Nashville, TN is indisputably the home of country music. All it takes is a quick walk down Broadway and its honky-tonk bars to see how the genre has shaped the city and its identity. However, while “Music City” is Nashville’s most popular signifier, the city has so much more to offer. As non-country music lovers, we gave the city a chance and were pleasantly surprised by all it has to offer.
- 2 DAYS
Mid-80s and sunny in October
Car Rental and Walking
SoBro Guest House ($$$$)
Tasting at Nelson's Green Brier Distillery
- $10 pp
- 1.5 hrs
- Food & Drink
We knew we had to begin our Nashville experience with some whiskey and, in doing our pre-trip planning, we came across a very interesting local gem. While another, better known whiskey brand may come to mind when thinking of the state’s liquor of choice, Green Brier is the “OG”. Founded in 1860 by German immigrant Charles Nelson, the distillery became the single biggest producer of whiskey of the time – selling in 1885 nearly 2 million bottles of whiskeys, a quantity unheard of in that day and age. Unfortunately, the site’s history was forgotten after it was forced to close its doors due to the 1909 prohibition.
In the 2000s, the descendants of Charles Nelson discovered their family’s whiskey lineage (one that was unbeknownst to them until then) and decided to get Green Brier up and running again. They were even able to keep their original “No. 5” distillery registration number (that other whiskey brand, its registry number is 7… how’s that for a whiskey nerd fact!?). After a very informative 45-minute tour of the distillery and its processing plant, we got a taste of its award-winning liquors. Our favorite? A coffee caramel pecan liqueur called Louisa, named for Charles Nelson’s wife.
Dinner at Husk
- 2-3 hrs
- Food & Drink
In keeping with trying the city’s best on our first night in Nashville, we knew our dinner spot needed to be Husk – considered one of the city’s top southern food restaurants. Located within a beautiful, two-story 19th-century mansion, Husk surprises its patrons daily with a changing food menu that is created from a variety of in-season local ingredients. Upon arriving, we were seated on the first floor along the restaurant’s floor to ceiling windows which look out into Husk’s gardens.
“Southern Hospitality” is most definitely a fact and at Husk, we were met with fantastic service and a memorable dining experience. Our meal consisted of chicken livers perfectly fried and served with pickles and mustard seeds, and a light trout accompanied with beans and grapefruit.
Exploring Printers Alley and Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar
- 2-3 hrs
Known as “Music City,” checking out some live music in Nashville is a MUST. While we knew we needed to try out a bar along the city’s famous Broadway, we preferred starting off our night at Printers Alley. Our choice was purposeful – since we’re not country music fans, we wanted to first get into the live music mood before immersing ourselves into some honky tonk tunes (can you blame us?). At Printers Alley, you can find a more eclectic collection of bars that serve up blues, rock, and jazz, along with the more expected country sounds of Nashville.
The origin of Printers Alley dates back to the late 1800s and early 1900s when 2 of Nashville’s biggest newspapers were located in the hidden alley. Since then, its popularity grew as bars, nightclubs and hotels started popping up along the street. Today, it is home to some of the city’s most popular night spots – including Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar, known for its nightly live band performances. The night we went, Corey Mac and his band did NOT disappoint with impressive renditions of everything from Stevie Wonder’s Superstition to an electric guitar jam out session that had the whole place going wild.
Live Music on Broadway
- 2 hrs
After getting a fair share of jazz and blues into our system, we walked a short 7-minute stroll via 4th Avenue N to nearby Broadway. Every night, country music enthusiasts and curious onlookers (we fall in this second category) descend along the popular street for some bar hopping and live country music. In many aspects, Broadway reminded us of the Las Vegas strip. With its slow-moving crowds walking along barricaded sidewalks in a drunkenly happy stupor, its bright neon bar lights and country tunes streaming from each establishment, Nashville’s famous music district is all about giving visitors a good time.
Along Broadway, there’s no shortage of bars with live music. However, plenty of them do charge covers which makes finding a free entrance locale like Legend’s Corner a solid find for non-country music fans looking for a taste of a signature Nashville honky-tonk saloon.
Tour of Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
- $20 pp
- 3 hrs
After a night of live music and drink, we knew our minds needed some nourishment too. A 20-minute drive from our hotel, we arrived at a popular historical site in Nashville – 7th U.S. President’s Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect at The Hermitage and initially only planned to be there for 1.5 hours. However, we very quickly realized we’d need a bit more time to truly appreciate its grandeur and size, and the history it has been able to preserve for posterity.
The visit consists of a self-guided audio tour through a museum that recounts Jackson’s life and presidency, and then leads into his mansion and grounds. The entire visit can be enjoyed at one’s leisure, and trust us when we say there is so much to take in – including walking through the mansion, gardens, cotton fields, and more. However, the most impactful part of our visit was what we learned about the enslaved laborers who were vital members of the Hermitage community. Though there isn’t a lot of written materials about these slaves’ stories, the historical site does a good job in telling the story of one in particular – Alfred, a highly influential member of the Hermitage estate who today is buried next to Jackson’s tomb.
Tour of the Belle Meade Plantation
- $24 pp
- 2 hrs
A part of Tennessee’s history has stood the test of time in the large antebellum homes and plantations that still exist throughout the state. And it is in this tapestry of Tennessee’s identity that the Belle Meade Plantation plays an important role in helping to preserve the history of the region. The 45-minute “Mansion Tour”, led by knowledgeable guides dressed in period attire, takes visitors inside the beautiful home to learn more about its owners, the Harding and Jackson families, while admiring the impressive collection of family heirlooms and artifacts (80% of which are originals dating back to the 19th century). Our tour ticket also included a free wine tasting from the plantation’s very own winery, created in 2009 as a non-for-profit fundraiser to help preserve the site.
After the tour and tasting, visitors are free to enjoy the plantation’s expansive grounds and see vestiges of its multi-faceted past and various functions – from cotton gin to sawmill to perhaps the most famous of its operations, a stud farm which bred some of the most successful thoroughbred horses in history. While the tour was enjoyable, if we could have a do-over we’d probably go on the Plantation’s Journey to Jubilee tour – a 1-hour tour of the property that tells the story of the slaves that lived, worked and greatly contributed to the plantation’s success.
Tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum / RCA Studio B
- $25.95 pp
- 3 hrs
As we researched what to see and do in Nashville, RCA Studio B in the city’s famed Music Row quickly bubbled up to the top. As general music fans, we can appreciate the place this iconic destination, which served as the recording studio for some of the biggest stars in country music, has in music history. However, the only way to see it was with a full ticket purchase to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (something we weren’t as jazzed to see). And so, with open minds, hearts, and ears, we purchased the tickets and embarked on this cultural immersion.
The studio tour was amazing – most fascinating of which was all we learned about one of its most famous regulars, Elvis Presley. Elvis recorded some of his biggest songs in Studio B, including the #1 hit Heartbreak Hotel. His legacy in this famed Nashville locale is undeniable and the tour definitely keeps his presence alive throughout the experience. At one point in the tour, the guide shared that Elvis liked to record in the dark and even had multi-colored bulbs installed in the studio to help set the mood during his recording sessions. Suddenly, the lights actually went off and, as Elvis’ voice cruned over the speakers, the same lightbulbs he installed filled the space with hues of red – talk about immersive! We even learned that he almost recorded Whitney Houston’s iconic I Will Always Love You, originally written by country music legend Dolly Parton. After the studio tour and a drive along Music Row’s iconic strip of recording studios, we were taken back to the museum for a self-guided tour. While entertaining, the exhibits definitely appeal more to true county music fans – making our walk-thru of the museum rather quick!
Strolling through the Parthenon
- 1 hr
Before embarking on the next leg of our Tennessee trip (check out our Great Smoky Mountains Itinerary here!), we took a quick 12-minute drive to Nashville’s Centennial Park to check out the Parthenon. Nicknamed the Athens of the South for its plethora of educational institutions, Nashville rightfully cemented its nickname with this life-size replica of Greece’s Parthenon.
Nashville’s Parthenon was originally built as a temporary exhibit hall for the 19th century Centennial Exposition. Today, it serves as an art museum that houses a permanent collection of paintings from 19th and 20th century American artists. By the time we arrived at the park, visiting hours into the hall were over (its open from 9A-4:30P and tickets cost $6). However, we still got a chance to walk around the outside of the building, snap some pictures, and take in the park’s expansive grounds, before heading to the next stop of our Tennessean adventure!
- Nashville is most definitely a bachelorette party hot spot. Be prepared to see plenty of brides-to-be and their gals making their way through the city.
- Museums and cultural interest points such as Belle Meade fill up fast with tourists. We recommend purchasing tickets online ahead of time to guarantee entry and avoid the long lines on-site.
Other places to visit
- Ryman Auditorium
- Johnny Cash Museum and Cafe
- Robert’s Western World
- Arnold’s Country Kitchen