My guide to the U.S.A’s absolute best music scene, hot chicken, NHL crowd and more!
When Aussies set off for their American adventure they typically have the generic, hot ticket cities in mind – Los Angeles, New York City, Las Vegas, parts of Southern California along the coast, maybe San Fransisco, and likely catch the Niagra Falls if they intend to venture up into Canada while they’re there. But usually, from what I’ve heard in general, the South doesn’t get much thought. People might fly directly from Sydney into Dallas, Texas and fly straight out. Now, I think Texas is great and there’s a lot of other amazing places throughout the South you should definitely explore if you ever feel the urge, but if you’re only interested in hot shot, must-see places, then the next time you’re in the States – (and trust me on this) – you have got to hit up NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE.
I can already hear my friends in Nashville laughing! I wanted to start a series within the Travel section of my blog, of places that are “A little less travelled” – pockets around the world that I’ve been to and explored, that aren’t typically on people’s travel bucket lists, BUT THEY SHOULD BE (Listen, Linda!) Now, those who live in Nashville will explode into a fit of giggles reading that, because the rate at which Americans are flocking to live in Nashville is approximately 100 people PER DAY! It is growing rapidly and I thought, for those of you who aren’t from the States and haven’t yet caught on to what I personally think is easily the best city in America, here is WHY.
I was there last Christmas and New Year of 2017 and if you like the cold and pack the appropriate clothing (I’m talking full on Kathmandu Coats and multiple layers) then, by all means, it’s a great time to be there. Opryland Christmas, Cheekwood Estate and basically everywhere really look beautiful at Christmas. However, if you’re going to see America during the winter, then New York City and those places further North are the real winter wonderlands and I would suggest that Spring/Summer is a better time to be in Nashville. Here’s a list of all my favourite things to do, see and what I love about Nashville.
Music: I have to start here because after all, it is called ‘Music City’ and this is what lured me into this incredible place. As a singer and a writer, it is forever in my heart and I have only the fondest memories of Nashville. I know what its like to stand up and sing your song and have everyone watch you and sing with you. No feeling can top that. But Music City isn’t just for those of us who are musically inclined. People tend to have a misconception that all they’ll find in bars in Nashville are cowboys and line dancing and that could not be further from the truth. (You’ll definitely find some cowboys and probably fall in love with one.) But Nashville has such a diverse and expansive music scene full of all kinds of genres – artists from all over the world spend time working in Nashville. Country Music is definitely what the city is famous for and all the big Country Music stars live there, but you can walk into so many live venues on every street and hear all kinds of artists. Country music has definitely taken a more Pop, RnB or Rock turn over the last decade, so a lot of the new wave country artists performing across the city right now are just SO much fun and you’ll definitely find yourself dancing along, having a party and catching yourself “Loving Country.” There aren’t many venues across the city that will be playing anything other than LIVE music and I love that about Nashville. You never know who you might see who will end up being the next big superstar. Lots of big-time artists still like to pop into smaller venues across the city for surprise gigs and songwriters and musicians are literally 75% of everyone you meet. There’s always a concert or big music event going on. If you think of any artist that you love of any genre, I guarantee they always hit Nashville on their tour. Music row is where all the big label companies reside and there are recording studios dotted on nearly every block of the city. The Grand Ole Opry show is definitely something Country Music Fans should experience, so add that to your to-do list. For the rest of you who are here to have fun, a $20 bill will have the band singing your favourite song pretty much immediately (Hot tip) so grab your friends, grab your margarita and get on the dancefloor! If I can say one thing, Nashville is not the city for you if you don’t know how to have fun. If you’re a low key traveller who just wants to look at buildings and lay on beaches then, quietly, GTFO. Nashville is a vibe. It’s buzzing. I’m selling you on an atmosphere, an experience, not something you can really get from photos. These are ‘telling your grandkids when they hit 21 stories’, It’s not fuckin’ Rome!
Broadway: A natural progression after covering music, Broadway is one of the first places you have to be and if you’re the kind of person who’s only going to visit Nashville once, it’s probably where you’re going to spend most of your time. It’s the main attraction of the city. A strip of live music venues, bars, restaurants and shopping. Walking down Broadway, all you can hear is live music – and it’s LOUD. Many country stars – Dierks Bentley, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan in particular – have their own bars/restaurants on Broadway. My friends in Nashville will read this and roll their eyes at this next sentence, but if you’re a tourist, my advice is to do as tourists should do in Nashville. If you’re on a girls trip, grab a pair of slutty Cowboy boots from Boot Barn, bar hop along Broadway talking to hot southern men, sing at the top of your lungs, drink Bud Lights and buckets of Margaritas until the lights go out and you’re singing Callin’ Baton Rouge in the back of your Uber at 5am! It’s truly the best fun you’ll ever have! Whether it’s girls or guys reading this, here’s another hot tip – Southerners just cannot resist our Australian accent. I met up with a couple Aussies on New Year’s Eve and we can all confidently agree that if you’re along Broadway and tell pretty much anybody that you’re Australian, you’re suddenly everybody’s best friend and your night just got a whole lot better. The band, the bartenders and the bouncers are all now looking out for you. *Wink* There’s also a lot of Honky-Tonk and Bar Hopping Tours available that will ensure you hit the must-see spots around the city. Again, you’ve got to be the kind of person who’s fun and loves being around other people. Being alone in Nashville or going with one person and not making the effort to meet others is just not going to give you the best experience. It’s a beautiful city full of great restaurants, boutiques and some really gorgeous and interesting attractions by day, but it’s certainly a party city by night. Make the most of it.
Hockey: If you’re into sports and have taken a liking to the Major Leagues in the U.S.A then you have to see a hockey game in Nashville. Naturally, when you think of the South, tailgating and football come to mind and yes, Tennesseans are crazy mad about their football. But Nashvillians, I have to say, are crazier about HOCKEY. NHL. ICE HOCKEY. And they have passionately dubbed their home Arena (Located on Broadway – yay party!) “SMASHVILLE.” I have to admit, I am a huge Nashville Predators fan, so I haven’t watched hockey games in any of the other NHL arenas, but I am not the only person who will tell you Bridgestone Arena, home to our “Preds” is the loudest, craziest, and most fun Arena in the league! Every intermission there’s a live band on stage playing for the masses that are all decked out in Predator Gold, our pre-game show is WILD and just when you think a hockey game couldn’t possibly be any more fun or loud, our mascot – a Sabertooth Cat – comes swinging in from the ceiling or is doing donuts on the ice on his ATV. He’s a nutcase! Hot Tip: Find out the opposing goalie’s last name. Why? When we score here’s what you chant: “He shoots! He scores! You Suck! Craw-ford! Craw-ford! Craw-ford! YOU SUCK! It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!” HA! Another amazing example from a game vs Pittsburgh below.
Even if you’re not really into hockey, Smashville is a huge part of this city and it’s fun to witness at least once. So if you have no idea what’s going on, sit back, drink a beer, enjoy the fights and the relentless trolling of the opposition from the SMASHVILLE crowd. It’s so funny! Then, when we win, watch everyone spill out onto Broadway and carry on the party.
Restaurants, Attractions, Shopping and other Hotspots: Where to eat! Where to shop! Nashville might be all live music and crazy hockey fans but I hope I haven’t painted too wild of a picture, because as much opportunity as there is to have a lot of fun at night, there’s plenty to do in your down time too. I haven’t seen everything in Nashville so there may be some restaurants, attractions and places I’ve missed. Be sure to explore all the city has on offer on their various social media platforms and what’s going on during the time you’ll be there (a lot of people flood the city for CMA Fest and NHL Finals in particular.) But some of the best places I’ve come across, I have included here. As far as shopping goes, there isn’t really a mall in the CBD/Broadway vicinity of Nashville, so if you want to explore those, I certainly suggest hiring a car if you’re in town for more than a few days, as it’s a little pricey to Uber ride there. Opry Mills and the Mall at Green Hills are my two favourites. The Mall at Green Hills I prefer, as they have department stores like Nordstrom and some higher end brands that I love. It’s also a beautiful mall. It’s so luxe. Opry Mills is more of a general outlet mall, with so many amazing stores too and both of them have plenty of eateries and cinemas. If you’re staying in the city and want shopping that is closer, there are some beautiful boutiques dotted around the place, particularly in The Gulch and on 12 South. You will find in the streets around Broadway though, most are souvenir type shops. Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Cavallari both have boutiques in Nashville, “Draper James” and “Uncommon James” respectively. (I don’t know what it is about ‘James’ but the celebrities love him!) “Urban Grub”, “The Flipside” and “Frothey Moneky” are all key eateries along 12 South to hit up and truly some of my favourites. They are popular but seriously, don’t sleep on them! There are nice boutiques to shop and while you’re here you have to take a photo with the “I Believe in Nashville” mural!
Explore The Gulch area and hit up one of my favourite foodie places, “Adele’s” by NYC Head Chef Jonathan Waxman and owned by Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill. Great atmosphere, great food and lowkey because I’m a KOL fan *Wink.* My light up Nashville Sign above is taken from “Biscuit Love.” If you order the Biscuit with Fried Chicken and Sausage Gravy, you may have a heart attack but it’ll be worth it. Soooo good! “UP” is a rooftop lounge/bar with amazing drinks and a breathtaking view of Nashville’s Skyline. “Moto,” “Party Fowl” and “Whiskey Kitchen” are all my personal Gulch recommended eateries too. Make sure you hit up one of the many BBQ places around town, it’s kind of an ‘I’m in the South so I have to eat real BBQ’ deal. “Jack’s” was my personal favourite – get the combo with mash potatoes and cream corn. I’m suddenly very hungry! The brisket – honestly, I dream about it. Nashville isn’t as famous for its BBQ as it is for its hot chicken though. Many locals argue about the best Hot Chicken spot. “Hattie B’s” is now a chain restaurant with a couple of locations outside of Nashville and I thoroughly enjoyed it. “Bolton’s” in East Nashville is a fan fave and so too is the OG Hot Chicken spot “Prince’s.” Prince’s for me is a little out of the way and while the chicken is AHHMAZING the overall dining experience is mediocre. For me, Hattie B’s was a lot of fun, good atmosphere and the chicken is still RED HOT!
If you decide to venture out to the other side of the city – East Nashville, Germantown and the Five Points area – you won’t be disappointed there either. Drinks at “3 Crow” in Five Points, a smokey, moody kind of bar followed by “Five Points Pizza” is always an easy and fun night out. I met the boys of ‘The Brummies’ at 3 Crow one night and I was heart eyes the entire time I spent talking to them. Sweetest souls ever. At the time, they were still under the name ‘John & Jacob’ and I remember listening to their music on repeat and falling in love with them for weeks after that. That’s the beauty of Nashville (and travelling in general) – you just never know who you’ll bump into. “Pharmacy Burger” is LEGIT and they have boozy milkshakes that make my heart sing. “Barista Parlour” is where you wanna get your coffee out this way. Owned by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, they serve seriously great coffee and eats (and that’s coming from an Australian!) “Cafe Roze” is a brunch must – trust me on this one. Order the egg bowl and a bloody mary after a Nashville Night and you’ll be re-energized to go again!
“Henley”, “Losers” and Dierks Bentley’s “Whiskey Row” are some favourite night spots but in all honesty – wherever you go, you can’t go wrong. Nashville is vibrant, buzzing and bursting with neon colour. You can get great food and drinks anywhere and people just want you to have a great time. There’s plenty to explore, The Country Music Hall of Fame, Madame Tussaud’s, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens and Belle Meade Mansion Tour come highly recommended by trusted friends of mine. There are also historical tours and country music tours for the cultural lovers out there and I do recommend them if they pique your interest, but for me, going to Nashville is about fun. Wing it. Because the people there are talented, creative, youthful (no matter their actual age) and just buzzing. They love you and you don’t even know them. They are so passionate about their city and so they should be.
If you’re going to be in Nashville for a few days to check it out, stay in the city, within walking distance to Broadway. You’ll spend all your time there anyway. If you’ve read this and are thinking you’d like to check it all out, give yourself a week, 10 days (or if you’re me, 3 weeks!) and rent out an Airbnb and a car. I’m more than happy to give details to anybody interested in where I stay. Its the coziest loft in East Nashville and a car is necessary (unless you’re rich then Uber everywhere! Ha!) There is so much to see and do and a lot I haven’t mentioned, but as you explore the city, you’ll find little pockets and places you’ll want to see on your own. Have fun! Of course you will, in Nashville, there’s no way you can’t!