Girls Weekend in Nashville
My college friends and I decided to get together for a weekend last April. We live in New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Minnesota. The first criterion for the trip was a non-stop flight for each of us. And we wanted somewhere that wouldn’t be too cold (as you can see from our home states – we get plenty of that already!) Nashville jumped out because it has become a mecca for girls trips and bachelorette parties (for better and/or worse.) I’d also been to Nashville in 2010 (how was it that long ago?!), and had a great time. So, Nashville it was.
Getting There: Adventure or Ordeal?
As can happen, the perfect plan of non-stop flights didn’t pan out perfectly. A little rain threw New York airports into chaos, for some reason, and my flight on Friday was canceled. So, I ended up with an overnight detour through Detroit. I met a hysterical, very drunk couple at the airport hotel bar. They decided I’d had a rough day and bought me a drink. Then, the bartender and I talked about how we’d both just been to the Women’s March in D.C. and what an incredible experience it was. I left with a good impression of Detroit locals. The next morning, I made a friend at the airport who’d also been delayed trying to get to Nashville (and was also on her way to a girls weekend.) We decided we deserved to start the day with mimosas, and luckily drinking at 8:00 a.m. is socially acceptable at the airport. So, it wasn’t all bad. My dad always says that there’s a fine line between an adventure and an ordeal, and I was doing my best to keep this detour on the adventure side.
- Friday – Arrive; Drinks/snacks at Bartaco
- Saturday Morning – Brunch at Biscuit Love (Hillsboro Village)
- Saturday Afternoon – Stroll around 12 South, Music Row, and the Gulch
- Saturday Evening – Dinner at Rolf and Daughters
- Saturday Night – Music on Lower Broadway
- Sunday Morning – Brunch at Adele’s
- Sunday Afternoon – Drinks at Jackalope Brewing Company
- Sunday Evening – Music at the Bluebird Cafe
- Monday Morning – Fly home
So, you see – I did have a plan for the weekend. But, it got thrown off a little by (1) travel demons, (2) a failure to make dinner reservations, (3) a music festival tying up many music venues, and (4) having had more drinks by early Saturday afternoon than anticipated.
What Actually Happened
- Friday – Drank with strangers at the Detroit Airport Courtyard Marriott
- Saturday Morning – Drank with strangers at the Detroit Airport Delta Terminal
- Saturday Afternoon – Arrived; Power Hour (for old time’s sake) at the Airbnb
- Saturday Evening – Drinks at Acme Feed & Seed; pizza somewhere near Broadway for dinner
- Saturday Night – Music at Paradise Park Trailer Resort
- Sunday Morning – Brunch at Adele’s
- Sunday Afternoon – Drinks at Jackalope; Walked around 12 South, Music Row, and the Gulch
- Sunday Evening – Attempted to go to Bluebird; Ate at a random restaurant in the Gulch; Music at Station Inn
- Monday Morning – Flew home
Where We Stayed
In my planning, I saw a number of cute boutique hotels in Nashville – Hutton Hotel and SoBro Guest House, for example. I’m sure they’re great places to stay. But, hotels tend to be in more touristy locations or downtown business centers, for obvious reasons. And that’s not generally where I like to stay. I also like having a kitchen to use – you can save money by having breakfast or happy hour there.
When I went to Nashville last time, we stayed in this apartment where Elvis allegedly used to stay. If you like guitar-shaped pools and tree decals on the wall (and who doesn’t?), this is your place. But, I thought I might mix it up this time.
So, I booked us this Airbnb in a carriage house. One of my friends had never done Airbnb before and was a little hesitant. So, I wanted to be sure to find us a particularly nice place. She totally approved, and even went on to rent one herself shortly after. I swear this isn’t a paid advertisement for Airbnb – I just really like using it!
When it came to booking our Airbnb, I focused in on the 12 South neighborhood. It’s more residential than downtown, but still fairly central and a quick ride anywhere else in Nashville you’d want to go. There are lots of good restaurants, bars and shops. It’s home to the I Believe in Nashville painting and Draper James (Reese Witherspoon’s store), which is a pull for a lot of people. And there is a cupcake ATM!?!
Lay of the Land
Nashville is not really a walking town, but we gave it a shot. We walked around 12 South, Music Row, the Gulch and Downtown. Music Row has a residential feeling, but you see plenty of evidence of the recording industry all around.
You can also tell that plenty of hipsters live there with an establishment like this:
The Gulch is a more modern, condo-filled neighborhood. Lots of restaurants and bars. And, the location of this ubiquitous Instagram shot.
Of course, you can’t miss Downtown and Lower Broadway. The street is lined with bars and honky tonks. You can find music anywhere. I don’t remember it being quite so crowded last time I was there. But, it was packed. Even in the middle of the afternoon. This is definitely where the city earns its title Nashvegas! One of my friends was on a mission for some cowboy boots, so we stopped into one of the stores on Broadway. Success:
We couldn’t make it to every neighborhood on this trip, obviously. I’d been to the Vanderbilt area last time, where you can find college kids and the Nashville Parthenon. We also didn’t make it to Germantown, where quite a few good restaurants seem to be. But, the main area I’d like to explore more next time is East Nashville. I hear it’s kind of the Brooklyn of Nashville (and, of course, I’m down for that.)
I often spend hours researching all of the restaurants I want to go to. But, I’m not very good at actually making reservations. I think it’s mostly that I value flexibility so highly that I don’t like committing to a particular place and time for meals.
I did manage one reservation at Adele’s for brunch, and it was great. They have a Sunday buffet that has everything you could want. Great for the morning after a big night.
We also had simple breakfasts at the local Proper Bagel. Maybe it’s because I’m from NYC where things tend to be small and utilitarian, but isn’t this the most quaint bagel place?
Both Saturday and Sunday, we ate dinner on the fly. It’s a bit of a shame, but next time I’ll go with Chris who would never let that happen. And we’ll eat at one of the many, highly-recommended restaurants in Nashville:
There are lots of places to get a drink. You just have to pick your poison. I’m not a whiskey person, but if you are – you should definitely check out Jack Daniel’s or one of the other distilleries.
Of course, I was on a mission to find some local beer. So, we headed over to Jackalope Brewing Company.
Right in the same area is Yazoo Brewing, but we didn’t have time to check it out.
If you want something a little different and fun, you could head to Pinewood Social, which has food, drinks, bowling, bocce, and other games. It looks like a good place to spend an afternoon, if you have time (we didn’t, unfortunately.)
We also kept seeing these Pedal Tavern bikes everywhere. I looked into booking one, but they were all full. I think you have to make your reservations WELL in advance. It’s clearly a favorite activity of the more organized groups. It’s a little embarrassing that I’m less organized than mobs of drunk girls on bachelorette parties, but the facts don’t lie.
There are plenty of normal bars, too. We went to Acme Feed & Seed on Lower Broadway for drinks. It’s a multi-floored place with music, food, and bars. It was a bit of a madhouse, and we couldn’t get to the roof deck (which had been the goal.) But, we did eventually get ourselves seats inside. It was a good place to have a few drinks and chat.
This is really the heart of Nashville. The good news is that there is great live music almost everywhere. I’d broadly split the options into three categories: (1) Broadway honky tonks, (2) classic venues like the Grand Ole Oprey and Ryman Auditorium; and (3) smaller venues and bars with live music. We managed to hit (1) and (3).
I really wanted to check out something in this third group, but the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival was happening, and that took a lot of venues off-line. But, I had some options for Sunday night. My first choice was to go to the Bluebird Cafe. It’s a bit outside central Nashville, but not too far. They showcase up-and-coming singer-songwriters. But “up-and-coming” in Nashville means that they’re incredibly talented. And I’d looked at the schedule and liked the musicians who were playing. You can make reservations, but of course, I hadn’t. They do give some number of seats away on a first-come-first-served basis, though. We aimed for the early show, hoping it would be less busy. But, even arriving an hour early for that, we didn’t make the cut. Then we were told we wouldn’t even make it in for the later show. So, that was a bust. I was pretty bummed.
All was not lost, though, because we made our way back into town to Station Inn. They focus on bluegrass and roots, and I happen to love that genre. It’s a total dive, but that’s also my jam. It seemed like half the people there were in the band. And random fiddle players would just drop in out of nowhere for a song. It was fun. My recommendation would be to sit in the lined up chairs to the side of the stage rather than the tables. The acoustics were MUCH better over there.
A couple other venues I found in this category were:
As you walk down Lower Broadway, every other building is a honky tonk. Some have more classic country, others are a bit more modern. You can bar hop to see what you like. A classic option is Robert’s Western World. We settled on Paradise Park Trailer Resort. I had been there before and had an amazing time. It’s a funny place decorated to look like a trailer park. They had a cover band playing popular country songs. I didn’t know any of them, so they may as well have been originals for all I could tell. But, everyone was singing along and dancing. It was a lot of fun.
When I was here a while back (pre-Chris), a guy tried to ask me out. I wasn’t interested, but he insisted I take his phone number. When I looked later, it said “Joey – [Phone Number] – Giver, drummer, furniture mover.” I guess you never know what’s going to be the hook 🙂 Here’s a picture I dug up of this moment. I apologize for the quality – it wasn’t exactly a professionally staged shot.
Nashville is lovely city, and a lot of fun. It’s certainly good for a weekend celebration. But, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. I love music, so I’d really like to explore more of that side of the city. I’d also like to plan ahead next time and make dinner reservations. The good news for me is that I have no doubt I’ll be back!