So you’ve got a long weekend in Nashville. Four days, three nights, and a hankering for some hot chicken. You’ve come to the right city. But lucky for you, Nashville has two vastly different ways to get to know Music City. There’s the honky tonks and cowboy boots side—you’re doing yourself a great injustice if you don’t partake in at least a little of this once the sun goes down—and then there’s the innovative, and design-heavy, influx of boutique hotels, world-famous culinary pursuits, once-forgotten neighborhoods teeming with new life, and a modern music scene. Here's what to do in Nashville now.
There’s a hotel building boom happening up and down the skyline of Nashville right now. The most recent addition is the Thompson Nashville, in the trendy The Gulch neighborhood. Inside there are 224 airy guest rooms, three standout restaurants run by celeb chef John Besh: Killebrew, a lobby coffee shop; L.A. Jackson, a rooftop café; and Marsh House, a seafood-heavy dining room.
The quaint Germantown district just got a new neighbor with the addition of The Germantown Inn, a historic 1870s home converted to a six-room boutique hotel. The property is a great jumping off point for exploring some of the lesser-known neighborhoods of Nashville.
Modern, trendy, and one of the first truly boutique hotels in Nashville, The 404 Hotel is where the cool kids stay. What to expect? Five rooms done up in vintage furnishings and a selection of art pieces by local artists.
It started in Brooklyn, which should tell you a few things about what you’re going to get at Urban Cowboy Nashville. A big, beautiful Queen Anne Victorian mansion in the heart of East Nashville welcomes artsy types with a cozy lobby fireplace and glasses of Nashville.
Nashville is a city for boozers, there’s no doubt about that. The honky tonks on Broadway are a good place to start. They’re wonderfully tacky and twangy, and every bit as boozy as you imagine. But there’s a side of Nashville’s nightlife that is far away—both geographically and culturally—from the packed-in-tight bars of Broadway.
The creators of Urban Cowboy recently opened Urban Cowboy Public House, an indoor/outdoor drinking establishment that once served as the main building's stables. A killer team of industry veterans behind the bar serve a mix of classic cocktails and some of their own unique recipes. There’s also a full kitchen and restaurant should you desire some upscale munchies come late night.
Pinewood Social is a sprawling one-time trolley barn that’s equal parts bar, restaurant, and arcade. The food is fantastic, the bowling alley is easily a night’s worth of fun, and the bar has some of the finest cocktails in Nashville. Like any good Southern establishment, there’s a lot of whiskey on the menu, and some with distinctly country-music-sounding names like Nothing But Hard Feelings, feature rum and brandy, mixed with vermouth, allspice, and orange bitters.
It’s a tiny spot located in East Nashville in a not-too-fancy building the owners found on Craigslist, but No. 308 lacks very little when it comes to expertly crafted cocktails. Expect house-made sodas and syrups, an extensive whiskey list-, and to wait for a table, so get there early.
JS TIP: Where to recover from your hangover the next day? Fuel up at Crema, a local coffee shop that Nashvillians adore. The wood-paneled space near The Gulch sources and sells their own beans, and their coffee soda is the perfect pick-me-up during a hot Southern summer.
Y’all, there’s a slew of time-honored joints that serve some serious eats, but don’t dismiss Nashville as a city of just classics. The 2017 Nashville nominee for best new restaurant goes to Bastion, an intimate—just 24 seats—place in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. Chef Josh Habiger of Catbird Seat fame delivers an ever-changing, five-course, a la carte meal to your table in the back of an old preserves factory.
Before 404 Hotel was a thing, the attention was all on 404 Kitchen, its adjacent award-winning restaurant. Housed in a repurposed storage container, chef Matt Bolus’ kitchen churns out inventive, seasonal dishes, made with ingredients from local purveyors.
Rolf & Daughters is a favorite among in-the-know foodies. Chef Philip Krajeck topped Bon Apetit’s list of best new restaurants when it opened in 2013 and earned himself a James Beard Award nomination the same year. The menu is Mediterranean inspired, what Krajeck describes as “modern peasant food.”
The staple of all Southern meals: the biscuit. Get some of the best in the world, at Biscuit Love. This food-truck-turned-restaurant has been gathering accolades since its debut in 2015. Stick it out for the inevitable wait at the door and go for the East Nasty with fried chicken and cheddar, or the Bill Neal with shrimp and grits, or…
There isn’t a list of Nashville haunts that doesn’t include Imogene + Willie. The husband and wife founders set out to craft the perfect pair of denim back in 2009. Since then they’ve opened countless boutiques, found some big-name retailers to carry them, and compiled a lengthy list of celebrity fans.
Holly Williams, the granddaughter of country icon Hank Williams Sr. and accomplished musician in her own right, opened White’s Mercantile to great fanfare. It’s fittingly housed inside an old gas station, and inside you’ll find shelves stocked with local goods, accessories, and home décor.
Design enthusiasts should check out Wilder in Germantown. It’s got plenty of Brooklyn-made wares (the husband and wife founders are from there), but expect an array of eclectic items that you can’t easily find elsewhere in Music City. Best bets: Alpaca throws, cylindar mirrors, and contemporary works by local artists.
We love Two Son, a hip and fashion-forward clothing boutique selling cool T-shirts, flirty skirts and twill pants. The white, bright gallery-like space is a minimalist’s dream, located in East Nashville, and a huge hit with the young creative set.