I have a feeling that some of you may be wondering what’s up with me lately (especially if you follow me on social media). Does this girl live on Cape Cod? Wait, now she’s in California? Hold on, I’m confused, Nashville?! Yeah, I guess I’ll explain now. As I’ve likely said on various social media platforms, I work as a sessional lobbyist in Connecticut. Their legislative session only occurs a few months out of the year; January – June in odd years and February – May in off years. That being said, I finished my time in Connecticut on June 30th, and will begin working there again at the start of the next legislative session. During my time off, I have decided to travel as much as possible. A few years ago, while in Greece for a few weeks, I vowed to myself that I would see more of the United States before I traveled anywhere else abroad. I have made it my goal to see all fifty states, and what better way to do that than with a road trip?!
A few months ago, my parents went on a little vacation to Nashville. My mom had a conference in the city for work, and my dad’s love for Kellie Pickler inspired him to tag along with her. While they were there, my dad constantly sent me videos and pictures and essay-texts about how much he loved it. From then on, it was all he talked about. If you were to meet him today, within five minutes, he would find a way to bring up his obsession with Nashville.
In an effort to see as much of the U.S. while I have time off from work, and an effort to somehow understand why my dad felt it was necessary to show every person he speaks to a video of his own rendition of Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy, I figured driving to Nashville to see what all the hype was about would be the perfect way to start.
* No road trip is complete without Willie Nelson and Cracker Barrel hash brown casserole.
My best friend Jayme and I left from New York on the first of August, and headed off to our first destination: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We were determined to cross off as many places on the map as possible while still making good time driving to Tennessee. In Philly, we met up with a friend of ours for breakfast, and explored the city until we felt like we had seen enough of it to consider ourselves official visitors of Philadelphia. Side note: even though this post is mainly about Tennessee, if you ever find yourself in Philly, I highly recommend the cookie dough stuffed french toast from Green Eggs Cafe. I don’t think I have ever finished a meal in my life, and I cleaned my plate.
Then, we continued on to good old Harrisonburg, Virginia where we stopped to sleep for the night after a long eight hours of driving. Bright and early the next morning, we quickly ate a shitty hotel breakfast and were ready to take on another seven hours in the car. Five hundred thirty seven miles, a trip to the world’s largest knife store, two free samples from the Russell Stover flagship store, and two moonshine purchases later, we finally made it to the destination we both were so excited to experience: Nashville, Tennessee.
Rather than outlining our entire trip for you guys — half because that’s boring and half because I’ll likely post a vlog about it on YouTube — I figured I would quickly go over the things I want to do (and eat) again when I return, the places I wish we had gone, and helpful things you would want to know if you are planning on traveling there (per request of a shocking amount of people)! Without further ado, let’s get into it:
What To Know About Nashville
Prior to actually visiting Tennessee, all I had known about Nashville was what my dad had told me and what I had heard in country songs. I knew that Broadway was where all of the bars and bands were, I knew that I was supposed to see a show at the Grand Ole Opry, and I knew that bachelorette parties rode around downtown on 10-seater bikes drinking and singing like idiots (I’m not judging them, I’m honestly jealous that I didn’t get to do it). However, there is SO much more to Nashville than just the bars on Broadway and the Johnny Cash museum. It is separated into twenty four neighborhoods, and they all have something unique to offer. Jayme and I only had enough time to explore a few of them, but we’re excited to see the rest when we return.
We stayed at an Air Bnb in East Nashville, which we both agreed was the absolute best move. Our Air Bnb was extremely affordable, and was roughly five miles from downtown. It felt as though it was in the middle of everything, and we never had to drive far to visit any of the typical tourist attractions. We felt that East Nashville had a younger vibe, and we could have stayed our whole vacation in that one neighborhood and had a good time.
Whenever I visit a city, I assume that driving/parking is going to be a huge hassle. In Nashville, we were pleasantly surprised to find that parking is not only accessible, but extremely cheap. Even in popular places like The Gulch, there were plenty of parking lots and we never paid more than $6 for up to five hours (aside from one night on Broadway). Some parking lots even offered the first hour free. The most we paid for parking was $16, and that was the aforementioned Broadway lot on a popular bar night – a price we only paid that one time. Compared to what I’m used to paying in Boston, it felt like nothing.
If you’re ever unsure of what to do in your free time while in Nashville, your best resource is going to be Nashville Guru. This website outlines everything you could possibly need to know about Nashville, separated by neighborhood. We used this website almost everyday, whether it was for an idea of where to have dinner or to find out which restaurants had the best happy hour that day.
What To Eat
This is the segment of this post that I’m the most pumped about, to be honest with you. I am definitely a low key foodie, even if I’m not a frequent member of the clean plate club. The best way to find the most unique and popular food is to go through Instagram. Some people prefer Yelp, but Instagram food accounts are always my go-to. (If you followed my trips to San Diego either a few weeks ago or last July, you better believe all of that bomb ass food came from Instagram suggestions).
Because of my experience with popular restaurants I find on Instagram, I’m not a stranger to a long wait. In California, people wait hours for the best brunch spots (and they’re usually worth it). This is the only restaurant we waited in line for in Nashville, but I’m chalking it up to the time and day we went. At noon on a Saturday, the line was about 45 minutes, but I promise you, the wait felt like nothing once we were eating our hot chicken sandwiches on classic Tennessee biscuits. Side note: hot chicken is the most well-known food in Nashville, and once you’ve tried it, chicken will never taste the same.
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Speaking of hot chicken, this is the best place to try it. Even though I’ve heard that you can’t go wrong no matter where you order it, it is a common consensus that Hattie B’s is the best. Through word of mouth, I heard that the chicken sandwich is what you’re supposed to order your first time, and it made sense to me to eat bread with something that I anticipated to be wicked spicy – let me tell you, I was not disappointed. We went around 11 o’clock on a Thursday and only waited in a short line, but by the time we left, the line was out the door and around the corner.
The Juice Bar
While walking around The Gulch, we stumbled on a trendy little smoothie bar with THE best peanut butter and jelly smoothie I have ever had in my life. I’m not typically someone who gets really into the whole organic juice thing, I don’t usually care for smoothies, but damn this one was bomb. I ended up going back a second time, that’s how good it was. If you’re in the area, I highly suggest checking it out. They also have acai bowls for my homies who love those, too.
One word: kolaches. Okay, fine, I guess I’ll add more words, since you’re probably wondering what the hell a kolache is. Honestly, I don’t know any other way to describe it than simply “so good.” It’s a small pastry with various fillings. I tried the jalapeno sausage and cheddar, which was like a hot pocket on steroids. I also tried their special of the day, which was nutella orange cream cheese – and if you know me, you know that I love the chocolate orange combination, so of course I thought it was good.
The Soda Parlor
This place reminded me of Tennessee’s version of NYC’s Black Tap milkshakes. It also doubles as a free arcade. The employees are super nice and very interactive, and the place was so cute. We would definitely go back!
Three Brothers Coffee
This was something I had heard of prior to visiting Nashville, for an admittedly superficial reason – the cool ass wall outside. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw my post from my attempt at trying coffee (spoiler alert: it didn’t go very well). For you coffee drinkers out there (and trendy photo takers), this is the place for you.
Five Daughters Bakery
You caught me, another Instagram-worthy spot. This bakery has two locations, one in East Nashville and one in 12 South. I visited the one in East, and ordered the salted chocolate donut. Their donuts have both a filling and a frosting, and are a sort of flaky texture. If you don’t like donuts, they have other options as well.
Jayme and I went here twice because we liked it that much. She opted for the hot chicken (four times total over the course of our trip), and I ordered pulled pork. Barbecue in Nashville was just as good as we expected it to be. You place your order at the counter and they bring it to you, which we were thankful for because both times we ate there we were starving.
* I have also heard that Mission BBQ and Martin’s BBQ are just as good, but we didn’t get to try them.
Kernel’s Gourmet Popcorn
I don’t know about you guys, but I am a flavored popcorn snob. I realize that this is a weird way to classify myself, but that’s beside the point. I love flavored popcorn, but you can never find any in stores. When we passed this popcorn shop, we both agreed that we needed to pull an emergency U-turn to check it out, and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found. It was owned by three sisters, who apparently were popcorn snobs like me.
This was a burger joint, with burgers literally as big as my head (see below). Their menu had every possible burger you could think of, and they also had a cute beer garden outside. If you arrive and they look closed, they’re not – they just have blackout curtains in the windows. Jayme and I both agreed that this was bad for business, considering it almost made us leave, but thankfully their food made us forget all about that weird first impression.
Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
This was located in 12 South, right next to Reese Witherspoon’s store Draper James. I had seen pictures of these ATMs before, but I had never seen one in person until Nashville. If you’re not into buying a cupcake from a machine, I get that – you can also go inside their store.
What To Do
What I Did
Grand Ole Opry – a famous theatre where everyone from Rascal Flatts (who my parents saw) to the artists of Toy Story’s Woodie’s Round-up (who we saw) has played. My dad
raved is still raving about the show he saw there to this day. You won’t be expecting this, but the venue is basically located in a mall.
12 South – this is one of the neighborhoods in Nashville that we liked the most. This is home to the Sprinkles ATM, another Edley’s Bar-B-Que, the iconic blue and white striped wall at Draper James, a mini “I Believe in Nashville” sign, Jeni’s ice cream (they have ice cream flights – it’s important), Frothy Monkey (a famous coffee shop), and tons of cute stores.
Electric Hand Tattoo – just in case you’re feeling spontaneous… (quick shoutout to Matt Wolf on behalf of Jayme and me for our tattoos, thank you again!) I’ve also heard that Black 13 Tattoo does an amazing job as well.
Broadway – as I mentioned before, this is the street where everything happens. Live bands are always playing in every bar, you can’t go wrong with where you choose.
Tootise’s Orchid Lounge – my dad’s absolute favorite place in Nashville; another bar on Broadway.
John Seigenthaler Bridge – a great view of the city.
So. Many. Murals. – Jayme literally themed her Instagram this past week based on all of the interesting walls in Nashville. To see all of them, check out her photos here. To see the photos I posted, my Instagram and VSCO are both linked here. Most of these walls (including the famous wings that everyone and their mother poses in front of in Nashville) are located in The Gulch.
* If you would like specific addresses to each wall, contact me directly either by commenting below, direct messaging me on Instagram, or e-mailing me.
We spent the rest of our time exploring the city, walking around, and listening to live bands on Broadway.
What I’ll Do Next Time
The Country Music Hall of Fame
Johnny Cash Museum
Pinewood Social – this is one of the things I found either from watching YouTuber’s vlogs about Nashville or browsing on Instagram, I can’t remember, but it definitely looked like fun. It’s a mix between a restaurant, a pool lounge, and a bowling alley. You’ll have to check it out for yourself to see what I mean.
Tour the Ryman Auditorium
Jack Daniel’s Distillery – this is about an hour and a half away, but somehow everyone still associates touring the whiskey distillery as a part of what Nashville has to offer.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – again, a sort of long drive from Nashville, but a very cool spot to see if you are interested. This church has been open since 1827, and has never closed its doors once. Literally.
Pedal Tavern – this is the official name for the boozy bike rides I mentioned earlier. It’s bring your own booze, and $38 for the ride; a little pricy, but I will admit that everyone I saw looked like they were having the time of their life.
ACME Feed and Seed – a bar at the corner of Broadway.
And that’s it for my little guide to Nashville! Thank you guys so much for reading – I hope that you found this post helpful (and that you eat some hot chicken in Nashville)! Stay tuned for my YouTube video for more road trip/Tennessee info.
If you would like to read more travel tips or trip reviews, let me know! Also, if you would like me to write a longer review of anything you read in this post, I would be happy to do so. Please click the Contact & Follow tab to reach me.