Our Nashville Favorites!
When we're out on tour, we frequently get asked for our "Nashville suggestions" of what to do/see/eat, etc from people who are planning a weekend getaway, or are just curious. Well, after almost 7 years of calling Nashville "home" we definitely know our favorites! BE WARNED- THIS IS LONG. Sorry, not sorry! Skim it, use what you want, save it for later... it's all good! And remember, these are just our opinions so take em or leave em!
First things first... our favorite live music places!
The Listening Room Cafe; Home for original singer/songwriters in Nashville, from hit writers to people new to town, The Listening Room presents 2 nightly concerts of "songwriter rounds." (6:00 and 8:00) Usually four writers share the stage and take turns singing a song/telling stories. I'd suggest getting tickets/reservations in advance. They do serve food if you want to eat there.
The Ryman Auditorium- This 2,500 (or so) seater is my (Danika) FAVORITE concert venue in Nashville! It's hard to explain how amazing it really is. I'd suggest looking at their calendar and if an artist you're a fan of is playing, well, you could even plan your whole trip around that concert. Just a thought... of course, I'm the sort of person that WOULD plan a whole getaway around a concert! If you have a minute, read about the Ryman's history- this is where Johnny and June met.
Broadway and 2nd Avenue- Otherwise known as "honkytonk highway." THIS is the most touristy part of Nashville and where you can go to hear live music from 10AM-2AM seven days a week! Just find a place to park (there are pay lots everywhere- or try and find free parking on Gay street) and start exploring. You'll find the major chains like Margaretaville, Hard Rock, and BB King's Blues club in this area as well as famous Nashville bars like Tootsie's (many country acts were discovered here back in the day.) If you're traveling with your kiddos, check out Wildhorse Saloon (on 2nd). It's all ages and fun for adults and kids. Also, when you're downtown, check out Printers Alley. I love going to Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar there. It's a little off the path, so here's a LINK to help find it.
Side note- Some people can come to Nashville and spend an entire week in just this Broadway/2nd ave area. If you're a country and rock fan, you will love it. Even if this doesn't sound like your thing... I'd suggest at least checking it out for an afternoon. There is no other city that offers this much music and this many venues... it is a truly unique Nashville experience.
Our favorite two places in the downtown/Broadway area are The George Jones Museum rooftop bar (for the spectacular view) and the rooftop of ACME feed and seed (also for the view!) - BONUS is that both have live music.
Side note- The musicians on Broadway/2nd... tips are a major part of how they earn their income. So, please have cash ready to tip them - this is how they pay their bills- and they work HARD! Also, a lot of the talented musicians you'll see playing cover songs are also songwriters/artists on their own accord... so go ahead and request/tip for their original music! Also, we have tons of good friends that play downtown and around Nashville... if you send me a quick message about "when" you'll be in Nashville, I can let you know when/where to find our buddies!
The Basement- and The Basement East- If you go to the original "The Basement" it's SO LOCAL you'll think you're lost. It's a super small dive, but really fun for something totally different. It's underneath Grimey's Record store. You'll need to park on the street and walk around to the back to get it. Now "The Basement East" (because it's in East Nashville) is much bigger and newer. It's a music club/bar that brings in great talent. You'll need to check out the websites to see who is playing. The Basement East is a "standing room" music club, so if you're looking for a cozy seat, skip this place. If you wanna get sweaty in a crowd and rock out, this is your place!
Side note- "East Nashville"- basically Nashville's hipper/younger sibling. It's on the east side of the Cumberland River, hence it's name. When real estate in Nashville started skyrocketing, musicians and creative's moved across the river to East Nashville. There are tons of amazing restaurants and music venues over there.
City Winery- For you classy folks! Fantastic wine selection, nice menu, ticketed concerts in the main room as well as a bar for "anytime." Use the valet option as there's almost no parking around the venue. I love going here!
Tin Roof Revival- If you happen to be in Nashville on a TUESDAY- at 8PM Revival 615 hosts writers rounds that are always awesome. IMPORTANT- This is at the Tin Roof on Demunbreun- NOT Broadway! (I actually went to the wrong location once!)
Side note- Act like a local and pronounce "Demunbreun St" correctly! It is pronounced Duh-Mun-Bree-Un, emphasis on "mun"... NOT "demon brewin!"
The Bluebird Cafe- I have to be honest, I'm only bringing up The Bluebird because it's the venue we get asked about the most often and I'm pretty sure I'll get a ton of emails back saying "But what about The Bluebird?" if I don't mention it. The Bluebird is Nashville's most historic and famous songwriter's club. MANY great writers have taken the stage here. In my opinion, that is the appeal and draw of The Bluebird... it just feels special because of the extreme amount of talent that's been through the door. And Jeb and I really enjoyed playing there. However, it is VERY hard to get tickets to a show. They have to be purchased weeks in advance and 100% of their shows sell out. If you can get in, awesome.
Side note- In my (Danika) opinion, what makes The Bluebird Cafe special is that the audience is "pin drop quiet." There are signs up saying no talking is allowed, it is also announced before the shows, and if you do talk, you are sure to get "shhhh'd" or kicked out even! What I try to explain to everyone is that this special "listening environment" can be replicated anywhere. And I have to tell you, we've traveled around the US and Europe playing listening rooms that have that same special feel- allowing audience and artists to truly connect because- surprise, surprise- everyone's listening! Sounds so simple, right?
Next... Food, Food, FOOD!
Side note- Jeb and I are the first to admit that we love food. There are SO MANY and this was the hardest part for us to narrow down. You can get food pretty much anywhere, and most of it is good. But, if you really want something delicious, read on!
Slow Burn Hot Chicken- Have you heard of "Nashville hot chicken"? It's a thing... a delicious thing. It's basically spicy fried chicken. For you spicy food lovers, proceed with caution, they do not mess around! For those not into spice, just order it without and it's just as good. In fact, my mouth is watering tying this. Pretty sure this will be my dinner :) Slow Burn is one of our neighborhood favorites and about 10 miles northeast of Nashville. So, depending on where you're staying, a bit of a drive. My favorite thing on the menu is the "Chicken Donut." It's a donut cut in half, grilled, and with chicken in the middle. SO WRONG, I know- but so good- and also the reason I could never be a true vegetarian. If you want to try "Nashville hot chicken" but this is too far away, just type that into YELP and take it from there. There are many great options, Slow Burn is just OUR favorite.
Side note- There are TONS of hotels up here (our neighborhood is in the Madison/Goodlettsville area- also home to Garth Brooks) that are "affordable" so we're seeing more and more visitors staying in this area. It's about a 10 mile drive to downtown, which is no big deal for us of course considering how much we're used to driving. If you want to just walk around, take uber's, and not have to drive, look for a hotel downtown. Also, check out AirB&B for tons of great options. My personal opinion is that Nashville is a "driving town" so if you want to see more than just one area, you'll need a car, or the ability to get around via other ways.
Monell's - A true southern dining experience! Come hungry! This is our FAVORITE place to take visitors who come see us. You sit around tables that seat 12-16 and get seated on a "first come first served" basis. So, yes, it's like sitting at Grandma's kitchen table with a bunch of strangers. But guess what brings people together? Delicious food! This is an "all you care to eat" meal where the food is passed around the table. The menu changes daily and is always amazing. We like to go for lunch because it fills us up for the whole day and cost less than dinner. There are multiple locations and the one we like best is their Germantown location. Think fried chicken, biscuits, cornbread, banana pudding, pork chops, ribs... get it?
Edley's BBQ- This is our favorite BBQ in town! There are 3 locations, so just google and find out which one is closest for you. Everything is yummy!
Jack's BBQ- A close 2nd to Edley's in our book, multiple locations, all great!
Wild Cow- Vegetarian farm to table at it's best. Unique menu, very local. Located in East Nashville.
FUN stuff to do!
Side note- I already mentioned Broadway/2nd above in the music category, so check it out for sure.
Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge- (Photo at top of email has the bridge in the background- that was at least 3 hair colors ago!) This is where you want to go for the "postcard view" of Nashville! The view is stunning, and there are no cars, so it's peaceful. The easiest way to find it... when you are standing on the corner of Broadway and 2nd, walk towards Joe's Crab Shack. Just after the restaurant you'll see a stairway going up... take it! The rest should be easy.
For the Bicycle Enthusiast- Nashville is home to miles and miles of greenway paths for riding and walking/running. I've linked to a PDF map here. We alway park at the Two Rivers Park and ride into Nashville. I think it's about 10 miles and the "prize" is the beautiful view from the Shelby Pedestrian Bridge!
Songbird Tours-- This technically could have gone in the "live music" category. Y'all... it's a listening room, ON A BUS! So basically a concert/tour of Nashville at the same time. It operates 7 days a week and there are 3 daily options. Use code "Danika5" to get 5% off of your ticket. If you've heard of "The Bluebird Cafe" it's basically that on wheels, while driving around hearing stories of the places you're seeing along the way. Just book your ticket and go- you can thank me later :)
Side note- This company was founded by Trey Bruce and his mom Patsy. He is a monster hit songwriter in Nashville (You can read all about him on the website- but I have to mention that his dad wrote "Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" because it's just a fun fact!) Full disclosure- Trey is a good friend of ours- which is how we were able to get you a discount code to use on the tour!
Nashville Farmer's Market- I like going to the farmer's market to do my "gift shopping" (Even if it's for myself, haha!) Of course they have produce, but you can also find local artists and some truly unique items. My favoritevendor at the Farmer's Market is Helen's Pop Art. She sells hand designed "Nashville themed" clothing items, hats, earrings, paintings, etc. While you're in this area, wander through the park to get to the "most photographed" place in town. You'll know it when you see it, but it's a stunning view of the park with the Parthenon in the background.
Side note- The Parthenon- We've been inside of it. My suggestion is to keep your money and just enjoy the view. You can read about the history online if you're curious.
Grand Ole Opry- THIS- The Grand Ole Opry is as "Nashville touristy" as it gets! This is country music's nightly (Tues, Fri, Sat) radio show... read about it on the website. Different artists every night... you might just get lucky and catch your favorite artist in town at the Opry! If you are a country music fan you'll LOVE it! I've been several times. If country's not your thing, you can pass on this one. If you have extra time, take the "Opry Backstage tour." I'm generally not into tours like this, but I thought it was awesome.
Side note- The Opry House is in an area of Nashville known as "Opryland." It's full of hotels, restaurants, and a gigantic shopping mall. The restaurants in this area are pretty standard "tourist food" type places, overpriced and just ok. BUT... the gem of Opryland, in our opinion of course, is the Opryland Hotel.
Opryland Hotel- Holy hotel! Now, it sounds weird to say, you should just go hang out at this hotel... BUT... you should just go hang out at this hotel (or stay there). It is full of gardens, and restaurants, and a fountain light show, a river with a boat ride, and if you're lucky enough to visit during the holiday season it's decked out! I linked you to a page of photos so you could get the idea. It's hard to explain- but it's just a nice place to take a walk and hang out (and non-hotel guests are welcome). To park for free, park in the mall lot and walk over from there. Here's a YELP page of where the free parking spot it (we use it every time). Or pay $20 bucks on the other side of the wall, or use their valet services.
Corner Music- For our musician friends- This is our favorite local music store in Nashville. It's in a cool area of town called "12 South." Bonus- Edley's BBQ is right across the street and The Frothy Monkey coffee shop is nearby as well.
Artisan Guitars- If you have an extra 2K (or 10K) and want to leave Nashville with a high end guitar, this is your place! (Jeb says this place has the best customer service.) Or just go there to look around and drool at all the guitars like we do :) Artisan Guitars is a really tiny shop located in Franklin (about 30 min south of Nashville) in what's called "The Factory." The Factory at Franklin is a multi shop retail/entertainment complex. So, there's more to see and do than just the fancy guitar place. It's a fun place to check out.
Side note- For you history buffs, there is a lot of history to be learned and explored in Nashville, and more specifically Franklin. Google "the battle of Franklin" to learn about tours offered and where to go. Jeb took one of the battle tours with my mom and they both really liked it!
Music Row- Music Row is where the Nashville music BUSINESS lives. I linked you to the Wiki page to learn more. This will only take you about 10 minutes to drive through/check out, but if you're curious as to where the record labels, publishers, PRO's and some studios are, this is the place! Set your GPS to "Musica Sculpture" (but in Nashville we just call it the "dancing naked people statue") - Roundabout Plaza, 1600 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203. From there, just take a drive or walk down Music Square East and West (as well as 16th and 17th). Wave hello to SESAC- we like them- they send us a nice check every quarter :)
Coffee my Coffee!
I feel like there are as many coffee shops in Nashville as there are songwriters. They're pretty much all awesome. But if I had to choose my favorite...
Zolli Koffee- I like Zolli because it's a little quieter and less popular. There's rarely a line, the people are super friendly, and of course the coffee is delicious. (If you want a bustling place check out Frothy Monkey on 12th Ave, Crema, or Barista Parlor.)
Sip Cafe & Mike's Ice Cream- You can find 100 other coffee shops with better ambiance than Sip Cafe. But I don't care. I kinda like their simple decor, plus it's in our neighborhood so I'm biased towards it. The coffee is good which is what matters. BONUS- it's a coffee AND ice cream place and I LOVE the ice cream here.
YOU HAVE REACHED THE END! Oh my goodness, I warned you this would be LONG! We really hope you find this useful and helpful. I don't plan on quitting music to become a travel writer :) These are just OUR favorite's.