Any well-seasoned traveler knows that it’s more about the journey than the destination, and that drive-through cities on a road trip can be just as impactful as the end goal.
The Mother Church of Country Music, and the spirit inside the venue is palpable. Originally designed as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, these wooden pews have played witness to some of the most important moments in the history of American music.
The Ryman Auditorium was also the original Grand Ole Opry House before its move outside downtown, and touring the place is imperative to truly understand the role Nashville has played in the music scene. Mementos, memorabilia, and iconic moments stand preserved in amber here. Make this the first stop on your list so that you can deeply immerse yourself in the experience you’ll encounter while you’re here.
Tour before you check-in to your hotel, though, as they’re currently only open from 10am – 3pm.
May the circle be unbroken.
Things certainly look a little different these days, but music can still be found in every nook and cranny of Broadway. Even just walking down the street feels like you’ve been transported back in time to the days of dance halls, saloons, and speakeasies.
Plenty of places are open in some capacity that allows live music, and even if you’re more comfortable listening from outside, the magic hasn’t gone anywhere. Starry-eyed hopefuls belt ballads from wooden stages, and you can’t help but believe they just might make the big-time.
The neon stays buzzing and the heart stays beating in a way that only Nashville can achieve.
Moseying down Broadway is a great way to gain some context to the city, so make sure you knock this off the list on your first day. If you’ve got time for a longer walk, the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge offers some incredible views as well.
At first glance, you’d probably never notice it was even there. Mike’s is one of those places where nobody knows just how long it’s been around, but you’re damn sure glad they are. This ice cream and coffee shop has lived around Broadway its entire life, and is now residing on historic 2nd Avenue. Nestled between boutiques, souvenir shops, and tattoo parlors, it’s home to tons of incredible flavors ranging from classics like sherbet and vanilla, to originals like blackberry cornbread and Tennessee fudge.
Stop by while you’re on Broadway and cool off in one of Nashville’s favorite ways.
Seriously though, don’t miss it. It’s that good.
A thoughtful, seasonal menu inspired by familiar flavors crafted in new ways. Lockeland Table is consistently ranked as one of the very best restaurants in Nashville and has the chops to back it up.
And one of the greatest parts is the intimate nature and feel of the space itself – it’s as if you’ve stumbled upon the headquarters of a secret society devoted to eating and drinking as well as humanly possible. Like each bite is a secret, granting access to an exclusive club or universe.
The team at Lockeland Table is also fiercely committed to the neighborhood it serves, and has been an anchor for the community in recent months. You can eat even better knowing that your patronage is making an impact in East Nashville and the surrounding area, while enjoying a meal that’ll leave a lasting impression of its own.
One of Nashville’s newest darlings is lou, housed in the cutest little East Nashville cottage. They’ve revamped their dining service to be exclusively outdoors on their brand new patio, and it’s absolutely the perfect place for brunch.
Described on their website as, “the daughter of a bohemian mother […] and a well-read, charming Frenchman,” lou delivers exactly what you’d want it to: delicious seasonal dishes paired with natural wines from around the world. You can even have cake for breakfast! Voilà!
Make sure you make a reservation, as the socially-distanced small oasis keeps tables hard to come by. But once you’re there, you’ll wonder how you somehow ended up in a Parisian courtyard dream.
Keeping with the theme of immersing yourself in all-things-beautiful, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens becomes the natural next stop.
Built in 1929 as a private home, Cheekwood opened to the public in 1960 and is celebrating its 60th year as a museum of art surrounded by sprawling botanical gardens. The grounds cover over 55 acres filled with sculpture trails, boxwood and perennial gardens, and so much more, all bursting with color and life.
Sunny afternoons are made even sunnier here. Feel free to bring a blanket, a book, and some time to soak it all in.
Tennessee summers are hot. And after all that walking around, you’ve earned an ice cold beer to bring the heat down.
While you’re in the area, check out Tailgate Brewery’s headquarters just off Charlotte Pike. The taproom is open, but you can also take the beer outside and imbibe on their spacious back patio. They’ve got an incredible array of craft beers, like a Peanut Butter Milk Stout and a Berry Cobbler Sour, as well as delicious boozy Bushwhackers if you’re lucky enough to get one before they sell out.
Pro-Tip: You can get the beer to go. We’re just sayin’.
The day begins with brunch again, this time at the famous Loveless Café just off the Natchez Trace Parkway. Loveless Café boasts a mile-long list of accolades solidifying its place in the Nashville spotlight: “Five Must-See Sights in Nashville,” “South’s Best Breakfast Spots,” and “35 Iconic Southern Restaurants,” just to name a few.
The biscuits are what made ’em famous, so be sure you try the Country Ham as well as the Pimento Cheese N’ Fried Green Tomato biscuit. I mean, come on.
Brunch is over and we’re heading to Leiper’s Fork by way of the Natchez Trace Parkway, hitching a ride along one of the South’s most influential roadways. Originally an ancient path for migrating bison, Natchez Trace is full of waterfalls and sightseeing spots just off the beaten trail (if you’ve got a little more time to get lost.)
Committed to preserving the craft, culture, and historical significance of Tennessee whiskey, Leiper’s Fork Distillery is reviving this limestone libation with stout reverence.
Small-batch spirits are no stranger to the drinking-world’s zeitgeist, but the care and attention of the Leiper’s Fork distillers are second to none. Deeply passionate about how whiskey has shaped the Southern culture and landscape, their goal is “to achieve long-term authenticity by using age-old traditions, [and] pour our heart and soul into every drop of whiskey we make from grain to glass.”
You can taste the difference, and that’s why Leiper’s Fork Distillery is on the list. Take the tour for all the proof you’ll need.
( … see what we did there?)
There are several Puckett’s locations across the Nashville-proper area, but the original one is nestled in the heart of downtown Leiper’s Fork. And after a whiskey tasting, it’s definitely time to eat.
This little grocery store has been serving classic Southern comfort food for generations. There’s an eclectic mix of furniture and people, all of which feel like they’ve been there forever. Live music is also served up almost every day, and their little stage has played host to some big-name country stars like Winona Judd and Tanya Tucker over the years.
If you’re looking for something homegrown, authentic, and fulfilling on a damn-near spiritual level, Puckett’s Original Grocery is the place. Grab a meat-n-three plate and a bottled beer, and take a seat. You’re gonna want to be here for awhile.
11:00am check-out comes early, but you can still snag one more delectable Nashville bite before you hit the road and head back home.
Home of the “100 Layer Donut,” Five Daughters Bakery has amassed an incredible fanbase of locals and tourists alike. They’ve got a few locations, but the little bungalow bakery in the trendy 12South neighborhood is the place to be. Not only do they offer decadent donut flavors like Chocolate Orange and Triple Raspberry, but they also cater to specific dietary needs with vegan, gluten free, and paleo options.
In addition to the bakery, they’ve also added a little walk-up window to make ordering even easier. But no matter what, just make sure you get at least a dozen. You’re gonna want ’em.