A wise man once told me “if you’re not invited, invite yourself.” That man was my father. So I took his advice and invited myself along on my parent’s short getaway to Nashville a few weeks ago. While Nashville has been touted as the latest city for bachelorette parties, there are also a ton of really cool things to do if you’re big into the country music scene. As someone who has no interest in country music and even less interest in being taunted by girls wearing “bride-to-be” sashes, I weirdly could not have been more excited to check this city out. Plane ticket booked. Pull-out sofa bed reserved.
Our first evening was spent at The Grand Ole Opry. It sounded familiar, like it was a place I should know, and I assumed it was just a famous concert venue. While it is the the name of the venue, which looks like a cross between a super church and a rustic ski lodge, it is also the name of the weekly country music “barn dance” that is broadcast live on the radio from there. It was a variety show that was way more entertaining than I had expected it to be. I found it hilarious that the Opry square dancers were part of the show (who doesn’t love listening to people square dance on the radio?) and the announcer read radio commercials out loud in between acts in one of those perfect, made-for-radio, voices. I loved the music of one of the acts, Jackie Lee, who was not Asian, not a woman, and definitely not making me cry by the lyrics of his song “Getting Over You.” (Two truths and a lie…) Wait, do I like country music now?
Hot tip: do not stay near the Grand Ole Opry like we did. Downtown Nashville is about a half hour from there and that’s where all the action is. Unless you’re visiting Nashville and want to stay in a ginormous Vegas-style resort, and in that case, the Gaylord Opryland Resort is beautiful. If you’re visiting the Opry, it’s worth stopping in to see the place which is like it’s own indoor city filled with bridges, motes, and waterfalls. And if you go next year, please tell me how the giant indoor waterpark they are building is, because it looks SO cool!
I was most excited to visit Nashville to check out the food scene. Due to us staying out in the boondocks we wasted our BBQ experience on Mission BBQ which was just sub-par. I’ve had better BBQ in LA. I can’t speak to these other places because we unfortunately didn’t go, but Pegleg Porker and Martin’s BBQ Joint were the two spots that were recommended to us. If you go, pour one (shot of BBQ sauce) out for me. We also did not partake in Nashville’s famous hot chicken (Prince’s Hot Chicken is supposedly the best) given I was traveling with a health nut who shuns fried food and two spice-averse palates.
We did have two fabulous dinners however and both places I would highly recommend. Rolf & Daughters was located in an industrial-looking building in a part of town called Germantown. I’ve never seen a menu like this one before; God bless the waitress who played 20 questions with us in regards to all the unknown words.
Nothing disappointed but the standout was shockingly the “cylindra beet, peanut, salsa macha, yogurt” dish. Who knew beets could be that exciting? Also, the sauce on the “pastured chicken, preserved lemon, garlic confit” I could literally soak a pound of bread in and still keep going.
The second restaurant we loved was called The Chef & I which is in the Gulch (The trendy area where all the cool kids live. Rumor has it AKA my Uber driver told me T-Swift has a place there.) Everyone sits around the open kitchen which is always a fun addition to a dining experience. The cool thing about this place was that you could order à la carte or order the chef’s tasting menu and choose between 3,5, or 7 courses. Normally we’re all about that tasting menu, but the options on the regular dinner menu seemed so appealing, we wanted to give those a try. The menu changes often, but if the peach and burrata salad is on there, that’s a definite must!
For our morning meals, we visited a place called Biscuit Love in the Gulch and Sky Blue Cafe in East Nashville. Be prepared for a wait at both but if you’re open to it, check ’em out. Biscuit Love is definitely a scene with a line wrapping around the corner filled with those aforementioned sash-wearing brides and their posses. But, the biscuits were fluffy and delicious, as expected. Sky Blue Cafe was in an area that had a hipster, Silverlake-a-few-years-ago vibe, on a street corner with not much else around it. The portions were huge and I thoroughly enjoyed my Tuscan 2.0 — an egg, french bread, pesto, and loads of cheese situation — that literally left me full until dinner that night.
There’s no Nashville without music and everything else we did supported that. We visited the The Country Music Museum — lot’s of costumes, artifacts, blah, blah, I was a bit bored but again, that’s because I didn’t know or care much about the great country music stars of the past. Similarly, we did the self-guided tour of the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. It’s a beautiful building, the seating is in the church-style pews in a round (because it actually was a religious tabernacle at one point), but asides for the cute little intro video, the exhibit didn’t really hold my interest for too long.
However, the other two tours we took, that included guides, were way more interesting. It’s much easier to listen to someone speak than have to read it all yourself (ugh, what a task reading is!). On our last day we did a walking tour aptly named “Walkin’ Nashville” and we saw some parts of town that we had not found on our own, like the Woolworth on 5th, the site of some of the most important lunch counter sit-ins during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement in Nashville, and Printer’s Alley, the once famous entertainment-filled part of town. The tour guide Bill is a super cool dude who amongst other things, was a music journalist for years and had some fun stories about meeting many of the greats. I swear one woman shit herself in excitement when Bill talked about interviewing Dolly Parton.
The other tour I enjoyed was of Historic RCA Studio B, one of the first recording studios famous for creating the Nashville sound. The tour guide rambled off an impressively long list of all the artists who had recorded there but most notably, he talked about Elvis. Did you know Elvis didn’t even write any of his own songs? Call me unimpressed. But, Dolly Parton on the other hand, wrote “I Will Always Love You” and after telling Elvis he couldn’t have it, years later, she allowed Whitney Houston the rights to sing it. And those are the two Jeopardy facts I retained from this tour. Also, don’t make our mistake and show up at Studio B for the tour. It starts 2 miles away (which we walked in the 90 degree heat because we’re apparently masochists) at The Country Music Museum. Also if you do walk, beware of the many Woo Girls and their Nashville pedal bars.
The most well-known street in Nashville that you must check out is Broadway.
This is where the party’s at; it’s just one honky-tonk bar after another. It’s pretty great that every single bar has live music at all hours of the day, and that’s what makes this area so unique. I did not see as much boot-stompin, line dancin’, honky-tonkin’ as the Nashville episode of Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None” had me hoping for, but then again, I went to all these bars in the middle of the day. My favorite one we visited was Acme Feed & Seed because each floor was its own unique atmosphere. Check out the rooftop and if he’s there, say hi to the bouncer my dad spent a half hour chatting with about what, I’ll never know.
We ordered food downstairs to bring up to the roof. (Yes, I ate a falafel and tzatziki sandwich at a bar in Nashville and I liked it!) There is also a sushi restaurant on one of the floors (again unexpected) which looked pretty legit.
I enjoyed the visit and I think a long weekend in Nashville is the perfect amount of time. This city is great for all but music lovers, beer guzzlers, and party animals will definitely appreciate it the most!