On a steamy June afternoon four life-long girlfriends converged for a mini-reunion in Nashville. The guidelines were simple: find a location where my grade school gal pals and I could meet, let our hair down and enjoy the precious gift of our rare four decade friendship. Nashville fit the bill and we were ready to kick our boot heels up on music row and hit some of the acclaimed honky-tonk bars. Everywhere you go in Nashville music is seeping out the window cracks and pouring onto the streets in this Southern music hub. Nashville is divided into eclectic districts, emerging neighborhoods and infamous areas like Broadway Street. The Gulch is a bit more laid back and swanky while other areas are known for shopping such as Belmont/Hillsboro village. We choose to stay near downtown for easy access to all the must do’s. This proved very convenient for walking the city or hopping an Uber ride. Opryland has a lot to offer but is less authentic and far from the heart of Nashville.
Places to Go & Things to Do
The highlight of our trip was spending Sunday night at The Blue Bird Café! There is no way around the two-hour line but the wait for writer’s night was worth it. Plan to settle in with some snacks and drinks on the curb while you wait. If waiting isn’t your thing, they do sell tickets for mid-week shows which go on sale a week in advance. The music is excellent with a cozy vibe buzzing through the intimate 90 seat café. The talent is raw, unpretentious and easy on the ear. You’ll hear everything from soulful duos to the sounds of an accordion rhythm harkening you back to the roots of country music. What stands out is the spirit of the artists, some young and optimistic and others who have aged into their craft. There is no pretense, make-up or hype, just quality music and lyrics. The show usually ends with a special treat from an accomplished award -winning talent who happens to be in town. The Blue Bird Café does not disappoint despite the below average food and long wait.
We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Ryman Auditorium. The Country Music Hall of Fame chronologies the roots of country music and brings you all the way through the modern day. Images of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton weave an intricate fabric knitting the experience together nicely. You’ll see amazing guitars, classic cars and costumes to marvel at. Drop into one of the faux recording booths and sing to your heart’s content with a modified karaoke experience all in the name of authentic country. At the Ryman, the mother church of Country Music, you can jump on stage, grab a guitar for a photo opportunity or record a song. When you plan your trip you may want to look at the calendar to see what acts are playing. The Ryman offers everything from Bon Jovi, to country crooners to Weird Al Jankovic.
If you want to experience Music City from a bike, try the popular Pedal Tavern. This bikable bar allows groups to pedal through the streets while sipping on libations.
Nashville’s restaurant scene offers a delightful mix of southern favorites with a redefined attitude. One prevalent ingredient was goat cheese. Sambuca Restaurant in the Gulch was a real treat. Live music from a full stage entertains you while you dine on a delicious selection of everything from southern comfort food to tapas. Handcrafted beverages like Mules and Manhattans have made a comeback and don’t forget what Tennessee is famous for, fine whiskey. The energetic vibe makes you feel like you’ve arrived at the party.
One of the most famous honky-tonk bars is Tootsies across from the Ryman. There is a great late night atmosphere and the roof top bar lets you escape the crowd and take in the sights. Expect to be amazed by the musicians. There was a fiddle player who jumped on top of the bar and played her heart out. Tootsie has helped struggling artists like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson get noticed.
There are shopping opportunities in all the districts and cowboy boots on every corner. If you are in the market for boots, Nashville offers a veritable pallet for all tastes. I bought some amazing brown boots with purple and pink flowers sewn into the leather.
We took an Uber to Downtown Franklin for a brunch at Gray’s on Main. This vintage southern excursion was worth the detour and offered a unique Tennessee feel with boutiques and restaurants dotting an old-fashioned Main Street.
You may want to check out the entertainment and venues before you go so you can plan your trip around the array of fabulous options. There is so much musical talent in Nashville on any given week you never know who will appear. Restaurants like Sambuca and Josephine’s take reservations and I would recommend you reserve ahead so you can get the best times and seats or you may be eating at 10 PM. We used Open Table to find great locations and times. Nashville is the perfect venue for a girl’s weekend or a bridal party. We must have seen 10-20 brides roaming with gangs of bridesmaids every night during our stay. Nashville felt like a very safe city. With all the revelry and partying we were surprised at how orderly everyone was. We commented on the fact that we never saw any cops or drunken scuffles during our visit.
Let the music play on!