Choosing someone to travel with can be tricky – you want to have the same interests as them and be bale to spend huge, uninterrupted amounts of time with them. For a trip to Nashville for 4 days, my college roommate was the perfect choice.
We’d lived together for 4 years, but aside from driving between school (upstate NY) and home (Rockland and Long Island NY), we’d never actually traveled together. We both love country music, drinking and history, so we figured Nashville would be a great place to do a long weekend. Sarah is a teacher, so she can only travel during school breaks (ie peak season), so we trekked down to Tennessee in the heat of the summer for our first trip.
Nashville: Music City – or as we soon learned, the bachelor and bachelorette capital of the world.
Our flight down was the best flight I have ever had in my life. We flew Southwest from NYC, and aboard our flight were 3 Bachelorette parties and 1 or 2 bachelor parties. The entire way down, the flight attendants had the entire plane play games and win free alcohol as prizes. If southwest wasn’t already my favorite airline (spoiler: they were), then they definitely jumped to the top spot.
Food Truck Heaven/Pay your Musicians
We stayed at an Airbnb near music row, RGA records and Vanderbuilt University. With Lyfts being $3, it wasn’t a problem at all to be there without a car or in a city with limited public transit. A $15 Lyft got us to our lodging in 15 minutes.
Out first night we went to downtown/Broadway and found Benchmark Sports Bar, a bar with live music, and got quite drunk for under $20. Living in NYC means I get reverse sticker shock a lot – 5 drinks for $20 is nearly unheard of. It was the best first night we could have had.
However, we did commit a faux pax our first night, and only gave a dollar as a tip to the Musicians, even though we were there for a few hours. As it turns out muscians do not get paid to play. Their only income is tips from playing. So please, tip the bands. This is their livelihood
We then headed to riverfront park were there was a free outdoor concert series. We got to see the incredible Andra Day.
It’s now 10 at night, we haven’t eaten since the airport. We turn around and there is a magical kingdom of Food Trucks. Nashville has THE BEST food truck scene. We’re talking every food under the sun – Thai, Hotdogs, Korean, BBQ, Lobster, and my favorite: Grilled Cheese.
Country All Day
The next day we did brunch at The Southern. When I say one of the best brunches ever, I mean out of this world. Pulled pork and collard greens INSIDE an omelet. Plus biscuits and a Bloody Mary and I was in heaven. We went on a Friday morning so there was no wait, but I imagine on a weekend, this place is packed.
Country Music Hall of Fame
Next up, we went to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The line looks long to buy tickets but it really only took about 5-10 minutes and we were in. The Museum takes about 2 hours depending on how into detail you go with things. I found it fascinating, but it didn’t hold my attention the way visual art does. No gunna lie, I did love the Taylor Swift portion, and I’m not ashamed. For $24, it was worth doing to have done it.
The highlight of this day however, was the Hatch Show Print. Space for this is limited by ticketed tour times, so make sure you buy online in advance. Tickets for this were $18.
Opened in the 1880s, its one of the only letter press printers in existence. A as graphic designer reliant on Photoshop, the idea of making posters, brochures, flyers, everything by letter press/hand is mind boggling. The tour teaches you about the process and how the style became popularized, you get to see the printing press, and even make your own prints.
Even though it’s only an hour and you see less, I thought this was a way better experience and more worth the $ than the full museum.
We decided to stay downtown for longer, do an early meal, and then head back to the Airbnb, since the Opry show (below) wasn’t until late. We went to Rippys Bar and Grill down on Broadway that night – rooftop, wings, fries, live music. Again, reverse sticker shock at $6 drinks. A perfect evening.
To round out our country day, we went to the Grand Old Opry. We took a cheap Lyft there, $10 each way.
The Opry is an old radio show/concert that still plays live on the radio, and so the announcers are more like radio DJs, narrating the show as it plays. Even if you don’t know anyone playing, it will be a great time. Everyone does 3 songs, and the talent is out of this world.
We were fortunate enough to be there when Carrie underwood was playing. CARRIE. UNDERWOOD. She is a goddess.
We loved every minute of the show.
The Tomato Fest and Honkey Tonk Central
We must have chosen the best week to visit Nashville. In addition to being there for the Concert on the Green, we also were in town for the Annual Tomato Art Fest. I’m talking Galleries filled with tomato art, 3 different stages with music, Bloody Mary contests, Parades, Costumes, day drinking, and tomatoes for eating as far as the eye could see. In East Nashville, it was cool to see a neighborhood other than downtown.
East Nashville is becoming the hippest part, often referred to as the Brooklyn of Nashville, so naturally I felt right at home. We spent the entire day wandering this neighborhood, eating everything in site. I even at one point bought a tomato and ate it like an apple. It just looked so good.
Another highlight of the festival: getting a hot dog at I Dream of Weenie. How could we see it an NOT get one, with a name like that.
Food Lines on Food Lines
For dinner, we wanted to get some BBQ, but the lines were out of this world. We settled for Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery based on the outdoor seating. Not the best meal I’ve ever had ,but it was certainly tasty, we were seated right away, and an ice cold beer always hits the spot. It was a little touristy, but then again, in downtown Nashville, we couldn’t really be picky about it.
From outside we were able to watch all the Pedal Taverns go by. Sarah and I didn’t realize this was a thing, and if we had, we 100% would have signed up and done one. What is a Pedal Tavern you ask? See the photo below. They are indeed drinking while biking and having a blast.
We finished our beers, and headed to Benchmark Sports Bar, the bar we stumbled on the first night. We were only there for 4 days and already we were bar repeaters. But what can we say, the music was amazing and the drinks so cheap.
At about 11:30 we were boozed up and made our way to Honkey Tonk Central. There are lists on the internet about which bars you should go to, but honestly we just chose the place with the shortest line (it was summer, there were huge lines).
Meet Paradise Park Trailer Resort. Yes, it was trailer park themed. It was rather trashy. And you know what? We had so much fun. We danced and sang along to nonstop Florida Georgia Line, Luke Bryan and Kieth Urban. The place was huge so there was actually room to breath. And the other side of the bar served food, so at 2 am we had fried pickles and French fries.
We were starting to feel Nashville was the greatest place on earth.
History and Whisky (My Favorite Day)
On our last full day, we decided to go to The Hermitage (President Andrew Jackson’s old plantation-turned museum, and do a Distillery Tour. Did I forget to mention Sarah is a high school history teacher? This was a dream for her. Did I also not mention we both majored in politics and history in college and are history nerds?
Getting to the Hermitage was easy – another cheap Lyft ride away.
For $20 you got access to the Museum, the Audio Guide, and a guided tour of the mansion. This was Sarah’s first introduction to Audio Tours. Audio Tours are incredible, they teach you so much orally, leaving your eyes to wander. They also were great when you explored the grounds, as you could walk and take in the sights, and understand every bit of the grounds.
The first stop is the museum, where you learn all about President Jackson, his life and his presidency. The museum, generally casting Jackson in a positive light, did give differentiating point of views over his treatment of the Native Americans. They also touched on him losing his place on the $20.
In America’s current political climate, we have started to look at our past and see that we as a country have done some pretty terrible things – the Trail of Tears just being the icing on the cake. It was truly refreshing to go to this museum and see a historically accurate representation of Jackson’s life, and not simply justification for his actions, which have as of late been cast in a negative light.
After the Museum, we headed onto the grounds for the plantation tour. We wandered through the gardens and down tree-lined paths, learning history the entire time with the help of the audio guides. Seriously, I cannot stress enough how fantastic this tour was – the anecdotes made the experience so much better.
We soon arrived at the mansion, where a costumed guide would lead us through the house. America is new compared to the rest of the world. Buildings from the early 1800s are some of the oldest things we have, and few and far between, so getting to see something this old and well preserved in my home country is a rarity.
Another contentious but true part of the history of the south is Slavery. The entire foundation of this country was built on it, but it’s more obvious in the south when you visit tourist attractions like Andrew Jacksons Plantation.
The plantation tour did not shy away from this history. It was brutally honest in the conditions, it did not sugar coat or justify that the slaves lived good lives. The slaves quarters were still erect, and you could see the terrible conditions they lived in – 15, 20 people in a shack barely big enough for 2.
Clearly this tour and experience was the most meaningful of the trip, if paragraph lengths and details have any meanings.
Getting frisky with Whisky
After a morning of harsh reality and learning, we headed out to a Distillery tour, to learn about Whisky.
We chose Corsair Distillery and I can not recommend it enough. Our tour ended up being all women, with a women guide, so there was no pressure in me not know a drop about whisky.
We started the tour with cocktails from their bar, then proceeded to move through the distillery, learning about the process from start to finish, picking up bits of chemistry along the way. The tour ends as all tours should, with a whisky tasting. We’re talking half shots of so many types of whiskys. If we hadn’t been boarding a plane with only carry ons, I would have bought so many bottles.
For dinner we found an Irish pub, Harp and Fiddle, right near our Airbnb, and sat outside listening to live music. This strip right on Demonbreum St had so many cute places, I wish we’d come here sooner. A perfect finish to an awesome weekend.
But actually, we’re not done yet.
We had a flight the next am, but we knew there was one activity we were missing….. HOT CHICKEN. Nashville is known for it’s hot chicken, and we couldn’t leave without having a taste. Most places have huge lines, Hattie B’s, etc, so we went with a recommendation from one of our Lyft drivers (which is honestly the best source of food recommendations since all the drivers are locals). Party Fowl was amazing and no wait!
The Useful Stuff:
Getting Around: Public transit is limited but $3 Lyfts meant getting around faster and easier than public transit at roughly the same cost. From the airport to out air bnb was $15.
You’re probably saying, well doesn’t that add up? I’d say total we spent no more than $90 ($45 each) on Lyfts, which is far less than the cost of renting a car for 4 days. We also then did not have to worry about parking. Lyfts really did bring us everywhere we could have wanted to go.
Have Food Backups: We did a lot of research for food, but in most cases, the waits were too long. Have a backup, or eat a little further from Broadway, if 2 hour waits aren’t your thing. There were some places people said we had to try, like Hattie Bs and Biscuit Love, but personally I’m not into huge food lines. I’d rather have something else great with only a 10 minutes wait.
Do the Pedal Tavern: It’s a great way to see the city but also just looked like SO MUCH DAMN FUN.
TIP THE MUSCIANS – THEY DO NOT GOT PAID TO PLAY
I can not stress this enough, Even though they are in restaurants, they are not paid to be there. The only income musicians get is tips from patrons. We gave 2 or 3 bucks each if we were only there for a half hour, but for the night we were in a place for 3 hours, we gave $10 or $15. These artists truly put on great shows for us, and this was how they were making a living.