When you think Nashville, you probably think about country music - it is, after all, called Music City and is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand 'Ol Opry, Ryman Auditorium, and countless honkey tonks filled with hopeful musicians trying to get noticed. What you may not be aware of, however, is that this charming music-filled city is constantly being invaded by a more sinister group: the Bachelorette Party. In fact, my first visit to this amazing town, which is located all of 6 or so hours from where I grew up, was for one such celebration, and it became a game to count how many other bachelorettes we were eating or celebrating with at any one location. There's of course many reasons to choose Nashville as your bachelorette destination: reasonable flights from most of the country (getting there from the west coast was NOT so easy, fyi), incredibly reasonable prices once you're in town ($3 beers!), and lots and lots to do. I will go ahead and pre-warn you, this post is not going to be filled with all of the amazing music history you can dig into here, as we were there to celebrate a friend, and that meant more shopping and eating than anything else really. :)
So, to orientate yourself with Nashville, it all pretty much begins and ends in the fairly compact downtown - in fact about 6 blocks along Broadway is just about the heart of this place. Seeing it later at night gives you a completely different perspective than seeing it during the day. I'll go as far as to say that had I only seen Broadway at 11pm (which was our introduciton to it), I might not have ever gone back - but more on that later. Just because the tourist heart of the city is right downtown doesn't mean that's all there is to Nashville, of course. There are lots of other cute neighborhoods, each with their own personality. You've got Music Row, which is mostly just music studios & one legendary live music spot, you've got the University area out by Vanderbilt and Butler, but between those and downtown you've got the Gulch and Mid-town. Finally, a bit more out of the way was the super cute and completely non-touristy area of 12 South (so, the southern part of 12th avenue). We experienced a bit of most of these areas thanks in large part to one of my favorite quirks of Nahsville: Joyrides. Some enterprising gentleman a few years back realized that because Nashville is so small, and so many folks could use some easy & cheap transportation between bars and honkey tonks, they could just use golf carts to take them around. Yes: Golf Carts. Our first day we used this hilariously amazing service to get all over town because, and this might be the best part, it's not fee-based! You just tip the driver what you feel is fair. These guys were SO lucky to get us on day one because we didn't realize just how reasonably priced everything in Nashville was, and therefore tipped VERY generously. The drivers were great fun though, and we never had to wait more than 5 or so minutes for them to arrive - and you get to ride around town in a golf cart! Such a funny little detail - keep your eye out for them! When it got a bit rainy, though they did have plastic covering for their carts, we actually swapped over to using Uber which was also pretty efficient and incredibly reasonable, fyi. Now, I ridiculously did not snap a pic of us in the carts, mostly because all my friends were and I assumed I'd get one of their pics, but alas- at this point you'll just have to take my word for it and find them when you're in town!
SO: back to the main part of town and the super interesting street of Broadway. This is the oldest part of town, and the street got its name because it had to be very wide in order for the different carriages to get to the river & be able to turn around easily. Nearly every building is historic, or at least the shell of it is. The interesting thing about this street is how hard its clinging to the past, while the present keeps trying to creep in. I say this because for every quaint, historic honkey tonk (which makes up the vast majority of businesses on the street), you've also got a spiffy new chain joint - like Margaritaville. There's plenty of neon at night, but you also still see the old painted ads on the sides of buildings. One side of Broadway boasts the charming Ryman Auditorium, the other has the Country Music Hall of Fame. Also surprising to us was the amount of rock music, rather than country, that was coming out of each honkey tonk - but that was late at night and the "nicer" establishments did have the traditional sound still. For example, we were directed, by several locals, to Roberts, one of the original honkey tonks that still features the old country sound, and we were THRILLED with our evening there. The band that night was belting out classics from Johnny Cash and even Elvis, and was worth every penney we put in their tip jar. The great thing about most of the joins in town is that you don't have to pay a cover to get in and hear the live music, they just ask that you tip the band. Genius. In any case- here are a handful of shots in & around Broadway both at night & in the daylight (when you can appreciate the history a bit more):
As I said though, Broadway is only part of Nashville (and I'm sure for the locals, a less-frequently-visited part). We took an awesome walking tour (with Echoes of Nashville) that showed us around a bit more, and gave some great historical tips. For example, Nashville is of course the state capital, so there was the lovely state house, but also made it important in all of the big political movements during the state's history. We got all sorts of cool information about the civil rights movement AND the women's suffragist movement - both of which had pivitol moments in Nashville. We also learned about the founders of the town & the importance of the river, and of course, a fair bit about the saloons & distillery tycoons - alcohol, and interestingly enough prohibition, have both been hot topics here in the past. Note that the Hard Rock Cafe is housed at the end of Broadway in an original saloon building - and a fancy little one since it was right by the river. Here are a few more shots of downtown & some of the non-music-related history for you:
Now - other than shopping (they've got everything from cowboy book emporiums to amazing vintage stores to adorable & EXPENSIVE boutiques), the main other thing we did was eat. The food here is GOOD, and we missed a ton on amazing spots. We did get to a few fun ones that I want to tell you about though: namely: Edley's. This is the bbq joint we were directed to by our walking tour guide (among others) and it was fantastic. That's what brought us to the 12 South district, and it was worth the trip over there, and the wait in line. Seriously - some of the best banana pudding I've ever had (the bbq was great too!). For a fun group dinner, we hit up Cabana (along with approximately 8 other b'lette parties) over in the University district, which gave us tasty treats like bacon-grit-balls, crab hush puppies, and fruity moonshine drinks, but also had more elevated fare. I had the duck, for example, and was pleasantly surprised. For a fun brunch our host had planned for us to hit the Drag'n Brunch at, and I quote: Suzy Wong's House of Yum. !! This was, of course, a drag queen brunch, and yes there were several other bachelorette parties, but I have to say - the food was a fantastic mix of traditional brunch options with an asian twist. Think Tempura Shrimp & Grits, Wasabi Deviled Eggs, or even Scrambled Egg Rolls (still sad I didn't get those!). Even if the drag show was a bit tamer (and certainly more country - lots of Reba & Shania) than I've seen in SF or Miami, it was tons of fun, and the food made it completely worth the trip across the highway (about 5-10 minutes from downtown). I would be remiss if I didn't include somewhere we went twice (in 2.5 days), right? WELL - let me tell you - I am a bit of an ice cream snob, but Mike's down on Broadway was AMAZING. Red Velvet Ice Cream!! YUM. I didn't adore my milkshake on day two (too thin for me), but everyone else's were to die for as well. Wait in the line - it's worth it. All in all, though we missed a lot of the "big ticket" items in Nashville like ACME Food & Seed and the Country Music Hall of Fame (which we did go into, but were just daunted by the size of it, unfortunately), I feel like I got an excellent first taste of town and cannot wait to get back to explore it more fully! There's a whole Johnny Cash museum for Pete's sake!! Just go- you'll have a great time!