Probably my favorite place I’ve ever lived is Nashville, TN. It’s just SO FUN. That’s all. I love the friendly, artistic culture and the fact that it’s small for a city, so it’s fairly easy to get around (as long as you miss rush hour, but even that isn’t as bad as other places I’ve lived… *cough cough Austin*).
I love that there’s so much to do, from professional sports and live music (of course) and great food to adorable pockets of town with their own little scenes and vibes.
I love that you get all four seasons, but it’s not too unbearable in the winter months like some states just north of Tennessee. I love the charming old architecture, the Southern hospitality energy, and that there’s hiking and water and easy roadtrips all nearby.
The people are neighborly, the food is insane, and the coffee shops are Instagram goals. There are breweries aplenty, and really the only thing missing (and the reason we don’t live there now) is an abundance of wine/wineries for John to work at. But hey, there is ONE, and it’s good — Arrington Vineyards, if you’re looking for a sales or business analyst, call us.
Kidding. Kind of. It’s also just as fun a place to visit as it is to live, and I’ve had so many friends going on bachelorette parties or taking girls trips or heading to a festival in Nashville that text me asking: What do we NEED to do?!
Granted, I haven’t lived there in nearly two years, so I am certain there are even more amazing restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and fun things to do than I even know of. But I want to share all my favorites in one spot for you to peruse and pick through! If you’re heading to Nashville soon, be sure to check out these lovely, can’t-miss spots.
Where to stay in Nashville
So fun fact: I interned in Nashville in college and then John and I moved there way later for two years as he got his MBA at Vanderbilt. John and I JUST so happened to find a townhouse to rent on the same exact, tiny little street that I’d lived on during my summer internship.
Like our house was two houses down and across the street from my college one, and it was in such a lovely central area, nearby Hillsboro Village and Green Hills — great neighborhoods to look if you’re doing a vacation rental.
If you aren’t staying downtown at a hotel (which I’d recommend if you have the budget and want to be walking distance to honkytonks), then these are the areas I’d suggest looking for an Airbnb or other vacation rental:
Hillsboro Village: Like I said, our home was between HV and Green Hills, a gorgeous, historic neighborhood with stately, beautiful homes. If you want to be walking distance to restaurants and more central, aim to be closer to Hillsboro Village. While GH is lovely, it’s more of a family neighborhood feel and isn’t very walkable.
12 South + Belmont: These two neighborhoods hug each other, so I’m pairing them together because if you’re staying near Belmont University, you’re likely walking distance to all the amazing restaurants and adorable shops in the 12 South district (one of my favorite places to hang out).
Plus, there are some cute restaurants right by Belmont, too, like Proper Bagel and BLVD (more info on these below). I nannied for a family in Belmont and we’d always walk to Sevier Park in 12 South. Both areas are safe, walkable, and the homes are so beautiful.
Charlotte Pike: I am less familiar with this area, but it was an up and coming neighborhood when we lived in Nash. I know a lot of coffee shops, breweries, and cool restaurants are out this way, but it’s a little less central to downtown, probably a 15 minutes Uber ride.
Germantown: Also an up and coming area just north of downtown, Germantown was also a really fun area for us to explore. Some of our favorite restaurant experiences were over there, but sadly some of them have closed. Our favorite restaurant seriously EVER, though, called Henrietta Red, is in Germantown. YOU HAVE TO GO. (More info below.)
East Nashville: We only did a little bit of exploring in East Nashville, only because it was slightly farther away and we had so many cool things close to us, but we loved it anytime we trekked over there. It’s known as the more “hipster” part of town and there are a few dodgy pockets, but I know there are also some really amazing restaurants, shops, and areas to stay.
Franklin: I couldn’t love Franklin more! If you’ve already been to Nashville before, consider staying in this town just south of Nash because there is so much to do, see, and eat there. The downtown area is so charming and quaint; it’s got that old, Southern style that is so endearing.
Best restaurants in Nashville
THE FOOD IN NASHVILLE IS SO GOOD. I mean, seriously. I miss it almost more than anything else. I’ll break these down by the meal we usually ate at each place and the neighborhood it’s located in!
Proper Bagel — breakfast; Belmont: This place is the bees knees. It’s in an adorable old house, and every bagel, cream cheese variety, and extra on the menu is always superb. You can’t go wrong for an easy, lovely breakfast.
Five Daughters — breakfast; 12 South: These donuts are sooo dreamy; they’re like a hundred layers (or something like that), fluffy, and so indulgent. I know John and I both miss them a little too much. (It’s also in a cute old house!)
Franklin Juice — breakfast; 12 South: If you need something a little lighter than a donut, Franklin Juice is the spot for incredible smoothies, acai bowls, and juices. And great coffee, too!
Frothy Monkey — breakfast; multiple locations: I normally went to the 12 South location, but you can find Frothy Monkeys all over town (and in Franklin!). The sandwiches, salads, and coffee are TO DIE for.
Cafe Roze — breakfast/lunch; East Nashville: The cutest spot ever!!! It’s so quaint and pretty, and the menu is just as dainty (and delicious).
Caviar & Bananas — breakfast/lunch; Midtown: This is a great lunch option if you have a group because it has a little bit of everything: a salad bar, sandwich bar, and prepared foods, plus a little market if you need snacks/wine/beverages for your Airbnb.
Pinewood Social — brunch/dinner; downtown: Such a fun spot with good, elevated Southern food. There’s a bowling alley, games, a pool outside, and lots of good times to be had. I only went once but it’s a local and tourist favorite.
Tavern — brunch/dinner; Midtown: This is a great spot for simple, higher scale bar food and great wine and cocktails. The truffle fries are a must. We got them every single time.
Barcelona — brunch/dinner; Edgehill: One of John’s and my favorite date night spots! A Spanish tapas place with the cutest decor, and if you’re celebrating something, ask for the “wine pour” where they literally pour your choice of wine into your throat from a giant bottle. Okay, okay, I might’ve spent a birthday or two here.
Josephine — brunch/dinner; 12 South: This is a bit of a fancier place, but worth the reservation and price tag! It’s a posh little spot. I preferred our brunch experience here over dinner, but both were solid.
Hattie B’s — lunch; Midtown: Throwing this one in here for John because it’s his fav. 😉 If you want Nashville hot chicken, this is the place to go. Pro tip: call in your order and take it with you to your hotel or a park, OR go at an obscure time, to skip the insanely long order line.
12 South Taproom — lunch/dinner; 12 South: This is a simple, bare bones beer bar but it has a great big patio and the best food, I swear! I would order the Southwest chicken salad on a weekly basis from Postmates (if we weren’t going in for a meal) when we lived there.
bartaco — lunch/dinner; 12 South: If you like swanky Mexican food and amazing margaritas, go here.
Martin’s Barbecue — lunch/dinner; multiple locations: This is some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had. The Belmont location is less busy, but the downtown location is super fun (especially if you sit on the roof when there’s a live band playing).
BLVD — lunch/dinner; Belmont: This is a sweet spot with simple, good food like a fried-egg-topped caesar salad that I love and a cute environment. My sister and I also met Miranda Lambert here one night when we were eating dinner, so there’s that.
Henriette Red — dinner; Germantown: MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT. EVER. The end. But really, if you like seafood, oysters especially, go here. Everything is so good and there’s so much thought in the menu, the decor, the cocktails, all of it. I want to live here (or have them come decorate my home and cook all my meals for me).
Taqueria del Sol — dinner; 12 South: Our indulgent Mexican food joint of choice. It’s a cute spot, too (definitely not like a hole in the wall place).
404 Kitchen — dinner; The Gulch: Super swanky and fancy and so dang good. We ate one meal here, John’s graduation dinner, and it was absolutely divine.
The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden — dinner, East Nashville: My favorite burger place in Nash. Make sure you get a seat in the beer garden — it’s worth the wait!
Butcher & Bee — dinner; East Nashville: I love this place! It offers Mediterranean, shareable plates that are all so delicious and thoughtful. It’s a really trendy, lively spot for a date or to bring a group.
Our favorite bars, breweries & honkytonks in Nashville
You really can’t go wrong walking up and down Broadway in downtown Nashville and just popping in and out of the honkytonks to hear the live bands all around town. But I’ll share some of my favorites, plus other watering holes we liked.
LA Jackson — rooftop bar; The Gulch: I was always trying to go here because it has an incredible view of downtown, the decor is everything, and the drinks were fancy-shmance. You may be realizing that I’m into the aesthetics of a place just as much as the food/drinks, and you’d be right. This place is so freaking cute, I want to live inside of it (and weirdly it smells so good, like the best perfume ever). You should just go for a glass of bubbly rose and to take in the views if nothing else. It gets a little clubby at night, so maybe opt for a pre-dinner drink!
Old Glory — bar, Edgehill: This spot is really cool because it’s set in a basement historic boiler room (which makes it sound creepy and damp, but I promise it’s really spacious and trendy and very cool). The drinks are super creative if you like interesting cocktails!
The Stage — honkytonk; downtown: I don’t know why but this has always been my favorite honkytonk since college! It’s not the biggest or fanciest, but the music is always good and the crowd’s always fun. I have had some gooood times here.
Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row — honkytonk; downtown: A newer bar and probably my favorite of the trend of country singers opening bars on Broadway (Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line also have bars down there). It’s clean (a plus when you see some of the other places) and has massive windows, which is also nice. There’s country music on one floor and a DJ on another so it’s a bit of everything.
Acme Feed & Seed — honkytonk/restaurant; downtown: This is a four-level, riverfront ‘tonk with a lot going on, but it’s fun to get to see lots of different music and get a bite to eat if you’re hungry.
Southern Grist — brewery; East Nashville: We had friends who lived in East Nash who got us into SG — there’s also a location in West Nashville now too, I believe. It’s good beer and a good variety, and a cute environment. The east location is right across from Cafe Roze, so you could make an afternoon of it with lunch at the cafe and a beer at the brewery.
Jackalope — brewery; Wedgewood-Houston: My sister and I loved going here on Sunday afternoons because they’d always have live music, but it’s a real small spot, so you could sip on a brew and listen to the sweet, folksy bands up close and play board games. There’s also a little coffee shop right inside. (I also like that it’s a woman-owned brewery!)
Smith & Lentz — brewery; East Nashville: This place is good, and right by Butcher & Bee if you want a pre-dinner beer! It’s a pretty simple brewery but I remember they had a lot of good varieties of beer, and games. A must.
Other fun things to do in Nashville
Hiking at Percy Warner Park: John and I loved to go hiking up here with Piper. It’s on the far west edge of town and there are so many beautiful trails for all levels of hikes. It’s a nice, green, beautiful respite from the bustling city.
Church at Crosspoint: Ugh, I miss Crosspoint so much! It was our home church, and if you’re in Nashville on a Sunday, it’s such a welcoming, warm, soul-lifting place. The pastor Kevin Queen is as friendly and personable as it gets — this church is truly one of the things I miss most about Nash.
Minor league baseball game at Nashville Sounds: Don’t knock it because it’s minor league… These games are freakin’ FUN! There’s a whole area with games (I love a game) and music and fun, baseball-y food and cocktails. I promise, it’s not lame (and this is coming from someone who could take or leave baseball).
Titans game: Titans game are always a good time, and the stadium is walking distance from downtown if you want to go honkytonkin’ after!
CMA Fest: The best! It’s in early to mid-June every year, and my sister and I went for I think 4 years in a row because there are concerts all day long… FOR FREE! I don’t think a lot of people realize that. The nighttime concerts with “bigger” artists are paid, but we only bought tickets for that the first year. There are so many well-known, talented singers who play during the day (we saw Maren Morris when she was just entering the scene), and then you can chill at night.
Arrington Vineyard: A little bit out of town, Arrington is a pretty winery set on a hill. You can bring a little picnic, a blanket, and buy a bottle to share with friends right there on the hill.
Cheekwood: This is a sweet, gorgeous, historic botanical garden with huge grounds and always stunning exhibits. Go for the tulips in spring, pumpkins in fall, and twinkle lights in the winter! There’s also live jazz and food trucks on the weekends.
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