5 Fun Things to do in Nashville

My first trip to Nashville was in August of 2011 when I took my son on a college visit to Vanderbilt. Lo and behold, that’s where he ended up going so we’ve had many visits to Nashville since then and I’ve grown very fond of this city. While it’s known for being the “Music City” and home to all things country, it has so much more to offer. I don’t consider myself an expert on the area by any means, but I’ve been there enough that I can share a handful of fun and interesting things to do and see. I will say, I don’t recommend going in July/August – it’s really freakin’ hot and humid! Unless that appeals to you then, by all means, enjoy! Anyway, let’s get into the fun stuff, shall we?!

Experience Broadway

If you’ve never been to Nashville, you really do need to walk up and down Broadway (the main drag) and experience all the honky tonks, live music and shops to buy all the cowboy boots and souvenirs. This is by far the most touristy thing you will do, but you really can’t say you’ve experienced Nashville unless you’ve done it. You can’t beat the people watching – it’s pretty epic! My favorite spot to hang out with a cold beer, live music and great people watching is Rippy’s. It’s a little bigger and brighter than some of the other places and I feel like it’s not quite as packed, which I’m good with. There are many others places to pick from like Tootsies, which is a little more renowned and has a nice rooftop bar. No matter which place you pop into, you’re sure to get a great live music experience.

Looking up Broadway from the river

Taking in some live music at Rippy’s on Broadway

Tour Belle Meade Plantation

The Belle Meade Plantation is a beautiful and historic gem of Nashville. It was built around 1820 by John Harding who made his money breeding racehorses. Seabiscuit and Secretariat were a couple of famous descendants from Harding’s line of horses. I won’t go into the whole story behind Belle Meade, but it has a very complex and fascinating history and when you take the mansion tour, you get to hear all about it from a very knowledgeable tour guide. Along with the mansion, there are other original structures on the property to see such as a 2-room cabin where the slaves stayed, a dairy, a smokehouse and carriage house. The carriage house now hosts events along with the large barn on the property. I can imagine how lovely weddings are here. There are also beautiful gardens to walk through. They have a gift shop and a cute little ice cream shop where you can enjoy an ice cream on the patio and participate in a game of croquet or bocce ball. We opted for the wine tasting part of the tour vs. ice cream. I mean, duh!

Belle Meade mansion

One of many magnolia trees on the grounds

Eat All The Food

I don’t even know where to begin with the food! Nashville has SO MANY great places to eat and I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface. Let’s begin with the BBQ since, well… it’s the South! My top 2 picks are Jim and Nick’s and Martin’s. Both are delicious with lots of options. Jim and Nick’s does win in my book for their cheddar biscuits – amazing! Arnold’s Country Kitchen isn’t as much a BBQ place as it is a “Meat and Three”. One meat, three sides. It’s real southern food in a low-key cafeteria style setting that’s been there forever. I highly recommend making this a lunch stop!

For breakfast, you can’t go wrong with the Pancake Pantry–an iconic local joint near Vanderbilt that has so many types of pancakes to choose from. Kind of makes your head spin! For a more hipster vibe and delicious biscuits and gravy, there’s the Frothy Monkey. I may or may not have a thing for biscuits!

If you are looking for something a little more upscale The Southern is a wonderful dinner spot. They have a great selection of oysters for starters which I’ll never turn down. For some authentic Italian, Valentino’s is a quaint little place that used to be a Victorian style home. It’s near the Vanderbilt campus and has great, made from scratch food AND a piano bar upstairs. It’s dark and moody with a fireplace to boot. Very cool!

More casual, quick places that are winners are Desano’s Pizza – it’s woodfire pizza that is sooo good. Served on paper towels in a casual picnic table style.  Then there’s Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. I have not been to Hattie B’s yet, but every time we are there the line has been down the block, so it’s definitely on my list for future visits! The Flying Saucer is a great little bar/restaurant off the main drag. They have a gagillion beer options, a relaxed, comfy vibe with large sofas and the walls and ceiling are full of saucers to look at while you enjoy your stay.

The Flying Saucer is a great place to have a beer and hang out

Walk The Vanderbilt Campus

If you have a hour or two, I highly recommend checking out Vanderbilt’s campus. It’s a beautiful place to stroll through with historic old buildings and immaculately manicured grounds. You feel like you’re at an Ivy League campus with a way more laid back feel. The entire campus is a designated arboretum with 190 species of trees and shrubs! There are so many giant oaks and magnolias, you never have trouble finding a shady spot to stop, sit, and take it all in. They even offer tree tours so you don’t have to be a prospective student to enjoy a tour!

Kirkland Hall in the heart of campus

Tour Hatch Show Print

Here’s where the design nerd in me really geeks out! Hatch Show Print is an iconic letterpress poster shop that is attached to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. So, if country music history is also your thing, you can do both in the same visit. While I found the museum interesting, I was way more excited about the letterpress goodness! The golden age of Hatch Show Print was from the mid-1920s through the 1950s and there is so much to see, you don’t know where to look first. They offer daily tours and even let you create your very own design to take with you!

photo via Hatch Show Print

This really is the short list. There is so much to do and see at any given time in Nashville, you are never at a loss for entertainment, good food or travel inspiration! If you’ve been to Nashville and have any reccos I haven’t covered, leave in the comments below! I’m always looking for new experiences each time I go. For another travel getaway, check out our visit to Arizona here!

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