While country music and southern charm make up a good part of Nashville’s DNA, the growth taking hold of Tennessee’s booming capital is attracting artists, developers and hospitality giants from around the country who are adding their worldly flavor to Nashville’s signature down-home style. Here's how to spend a perfect weekend in Nashville.
A two-day stint in the city is just the right amount of time to get a taste of Nashville’s past and its current evolution into a major metropolis. From standing-room-only honky-tonks to swanky rooftop cocktails, Music City wraps up the thrills of big city living in a southern-fried package that just might inspire a return visit.
In Nashville, the early birds get the biscuits. Luckily, the flaky perfection of Loveless Cafe’s iconic version is worth resisting the urge to press the snooze button – it’s also key for beating the reliably long weekend lines. After scoring a table at this landmark 1950s roadhouse cafe, queue up and order some of their famous country ham and biscuits served with sorghum molasses.
After fueling up, make your way downtown to the Ryman Auditorium, a church-turned-concert-hall that originally housed the Grand Ole Opry radio show. This is where Johnny Cash met June Carter and a teenage Elvis attempted to launch his career; it’s the stuff of music legend. Tours start at 9am, but you should purchase tickets a few days ahead of time to secure your spot.
Take a five-minute walk from the Ryman to the Johnny Cash Museum, which houses the most comprehensive collection of memorabilia and artifacts dedicated to ‘The Man in Black.’ The space isn’t overwhelmingly large, so you’ll have time to pop into the Patsy Cline Museum directly upstairs and explore the history behind one of country music’s legendary singers.
Continue another five minutes east to the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and take in the sweeping views of the Cumberland River. It’s also prime real estate for spectacular photo ops – no filter required.
Now that the breakfast biscuits have been walked off, top up the tank with a visit to Pinewood Social, a comfy hang located in the city’s former trolley barns. Inside, you’ll find plenty to keep your attention – from a bowling alley to a wading pool – alongside hearty salads, sandwiches and grain bowls.
Even if you’re not a country music fan, the Country Music Hall of Fame is definitely worth a few hours of your day. Kids can get crafty in the Taylor Swift Education Center while the adults marvel at Elvis' gold Cadillac and Hank Williams’ Western-cut suit. Don’t miss the Hatch Show Print – one of the oldest letterpress print shops in the U.S. – located next door to the museum. It’s been producing country music’s iconic posters for decades.
After working up a thirst, call up a rideshare and drive six minutes west to the Patterson House, an upscale speakeasy that plays host to some of Nashville’s finest cocktails. The chandeliers, cozy banquettes and dim lights might set an illicit mood, but the drinks here are all on the up and up.
One of the best ways to soak up your cocktails is with a heaping plate of fried chicken. And when you’re in Nashville, that means ordering it hot – and at Hattie B’s. There’ll likely be a line, but don’t let that deter you. The perfectly crisp, yet moist bird here is worth it. The 'shut the cluck up' option is practically nuclear.
Long after the sun has set, nearby Broadway continues to pulse with energy. It’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy of neon lights, pedal taverns and bachelorette parties stumbling their way through Taylor Swift lyrics, but you’ll want to dip into the strip’s more popular honky-tonks — like Robert’s Western World, Tootsie’s and Nudie’s – for a taste of Nashville’s live music scene.
While the biscuits at Loveless are a nod to Nashville’s past, the gourmet concoctions at Biscuit Love are a glimpse into the city’s future. This food-truck-turned-brick-and-mortar shop turns the doughy classic on its head with their irresistibly sweet 'bonuts' and monstrous biscuit sandwiches. The line gets busy quickly, so getting there early is a must.
From here, rent a Bird scooter and amble over to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall for a taste of the state’s history. Here you’ll find a 200-foot granite map of Tennessee, the Tennessee State Museum and direct views of the state’s capitol. The nearby Nashville Farmers Market is also an excellent way to check out the state’s local bounty.
Head about five miles south to the IG-famous 12South neighborhood for mural selfies and boutique shopping. White’s Mercantile, Savant, Imogene + Willie, and Draper James offer up a variety of locally made home goods, high-end clothing and eclectic accessories that make for perfect souvenirs.
While you’re in 12South, scout out the original location of Frothy Monkey, Nashville’s go-to coffee klatch. Power up with one of their caffeinated concoctions and rustic sandwiches, or for something heartier, swing into nearby Edley’s Bar-B-Que for their low-and-slow cooked meats.
Every Sunday at 6pm, Bluebird Cafe hosts its Sunday Spotlight, a free performance that puts up-and-coming bands and songwriters up on stage. While you might recognize it from the popular television series ‘Nashville,’ the Bluebird has hosted the likes of Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris and the Cowboy Junkies since 1982. There’s no cover charge, but you’ll want to reserve your seats online a week before the performance.
After the show, head over to the Bobby Hotel in downtown for dinner at Tavern at Bobby. A massive chandelier made of out of car parts and an acoustic guitar lounge will lead you into a polished den where chef Jeff Axline doles out inventive takes on New American cuisine. Of particular note, the fall-off-the-bone chicken wings on a bed of jalapeño creamed corn and the towering Bobby burger.
Just a few floors up from the Tavern you’ll find the Rooftop Lounge, where you can wind down the weekend with a nightcap inside a 1956 retrofitted Scenicruiser. Or, opt to book one of the cabanas overlooking the downtown action while enjoying a glass of the bar’s refreshingly tart limonada.