'Fav 5' travel guides include 5 of the best spots I've found to eat, drink, and explore in a city while visiting. This is the first of a two part guide to Nashville, Tennessee, focused specifically on the sights and sounds in downtown Nashville.
Recent Fav 5 travel guide locations include Vancouver, BC in Canada and Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California.
Nashville, Tennessee. What began as a high school band trip for my cousin and her 15 year old daughter turned into a family vacation for 10 people! We took on Music City like it was our job. While a large group with various interests and staggering ages wasn't easy to coordinate, we all carefully selected which activities and tours to go on during our 5 days in Nashville.
Nashville is both the capital of and the most populated city in Tennessee. This guide will cover locations specifically in downtown Nashville including "Lower Broadway." Named for the street running through it, Lower Broadway is the heart of the country music district. It is dotted with stores filled with boots and hats galore and you can't count the number of cycle bar tours and bachelorette parties whizzing by. You'll be delighted to catch colorful murals and live music around every corner.
Travel tip: Checking the Uber website before flying into any city is always a great idea. Many airports have the "ride sharing" pickup in some corner of a back building somewhere, accessible only by hidden elevators or water taxis, and you can waste plenty of time looking for it. Here is your guide on how to catch an Uber in the Nashville airport (BNA).
My Fav 5 in downtown Nashville, Tennessee include:
1. The Diner - breakfast and espresso 24 hours a day
2. Bicentennial Capitol Mall and the Nashville Farmers' Market - history, pizza, and cake
3. The Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library - a moving and important exhibit
4. The Johnny Cash Museum - a tribute to the Man in Black
5. Robert's Western World - a true honky tonk and the self proclaimed 'home of traditional country music'
1. We arrived in Nashville at 5:00 am, hungry and with luggage in tow. We'd planned for breakfast at 7:00 am but found ourselves free of the airport, in an Uber, and downtown by 6:00 am. Rather than wait an hour to eat, our Uber driver recommended The Diner which is open 24/7. In addition to being conveniently open all of the time, The Diner has breakfast and espresso! It's located in SoBro, the South of Broadway neighborhood, and has 6 floors, each with a different menu, theme, and bar.
Our breakfast was great and the espresso kept us alive after the red-eye flight. We were entertained by watching those who were stumbling out of the diner at the end of their night, while we were beginning our new day. I was totally impressed with the Avocado Toast, served on sourdough and topped with blistered tomatoes, pink Himalayan salt, and cracked pepper. I got a side of smoked gouda grits, too, to celebrate my arrival in the South!
2. I love a good history lesson and the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park was just the place for myself, and the dozens of high school students accompanying my neice, to learn a few things. You'll learn about the Volunteer State (like how that nickname came to me) and why the park was built for the state's 200th birthday, the bicentennial celebration. We walked around the park and took in the history around us, reading the timeline of the state and beautiful quotes along the way.
Connected to the park is the Nashville Farmers' Market, which you deserve to visit after absorbing some history lessons. I'd read great things about both Butter Cake Babe and Bella Nashville Pizza before we arrived and beelined for each storefront upon arrival. Three of us shared a 9" wood fired Marinara Pizza, made with crushed tomatoes, roasted garlic, oregano, truffle oil, and mozzarella cheese from Bella Pizza. We also enjoyed two pieces of butter cake, per the instructions of the Cake Babes working that day: Elvis and Toffee. We ate every single bite of our mid-day meal and loved it ALL, although the jury is divided on which cake was best! My vote was for toffee. You'll have to see for yourself!
3. While Nashville is known for Hot Chicken, Country Music, and bachelorette parties, the city played a very important role in the Civil Rights Movement. The most moving experience of our trip was a visit to the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library. The Civil Rights Room is housed inside the Nashville Public Library (Main Branch, on Church Street, downtown) and includes photos, movies, and books showcasing the happenings in Nashville throughout the movement. While Jackson, Mississippi often is the first city to come to mind, Dr. Martin Lather King Jr. came to Nashville to gain inspiration from the city's activism.
We scheduled a visit through the library's website and spent nearly two hours of our Saturday morning with Tasneem, an employee of the Special Collections Department. Her knowledge of and passion for history and humanities quickly became evident and she brought the room to life right before our eyes. I expected to hear stories of lunch counter sit ins and arrests, but was totally surprised at the level of organization, courage, and bravery that lives silently behind the headlines and photos. The activists studied, trained, and even role played with physical attacks and cigarette burns to ensure that the right folks were sent to the sit ins in order to never break from the non-violent position of the movement. They had dress codes and rules of conduct for behavior. Everyone who was involved found a part to play, opening churches and homes for meetings, donating or preparing food for the hungry students, and even filling their pockets with change and running to the nearest payphone to make the call when the wave of those at the lunch counters were arrested and another group could take their place. The latter sounded just like a job that I'd be fit for!
The bravery of the parents who chose to send their young children to a previously segregated school is incredible. Can you imagine walking your small child into school, on the first day of a new year, with hundreds of eyes on you, into a classroom where nearly no other kid resembles yours, while other adults are protesting your existence?!
My eyes and ears were opened to things I'd never considered before. The lessons learned that day far exceeded any social justice or desegregation topic I'd learned in school (even college!). I hope we can took all to the past to learn how to move through fear, segregation, and hate to find a way to live together, regardless of what separates us (race, gender, sexual orientation, political party, etc). Do not miss this very special place when you're in Nashville!
4. The Johnny Cash Museum was the first thing on my list for places to visit in Nashville and the place did not disappoint! The museum has a great timeline and many photos of his life and career and a really cool tribute to the Ragged Old Flag. Don't miss the "Cash Covered" station where you can listen to dozens of artists singing his songs. Miley Cyrus singing A Boy Named Sue and Snoop Dogg covering Walk the Line were my personal favorites! The museum is small and was very crowded in the middle of a Saturday, of course.
[Fav 4.5 - directly across the street from the Johnny Cash Museum is the Goo Goo shop, the home of the Goo Goo cluster - the world's first candy bar. The original includes milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and marshmallow nougat. They've got upgrades with pecans, peanut butter, and more. This store is HEAVEN.]
5. Finally, a true Honky Tonk on Broadway: Roberts Western World. An Uber driver and Nashville local insisted that we had to visit this place, specifically. It's the self proclaimed 'home of traditional country music' and they never charge a cover. Our whole gang bellied up to the bar for a refreshing adult beverage.
Robert's is old school with neon lights, walls lined in boots, cheep beers, wine straight from a single serving sized plastic bottle, and loud live music. My Dad and my husband both were so exited for beers, hot dogs, and bologna sandwiches! Bryce actually ordered the "Recession Special" which is a fried bologna sandwich, chips, and a PBR for $5.00. We all loved this laid back, old school honky tonk!
Nashville was so much fun that I couldn't narrow it down to just one Fav 5. Stay tuned for part 2 where we get outside of downtown for even more great food, drinks, and sights!
Hello, I'm Angela.
Figs and Flights is all about traveling near and far & eating great food both at home and away.