Besides its world-famous country music scene and the TV show named after it, Nashville—a.k.a. “Music City”—is also known for being a hipster haven, “almost like New York’s small, southern cousin,” as a friend put it. The fact that it’s a magnet for art, culture, and food, nestled in a landlocked state south of the Mason-Dixon line, gives it a cool mix of Southern charm and urban edginess.
If you’re Nashville-bound (or hope to be at some point), bookmark these 10 must-see, -do, and -eats to make the most of your trip, and, of course, document all the highlights on your Instagram.
Chow down on burgers, beer, and old-fashioned sodas.
Stop by The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden for perfectly cooked burgers of all kinds (farm, chili, stroganoff, and more), plus top-notch fries and tater tots. Necessary with any meal you order: One of the homemade sodas—creamsicle orange is a favorite—floats, or malts.
Saunter down Lower Broad.
Lower Broad—a.k.a. Lower Broadway—is a rowdy, neon-lit four-block stretch in downtown Nashville where much of the city’s live music and nightlife scene is concentrated, from dozens of honky tonks to karaoke, along with plenty of hoppin’ bars and restaurants (many of which double as music venues).
Indulge in a swanky meal.
Serving up new American dishes in an industrial space, the critically acclaimed Rolf and Daughters successfully walks the line between fine dining and a more casual restaurant experience. You won’t regret ordering the chicken liver pate, homemade sourdough bread with seaweed butter, or squid ink pasta (or any of the pastas on the menu, for that matter).
Get down to live honky tonk.
One of Broadway’s many legendary honky tonk venues, Layla’s is cozy and atmospheric, with vintage license plates lining the ceiling, and people flocking in for the cheap drinks and well-curated live bluegrass acts (plus classic rock, country western, and more).
Stay in cool, boutique digs.
Hotel Indigo is located a short walk away from downtown Nashville, and seamlessly mixes chic, modern décor with historic touches, like original tavertine floors and a printer-themed lobby, along with a library and speakeasy-inspired lounge that features nightly performances by local artists. Rates from $242.
Eat some of the best biscuits ever.
Make time for brunch at Biscuit Love, a beloved destination for Southern biscuits, breakfast, and lunch that’s earned rave reviews from every outlet from Bon Appetit and Travel + Leisure to Zagat. Just prepare for an out-the-door line—worth it for the died-and-gone-to-heaven baked goods.
Tour the historic Hermitage.
At Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, located 10 miles east of downtown Nashville, you can tour the historic plantation and museum that once belonged to the U.S. President. Even if you’re not a fan of the current face of the $20 bill (personally, we’re excited for Harriet Tubman to replace slaveholding Jackson), touring the lovely mansion, garden, and grounds is still a fascinating opportunity to learn about local—and national—history.
Drink and bike.
Said to be one of, if not the most, popular outdoor activities in the city, Nashville Pedal Tavern lets you hop on board a 12-person “party bike,” during which you get to hear a guided tour of the city’s most legendary neighborhoods—all while sipping beer, wine, or whatever you prefer to get buzzed on (it’s BYO beverage).
Check out the Johnny Cash Museum.
A tribute to one of the most influential artists in country music (not to mention rock, blues, folk, and gospel), the small yet thoughtfully designed Johnny Cash Museum & Cafe features fascinating photos, memorabilia, and history about the Man in Black.
Grab some sweet tea.
Head over to The Picnic Café for a jug of sugar sweet fruit tea, freshly baked muffins, perfect chicken salad sandwiches, and an elegant atmosphere.