Nashville Travel Ideas
Tootsie's Orchid Lounge
Hot Diggity Dogs
From Someone Who Actually Lives Here
How many times have you researched a travel destination on the web or in a travel guide you bought at a bookstore, only to find out when you book your hotel that you're 20 miles from all of the sights you want to see? Or that the restaurant that was suggested is no longer in business? Or that certain areas are simply not safe at night?
I'm here to tell you that it's all happened to me, and since I now live in Nashville and have been here for a few years now, I'm going to share some travel tips with you if you're planning a trek to Music City.
It's not a good idea to stay near the airport. Our airport is about ten miles from downtown, and while you do pretty much need to rent a car here to get around, it's still a pain to have to drive back to the airport area every day and night after exploring the city. The same goes for areas like Brentwood and Cool Springs. These areas are better for business travelers who will be doing business in Brentwood and Franklin. Also, you will see various hotels north of downtown that are very cheap. They are cheap because you will not feel safe there. I said it, and I don't care because it's true. If downtown hotels like the Renaissance and the Sheraton are out of your price range, try the Best Western Music Row or any number of hotels near Vanderbilt University. The college campus is on the outskirts of downtown and short drive, cab ride, or even walk to certain sightseeing destinations.
Here are some of my favorite places for different palates or price ranges:
Jack's Bar-B-Que--This institution is downtown in the "honky tonk" district. You can eat some of the city's best barbecue here and then go have a beer at Tootsie's. And trust me, if you have to wait, it's worth it. This is probably the best barbecue I have ever had.
Hot Diggity Dogs--It's open for lunch six days a week, and the hot dogs (they even have vegetarian ones for those of you who don't eat meat) are phenomenal. They have different toppings...for instance, the Chicago dog has pickles, onions, relish, mustard and tomato and the Nashville has cole slaw, mustard and onions. And their fries are hand cut and made to order. Get the fries, because they are also incredible. Just don't get your cholesterol checked after this lunch.
Demo's Steak & Spaghetti House--There is one downtown, and a few others on the outskirts of town. But the food is incredible, in particular the bacon wrapped beef filet. This place won't break your bank either.
Rippy's--I'm not sure why this place isn't listed anywhere, but it's not and you won't know about it unless you go there. Also right in the heart of honky tonk row and across from the Gaylord Entertainment Center, Rippy's has dry rub ribs that rival the kind you'll get in Memphis.
Germantown Cafe--This is where you want to go for a nice, romantic dinner. It's just north of town in a re-vitalized area, and it might be my favorite restaurant in the city. Everything on the menu is amazing and the prices are very reasonable for what you get.
Tin Angel--Another unpretentious restaurant that is semi-casual and a great place for a nice date. The food is always great and they have a special called the "angel wing of the day" which is a quesadilla. Oh, and their fried green tomatoes are mind-blowing.
Mirror--This tapas bar is in the 12 South area, which is a hip and interesting part of town just south of downtown. Get the blue cheese polenta fries...but again, don't have your blood checked afterward.
Pancake Pantry--You will read about this institution everywhere and everything they say is true. You will wait in line. You may spot celebrities. You will eat some of the best breakfast food of your life.
Corrieri's Formaggeria--A good place in the 12 South area to grab a sandwich, or if you're going low-carb, a hunk of cheese. They will give you samples of any cheese, too.
3. Other sights to see
Broadway honky tonks--You just have to see the places where folks like Willie Nelson were discovered, like Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. And even if you're not a musician, check out Gruhn Guitars and Ernest Tubbs Record Shop.
Nash-Trash Tours--The Jugg sisters "celebrity sighting" tour of Nashville is a bit pricey but it's the most fun you will have in town, and a must for first timers. But you have to book way in advance, so call them about a month before you arrive to book it. And bringing alcohol is strongly encouraged.
Jack Daniels Distillery--It's about an hour and a half away, but worth the drive. They don't serve the stuff there (believe it or not, the county is dry), but you can buy some to take home.
Opryland Hotel--This enormous structure that houses the Grand Ole Opry now also has a huge hotel and convention center that is a must-see. There are restaurants, shops and gardens that are all inside and walkable.
4. Live Music
Let's face it, you probably didn't come to Nashville to eat barbecue. Here is some info on clubs to see live music...
The Station Inn--Open every day of the week, The Station Inn is one of the best venues for live music in the city, and you'll normally see some incredible bluegrass players. Sunday night is jam night. And they have great bar pizza.
The Basement--located just south of town on 8th Avenue, this is a really cool venue where you will see great local and touring bands of all genres.
The Bluebird Cafe--It's an institution a bit southwest of downtown in Greene Hills that features some of the city's best songwriters every night. Everyone will tell you that you have to go there, and you really should experience it for the talent alone. But be warned--this place is extremely pretentious. The food is good but takes time, the workers will shush you constantly and you had better have a reservation because if you don't you will be made to feel like a second-class citizen.
Grand Ole Opry--Though the Opry is at the newer Opry House east of town, the historic Ryman Auditiorium downtown is still the best place to see this show that features some of the greatest legends of country music. The Ryman still hosts the Opry in January and February.
Honky Tonks and Karaoke--You have to wander in to places like Tootsie's, Rippy's, or even Lonnie's Karaoke Bar in Printer's Alley to fully experience Nashville. You might see the next LeeAnn Rimes or George Strait if you're lucky.
So there you have it.....I hope these ideas are useful to you if you're coming to Nashville for the first time, or if you come here often and have not experienced everything yet.