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When I saw on the Visit Tennessee website that they were offering free flights to various destinations across the state, I immediately jumped on the deal. I mean who can turn down a free $200 flight voucher? All I had to do was be one of the first 10,000 people to book a hotel stay of two nights or more and the trip had to include a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night. I guess they launched the deal to encourage tourism post-pandemic, so I happily booked a trip to Music City.
It turns out that there’s always a party in Nashville no matter what day of the week it is. I was there on a Tuesday/Wednesday and every day the bars on Honky Tonk Highway were playing live music from 11am. Even if you’re not into country music (I wouldn’t consider myself a country music fan, I’m more of a techno gal) the vibe is so fun and it’s great to hear live performances no matter what genre it is.
If you’re looking for the kind of trip where you eat lots of yummy food, visit rooftops and like dancing and drinking, then Nashville is definitely the place for you. The city is small and easily explored on foot, so you can definitely cover almost everything there is to do in 2 days if you get up early.
If you need some pointers for what to do, here’s my suggested itinerary for 2 days in Nashville:
Day 1: Country Music Hall of Fame, Johnny Cash Museum and Honky Tonk Highway
Start your day with breakfast at Another Broken Egg, which is in the downtown area. This popular breakfast spot opens at 7am, so it’s perfect if you wake up early like we did. The restaurant has a diner-style vibe and serves some great eggs benedict dishes, including hash brown benedict, crab cake benedict and smoked salmon benedict. They also serve typical breakfast items like buttermilk pancakes and French toast.
Next, make your way to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is dedicated to the preservation of the history of country music. This enormous museum holds the largest collection of country music artefacts in the world – over 2.5 million of them! Inside the museum you can explore a wide range of permanent and changing exhibits.
Afterwards, it’s time to visit the Johnny Cash Museum. Although I’m not a big country music fan, I do love Johnny Cash, so I really enjoyed this museum. It’s much smaller and more intimate than the Country Music Hall of Fame and is specifically dedicated to his life story, which is incredibly interesting. Johnny Cash is one of the few musicians in the world to have sold over 100 million records and he recorded over 1500 songs during his career.
You can see lots of outfits that he and his wife June Carter wore while performing, as well as guitars and other memorabilia. Certain parts of the museum feature videos of Johnny Cash singing some of his best songs. My particular favorite was the video of Johnny singing the song, Hurt, which he recorded shortly before his death. Tickets to the museum cost $22.95+tax and can be purchased online or at the door.
We achieved all of the above by 11am, and by this time, the music had started on Honky Tonk Highway. Yes, the party really starts that early in Nashville! We dropped by the Johnny Cash Bar next door for a drink, where there was a really good live band playing country music.
After you’ve spent some time downtown, it’s time to hop in an Uber to the 12South street area of Nashville. It looks far on the map but in reality the Uber cost $10. That’s the great thing about Nashville – Ubers are pretty inexpensive considering the distance you travel.
This very cute neighborhood has a much more relaxed, small town vibe compared to the busy streets of downtown Nashville. Here you’ll find several murals where you can have your photo taken, including the “I Believe in Nashville” mural and the blue and white striped wall outside Draper James, which is a clothing store owned by actress Reese Witherspoon. Dolly Parton also has a property in this area, which our Uber driver pointed out along the way.
The main street has a few great cafes and restaurants, as well as boutiques and a small farmer’s market. I’d recommend grabbing coffee and something to eat at Frothy Monkey, which is a popular all day cafe.
After exploring 12South it’s time to hop back in an Uber and hit up a rooftop. Lou/Na, which is located on the 25th floor of the Grand Hyatt, offers some of the best views of the city and serves some really creative cocktails. Just be aware it doesn’t open till 4pm Sun-Thurs and 3pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
For dinner, there are plenty of great choices in Nashville. Nearby you’ll find Adele’s, which is a farm to table restaurant with a heated outdoor patio. Dishes are creative and feature plenty of fresh ingredients – think burrata salad with strawberry and pea vinaigrette, or salmon with blood orange, rice, leeks and watercress.
Another great option is Hampton Social, which has a bright and airy “Hamptons” theme.
If you want some nice photos, the restaurant has a flower wall and fountain in the entrance, along with a Rosé All Day wall. It’s incredibly photogenic and the food is good too. I ordered the tuna tartare and the shrimp tacos, both of which were great.
In the evening you definitely have to check out the bright lights of Honky Tonk highway, which is sort of like Beale Street in Memphis or 6th Street in Austin, only way more crowded and lively. Music blasts from every single bar and it’s almost difficult to choose which one to visit. There’s absolutely no cover charge, so you basically get to see live music for the price of a drink. If you don’t plan on going to catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry, then you can still find plenty of country music and live bands here.
I love that a lot of the performers get up and stand on the bar – it’s super fun to watch! There are so many bars, so spend your night just bar hopping from place to place.
Day 2: Pinewood Social, Grand Ole Opry, Gaylord Opryland
Once you’ve had a good night’s sleep at your hotel, it’s time for another amazing breakfast! Don’t miss the chance to visit Pinewood Social, which is a huge, industrial style restaurant featuring a bowling alley, a coffee shop and plenty of space if you want to work on your computer. I ordered the brûléed grapefruit and avocado toast, which were both delicious!
After breakfast, take an Uber to visit the Grand Ole Opry. This famous country music venue is home to the longest-running radio broadcast in US history. You can take a tour inside, or simply stop by and have your photo taken in front of the giant guitar that stands in front of the building.
From the Grand Ole Opry you can walk to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, which is a sprawling luxury resort that features 9 acres of indoor gardens. The gardens feature tropical plants, trees, bridges, waterfalls and guitars suspended from the ceiling. It’s very impressive and worth a visit. In addition to the gardens, the hotel boasts a spa, golf course, event venues and restaurants.
In the afternoon you can visit yet more rooftops. Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop on Honky Tonk Highway is a great place to soak up the sun and enjoy a beer or two while listening to live music.
Another great rooftop is Zeppelin Nashville, an ultra trendy rooftop with a light, bright (and very pink) interior. I can imagine it would definitely be popular with Instagrammers! This classy rooftop bar has an outdoor terrace and is good for cocktails and light bites.
For dinner I visited Ellington’s, which is located on the 4th floor of the Fairlane Hotel. While I found the appetizer portions to be on the small side, the smoked chicken main course is to die for! Really juicy and delicious. The restaurant has a classy indoor dining area and a wraparound terrace if you want to dine outside.
Other things to do in Nashville if you have more time
If you have an extra day in Nashville then there are several more things you can do. You can:
Try hot chicken at Hattie B’s – Hattie B’s is a famous Nashville restaurant chain serving hot chicken, which is basically spicy fried chicken that’s been marinated and covered in a cayenne pepper sauce. It’s a local speciality and definitely something you should try at least once.
Visit the Parthenon – Located in Centennial Park, the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, which was built for the 1897 Centennial Exposition. It seems a bit random that there’s a Parthenon in Tennessee of all places, but there it gives you a feel of what the Greek Parthenon looked like all those years ago. Inside there’s even a gold-coated replica of the 42-foot statue of Athena, just like there was in ancient Greece. Inside you can browse art exhibits, while outside you can walk around Nashville’s largest urban park.
Watch a show at the Grand Ole Opry – If you don’t mind spending the money on tickets then one of the top things to do in Nashville is watch a show at the Grand Ole Opry! This country music concert has been running since 1925 and is broadcast on radio and television. While I didn’t watch a show, I’m told that it’s really fun to watch, even for people who wouldn’t consider themselves country music fans.
Tips for Visiting Nashville
You don’t really need to rent a car – Uber is relatively inexpensive in Nashville compared to New York. An Uber from the airport to my hotel was about $20. Most Ubers we took around town were about $10.
Take an Uber from the airport – The rideshare pickup area is easy to find at Nashville airport, just follow the signs. The ride from the airport to downtown Nashville is only around 15 minutes and costs around $20-$30 depending on traffic.
Stay downtown – If you choose a hotel downtown you can easily walk to most places and explore everything on foot. There are hotels further out but then you’d probably be Ubering/driving more.
Where to stay in Nashville
21c Museum Hotel – This is where I stayed during my trip. 21c Museum Hotel is a hotel and art museum all rolled into one, so it’s something a little bit different. I loved the fact that it was so centrally located within walking distance of Honky Tonk Highway, plus the rooms were very spacious. The hotel also has its own restaurant called Gray and Dudley, which serves inspired comfort food from local producers.
Holston House Nashville – Housed in a 1929 art deco-style building, Holston house is also located downtown and features an outdoor swimming pool, which is useful if you want to cool off during the hot summer months.
Dream Nashville – If you like hip hotels, then you’ll like Dream Nashville, which offes art deco-inspired rooms with high ceilings and sleek finishes. The hotel is housed in two historic landmark buildings in Printer’s Alley area. Best of all it boasts its own experiential nightclub called Dirty Little Secret, which features a host of surprise acts throughout the evening.
When to visit Nashville
The best time to visit Nashville is from spring to autumn, so basically April through October. During these months the weather is warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the rooftops. Winter is low season, although you might score a better deal on hotels and flights. Weekends are very busy in Nashville due to the number of bachelor/bachelorette parties that descend on the city, so if you want cheaper hotels and less crowds, you might want to visit on a week day.
A final word
I really loved Nashville because of the live music. Even if it’s not my usual type of music, any live music is great! Nashville makes for a great weekend getaway because the airport is so close to the city and it’s fairly small, so you can see pretty much everything in two days. Music City doesn’t have the same number of attractions as somewhere like New York but there’s enough to keep you occupied for a weekend. Best of all it’s just a fun and lively place to eat, drink and dance.