Earlier this month, my sister and I flew down to Nashville for a long weekend to celebrate our 30th and 40th birthdays. I’d been to Nashville once before for a blip; we wandered to a countryside winery, saw Rascal Flatts perform three whole songs at the Grade Ole Opry after sitting through several questionable acts, and had the most fun night out on Broadway afterward.
I wasn’t there for long, but I remembered it fondly. So when my sister and I were discussing places we could go for our sister’s trip (we went to Traverse City last year), Nashville won the race; my sister had always wanted to go there, but the closest she ever got was driving through it on the way to her husband’s childhood hometown of Lebanon (not nearly as fun as Nashville, and she’ll never let him forget it, either).
night #1: live country music at the whiskey bent saloon
We flew in on Thursday, and we had booked an Airbnb for the duration of our stay. Unfortunately, there was mold growing on the walls around the air conditioning unit, and it was clear that there had been some flooding in that room as well because the floor was warped and buckling. Needless to say, we did not end up staying there, and my sister’s first foray into Airbnbing was not a success. We ended up staying at the Sheraton Music City instead, which was a little more expensive and a little further from downtown Nashville, but hey, it was clean and sans mold, so no complaints here.
Our first night Nashville, we grabbed some barbecue grub at Rippy’s on Broadway, then we popped in and out of different bars along Music Row until we came upon Whiskey Bent Saloon. It was in between acts and there were some really drunk creepos in there, but Jess and I had this unshakeable feeling that the next band was going to be awesome. And we were RIGHT: Jesse Cain and his band were phenomenal. His fiddle player was insane (those fingers were a blur when he riffed to “Devil Went Down to Georgia”), and Jesse’s voice was deep and smooth (it reminded me a bit of Easton Corbin and another artist I couldn’t quite identify; I’ve been out of the country game for too long). We stayed and listened to them play till about 2 a.m.; if you find yourself in Nashville and want to see a great cover band, check them out—you won’t be sorry.
day #1: shopping in the gulch & dancing at the stage
We spent much of the next day shopping. We had breakfast at Fido, which was freaking amazing. I got Pete’s breakfast with chorizo and it was spicy and flavorful and so delicious. I also bought a Bongo snickerdoodle to eat later, and it stayed soft and chewy for days. Jess had the Bachelor, a cinnamon raisin bagel slathered with almond butter, banana, local honey and cinnamon-sugar; she said it was heaven.
Afterward, we ventured into a store called Altar’d State, which was probably the cutest freaking store I’ve ever set foot in. Then we ventured to the Farmer’s Market; walked along the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park stone wall, which was full of Tennessee’s history; and zipped over to the Gulch, mostly to check out Reese Witherspoon’s store, Draper James, where they offer you sweet tea when you walk in the door—it doesn’t get any more adorably Southern than that, y’all! We capped off our day of shopping with appetizers and drinks at Sambuca (try their bruschetta!).
That night, we took the shuttle down from our hotel to Broadway. We popped into Rippy’s again, where a decent band was playing. Our original plan was to go to the legendary Tootsie’s, but people were packed in there like sardines and the band wasn’t to our taste; there was also a big line of people gathered outside, and a few large cameras, which apparently was because Miley Cyrus was having her album release party there that night (alas, we weren’t invited). Instead, we headed to the Stage’s second floor, where a pretty good band was playing songs that I actually knew (like I said, I’ve been out of the country game for a while), like old school Shania and Dixie Chicks and Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Backroad” at least three times. We danced and danced and danced and it was so much fun, even though our feet certainly protested the next day!
day 2: the country music hall of fame & live music at fgl house
On Saturday, we went to Blvd Nashville for breakfast. I’d read about them on a couple of blogs when I was doing my research, but I was honestly a little disappointed. It was super weird, for one, that they didn’t have any coffee. No coffee at a brunch place? Seriously? I don’t drink coffee, but even I was a little offended by that. We both had their amoretto French toast, which sounded a lot more…amoretto-y than it tasted. It was just decent French toast.
We spent a few hours that day at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is pretty cool. I would say it’s entirely reasonable to walk through the whole museum in fewer than three hours; I think it took us two and a half. The Shania Twain exhibit was pretty cool; they had a lot of her more famous outfits from concerts and music videos. There’s a whole wall devoted to Jason Aldean, which seemed a bit overkill, but apparently, he’s a kind of a big deal? But they had famous outfits worn by Dolly Parton and Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift, which caught my interest. There were also some interactive sound booths, where you could listen to different eras of country music. Oh, and let’s not forget Elvis’s car, which had a TV in the back, you guys. A TV. Which back then was a pretty big deal. Hence my repeating: A TV in the back.
We grabbed some lunch at Merchants on Broadway, had some duck-fat tater tots (seriously amazing, and believe me, we were dubious), and let me tell you, the people watching on Broadway cannot be beat. I mean it, endless entertainment. Nashville truly is the Vegas of the East. I’ve never seen so many bachelorette parties in such a concentrated amount of time in my life. They were everywhere.
After lunch, we bopped around to several different bars, all of which featuring music that didn’t quite tickle our fancy, until we decided to check out FGL House, which is Florida Georgia Line’s restaurant. First, it is HUGE. Second, it’s got a ton of character. Distressed wood everywhere, vintage signs on the wall, and on the second floor, a pretty decent-sized stage and an energetic-as-hell band called January Noise. They legit played for four hours without stopping. They played country, they played pop, they played rock ‘n’ roll. They played Keith Urban and Walk the Moon and Justin Timberlake, Queen and Michael Jackson and Green Day. SO MUCH FUN. When they were done playing, we ventured downstairs for a meal (specialty macaroni and cheese, yum!), where another fellow was playing some country hits on a stage down there.
day 3: city winery & dinner at bar taco
On Sunday morning, we were supposed to check out the Studio B Tour at the Country Music Hall of Fame (we’d booked it the previous day), but we slept in too late, breakfast took too long, and, oh yeah, our rental car was hit on the street, so we spent a while waiting to fill out a police report. Nashville drivers are crazy, y’all. So, needless to say, we missed the tour. We checked out City Winery instead, had a drink there, then after striking out in our attempts to do a few other things downtown, we went back to the hotel and just chilled by the pool for a while, before going to Bar Taco, which was hands down our best meal of the whole trip. Creative, street-style tacos, each of them unique and bursting with flavor. Oh, and their guac and tomatillo sauce was also to die for—the guac was so limey; I loved it. I was in taco heaven. I can only dream of the day when a Bar Taco opens in Michigan…or until the sis and I go back to Nashville, whichever comes first. 😉 It was the perfect way to end our awesome sister’s vacation. 🙂
On the “next time” list for Nashville:
- Studio B Tour at the Country Music Hall of Fame
- The Bluebird Cafe
- Hattie B’s BBQ (as recommended by Reese Witherspoon)
- Pinewood Social (as recommended by Reese Witherspoon) (are you sensing a theme here?)
- Rent a kayak and have a picnic on Luau Island
Have you been to Nashville? What was the best thing you did there? Was the food amazing? Tell me all about it!
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