Nashville, Tennessee is one of my favorite cities in the entire world. I had visited once before, aged 21, and I’ve been dying to go back ever since. This time, I got to see and do even more, and I think everyone ought to experience it for themselves. If you are visiting briefly, as part of a road trip like we were, here’s how to enjoy this amazing place in just one day!
Nashville is famous for loads of things, but it’s not called Music City for nothing! Whether you’re passionate about music like me, or you just appreciate a bit of good old Southern fun and hospitality, you will find something on this list for you! Obviously, if you can stay longer – do. There are just so many things to do in Nashville. I will be back at some point in my life I’m sure, but until then, I’m so content with my choices this time around…
1) Take A Walkin’ Tour
Don’t just take any walking tour. You absolutely have to take the one we took. Walkin’ Nashville with the passionate Bill DeMain is exactly what you need. He loves music, as a musician himself, and as a result has settled in Nashville. Personally, I don’t think he’d ever leave; it’s honestly the ideal atmosphere. He’s also a music journalist who has had opportunity to interview so many of his idols. It’s worth listening to him as a way to explore and of course, to gain some of his wisdom which he will happily impart!
Bill really knows his stuff, and he certainly made me want to expand on my limited knowledge of Country music, which I have always really enjoyed anyway. We learned about the musical legends who made Music City what it is, and all of the different styles that contributed to the vibe as a whole. We saw The Ryman Auditorium, where they used to host the ‘Grand Ole Opry’, featuring the likes of Jonny Cash and so many more. We visited Printer’s Alley, where we heard fascinating tales of more music – and even murder!
Bill’s storytelling was second-to-none, so I won’t spoil anything. However, my favorite anecdote was one about the awesome Dolly Parton. Turns out she’s a pretty kick ass feminist and paved the way for females in the industry to make it on their own. After going solo, she was approached by Elvis Presley who wanted to record one of her songs. She refused – despite how famous he was – as she felt exploited by the terms of the offer. An amazing woman, highlighted to me by an incredible raconteur.
2) Enjoy Some Tasty Tennessee BBQ
There are so many amazing options that it’s impossible to eat everything you’d want in just a day – sorry! However, I recommend Jack’s BBQ. Okay, okay. I tell a white lie. Bill from the Walkin’ Tour recommended it, and I’m so glad he did! For less than $10, I got a Jumbo Pulled Pork Sandwich and a side of Mac & Cheese, plus some water. You neeeeed to try the sauces, too – trust. I opted for the smokey flavor of Kansas BBQ, which I advise that you try.
For dinner, we went to the late legend BB King’s restaurant - his Blues Bar. It seemed so fitting in light of his recent passing, and it came highly recommended by a patron at Jack’s BBQ at lunch time. I had Chicken Fried Chicken, more Mac & Cheese, and Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes.
It was absolutely delicious. I’d never normally go for fried chicken – ever – but when in Rome! The plates were huge and defeated even me (yes, I’m serious, I am a huge eater, too!). They provided great entertainment as we ate, and we finished up after with a delicious ‘Soul Bowl’ cocktail. Amazing.
3) Pay Homage To Some Live Acts
We visited Nashville during CMA Festival. This wasn’t on purpose, but I’m so glad we did. Despite not having any passes, it wasn’t a problem, because there were free gigs around the entire city. You will ALWAYS get quality live music in Nashville, I promise, but this was especially cool as there were outdoor stages and a cool festival vibe, which I love no matter where I am.
So many musicians flock to Nashville because it is where so many amazing people launched their careers – and influenced entire genres. If you’re a musical type, you can take in a show over drinks, or even join in with an open mic or fun karaoke session. We even saw little kids getting involved. So cool!
4) Visit Some Bars!
Go to Broadway! You won’t regret it. There’s a bar on every corner. There’s live music, food if you want it, and of course – alcohol! I thought Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge was pretty cool, and it played a huge part in shaping the musical stars that came out of the city as they’d often hang out in a back room writing their songs.
If you want something a little more trashy (but fun!), I recommend Coyote Ugly. It’s just like the movie, and I got to dance on the bar. Yay!
5) Explore Off The Beaten Track
This one has been purposely left quite vague for a reason. We hired a car, so we could go further afield, but Nashville is one of few American cities I’ve been to where you don’t strictly need one. An Uber from the airport is only about $15, and then everything is relatively compact in the centre itself, with so much to do!
However, downtown is kinda touristy, so it’s always nice to get out and about. I won’t claim to know a lot – I’ve only spent a small amount of time here after all – but it’s fun to explore and create your own path. I’ve heard East Nashville is awesome – kinda hipsteresque, a little like Brooklyn or Shoreditch. We didn’t get chance to head out there, but you could easily swing by!
We went down to Franklin, because I’m a bit of a Paramore nut, and that’s where they started out.
There’s loads to do there, as it’s a rather wealthy small town with a lot of beauty and history around the Civil War.
We went to Merridee’s for lunch with my friend Lidia and her friend Megan, and we had a gorgeous Chicken Pot Pie & Chocolate Meringue Pie for dessert. So good, and under $10!
After some pictures, we went to Walmart, where I saw children in Bible Camp T Shirts looking at the Knives & Gun section. Oh, the irony. Yes, they sell firearms in WALMART. You couldn’t make it up.
And with that, our visit to Nashville and the surrounding areas was complete. Have you been? What do you recommend? Let me know in the comments!