Nashville birthday trip // travel guide
When we were deciding on a birthday trip destination, Nashville was at the top of the list. I don't really know why (I had never heard the term 'NashVegas' and did not know the song Honky Tonk...Bodonkadonk until my sister educated me). Perhaps my Southwestern roots needed a little kick of country? Or I somehow sensed that Mas Tacos would satisfy my craving for Mexican food? All I really knew was that there would be good music, good food and good people, with a whole lot of country. There was great music, great food, amazing people, plenty of country and a lot of bridesmaids.
One of my favorite things about traveling is experiencing life through someone else's perspective. While I love hotels, the easiest way to get the local vibe of a new city is to stay in someone's home. Finding an Airbnb is the next best thing to crashing on a friends couch! We found this AMAZING airstream on Airbnb that our host fixed up with his dad; they also made this little outdoor bathhouse. There was also an outdoor shower hammock, and classic radio playing classical music. My sister and I grew up sharing a room, so sharing an airstream was no big deal. It was so cozy--I wish we could've brought our cat.
There is SO much good food in Nashville. We had a list (mostly breakfast... I don't know why, my sister got recommendations from a friend who I can only assume loves brunch), but we also got recommendations every where we went! The residents of Nashville were super friendly and eager to share their favorite spots. We felt like insiders by day two--a table at Rolf & Daughters--easy!
The weirdest thing was how many places had lines. I hate lines...and I'm not a huge fan of tourists...so if you are the same I would skip biscuit love and pancake pantry and just ask anyone, anywhere for their favorite breakfast spot. They were totally worth the wait, but there will probably always be a wait. OR do what we did and split up (so one part of the group can wait for coffee somewhere else while the rest wait for the table). Might as well both wait in line for deliciousness. Rolf & Daughters was my favorite meal...and not just because it was my birthday AND the bartenders.
Pancake Pantry // Hillsboro -- Great, but definitely over hyped.
Biscuit Love // The Gulch -- Worth. The. Wait. Also - they have bloody marys.
5 Points Pizza // East End -- they have chicken scratch!
Mas Tacos // Greenwood -- Go on a weekday.
The Pharmacy // Greenwood -- Sit at the bar if it is too hot outside and make friends. They comped our drinks because we liked their 90s dance party.
Taj // Nolensville -- I don't really know how we ended up here...but from what I remember this was fantatic (this was post-boozy group cycling).
Rolf & Daughters // Germantown -- AMAZING. AMAZING. AMAZING. Also, it's near City House and 5th and Taylor, so basically go to Germantown and find at table or seat a bar at one of these spots.
Ah, coffee. Our first day we learned about this secret(?) coffee club where you pay annually and can go anytime. I can't tell you what it is called because they didn't tell us. We were supposed to go on our last day but...well I was kind of hung over and it was my birthday. So we didn't. INSTEAD we went to Barista Parlor, which was down the street from our Airbnb and SO FANTASTIC. It's a really well designed space with great breakfast and drinks. And a huge collection of fancy chocolate for no apparent reason. And these little cut out men with letters (instead of getting a number to put on your table, you get one of these). And the best eavesdropping opportunities, especially if you want to feel hip and musical.
And then the beer -- so much great local beer. Love love love.
Barista Parlor // the one in East Nashville.
Holland House // Greenwood -- because, cocktails.
Santa's Pub // South Nashville -- I'm a sucker for a good dive bar and for karaoke. This place combines both!
Rumours East // East End -- we stumbled upon a little backyard party - well not really but it felt like that! Loved it.
Robert's Western World // Downtown -- this is about as NashVegas as I get.
The Valentine // Downtown -- go to the rooftop.
Fido Cafe // Hillsboro -- they really need to fix the line situation here--make one for to go coffee and one for breakfast. I have no idea why people wait in this line. Their drinks are interesting, but it ain't no Philz.
Turnip Truck // The Gulch -- grocery store that has a great selection of beer.
And the beer you must try:
Little Harpeth's Chicken Scratch - it's like beer with an aftertaste of creamed corn. Which sounds disgusting but is so lovely (if you are like me and are obsessed with cornbread).
Tennessee Brew Works' Southern Wit - just so good.
New Heights' Berry Cream Ale - I can't really find this...so maybe it was something else?
JUST SAY NO TO FIREBALL. That is my best advice. One local said 'Avoid Broadway like the plague'...but I think you can handle it for one night.
Have you seen the Nashville episode of Sonic Highways? If not, go watch it right now. And then make your list of where to stop in Nashville. I loved Bluebird Cafe (even though, we didn't actually get inside...) and wish we had time to see more shows at smaller venues like The Basement East. But really -- there's music in every honky tonk on Broadway downtown and amazing venues all over town. Just buy tickets ahead of time so you make sure you have them! I'm a small, stumble upon kind of person...so you do you.
I was most surprised about the shopping! Skip Hillsboro and go straight to 12th street where you can see the spectacle of Draper James and then throw down some cash at imogene + willie. Stop at Hatch Show Print when downtown for the print poster shop! And don't forget Two Son -- the newest edition to the shopping scene. Ask them what the space used to be ;) and look out for their sample sales. There are a bunch of cute places by Barista Parlor in East Nashville -- so just walk around there, too. We also stopped at Goodwill because you never know!
Bridesmaids. I'm serious -- we saw over a dozen bachelorette parties. You can tell because they are often all wearing the same shirt and either cut off shorts or leggings.
Check out the gallery at Hatch Show Print for whatever show is up -- it's a nice little space and they curate excellent work. We saw the paper quilts by Jim Sherraden.
And if you don't already have them on your must see list...add the classic sights such as The Parthenon, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry. Did you watch the Nashville episode of Sonic Highways yet??
Find all the murals. I'm not going to tell you where they are.
The group bike riding thing and make friends with everyone else. Where you all get on the bike and then pretend you are pedaling down the street. It is more fun than it sounds.
Wear your cowboy hats and a floral dress and don't ask why!
Eat the meat. (we didn't put bbq on here but there is a ton of bbq and yes you should try the hot chicken)
Go to the Tomato Festival even if you think -- wait what? Tomato art?
Santa's Pub for karaoke because it is SO worth it. Unless you don't like dive bars or karaoke...in which case you SHOULD do some shots of fireball and then read this again.
TALK TO EVERYONE. Like, strangers, bartenders, airbnb hosts, pedal tavern guides. They will help you navigate this really interesting and evolving place. They might hate it, they might love it, but they will help you!
Ok, now it's time to go back to singing this song that's stuck in my head. Thank you Grandpa, for planting the seeds---I'm pretty sure you used to play this song, a lot. Maybe this is why I wanted to go to Nashville, Tennessee?
All my ex's live in Texas
And Texas is the place I'd dearly love to be
But all my ex's live in Texas
And that's why I hang my hat in Tennessee
Special thanks to J. Wes our Airbnb host and to all the lovely people that gave us tips! And the uber and lyft drivers that drove us everywhere!