I visited Nashville last year with my parents for part of my spring break, and absolutely loved this city! It is such a fun, friendly place to explore and really has its own unique culture and history. I wanted to make a post on what I did and my favorite spots, since it is getting to be the time of year when people travel for spring break or just to get away! I would definitely recommend Nashville for a trip - there is enough to do that you won’t get bored, yet it is compact enough that you could easily see all the things I did in two to three days.
It is famous for being the home of country music, but also has a lot more to offer! It has many fun murals, great places to walk and explore, lovely parks and gardens, and fun food spots! There is live music almost everywhere you go, which is really fun, and everyone is always excited to welcome you to Music City!
Before going on my trip, I got recommendations from one of my friends from Nashville, and was able to see and do pretty much everything she recommended, so even though I wasn’t there long, I have a bit of an insider’s perspective on the city. Nashville is definitely somewhere where you would want to consider renting a car, since the different neighborhoods are fairly spread out and would be far to walk there, and there isn’t a ton of public transport. However, we found that it wasn’t hard to find parking for the most part and that it wasn’t as expensive as in other cities.
Things to See and Do
This is one of the most well-known sites in Nashville, and even if you aren’t a big country music fan, I still highly recommend touring it! Country music is so integral to the cultural fabric and history of Nashville, so if you don’t go to the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame while you are here, you are definitely missing out! I learned so much on the tour, and it was way more interesting than I expected!
It was cool to see behind the scenes - including the uniquely themed dressing rooms, learn about the history, and even get to stand on the stage itself where so many famous stars like Carrie Underwood and Dolly Parton have performed! They have concerts here very regularly, but they sell out far in advance, so if you are interested, I would look into that well before your trip!
Like I mentioned earlier, you can’t take a trip to Nashville without going here! It was super interesting to learn about how country music got its start and how it has evolved, and to see exhibits of famous outfits from stars like Taylor Swift and Dolly Parton (I learned so much about Dolly Parton on my trip to Nashville; she is really amazing!) This museum is very large but not so large that it feels overwhelming and you can easily see all of the permanent exhibits as well as any special exhibits in about 2 hours, I’d say.
If you are interested in art or graphic design or more unique history, there is a part of the museum for the Hatch Show Print shop that you can get separate tickets for. This company has been making letter press print since 1879, and they still hand make really cool posters and other graphics for artists. It was really cool to learn about this before seeing the museum exhibits and other posters around Nashville, because we recognized the Hatch Show Print works! They are quite a big deal in concert promotion, even outside of Nashville. You can make your own print as well, however it is the same print for everyone, so you don’t get to do anything super fancy or creative.
If you have ever watched the TV show Nashville, you will recognize the Bluebird Cafe for its central role in the show! My parents and I hadn’t watched the show before our trip, but we borrowed a DVD of it from a friend, and watched some of the first season, and it is a really great show that you can get hooked on! It was especially fun watching it after having seen many of the Nashville sites spotlighted in the show, and being able to recognize them. If you haven’t watched it and are planning to go to Nashville, it would be fun to at least watch a few episodes!
The Bluebird Cafe is famous for being a place where up and coming country stars get discovered and make it big. It has a really unique culture - you can’t record or talk during performances, and it is very small and intimate. It gets very crowded and tickets sell out fast, but people can pop into the store just to take a look, snap a photo, or grab a souvenir. You will have to wait in a long line even just to get in to see it though, because it is very small. But it is quite cool and unique! It is fairly close to True Food Kitchen as well, if you want a place to eat before or after.
Broadway Street and Honky Tonks
To get up close and personal with country music and experience the famous Honky Tonks, Broadway Street is the place to be! It is the main street in Nashville, and although it is definitely pretty touristy, it is a very characteristic part of the city, so be sure to at least take a stroll down it. Depending on the weather, most bars and restaurants will have windows open, so you’ll get to hear a lot of music just walking by!
Most of the Honky Tonks don’t have much to offer in terms of food, but if you want a drink and some live music, just pop into any of them. If you want food but still to have that fun atmosphere, I recommend Acme, which is on one end of Broadway. They have good food and live music, and actually have multiple floors, each with a different vibe, including a rooftop! Many of the Honky Tonks have rooftops, and many have multiple levels with different performers on each one, and some have dance floors. Some of the Honky Tonks are actually owned by famous country stars - we checked out Florida Georgia Line’s restaurant, and it had a fun atmosphere with dancing and a rooftop!
There is a Johnny Cash museum off of Broadway, if that is something you are interested in, and Goo Goo Clusters (which I talk about in the food section) is nearby as well. The Ryman Auditorium is off of Broadway as well, which is known as the "church" of country music, and is available for tours. We didn't make it there, but I heard good things about it!
This was definitely my favorite neighborhood in Nashville! It is full of cute shops, cafes, restaurants, and murals, and is so fun to walk around and explore. It isn’t a very long street, so you could park at one end and walk down and back - it stretches from about the intersection of 12th Ave S with Linden Ave to Halcyon Ave. Five Daughter’s Bakery (mentioned in the food section of this post) is here, as well as a cute coffee shop called Frothy Monkey that has really creative drinks. There are unique boutiques and vintage shops that are fun to look in (although they can be pretty pricey, so I just window shopped). And this is the home of many great murals, such as the famous I BELIEVE IN NASHVILLE mural - this is right by Draper James, which is Reese Witherspoon’s clothing store!
There are some really great murals throughout Nashville, and discovering them was one of my favorite things! I used this website to find many of the murals.
One of my other FAVORITE things I discovered in Nashville was Amelia’s Flower Truck! It is just so cute and charming! They have a few different trucks and you can find out where they will be from their website. They often frequent White’s Mercantile in 12th S, which is where I came across them.
John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
If you’re wanting a great city view, a place to relax, or somewhere to go for a nice walk or run, this bridge is the perfect spot! It is right off of Broadway and goes over the river and offers wonderful views of downtown Nashville. My parents and I took our Goo Goo Cluster candies (mentioned in the food section later) up the bridge to enjoy them for a very Nashville experience. It was really beautiful to watch the sunset from here.
This park is a really beautiful place to get outdoors - there are great walking paths and ponds, and historical monuments. What really makes it unique is the life-size replica of the Parthenon! Nashville is often called the “Athens of the South”, so for their Centennial, they built this in their park as a commemoration! It is really impressive and beautiful, and kind of a fun way to pretend you are in Ancient Greece for a bit. This is the only other full-size Parthenon in the world, apart from the original of course!
This mall is also a really great place to walk around, and it includes a topographical map of Nashville and the surrounding states with information about the history, geography, and ecology of the area. The capitol building is up on a hill by this park, and it offers great views of the city. There is also a nice farmer’s market by the park, which we stopped by!
Belle Meade is famous for being the fancy neighborhood of Nashville - it is fun to drive through and look at the houses. We also toured the Belle Meade Plantation, which is a beautiful mansion and used to be a famous breeder of horses, as opposed to a typical crop plantation. It was really interesting, and they did a great job of acknowledging the history of slavery at plantations, which I thought was important and not something often done at tourist sites. The guides were great at telling stories and bringing the history to life, and the tour includes a wine tasting at the end as well.
This a huge (55 acre!) garden and historical estate that is a great place to enjoy the outdoors and beautiful landscapes. They have a cool mansion that was shown on the show Nashville, and a variety of gardens including Japanese, a literary garden, an Italian terrace garden, an herb garden, and more. My FAVORITE was the “TRAINS!” garden, which was straight out of a storybook! It has miniature trains and little houses and landscapes for gnomes and fairies in some giant tree trunks. This is definitely great for children, and they can climb around the exhibit too, but even adults will love it! I’m not sure if this is a permanent exhibit, but it only runs during certain times of the day, and definitely don’t miss it if you visit the garden!
Nashville definitely has a strong southern cuisine style that they are very proud of. I enjoy trying local cuisine when I travel, but I have to say that southern food isn’t really my favorite because it is pretty heavy and greasy, so we tried to balance trying local southern flavor with local healthy spots as well. We definitely wanted to get a taste of the local flavor, but after a few meals, it just felt so heavy so my parents and I actually ended up going to Trader Joe’s and getting microwave meals and veggies from there to eat in our hotel room for most nights. This also helped us save money on the trip!
It was a challenge to find healthy spots to eat, but I managed to find some great ones, in addition to more typical recommendations.
Other places that were highly recommended but we didn’t end up making it to are:
Hattie B’s (supposed to be the best fried chicken), Pancake Pantry (great pancakes if you can’t tell by the name), Marsh House, Pucket's Grocer, and Edley's (in 12th South - great BBQ). These are recommended for having great patios and food: Bar Taco, Saint Añejo, Butchertown Hall, The Pharmacy Burger, Rosepepper, and Martin's BBQ.
Here are my favorite spots for food:
My parents and I got Sunday brunch at Pemrose! I did some research to try to find the best brunch spot in Nashville and definitely found a winner! The restaurant is super cute and elegant with nautical decorations, which I enjoyed because I love the ocean and mermaids. My mom and I both ordered the lobster and crab omelet, my dad got the crispy calamari salad, and we got an avocado toast starter to share. Everything was so good and fresh!
It’s actually pretty hard to find healthy dining options in Nashville, and we definitely want to try the local cuisine, but after a few meals of biscuits and fried chicken, it started to feel pretty heavy. So it was great to have a meal that was fresh and lighter, with vegetables, and still super tasty!
The staff was so nice and friendly! The manager even came to talk to us! To demonstrate how nice they are, I have to share this story! Months later, one of my good friends from college started her PhD program in biomedical engineering (I know, she is super smart!) at Vanderbilt, and I remembered how fun I thought Nashville was and she was moving there without knowing anyone, so I wanted to do something nice and fun to surprise and congratulate her. I contacted the restaurant to see if they could treat her to brunch as a surprise, and I pulled off getting her to the location without her suspecting anything, and then they surprised her with a dessert that had “Congratulations” written on it in chocolate, and served her brunch while we got to Facetime and catch up! Of course, that is not something they do on a regular basis, but just goes to show you how nice they are and that even though I had been their patron so long ago, they remembered me and were willing to do something so nice for a new member of their Nashville community!
Pemrose is in a cute neighborhood called The Gulch, which was fun to explore! There are cute shops that often have live music and other restaurants. It is near the Nashville Wings mural, which is a pretty popular place to take pictures!
I was excited to try Avo because it is 100% plant based and top of the list for delicious, healthy food in Nashville...then I arrived and got even more excited - the outside is a mural of avocados, and inside is decorated with avocado paintings and actual avocado trees! It even has a volleyball court outside for the summer!
I’m pretty sure this was the first all plant-based restaurant I had ever been to, which was very exciting and I was so impressed by their creativity in their dishes. It was as tasty as I had hoped - my parents and I each got the squash bowl, which has a few different kinds of squash, steamed kale, quinoa, mushrooms that were SO good, and lemon tahini! Of course, I had to add avocado to mine!
They also have wonderful desserts - we got the chocolate avocado tart and the lemon basil cashew cheesecake to share. They were both so rich and flavorful, and I never would have thought they were vegan from eating them! I’d never tried the flavor combo of lemon and basil, so that’s definitely an idea I’ll be trying in my own recipes! I wish this was closer to me so I could go back to this awesome place, because it was definitely one of my favorite restaurants I have ever visited while traveling.
Five Daughter’s Bakery is known for their famous 100-layer donut, and it did not disappoint! The 100-layer donuts are so good!! I’ve never had a donut like this - as you can see in the pictures, the layers make it light, fluffy, and almost like a croissant.
Their store is also really cute inside and out, and I love the fun colors and decorations - it is so cheerful!
Five Daughters has super unique flavors for their donuts, and even have paleo, vegan, and gluten-free options, which was really impressive. Since I was traveling with my parents, we each chose a different flavor and then shared! So I didn’t have to choose between chocolate peanut butter and blueberry lavender donut, which would have been a hard decision. My mom got the chocolate peanut butter and I got the blueberry lavender, and my dad got sea salt chocolate! The blueberry lavender had homemade blueberry lavender jam in it, which was delicious!
You will certainly not feel loveless at this cafe! This is THE place to go for authentic Nashville biscuits, and other staples of Nashville and southern cuisine. The biscuits are really delicious - warm, fresh, and with a great texture and they serve them with a variety of jams, preserves, and honey. The restaurant has a very quaint, motel feel (I believe it is actually connected to a motel) and many celebrities have visited - there is a wall of signed photos that you can see above. It is definitely not the healthiest food, but if you want to try some authentic Nashville food, this is a great spot.
This is a unique candy bar created in Nashville since 1912 - it was one of the first candies to incorporate multiple elements! The original Goo Goo Cluster is made of chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and marshmallow nougat. They have created other flavors as well, but I’d definitely try the original to see what it’s all about!
They are sold at many shops throughout the city, but it is definitely worth a stop at their store downtown - it is very close to Broadway and the John Seigenthaler bridge (mentioned earlier in this post). The store is very cute and old-timey, and has a fun photo booth. They have a dessert bar and chocolate experiences, which I didn’t have the chance to do, but sounds fun!
It is so funny to me that the first time I went to True Food Kitchen was in Nashville, because now there is one within walking distance of where I live in Chicago, and it is one of my favorite spots! This is another great option for healthy food, but it is a chain so personally I would try the more unique local spots first, unless you don’t live/travel somewhere with a True Food. If you haven’t had a chance to try True Food Kitchen, definitely check it out! They decorate each of their restaurants to be unique to their location, so this Nashville spot had guitars painted like fruits and veggies as an homage to the big country music scene. True Food has tons of vegan and vegetarian and gluten-free options, and their menu is very transparent with allergens. They also have rotating seasonal options, which is really cool.
Nashville is a really fun, unique place to visit and I hope this inspired you to think about taking a trip there! If you go and follow any of my recommendations, let me know what you think! Have a great time!