We used it to visit the Johnny Cash Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Sports Museum, and Frist Center for the Visual Arts all in Downtown (plus Belle Meade and the Parthenon) for $75. It’s a great value if you plan on going to six of the attractions (with the added benefit of not having to worry about purchasing the tickets at each entrance), and there are even more attractions Downtown if you don’t want to leave the area.
The Tennessee Sports Museum, inside the Bridgestone Arena, might be something you wouldn’t think twice about if admission wasn’t included in your ticket price! If you’re a college sports fan I would especially recommend it, as Tennessee has a remarkably deep history of college sports. I would say it’s worth the price of admission just to see the Pat Summit exhibit – even as a UConn fan I am continuously blown away by her greatness on and off the basketball court.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was actually much larger and in depth than I anticipated it being. It often is mentioned as a “can’t miss”, and I probably enjoyed the Bob Dylan x Johnny Cash exhibit the most, though we definitely didn’t read everything in there.
As a big Johnny Cash fan, I really enjoyed that museum. It covered so much more than just his musical success, going into his personal relationships and humanitarian efforts as well.
The last museum we visited was the Frist Center. Located in the beautiful old post office building, the architecture and design of the Frist is a work of art itself. The gentleman who greeted us was so helpful and knowledgable, that we got off to a really great start. They had three galleries, all of which were comprehensive collections centered around one ideal. The first, Buddhist Art, was of great interest to me and they had the most beautiful Mandala on display, complete with a video of the Monks creating it at the museum! The Irving Penn gallery was of obvious interest to a fashion blogger, and the Claire Morgan exhibit was unbelievably powerful. All three exhibits we saw are ending at some point in May, so it’s really great to know you never see the same museum twice!
Eat. As possibly the least likely person on the planet to walk into a Honky-Tonk, Michaela and I discovered (sought out) the two most amazing restaurants on Broadway. The first, Merchants, had a great covered patio for lunch where we enjoyed some people watching, salads, and sandwiches. The interior is really amazing though, and they have more casual bistro dining on the first floor and an elegant dining room up on the second.
M: The black and white downstairs bistro was bustling with waiters, waitresses and bartenders in white button ups and black bow ties. The place was packed with locals and tourists alike searching for a delicious meal in the chic digs. We sat outside under some cafe lights, hearing the live music coming from the surrounding Broadway bars. They brought us a small tin of seasoned popcorn to snack on; a great placeholder until my chicken Caesar salad came. Pretty good for a salad, but overall, the experience of the restaurant was what made it onto the list.
Acme Feed & Seed is another multi level restaurants with specifically themed floors. It has a gorgeous rooftop with views of the river and down Broadway. The only food we got was chips and salsa trio, but I’ve read online that the meals are really good too! Michaela was able to eat the chips, which is always a huge plus. We went for Happy Hour (on a Monday) and it was like the Hunger Games trying to get a table on the rooftop!
The Gulch. The Gulch is the current trendiest spot in Nashville, and for good reason. It’s the location of the famous Nashville murals (including What Lifts You) and some amazing food and nightlife spots.
Burger Republic. Burger Republic is sort of an upscale burger joint, but it is totally worth it. If you’re looking for a comfort meal while traveling with a bit of the local scene, I would highly recommend trying it out. We sat out on the patio (if only we could have as long a patio season as Nashville does!) and met up with a friend who lives down in Tennessee, who vouched for Burger Republic and pointed us in the direction of 12South (she obviously has great taste).
M: I don’t think I need to say anything other than burgers, kettle chips, and shakes here. But in case you need more convincing, they have gluten free buns and a ton of burger options!
Biscuit Love. Michaela kindly put up with me as we waited in line for Biscuit Love. They have some gluten free options if you choose to eat there, but no biscuits. Southern Biscuits were high on my list of things to try while down in Tennessee, so I went in for the bonuts (biscuit donut hybrids!) and got them to go (their staff is incredibly helpful and accommodating!) They were so amazingly delicious I only wish I had someone to share them with! (Sorry M).
Barista Parlor. I wish this place was in Massachusetts because they take coffee to a whole new level. If you have any interest in brewed coffee as an art form, this is definitely a place to go. They had about six different roasts, available hot or iced, and cold brewed or pour over. As a coffee aficionado, this was like heaven. I went with a daredevil and it was gone far too soon. The location is equally amazing, in an open and airy garage, filled with long tables and natural light. I also love the coffee bar in the center of the room, and the lack of big tacky menu boards. 10/10 would recommend.
Thompson Hotel. If you’re going to Nashville, stay at the Thompson Hotel. That’s it. Walking up to the hotel, we instantly wish we had stayed here. The Gulch is a great neighborhood to be in, it’s an easy walk to Downtown, the staff is all BEYOND incredible, and they have the most amazing spot…
LA Jackson. This breathtaking rooftop bar is located at the Thompson Hotel. It has a beautiful view of the city, a solid drink selection, celeb sightings, and thoughtful interior decor. The service of every person at the hotel from the doormen to the bartenders is so thoughtful and touching, it made our trip so delightful. Such a small thing, but it really impressed us. 11/10 would recommend.
Saint Anejo. M: I’m a big fan of Mexican food. Always have been, always will be. In fact, I’m genuinely worried that I will never find someone who makes me as happy as tacos do. I love them that much. So trust me when I say that the chicken tacos from Saint Anejo are better than any boy I’ve ever met. We split the tray of 5 tacos and devoured an entire basket of chips and salsa. The food is tremendously flavorful, and the décor is chic and moody, with wooden tables, red accents, and cafe lights strung across the entire open air restaurant. Also, everything was gluten free here and they were very helpful and willing to accommodate allergies!
Juice Bar. M: Delicious smoothies. Quick and easy and a good option for when you’ve eaten so much all week and you don’t want to stuff breakfast down your throat.
12South. Possibly one of the hottest spots in Nashville right now, 12South is home to chic restaurants, local boutiques, and some more fun murals!
The Frothy Monkey has several locations throughout Tennessee, including one in Downtown Nashville, but I chose to talk about the 12South location because it’s the original. Each location has its own vibe and charm – I wish there was one near me because I would be there working on my laptop and sipping on cold brew for days.
M: Personally, I was looking for some comfort food. I got a grilled cheese on gluten free bread (actually good bread-not cardboard gf bread) and it was served with some corn chips and salsa. It was delicious and just what I needed. We also went back the next morning for their gfree chocolate chip muffins which were surprisingly delicious and airy.
Jeni’s Ice Cream. High quality ingredients, unique flavors, in an artisan ice cream shop makes Jeni’s a win for me on all fronts. A small cone comes with two flavors, so I tried the Brambleberry Crisp and the Osmanthus & Blackberry Crackle – they were so good! I also really wanted to try the churro and black cat espresso flavors!
bartaco. M: A perfect gluten-free find in 12South, bartaco is a beachy and open air haven. I couldn’t have been happier. The relaxed atmosphere is filled with a happy and helpful staff who spend the day bustling around cranking out delicious food. We got the lunch trays; three tacos and a chopped salad or soup for only $10. We also got a large order of guac to start and it was delicious. Possibly my favorite meal of the trip!
Draper James. Reese Witherspoon’s store is nothing short of darling (what else would you expect). In addition to beautiful clothes and accessories, they have helpful employees who offer you a sweet tea when you enter. Score!
Past Draper James are even more amazing shops, from Imogene + Willie to Emerson Grace, all filled with expertly curated styles.
Midtown. Surrounding Vanderbilt is the Midtown area, including the beautiful Centennial Park. They have lots of chains in one strip, including a Moe’s and a Starbucks, but also a lot of Southern restaurants and a few local dive bars that we didn’t get to try.
Play: The Parthenon. The story behind the Parthenon is really cool, and the Centennial Park surrounding it is absolutely beautiful. It’s included in the Music City Access Pass, but even if you decide not to purchase the pass, admission is only $6. Michaela and I rented bikes from the B-Cycle station outside our hotel (I talked more about it in this post) and rode down to the park, where we dropped them off at one of the stations there!
Also inside Centennial Park, besides beautiful landscaping work and some peaceful benches, is a Women’s Suffrage monument, which is an amazing bonus to learn about how Tennessee became the “Perfect 36”, the final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment.
Eat: One of my favorite chain restaurants in the world is J.Alexander’s. The first time I ever tried one was actually this location between Vanderbilt and Centennial Park when I was visiting Nashville with my mom in high school (we also visited two in Florida on subsequent family vacations). My personal strategy is to get the drool worthy Spinach Con Queso for the table, and then follow up with an equally amazing salad. Balance in all things, my friends.
You can view more in detail about our trips to the Parthenon here and Belle Meade here.
Hope you all enjoyed hearing about our trip to Nashville! It’s amazing how fast the city is growing and expanding, but it makes a perfect short trip from New England!