One time in Nashville I handed a street hot dog vendor a $20 and said “give me as many hot dogs as this will buy me.” She was unsurprised by that request. I love Nashville because it’s the kind of place where you can order half a dozen hot dogs and everyone lets you be yourself.
Many a friend have asked for my NashVegas recommendations and at this point, I feel I’ve fine-tuned my recommendations for Smashville, mentally placing things into three categories:
- Do this every time you’re there
- Do this at least once
- Don’t waste your time
Now that I’ve been back a few times, I feel qualified to give these recommendations. Nashville is solidly set as one of my personal favorite US cities. Everyone is in a great mood all the time, the weather is usually good, and everyone is extraordinarily talented musically — what’s not to love!? Even if you don’t like country music, being “in it” there is fun (I assume, I like country music so I can’t be sure). But even in the best cities you want to maximize your time doing the best of the best stuff for maximum fun. Here is that list…
Every Time You Visit Nashville
Day Drink & Bar Hop on Broadway. I recommend starting at The Stage or Honkey Tonk. These are the touristy spots, but it’s irresistibly fun and the musical talent is incredible. Work your way down Broadway on foot in that direction until you get to ACME – then cross the street and start all over again working backward! You could also go to Nashville and only bar hop like this and still have a satisfying experience. Consider ACME and Tootsies your boundary markers for bar hopping on Broadway and try not to venture too far down side streets if you want to stay in the action.
If you’re drinking at odd hours, I recommend going to Tootsies, where country music stars tend to show up and play sets as a kind of “giving back” experience, I’m told. During two out of three of my personal visits to NashVegas, Keith Urban and George Strait played sets – those are big names, especially for an unexpected free concert. We actually got to see George Strait (it was basically a private concert with my family and a few others) – it was amazing! I missed Keith Urban, unfortunately. Nobody told me about him until the next day and I don’t talk to those people anymore.
Eat at Acme. The food at ACME is so good it brings tears to my eyes. The shared tables and excellent music is what Nashville is all about – country music and teamwork. ACME is great for variety since, in my experience, they’re not strictly a country music bar (though there’s just as much musical talent!). Be sure to eat lunch or dinner here (and maybe breakfast, not sure what their hours are) for a great meal with amazing music.
See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry. The hype about the Grand Ole Opry is humongous if you’re a fan of country music radio. Still, the concert I went to was better than anything I could have imagined. While Little Big Town headlined, I didn’t know anybody else but every performance was stunning. This concert is where I heard Cam for the first time, live! I’ve been a fan ever since. There was a ton of variety in the acts and I would love to go back for another, very special experience in the future. Worth the expense at least once (but everytime if you can afford it!)! Keep in mind the Grand Ole Opry is wayyyy across town, so budget 20-30 minutes for the trip over from Broadway.
Do These Nashville Activities At Least Once
Visit the Walking Bridge. Make sure to do a pass on the walking bridge to take a picture with the Nashville skyline in the background. It’s a great view of the city and a nice area for a walk. Don’t go twice though. It’s just a bridge people. The featured image from this blog post was taken on the walking bridge!
Touring Jack Daniels Distillery. I’ve been on about 300 wine tours in my life (that is a gross exaggeration it’s more like 20) but had never been to a distillery tour until Jack Daniels and it was. so. cool. About an hour’s drive from downtown, make sure you look up the appropriate schedule since only a few time slots per day can schedule tastings as a part of the tour. Seeing the process and learning the history of Jack Daniels (and why it’s located where it is!) is SO interesting and gave me a new appreciation for Tennessee Whiskey. It is 100% worth a trip even if you’re not big on whiskey. I am not a whiskey drinker, I didn’t do the tasting, and it was still 100% worth it.
(Psst – While you’re in the area visit Barrel House BBQ a short drive away. It’s located in a dry county so you can’t drink there FYI, but it’s a great place with excellent food! It also accommodated gluten free surprisingly well for my mother who has celiac.
Taking a Ride on Pedal Tavern. You may have seen these “pedal taverns” which are cropping up all over the US in Austin, Baltimore, even in Arlington, Virginia where I live and see no point in it being. I’m not sure of this but I believe Nashville is where it all started. What makes the Nashville’s version cooler is that you can drink while on the mobile bar! (This is not true everywhere, in many towns you pedal from bar to bar, then drink at each). There are so many tourists in Nashville, especially on Broadway, that people are excited to see you and approve of your being drunk psychos. If you’re going to do this anywhere – do it in Nashville!
Touring Ryman Auditorium. The original location of the Grand Ole Opry, this quick and informative tour is a great way to get a little history without leaving the main downtown area. Plus, it’s mildly interesting to see where country music really took off and the stain glass windows make it feel like you’re in a really special place.
Don’t Bother with These Nashvilley Things
Visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame. I’m sorry, it needed to be said. Everyone else will tell you “You can’t go to Nashville without going to the Country Music Hall of Fame!! 🙂 ;)” But I’m here to tell you, these people are not your friend. Sure it’s well done but at the end of the day it’s just a museum. It’s kinda boring. And your time in Nashville is sacred.
Rock Bottom Brewery. At probably the best location in the city – right at the center of the hot spot on Broadway, many tourists stop at Rock Bottom for some brews and some noms. It couldn’t be more “eh.” I have never been a huge fan of Rock Bottom beer, full disclosure, but this dis-recommendation is more about the atmosphere. I’ve been in there a few times when they didn’t have live music playing on the rooftop patio, and while I’m sure they have it sometimes, the whole point of Nashville is that you can see amazing live music everywhere, for free, ALL THE TIME. Do me a favor and go to one of the other 800 bars that has amazing talent singing and playing 24/7.
Like a chain restaurant, they always tell you to register to get “points” for something. No, I don’t want you to have my email, Rock Bottom Brewery. It didn’t help that I found the waiter creepy and then he was my waiter AGAIN several months later.
Redeemable quality: You can get liter beers there and sit on a patio, which is a plus, but at what cost! If you really want to visit Rock Bottom, go to Denver where they opened their first brewery for an authentic experience, that’s my piece.
Did I really eat six hot dogs?
Short answer: No and and I’m still kind of pissed about it.
The group I was with made the EGREGIOUS assumption that I was buying a round of ‘dogs for the group, as one does. The vendor handed my ‘dogs directly to the people I was with. I knew everyone would think I was a selfish fatty if I said “I wasn’t buying them for everybody else I was literally buying all six for myself” so I kept quiet. I wish I hadn’t been so passive. Learn from my mistakes. If you order six hot dogs for yourself, don’t be afraid to be who you are and tell everyone else to get their fingers off of your dogs.
Hot Mess Tips for NashVegas
You already know you can get 6 hotdogs for $20. Here’s everything else…
Bring lots of $1s! No, not for that, but I see you 😉 There aren’t covers to get into bars in Nashville, but it is expected that you will tip the talent. A few dollars is more than worth it for the otherwise free concerts – most of these people basically work off of tips (and frankly, earn them!) so bring $1s so that you don’t need to give $10s or $20s. Band members will walk around and ask.
The entire downtown area is walkable (this includes the 2nd & Broadway bars, the walking bridge, the pedal tavern, ACME, and the boring Country Music Hall of Fame if you insist on going) so it’s easy to spend an entire day bar hopping and checking out the scene. Grand Ole Opry is across town (can’t walk) and Jack Daniels Distillery Tour is an hour’s drive. I recommend staying in the area close to Broadway.
Book tickets for things such as the Jack Daniels Distillery Tour (with a tasting!), the Grand Ole Opry, and especially the Pedal Tavern in advance.
There are about a zillion bachelorette parties in Nashville on any given weekend – which can be really fun don’t get me wrong! This is more of a caution. They’re crazy.
All the cool kids call it Smashville or NashVegas, if you’re a bro like me.
People in Nashville don’t actually wear cowboy boots. By all means wear them but everyone will know you’re a tourist. Also don’t buy cowboy boots on Broadway, they are way overpriced.
Country music stars in Nashville are around but you need to BE COOL if you see artists. It’s a more casual place and it’s not like L.A. where people run up to them for autographs. You’re in their home basically show some respect!