Nashville, Tennessee is the second largest producer of music in the U.S. after New York. The city lives and breathes the blues and rock ‘n roll jams alongside indie pop and folk at frequented coffee shops, bars, and burger joints. Appreciation for artistry permeates and the chatter of rising and hustling musical stars echoes like the acting culture in L.A. or real estate in New York.
Native Nashvillians are a welcoming bunch, proud of their city and lovers of music, often pursuing an instrument or expanding their vocal chords for some amateur fun.
We explored the many unique stomping grounds of “music city.”
12th Street South
This is the neighborhood we called home during our stay – a green, walkable (and joggable for the humid-immune natives) haven for young families with a main thoroughfare of boutiques, restaurants, and bars… and amazing peanut butter cookies from Sloco.
Lively and quaint, this neighborhood is also home to Sevier Park which holds a farmers market every Tuesday to the tunes of a live folk band.
For shopping check out Imogene + Willie, a cool textile shop which produces their own jeans and soft cotton tees, and White’s Mercantile, “a general store for the modern day tastemaker” with an array of attire from Hunker Bag Co. and Peg and Awl and goods for the home including olive oil from Brooklyn’s own Frankies 457. Cool down for lunch and coffee at the Frothy Monkey.
Industrial loft buildings have been converted into desirable condos and hip restaurants, cafés and storefronts.
The Red Bicycle, originally from Chapel Hill, is the coffeeshop in the hood to hole up with your Mac or hold a meeting over bean brew.
For dinner, we scoped out some greatly designed establishments which look tasty. Check out Rolf and Daughters or 5th & Taylor and let us know your experience in the comments section.
About five minutes from Germantown, this motor car manufacturer turned Chelsea Market for adults has two breweries, a distillery, and a winery onsite, along with several boutiques carrying locally made crafts and finds.
We stumbled upon this drinker’s haven around four o’clock and did a wine tasting at Tennessee’s own Grinder’s Switch followed by a spirit and beer tasting at Corsair, where we discovered three blend smoke and smooth quinoa based whiskeys, and craft beer made with Turkish coffee. You’re going to want to add a bottle of Corsair to your bar — we grabbed a bottle of our own Single Barrel Triple Smoke. Read more about our experience at the distillery here.
After your tastings, check out The Marathon Music Works concert venue next door.
Nashville’s Broadway is their answer to Las Vegas’ Fremont Street or New York City’s 42nd Street. It is blocks of bright lights with live music echoing into the streets, encouraging flocks of tourists to come in, buy a round or three, and put cash in the tip jar for the performing musicians. Bars/concert venues are decked out with guitars and albums on the walls, murals of country western heroes from a time gone by. Bachelorette parties, gaggles of older women and men, corporate troops and duos like myself and Andrew transiently hop from bar to bar.
It was a night of real life honky tonk, rock ‘n roll cover bands and young groups playing the oldies. Women wear cowboy boots with cut-off shorts and dresses. Men wear cowboy hats. The band members rock everything from simple denim to skinny tie ensembles.
What makes Broadway special and above the general tourist traps that many a city have, is that these are real musicians playing for what you put into the tip jar. It may not be your favorite song, but the musicians are good, really good, and they keep getting better as the night goes on.
Below are some highlights of who we listened to on our weeknight exploration of Nashville’s musical main street. Tip: It’s known to be very crowded on the weekends, so try to avoid Friday or Saturday nights on Broadway.
The Stage Blue Honey
Legends Corner Becki McLeod
The Wheel Nathan Belt & The Buckles
Hillsboro and the Parthenon
Home to Vanderbilt University, Hillsboro is green with parks and quads with 21st Ave South as the quaint collegiate thoroughfare for students and local residents alike with many cafes, bookstores, and boutiques to boot. Sip coffee at Fido and watch your favorite teams play at Double Dogs, or stray from the main street and head over to Dose.
Take a stroll through campus, perhaps in a slightly cooler season than summer, and head over to Centennial Park where the only replica of Athen’s Parthenon stands.
Afterward, beat the heat and head to Hillsboro Village’s indie cinema house, Belcourt Theater.
Occasionally dubbed East Nasty, this is the up-and-coming hood east of the Cumberland River. Reminiscent of the early years of transforming Williamsburg, it takes some effort to find the pockets of cool in these badlands.
People line up all morning on the weekends for brunch at Marché Artisan Foods, a restaurant dedicated to creating local and seasonal menus. A short walk uphill is an area called Five Points, which boasts an art gallery and marketplace with one store dedicated to artisanal oatmeal concoctions in mason jars.
Need coffee now? Skip the line and head to Barista Parlor. This giant warehouse space converted into a workspace and cafe has long wooden plank tables atop rust and mahogony colored concrete floors. The urban farmhouse decor and use of mixed medias create an inviting environment. A wall of garage doors leads to the outside patio area. The baristas brew from the center of the space in a reclaimed wood paneled sector with laboratory glasswares set up to enhance your brew, I presume. Try the semi-sweet mocha iced latte. Served in a glass shaped beer can, you can actually taste the bits of fresh dark cacao in your coffee and it is exquisite.
For lunch, stop over at The Silly Goose. Then for dessert, head to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream shop.
Enjoy your trip!
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