OK, y’all – this is my second Nashville guide in as many years because this city keeps growing! I can barely keep up with it all, but I really do think this updated list has something for everyone. Since I’m something of a unicorn these days – aka, a born and bred Nashvillian – I’ve included some of my old school, tried-and-true favorites along with new restaurants, hotels, and activities. It’s a great mix and I’ve tried to cover things to do, eat, and see in all areas of the city.
To that end, I encourage y’all to pay attention to the specific areas where you’re making plans. Again, Nashville is booming which means that traffic can be really bad. Be mindful of where you’re staying, etc. so you don’t find yourself in a never-ending Uber ride across town. A few other notes:
- This guide is Nashville-specific. Surrounding areas like Franklin are FABULOUS, but there is so much to say that it deserves its own guide, plus it’s a bit of a hike to get out there from the downtown area.
- Make restaurant reservations early!
- Things are still weird with Covid, so be sure to check the website for any restaurant or attraction you want to hit. While Nashville is very much open for business, some places’ hours and protocols have changed, so double check before you book.
I’ve divided this guide into 4 sections: Restaurants by Area, Hotels, Bars, and Indoor/Outdoor Activities (click any of these headings to go directly to that part of the guide). I hope you find this helpful whether you’re in town with family, on a girls’ trip, or just want to explore the city. I love Nashville so much and know you will, too!
Restaurants By Area
- City House – Southern/Italian fusion with fab cocktails and a fun atmosphere.
- Henrietta Red – A culinary destination famous for innovative dishes and their raw bar.
- Butchertown Hall – Texas-inspired, modern BBQ and tacos. Great cocktails and queso.
- Rolf & Daughters – “Industrial-chic” restaurant with a New American menu.
- Geist – Upscale bistro vibe with delish cocktails and a champagne garden.
- Monell’s – Casual Southern cuisine served family-style.
- Barista Parlor – Great coffee (they have several locations).
DOWNTOWN & THE GULCH
- Husk – Always a classic.
- Adele’s – A Nashville staple for a reason – everything is delicious.
- Liberty Common – Great brunch in a gorgeous room.
- Kayne Prime – Upscale steak house that’s pricey but delicious.
- Moto Enoteca – Italian fare with great pizzas.
- Virago – Sushi and Asian cuisine; in the same restaurant group as Kayne Prime and Moto. M Street owns several restaurants along the same street and they’re all fun.
- Chauhan – Indian fusion cuisine from fab local chef Maneet Chauhan (she was on Iron Chef and is now a host of Chopped). Her restaurant group, Morph Hospitality, owns the next two restaurants as well.
- Mockingbird – Try the Capri Sun-inspired cocktail pouches. Really cool decor and overall vibe.
- Tansuo – Contemporary Chinese cuisine.
- Sunda – Upscale Asian with a chic atmosphere.
- Superica – Fun Tex-Mex with a large patio. Get the enchiladas and queso.
- Etch – Upscale international cuisine.
- Acme Feed & Seed – This is a music venue + restaurant in one, the perfect combo!
- The Southern Steak & Oyster – It’s all in the name: southern fare in a great location. Same owners as Acme.
- Emmy Squared – Yummy burgers and Detroit-style pizza. They also have a location in Green Hills.
- 404 Kitchen + Gertie’s Whiskey Bar – Upscale dining upstairs, casual fare downstairs at Gertie’s (great burgers and amazing whiskey selection).
- Arnold’s – A classic Meat & 3 for lunch.
- Peg Leg Porker – Casual BBQ with fab pulled pork.
- Legendairy Milkshake Bar – Great dessert spot for “Freakshakes,” the most over-the-top and delicious milkshakes you’ll ever have.
12 SOUTH & MELROSE
- Josephine – Especially lovely for brunch.
- Ladybird Taco – Delish tacos for breakfast and lunch.
- BarTaco – Fab margs and the perfect patio for people watching.
- Epice – Lebanese fare with a casual-chic vibe.
- Sinema – Contemporary American cuisine set in the old Melrose Theater (it opened in 1942).
- Sutler – They do a really fun Bluegrass Brunch every weekend.
- Pfunky Griddle – A good place for kids, you get to prep your own pancakes on individual griddles.
- Edley’s BBQ – A Nashville staple (they also have locations in Sylvan Park and East Nashville).
- Five Daughters – Great doughnuts (they have several locations around the city).
WEDGEWOOD HOUSTON & EDGEHILL
- Barcelona – Excellent tapas.
- Dozen Bakery – Great option for breakfast/lunch. The best cookies and croissants in town.
- Bastion – Inventive cuisine with limited seating; pounce on reservations early.
- Diskin Cider – A craft cidery with a really fun, laid-back vibe + great patio.
- Cafe Roze – Everything is delicious and the “millennial pink” decor is Insta-worthy.
- Red Headed Stranger – Fabulous tacos inspired by Texas (get the brisket taco for sure).
- Folk – Same owners as Rolf & Daughters; divine pizza and cocktails.
- Joyland – Fun for kids and your inner child, they serve delicious burgers, curly fries, fried chicken…everything that’s good for the soul.
- The Pharmacy – Yummy burgers and a beer garden.
- Rosepepper Cantina – Mexican cuisine with great margs.
- Lyra – Modern Middle Eastern fare in a chic setting.
- Lockeland Table – Delicious New American menu with something for everyone.
MIDTOWN & HILLSBORO/BELMONT (Around Vanderbilt)
- White Limozeen – The newest, most fabulous bar and restaurant in The Graduate hotel. It’s hot pink and Dolly Parton-themed…need I say more?
- Hattie B’s – A Nashville staple for hot chicken! They have several locations around town.
- Proper Bagel – An easy (and yummy) breakfast option.
- Tavern – Gastro-pub close to Vanderbilt. Same owner as Kayne Prime, Moto, and Virago in The Gulch.
- Catbird Seat – This is definitely a very special night out. The food is incredibly inventive and everything comes as a small plate – the meal is several courses. One of the more elevated and unique dining experiences in Nashville (but the vibe is casual and cozy).
- Bricktop’s – Classic American and a very similar concept to Houston’s and Hillstone.
- Nada – Latin-inspired small plates.
- Greenery Co – The perfect lunch spot with delicious salads and other healthy choices.
- Anzie Blue – Extensive menu with great coffee and cocktails. Fun for lunch or an afternoon pick-me-up.
GREEN HILLS & BELLE MEADE
- Santo – Fantastic Mediterranean; same owners as Epice.
- etc. – The sister restaurant to Etch (in downtown), this is a lovely, quiet option for lunch and dinner.
- Noshville Delicatessen – Get the pancakes and matzo ball soup.
- Roze Pony – The sister restaurant to East Nashville’s Cafe Roze, I adore this new option in Belle Meade.
- RH Cafe – Chic courtyard restaurant in our multi-story Restoration Hardware.
SYLVAN PARK & THE NATIONS
- Answer – Charming bistro with a hyper-seasonal menu.
- Chaatable – Delicious Indian street food from the same chef who own Chauhan, Mockingbird, and Tansuo.
- Hathorne – Really lovely, locally-sourced dishes with an extensive cocktail and spirits list.
- Radish – Fast casual concept with great salads and wraps, from local chef Amanda Frederickson.
- Gracie’s Milkshake Bar – Totally fun and crazy shakes + french fries (in L&L Marketplace).
- Nicky’s Coal Fired – Another fab option for delicious pizza and pastas.
- The Graduate (Midtown, near Vandy)- This is one of the newest hotels in Nashville and the decor and vibe are fabulous. I’ve not stayed here myself but I hear nothing but great feedback, and I just love the room design and of course the Dolly Parton-themed bar and restaurant. They also have a fun karaoke bar called Cross Eyed Critters and a chic coffee bar in the lobby.
- The Aertson Hotel (Midtown) – Another accommodation that’s conveniently close to Vanderbilt, Belmont, Fisk, and Lipscomb, this is a good option if you’re visiting colleges, in town for a parents’ weekend, or want something that’s centrally located and lovely without the hullabaloo of downtown.
- Thompson Hotel (The Gulch) – This hotel is trendy without going overboard and sacrificing comfort. I love the location and the feel of the rooms. It’s not too big or too small, and it’s in walking distance of many shops and restaurants and a 5-minute ride downtown. I also love the rooftop bar, L.A. Jackson, and the restaurant, Marsh House.
- JW Marriott (Downtown) – The JW is a larger hotel, but it has great views, and you’re walking distance to Broadway and the Riverfront. The decor is nice (not too themed or specific), and it has a lovely spa and other amenities located inside the hotel. The restaurant, Bourbon Steak, is delicious, too.
- The Noelle (Downtown) – This hotel is an art deco-inspired gem. The restaurant, Makeready, is great and they also have a really fun rooftop bar called Rare Bird (it’s not as big as LA Jackson in The Thompson but still a good vibe). Also check out Hidden Bar and the coffee shop, Drug Store Coffee. This is really in the thick of things close to Broadway, so consider yourself warned.
- The Fairlane (Downtown) – Another downtown option, The Fairlane is similar to The Noelle in that it also has good dining, chic rooms/decor, and a convenient, Broadway-adjacent location. Their restaurant, Ellington’s, always gets great reviews, and Cheese Gal has a storefront there which is the best place for cheese, wine, and charcuterie.
- The Vandyke Hotel (East Nashville) – This is a totally charming boutique hotel where all of the rooms are named after alcohol (when I stayed there for an event, I was in the “Wine Room,” naturally). I really enjoyed my stay, and I think this hotel is perfect for a girls’ weekend/getaway. Several of the rooms sleep multiple people (on multiple beds), and some rooms connect. There are also several common spaces where you could all socialize and be together while still enjoying the privacy of your own room.
- Gaylord Opryland Hotel (approx. 20 minutes from Downtown) – Alright y’all, I never thought I’d be recommending the Gaylord Hotel, but I’ve stayed here twice and it’s actually a very good option for families who aren’t looking for a ton of off-site activities. The main reason this makes the list is SoundWaves, the indoor/outdoor waterpark you can only use if you’re a hotel guest. This is a really fun thing to do with kids, and if you’re within driving distance, it makes for a fun weekend “staycation.” The hotel isn’t overly glamorous, but it’s clean and well-run, and I recommend asking to stay in one of the Garden Suites since they overlook the massive indoor gardens and are located right next to SoundWaves.
- Coming Soon – Honestly, y’all, I can’t even keep up with all of the new hotels that are opening in Music City. The W opens in September 2021 and the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton are also on the way. I’ll keep adding to this list as new things emerge!
Bars (Where GROWNUPS Go – Ha!)
- L.A. Jackson (Gulch) – This bar is at the top of the Thompson Hotel, and it has an indoor and outdoor option. It’s in a great location (not in the craziness of downtown but close enough), and the food and drinks are good. Swanky but not over-the-top atmosphere
- Rooftop Lounge Bar (Downtown) – This bar is at the top of the Bobby Hotel. Similar situation as L.A. Jackson but they change out the decor seasonally. In the winter, there are plastic igloos to sit in, and in the summer, cabanas. There is always a bus to drink out of. It’s a fun atmosphere and an ideal place to enjoy a cocktail close to Broadway without actually being ON Broadway.
- Downtown Sporting Club (Downtown) – I’m obsessed with this place. Located on Broadway, this restaurant/bar is a bit “dude-ish,” but if you like games, then it’s for you. There are tons of TVs playing sporting events, all kinds of games to actually play yourself (like ring toss and corn hole), but the “main event” is axe throwing. I never thought I’d like it, but I do (you need reservations). There are instructors to help you, and you can order food and drinks while you throw. It also has a great rooftop bar right on Broadway that I’ve yet to see overcrowded as many of the others can be.
- Oak Bar (Downtown) – Inside the Hermitage Hotel, this very, very small bar is cozy and a breath of fresh air if you don’t want a crazy atmosphere. It’s a great place to grab a drink and a nosh before or after going to a show at TPAC or dinner somewhere downtown. It’s classy, and the men’s bathroom is famous for its fabulous decor and the fact that Elvis used the restroom there (I’ve taken a quick peek inside of course).
- Skull’s Rainbow Room (Downtown) – Located in Printer’s Alley, it’s a hole-in-the-wall bar that was renovated a few years ago but it’s a Nashville staple with a late-night Burlesque show if you want “drinks and a show”… and some nights, we do, right? Not fancy, and quite eclectic, it’s been around since before I was born.
- Patterson House (Midtown) – An “oldie but a goodie” by Strategic Hospitality. Known for its cocktails and mellow setting, it’s been a hit since day one. It’s a great place to grab a drink before or after dinner without getting stuck in the mess of downtown. Tried and true.
Most people visiting Nashville seek out the live music, and since there are tons of websites already devoted to that, I’m going to focus on all the other activities + tours. Here are some of my favorite things to do that you can enjoy with or without kids.
- Bowling at Pinewood Social (Downtown) – You need reservations for this boujee bowling experience located in the fun and swanky Pinewood Social, which also has great food and drinks. Fun for most ages, but not super young kids.
- Pins Mechanical Co (Downtown) – Food trucks, libations, and all sorts of games like foosball, ping pong, bocce, and more.
- Country Music Hall of Fame (Downtown) – If you haven’t toured the museum before, you need to put it at the top of your list. It’s a Nashville staple that’s really fabulous.
- Ryman (Downtown) – The Mother Church of country music! Definitely worth attending a concert here if you can and they also do really interesting tours.
- NashTrash Tours (Downtown) – In my opinion this is the best and only Nashville tour. A bit of history, a lot of comedy, and a total blast. Book far in advance!
- Frist Art Museum (Downtown) – Nashville’s fine art museum has something for everyone. Housed in an old, art deco post office, the museum not only showcases great exhibitions, but the children’s area is very fun for kids to create their own works of art.
- Schermerhorn Symphony Center (Downtown) – We have an absolutely gorgeous symphony hall where it’s a treat to take in a performance. The Nashville Symphony really makes an effort to offer a diversified program to suit all musical tastes, so be sure to check it out. One upcoming show, for example, is the music of Pink Floyd.
- Tennessee Performing Arts Center, aka TPAC (Downtown) – Check the calendar for upcoming plays, musicals, ballet performances, lectures, interviews, and comedy shows.
- Stieglitz Collection at Fisk University (West of Downtown) – Georgia O’Keefe donated a portion of Alfred Stieglitz’s art collection to Fisk after he died (here’s the story). Currently, the collection is shared on a two-year rotating basis with Crystal Bridges. A gem and absolutely worth a visit if it’s on display during your trip.
- Climb Nashville (West of Downtown) – A great indoor climbing facility that’s perfect to try on a rainy or cold day. Fun for all ages.
- Paddywax Candle Bar (Berry Hill & The Gulch) – I was skeptical about this “make your own candle” place at first, but tried it out and absolutely loved the experience. Not only is it fun/relaxing, but they have a bar where you can order beverages while you socialize and make beautiful custom candles. You can book the space for private groups so it’s perfect for a girls’ trip or special event.
- Zanie’s (12 South/Melrose) – Nashville’s comedy club featuring a rotating cast of hilarious acts. This is where Heather McMahan performs when she’s in town.
- Cheekwood Estate & Gardens (Belle Meade) – One of my favorite places in Nashville, Cheekwood offers so many seasonal programs (check out their calendar for a full list of activities) in addition to its stunning gardens and historic mansion museum.
- Percy Warner & Radnor Lake (Belle Meade and Oak Hill) – We’re lucky to have beautiful hiking trails in the city and these are two of my favorite places to be in nature without leaving Nashville.
- Brentwood Skate Center (Brentwood) – About 15 minutes from downtown, this is off the beaten path but such a fun, retro thing to do (especially in the winter). Check their schedule, as the hours change seasonally, but the vintage vibe is great and who doesn’t love some “good, clean fun?”