Nashville, the capital of the state of Tennessee, the epicentre of the country music scene and one of America’s hottest cities right now.
Nashville is known for its legendary music venues, famous Honky Tonks and delicious Southern cooking. Now Nashville is looking set to be one the top travel destinations of 2018 with a new direct flight launching from London, a plethora of hotels opening in 2018, new neighbourhoods emerging and the opening of the new Tennessee State Museum – there’s never been a better time to visit. Here’s why you should book your ticket to Music City.
What to do
Nashville is the Hollywood of country music. Fans should head to the legendary Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman dates back to the 1880s and was a venue for religious revivals, musical recitals, operas, ballets, musicals as well as political debates. From 1943-1974 the building was the residence of the Grand Ole Opry. Today the Ryman is still a premier venue and is regularly played by the world’s top artists.
A short walk from the Ryman is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum has over 2.5 million artefacts from country music’s top stars such as musical instruments, photographs, handwritten lyric sheets, stage costumes and artefacts such as Elvis Presley’s Cadillac. Across from the Hall of Fame is the Walk of Fame which pays tribute to the best acts across all genres of music.
I fell in love with the Shania Twain exhibition. I could totally see myself in some of these outfits!
Here’s the outfit Taylor Swift wore in the video for ‘Love Story’ and her renowned sparkling guitar.
One of my favourite parts of our time in Nashville was getting on the Old Town Trolley Tours for an insight into the city and see areas we would have otherwise missed.
The hop on and off service will take you to must-see locations such as the Johnny Cash Museum, Marathon Motor Works for unique and independent stores as well as a local winery and distillery, Centennial Park for The Parthenon, Belmont Mansion at Belmont University and the prestigious Vanderbilt University.
A view of downtown from the bus.
The Marathon Motor Works.
Take a walk along Music Row – the heart of Nashville’s entertainment industry. Music Row is where the magic happens – spot the recording studios hidden between homes and buildings. Music Row is where some of the world’s greatest musicians have recorded their top tracks including Elvis Presley’s ‘How Great Thou Art’. If you’re feeling thirsty, Music Row is home to dive bar Bobby’s Idle Hour where you’ll some of the cheapest beer in Nashville (priced from $2.50). It is ideal for country music fans as it is the bar that inspired Toby Keith’s song ‘Red Solo Cup’.
Venture out of the city and head to Belle Meade Plantation. Explore the peaceful grounds and take a tour with a guide through the plantation’s Greek-Revival mansion and learn about the Harding family who used to live there. Afterwards you’ll be treated to a free wine tasting at the Belle Meade Winery. The wine was absolutely incredible! So fruity and flavourful with notes of blackcurrant and even cotton candy!
Unfortunately the winery doesn’t ship internationally otherwise I would be ordering a crate! But while you are there you can buy a bottle to enjoy on the grounds.
Living my Southern dream (again) sitting on a rocking chair on the porch.
Where to eat
Nashville’s Hot Chicken is a must-have. It is said that Hattie B’s is the best for hot chicken and the queues prove this. Expect a long wait as the queues flow out onto the street all day. Arrive prior to open or closing time for less of a wait.
Hattie B’s is a stop on the Old Town Trolley and is located close to Kimpton Aertson Hotel, where we stayed.
Can’t get to Hattie B’s? Hit up Prince’s Hot Chicken, where hot chicken originated . It is said that Prince’s lover wanted revenge after being suspicious of cheating, so served him a plate of homemade chicken covered in spices. Instead of wincing in pain Prince loved the hot chicken and perfected the recipe to open up a restaurant – Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. 100 years later Prince’s great niece is still serving up this legendary dish!
It is also worth visiting the Farmer’s Market for a vast selection of cuisine including traditional dishes of the Deep South – think fried chicken, fried okra, biscuits and grits.
Where to drink
To soak up Nashville’s nightlife head to Broadway for the city’s Honky Tonks and live music and find out how Nashville got its ‘NashVegas’ nickname. You won’t be able to miss Broadway with its neon signs and numerous stores selling boots. Check out the world famous Tootsies Orchid Lounge – the bright lilac building on Broadway – which is known for its celebrity punters. (Miley Cyrus held the launch party for her 2017 album ‘Younger Now’ there). My other favourite bar was Tequila Cowboy or Wildhorse Saloon where we saw Kane Brown and Jake Owen play.
As Broadway is a tourist hotspot drinks aren’t the cheapest, so if you’re looking for a local hangout check out Nashville’s neighbourhoods Music Row or The Gulch.
While you’ll in the city grab tickets to see some of the best names in country music for a fraction of the price elsewhere across the world. There’s multiple shows on every night! Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers played their last show together while we were in Nashville.
Where to stay
I stayed at the newly opened Kimpton Aertson Hotel is located in Nashville’s emerging Midtown neighbourhood – close to Taylor Swift’s Nashville pad. This hip boutique hotel is complete with a rooftop pool, 24 hour gym, fine dining restaurant and a luxurious spa.
Our gorgeous suite was a corner room with floor-to-ceiling windows. I adored the large windows and just spending each evening and morning standing there enjoying the views.
The daily complimentary wine hour was my absolute favourite thing!
The design and art in the guest rooms and hotel entrance reflect the personality of Nashville. There are custom wall installations and floor-to-ceiling original blueprint etchings of the Tennessee State Capitol. The 180-room art centric hotel has a clean and modern design with a whole range of facilities and amenities for guests to take advantage of. These include complimentary morning tea and coffee and complimentary wine is served daily at 5pm in the lobby. By this point it was three weeks since I had had a cup of tea so I was craving one so bad. I think I had two each morning!
The hotel has so many unique touches which I’ve not found in hotels before. There are also bikes available to rent as well as a yoga mat in every guest room. The hotel has a ‘Forgot it? We Got it!’ service where they can provide forgotten essentials including sewing kits, make-up mirror, nail file/clippers, curling and straightening irons or mobile chargers. This was extremely useful if you are travelling for a long time like us and didn’t necessarily have the room in your luggage to bring these items.
The hotel is also pet-friendly with no additional fees.
Our room had everything we ever needed and more. I loved that the room had large bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash so we didn’t have to worry about the small toiletry bottles running out during our 4 night stay.
The luxurious suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows or balcony windows with views of the local neighbourhood and downtown. The rooms are are cosy and extremely spacious complete with a 50-inch TV, luxury robes, umbrellas and a well stocked minibar.
The complimentary tea and coffee in the lobby.
Unfortunately The Woodhouse Day Spa located within the hotel opened after we left but it looked fantastic! The spa offers over 70 rejuvenating spa services with 10 treatment rooms, a Hydrotherapy room and Wellness sanctuary. The day spa offers treatments including manicures, pedicures, massages, facials, sleep treatments, body treatments and spa packages.
The weather is Nashville was very up and down. The day we arrived (24 October) it was 8 degrees and freezing and the next day it was 20-25 degrees. So we took advantage of the sun and the hotel’s rooftop pool and lounge area.
Looking at the hotels Instagram this area looks amazing in the summer for parties!
Kimpton Aertson Hotel rates start from $209 a night.
How to get there
British Airways will launch a five-a-week service from London Heathrow to Nashville from May 2018. Return fares start from £749.
We travelled to Nashville by Greyhound from Memphis. This took 4 hours each way (depending on the traffic) and cost $49.50 return.
I originally wrote this article for HuffPostUK.
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