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While Nashville will always be known for its country music scene and honky-tonk hangouts, the capital of Tennessee is a rising star in the culinary world and has an art scene to rival any big city. Nicknamed the ‘Athens of the South’ in the 1850s because of its abundance of higher education institutions, the Southern town also mirrors the Greek capital with its impressive architecture.
While downtown is walkable, this is a driving town where you will want to explore the many vibrant neighborhoods including Germantown, Hillsboro Village, and The Gulch. Whether you have just one day or a long weekend to explore, these are the best things to do in Nashville.
9 a.m.: You might as well deep dive into Southern cuisine from the get-go, so drive over to Biscuit Love (we prefer the Hillsboro location for a more locals-only vibe) and order up a variety of biscuit options including the East Nasty, Princess, and Southern Benny. Be sure to save room for an order of Bonuts—deep-fried biscuit dough tossed in sugar and topped with lemon mascarpone, served over blueberry compote. Wear elastic.
11 a.m.: After all that doughy goodness, a walk is in order and our seventh President, Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage is just the place. Twenty minutes from downtown there is much to see and do from the Jackson museum to the grand historic home tour and historic outbuildings. A stroll through the well-manicured gardens is a must as well as a visit to the Jackson tomb.
12:30 p.m.: Head back into town for a memorable lunch at the famed farm-to-table restaurant, Husk. Located in a historic home, everything that lands on the menu was grown in the South or made in-house (they have in-house pickling and charcuterie programs), so the menu changes frequently, but imagine Deviled Eggs with Pickled Okra and Trout Roe or Cornmeal Crusted Catfish.
2 p.m.: Even if you aren’t a hat wearer, you will be once you leave hatWRKS. This massive hat emporium has something for everyone from colorful Derby Day fascinators to custom-made original styles made in house. They also carry a wide range of popular brands such as Stetson, Goorin Bros, and Kangol, as well as accessories such as hat bands and hat boxes.
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5 p.m.: Opened in 2001, the Frist Art Museum has really become a magnet for Nashville’s visual arts community. With new exhibits coming in every six to eight weeks focusing on local, state, and regional artists, you are sure to see something new on each visit. Housed in a magnificent art deco building, be sure to hit up the gift shop as well as the café for an afternoon snack.
6:30 p.m.: You won’t soon forget cocktail hour in the glamorous Oak Bar at The Hermitage Hotel, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property. Originally opened as a gentleman’s club in 1919, this wood-paneled drinking den is the perfect place to try out some local bourbon (they have 130 bottles in their library). Be sure to take a family photo in the OTT lobby to make everyone on Instagram green with envy.
8:00 p.m.: What started as a local sandwich shop in Charleston has grown to one of the South’s buzziest restaurants. Butcher & Bee’s Nashville location opened in 2015 and has been a top choice of locals and visitors alike for their fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Instead of going full ‘South in your Mouth,’ B&B offers a Mediterranean vibe as well: whipped feta with honey and black pepper, Lebanese seven-spice half chicken, and falafel pita are all equally as popular as the fried chicken sandwich and green chile cheeseburger.
10:00 p.m.: While pining for a nightcap, our Uber driver suggested a speakeasy called Rosemary & Beauty Queen. He got five stars from us for dropping us at this little Victorian house (near Butcher & Bee!) where we cozied up with some magnificent craft cocktails from the hip-yet-happy bar staff. The crystal chandeliers and stained glass windows plus overstuffed Victorian furniture lend a ‘house party at grandma’s vibe’ in the very best way.
Where to Stay
Thompson Nashville is an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property located in Nashville’s Gulch, not far from their buzzing, restaurant and nightlife-filled downtown. With a chic rooftop bar, L.A. Jackson, and an elevated but laid-back vibe, Thompson Nashville provides a luxury retreat just steps from the city’s best attractions.
The Joseph, a Luxury Collection, is a brand new hotel on the Nashville scene, with a rooftop pool, a gorgeous art collection, and an air of Southern opulence. Under The Joseph’s roof, you’ll find their Lobby Bar, which in addition to cocktails serves an excellent cup of coffee in the morning, Italian restaurant Yolan helmed by James Beard Award winning Tony Mantuano, and New American fare at Denim.
The iconic Loews Vanderbilt Hotel is, of course, adjacent to Vanderbilt University in the city’s West End. They recently unveiled three new suites—called the Belle, Baritone, and Creator suites—with high-concept design and luxurious amenities. Art and architecture lovers must stay in one of the three suites, where they’ll enjoy a cozy fireplace and personalized, Nashville-esque touches, like a vinyl record player.