NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Country music will always be the heart and soul of Nashville, but there is much more to this vibrant city than its honky-tonks and "meat 'n threes" (though you must experience both). This Nashville primer keeps you balanced with a little culture, a little shopping, a little outdoor adventure, and plenty of great food — and music! — along the way. These are the fixin's for a perfect day in Nashville.
START THE DAY RIGHT: EAT A LITTLE SOMETHING
Pancake Pantry has been dishing up Nashville's best pancakes since 1961. The Pantry (as locals call it) has hour-long lines on the weekend. Go early.
Loveless Cafe serves biscuits, country ham, gravy, and a hot cup of coffee — Nashville's breakfast of champions.
Fido is a great place to bring your laptop and join the crowds of college students and struggling writers for a cup of house-roasted coffee and an Egg McFido (scrambled eggs and cheese on a bagel).
TAKE IN SOME CULTURE
Centennial Park has Nashville's full-size replica of Athen's Parthenon in the midst of a 132-acre park. Who knew?
Country Music Hall of Fame is housed in a space-age building downtown. The museum tells the incredible story of country music through archives, video clips, and memorabilia.
Frist Center of the Arts is a beautiful Art Deco space (formerly the city's main post office) for world-class exhibits.
Ryman Auditorium is the home of the original Grand Ol' Opry and the most coveted performance space in the city. Take a tour or try and catch a show.
REFUEL IN THE AFTERNOON
Burger Up is a popular 12 South burger joint that sources all its beef locally and pleases its vegan clientele with a quinoa black bean patty.
Frothy Monkey has coffee, sandwiches, pastries, and a huge outdoor patio filled with laptop-toting songwriters.
Arnold's Country Kitchen (605 8th Avenue South; +1-615-256-4455) is THE quintessential "meat-n-three." Arnold's dishes up a meat (fried chicken, meat loaf, pork chops) with three sides (mac 'n cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, etc.) weekdays at lunch with plenty of sweet tea. Don't leave without trying a slice of one of their homemade pies.
SHOP LIKE A LOCAL
Hillsboro Village is a walkable area wedged between two universities (Vanderbilt and Belmont). Stop into funky boutiques like Posh, Pangaea, and the legendary BookManBookWoman. There are also plenty of coffee shops, and Nashville's only art house movie theater.
12 South is the hip area sandwiched between 8th Avenue South and 12th Avenue South, with cool vintage shops like Imogene+Willie, Katy K's Ranch Dressing, Pre to Post Modern, as well as beloved local record store Grimey's New and Preloved Music.
TAKE A HIKE
Radnor Lake has lovely walking and hiking trails. If you happen to visit in the fall, the foliage is amazing.
Percy Warner Park is a paradise for walkers, bikers, and hikers. This gorgeous park has miles and miles of trails and bike paths.
TIME FOR HAPPY HOUR
The Patterson House is the best spot for a proper cocktail. It also has an excellent bar menu highlighting locally-sourced ingredients.
12 South Taproom is the place for beer lovers, with a huge selection of local and imported brews, plus frequent live music.
ChaChah is nice for wine, cocktails, and tapas (like house-made charcuterie, spicy lentil tapenade, and olives) on the patio.
Watermark, with its terrific view of the Nashville skyline, is a swank eatery in the Gulch that serves sleek takes on Southern favorites like shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes.
City House is one of the city's most exciting dining spots. Wood-fired pizzas, rustic pastas, and seasonal salads are served in a minimalist concrete and brick space in historic Germantown. Frequent celeb spottings make this a true hot spot.
Flyte has a fab outdoor patio and happy hour specials. Things get hopping around 4 p.m. But stay for dinner, as the eclectic globe-trotting cuisine (sourced locally, of course!) is fantastic.
Catbird Seat is the much buzzed-about 30-seat restaurant with a U-shaped bar in lieu of tables and a nightly changing seasonal tasting menu. Better reserve now: This one is going to be booked solid.
Robert's Western World: Order a PBR and get prepared to boot, scoot, and boogie with the old-timers on the dance floor. Live music happens seven days a week until 3 a.m.
You'll never know who you might see at Tootsie's World Famous Orchid Lounge. This honky-tonk has seen every country great perform on its tiny stage over the past 50 years, and the live music still carries on every night of the week.
The Stage is much larger than some of the other honky tonks, and it's a fun one to stop by for a shot of Jack and a spin around the dance floor. (You may have seen this venue featured in Country Strong.)
Station Inn is no frills and nothin' fancy. It's just Nashville's best live bluegrass for the past 30 years.
WHERE TO STAY
Hutton Hotel – If you want trendy.
Hermitage Hotel – If you want old-school elegance.
Union Station Hotel – If you want to sleep in an old train station.
Linden Manor B&B – If you want Southern hospitality.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fly into Nashville International Airport and take a cab (about $25), or rent a car and drive ten minutes into the city. Many hotels have shuttles that provide free transportation to and from the airport. It's really best to rent a car as there is no good public transportation in Nashville, and, once you're out of downtown, the neighborhoods are pretty spread out.