Nashville is a happening city with tons to do. It can be overwhelming, but we’re here to point you to the not-to-be-missed hot spots, plus a few hidden gems.
Where To Stay
Where you stay depends on your budget and the primary motive for your Nashville visit. You can’t go wrong with downtown. So much is happening there! It’s walkable, and it’s easy to get transportation to places farther afield. All of these downtown hotels are fantastic places to stay.
Hotel Noelle has a wonderful restaurant, Makeready, and some of the best bars in Nashville: The Hidden Bar and the rooftop bar, The Rare Bird. The Lobby Bar is a great place to meet up with people or just to sit and relax between activities.
At The Bobby’s restaurant, The Tavern, service moves at its own relaxed pace, so be sure to tell them if you’re on your way to a show or other activity. The Bobby also has a great rooftop bar that is bigger than the one at Hotel Noelle.
The Omni is attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame and features some of the best restaurants, including Bob’s Steak and Chop House and Baja Sexto Taco (which closes at 7 p.m. most nights). The Omni also has a spa if you’re after some relaxation.
Holston House is right on the edge of downtown, so it may be quieter. You can dine at TENN or have a drink on the roof at TENN on Top.
The Thompson is located south of downtown in the Gulch neighborhood. Its rooftop bar, LA Jackson, is packed on the weekends, but it’s great for people-watching. Marsh House is seafood focused and serves up some of the best oysters in Nashville.
Local’s Tip: Airbnbs are everywhere. Printer’s Alley is fun but can be loud. Farther afield, you can stay in East Nashville or 12th South.
Where To Eat
There are so many good places to eat in Nashville that I could easily write a book on the restaurants alone! Here are my top stops for 2019. Most are in East Nashville and Germantown, and there are a few downtown that aren’t in hotels.
Henrietta Red is seafood focused and a James Beard nominee located in Germantown.
Emmy Squared has the best burger in Nashville and can be found in the Gulch.
Peninsula features Portuguese tapas and was my overall favorite in 2018. You can find it in East Nashville.
Geist, located in a former blacksmith’s shop, has a wonderful outdoor area — perfect for days when the weather is nice. This unique spot is located in Germantown.
Saint Stephen, also in Germantown, is brand new and has a very promising Southern menu.
Margot is my favorite Nashville restaurant of all time! You’ll feel like you’re at a friend’s house for dinner. This special spot is in East Nashville.
Butcher and Bee, also in East Nashville, is a Middle Eastern spot that serves small plates. Don’t miss the whipped feta.
Butchertown Hall barbecue is my husband’s favorite for brunch, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant also serves my favorite cocktail, the Cooper Gimlet. Head to Germantown to get your fix.
If you feel the need to partake of Nashville’s hot chicken, Hattie B’s is the place that won’t kill you. The story goes that the originator of Nashville hot chicken got the idea for the dish when his wife was mad at him and put near-lethal amounts of spice on his food. He liked it and started selling it. If you want to get back at yourself for something — or just like really, really hot food — the Hattie B’s location on Charlotte in West Nashville is less busy than the others, meaning that you won’t have to wait in line for the spice you’re after.
Party Fowl, as the name suggests, is another hot chicken place, but with table service. It has over-the-top Bloody Marys for brunch, and I always get the chicken livers. Order your chicken “not dipped” if you need to avoid the heat.
If you’re downtown on Thursday, enjoy Deaderick Street when it’s closed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a food truck takeover. Follow Nashville Best Food Trucks on Facebook to preview the weekly lineup.
Pinewood Social is great for brunch and lunch, and maybe a game or two of bowling if you’re looking for a vacation-approved activity downtown.
French bistro meets Nashville at Liberty Common. The restaurant, also downtown, has a super cute outdoor area and an Instagram-worthy indoor area.
The Green Pheasant serves Japanese food with a twist. A fantastic sake menu and killer interiors make this place a standout. The spicy crab noodles are a must, and yes, you should splurge on the real wasabi.
Local’s Tip: Hermitage Café downtown is an old-school, cash-only, family-run diner. The cooks whip up killer patty melts and hangover-curing breakfasts. Also, it’s a bargain!
What To See
Step back in time at the Parthenon. If art is your thing, you’ll find it all over the city.
Frist Art Museum has rotating shows and is a good place to go if the weather turns.
Nashville has some great murals. You can explore Nashville’s street art with a guided golf-cart tour or a self-guided scavenger hunt.
If you like tours and need a laugh, Nashtrash is a comedy show on wheels. Or combine sightseeing and eating with this food tour. Of course, Tennessee loves its whiskey, and you can visit three distilleries on this tour.
Every season there’s something fun to do in Nashville. In the summer, catch a Sounds baseball game. Get the cheapest ticket there is and hang out at The Bandbox drinking spiked Coke slushies. In the fall, there are Titans games and the Music City Food + Wine Festival. In the winter and spring, there is nothing like going to a Predators hockey game, especially if you’ve never been to one in your life.
Local’s Tip: I’m all about things you can do for free! Walk the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge toward Nissan Stadium for great views of the city during the day or at night. Take a walk around Bicentennial Park and the Farmers Market. On the first Saturday of the month, the galleries near Printer’s Alley have a free Art Crawl that you might consider planning your travel dates around.
Where To Hear Music
You can’t come to Music City and not experience music one way or another.
I’ve written a local’s guide to the Nashville music scene if you want the extended version, but I’ll mention that if country’s not your thing, Rudy’s Jazz Room and Skull’s Rainbow Room are great places to start.
Don’t leave Nashville without visiting the Johnny Cash Museum (Patsy Cline’s museum is upstairs and is included in your ticket). A visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame is interesting even if you aren’t a country music fan.
Do catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry. It’s more a variety radio show than a straight-up concert, meaning you’ll enjoy a little bit of everything, from tunes to comedy and commentary. You can even take a backstage tour while the show is going on with a VIP ticket.
Where To Shop
If you want to stroll, shop, and eat, the best place to do that is 12th South. Have your driver drop you off around 12th and Douglas. Park around this area even if you have a car that could take you farther. Parking beyond this point is a nightmare. Once you’re on foot, walk all the way down to Sevier Park and back up. Along the way, there are shops, restaurants, and coffee shops.
Notable food stops include Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Frothy Monkey, Urban Grub, Edley’s BBQ, and Burger Up.
Shops worth your attention include Emerson Grace, Imogene + Willie, and White’s Mercantile.
The best of Nashville vintage shopping is available at Old Made Good and Pre to Post Modern. The best Nashville gifts come from Welcome Home and the Batch Nashville store inside the Downtown Farmers Market.
Whew — that was a whirlwind! We hope this gives you an overview of what there is to do in Nashville. We’ve only scratched the surface, but with these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to planning a wonderful week or weekend in Nashville!
Photo Credit: f11photo / Shutterstock
Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock