“Where are we most likely to spot Taylor Swift? Seriously, we want to see Taylor Swift. Have you heard her new album? Is she saying ‘got a long list of ex-lovers or Starbucks lovers’? What’s your opinion about this? You know it’s her birthday tonight right?”
It was our second night in Nashville and our fedora-donned Uber driver wanted to murder us. A look of horror creeped across his face as he mumbled something about “agreeing with everything we said” and the speed of the car increased two-fold. He had a man-bun, lots of facial hair and was sporting the blazer with jeans look. His disdain for our love of Taylor Swift (Ew BASIC!) was coupled with his apparent dislike for young, chirpy college girls and only intensified by us peppering him with touristy questions about Nashville. This, I thought to myself, is Nashville in a nutshell. We had two distinct impressions of Music City – one being the young hipsters, trying their hand at a folk music career, morphing old warehouses into breweries. The other was the tourist-attracting, pop/country music producing mainstream crowd, handing out tequila shots at Betty Boots on Broadway. (For the record, Taylor is saying “long list of ex-lovers” in “Blank Space”…not even sure what a “Starbucks lover” would entail…).
Nestled along the Cumberland River, in central Tennessee, Nashville has morphed into a destination for travelers of all kinds. It paradoxically combines tourists with locals, old plantation money with new endeavors, and pop music like Taylor Swift with lone guitarists wistfully strumming a guitar on the sidewalks of Broadway Street. It has all the makings of a travel hotspot – East Nashville is young, fresh and full of promising bars and restaurants. Broadway Street has the neon lights and boisterous, drunken atmosphere of Bourbon Street without the sleaziness. We visited Nashville for the honkey-tonks, country music, and a place to ease some post-finals nerves. We got that, plus so much more. In addition to the wild spirit of Broadway Street, the city of Nashville is chic, pleasant, and could not have been more welcoming to four overstressed college students.
Nashville has gained attention for it’s up and coming restaurant and bar scene. We were lucky enough to stay in an AirBnb* in East Nashville with a lovely couple, Roland and Shane, who gave us some fantastic suggestions of where to eat and drink, combined with some of our own research.
(1) The Patterson House: Dimly lit, book-lined walls 1920’s speakeasy… Enough said. Cocktails were pricey but the perfect way to start off the weekend. Bartenders and waiters had man-buns, sleeve tattoos, and handlebar mustaches. Our first inkling that Nashville is a hipster’s paradise.
(2) The Nashville Biscuit House: It looks like a total dive but who cares when the biscuits are that good. Also a perfect hangover cure. There’s a drive-through window for taking your biscuits back to bed.
(3) Jeni’s Splendid Ice: On our last night in Nashville, we stumbled upon Jeni’s Splendid Ice, an ice cream parlor in the heart of East Nashville. Flavors like lemon buttermilk, sweet potato with toasted marshmallow, goat cheese with red cherries, and dark chocolate peppermint make it a local favorite. They also let you sample as many flavors as you want.
(4) Johnny Cash Museum: Well worth it for any fans of the Man in Black. Right off of Broadway St, the Johnny Cash Museum displays all the best of Johnny Cash’s music and life. Listen to his music through the decades and learn about his philanthropic causes (it was prison reform).
(3) Bar hopping on Broadway Street: After the Grand Ole Opry, we decided to bar hop along Broadway Street. We popped into bar after bar all of which were blaring oldies like Johnny Cash and newer artists like Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton, and Miranda Lambert. People are friendly in Nashville, both tourists and locals alike (aside from our pretentious Uber driver). College students from across the Southeast flock to Nashville and the bars are lively on any night of the week.
Here are some things not to miss in Nashville:
(1) Bell Meade Plantation: Located about 15 minutes west of Nashville, Bell Meade Plantation is the perfect historical sight to drag your terribly hungover friends to after a night on Broadway Street. Enjoy a guided tour through the mansion as those friends fan themselves in the back of the crowd. Browse through the gift shop as they gather quarters for water bottles and Advil. Make them take pictures with the historically accurately dressed tour guide (full-on Antebellum style dresses!). :) Good times.
(2) Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman: We caught a show at the Ryman Auditorium at the Grand Ole Opry (standing room only tickets, obviously because we have no money) and it was fantastic. Carrie Underwood, Emmylou Harris, Craig Morgan and others played to a crowded theater right in the heart of Nashville.
*We did this trip using AirBnb, which is a home rental service that operates in more than 190 countries. We were lucky enough to be able to stay with a wonderful couple, Roland and Shane, who rented their upstairs loft bedroom to us for the weekend. AirBnb fosters a sense of community between travelers and hosts and makes traveling more personal – instead of staying 3 nights in a hotel room, we got to actually stay in someone’s home. Sounds like it could be creepy, but it’s not. :)