Nashville, Tennessee is ALL. ABOUT. COUNTRY. MUSIC, that’s a fact. You’ll hear it when you land, as you walk past the airport-sized honkey tonks and BBQ joints. You’ll hear it in the lobby of your hotel, on the radio in your Uber, and blasting from the speakers in parking garages. You can’t figure out how, but it seems to permeate from every angle of the city. From the street lights and manholes and even the birds flying overhead are tweet-tweeting about tractors. REGARDLESS of all that, Nashville is still an awesome city totally worth visiting. It’s most definitely possible to spend a weekend in Nashville if you hate country music and I’ve teamed up with Hotels.com to show you how!
WHERE TO STAY DURING A WEEKEND IN NASHVILLE
Because of Nashville’s growth both in size and in popularity, it’s true that it’s not the most budget of destinations. However, you can still find great deals all over town. Here are my top picks for accommodation options for your Nashville weekend:
I stayed here on my last visit to Nashville and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality here at the Best Western by the Nashville airport. The rooms were spacious and clean, the included breakfast was great, the service was fantastic, parking is free, and it’s only a few minutes away from everywhere you need to be in Nashville. Honestly, I can’t recommend it enough.
MID-RANGE: OMNI NASHVILLE HOTEL
I also stayed here on my last trip to Nashville and it was FA-ANCY. Every now and then this girl, who spends most of her nights in cheap hostels and other places where I have to share showers and sleep in bunk beds, needs a little bit of luxury in her life.
The Omni has tons of dining and drinking options, is located just a block from Broadway, and the rooms offer great views of the Nashville skyline. Save a little cash by not ordering crackers via room service though–take my word for it.
MID-RANGE: OPRYLAND RESORT
Possibly the most famous and most popular place to stay in Nashville is the Opryland Resort (and convention center). This place is ENORMOUS with a capital THERE’S A JUNGLE IN THE CENTER. This place is beautiful inside–especially around the holidays–and it’s overall a great place to stay. Be warned, you will hear country music in the lobby. Don’t forget your noise-canceling headphones.
LUXURY: THE WESTIN NASHVILLE
The one place on this list I haven’t personally stayed because… well, for one thing, vet bills. Need I continue? But OMG is this place amazing! Check out these photos. And that pool! If you’re planning a weekend in Nashville if you hate country music but LOVE the kind of life that gives you a tiger riding shotgun in your Maserati, this is your spot.
A WEEKEND IN NASHVILLE IF YOU HATE COUNTRY MUSIC
Country music is what made Nashville famous. It’s also, for some of us, what makes Nashville intolerable… if you don’t know how to do it properly. If you look beyond the slide guitar and bedazzled denim you’ll find a city rich in culinary delights (that’s the fancy way to say finger-lickin’ good fried chicken), professional sports, beautiful countryside, tons of history, hip neighborhoods, and so much more.
As a native Tennessean, I find myself in Nashville a handful of times each year and country music factors into my visits 0% of the time. Unless I’ve taken a very, very wrong turn. Presumably in a pickup truck down a moonlit dirt road. My visits are proof there are plenty of ways to spend a weekend in Nashville if you hate country music and here’s where you can start:
EAT & DRINK YOUR WAY AROUND TOWN
Nashville, Tennessee has a fantastic food and beverage scene and, really, you could head to Nashville just for the food and your time will not have been wasted. All those hours at Orange Theory? Totally. But your vacation time? No ma’am.
So forget all about broken hearts, back roads, and day drinking… actually, hang on to day drinking just a little bit longer. Time to leave the country music scene behind and get your fill of delicious Nashville food and booze. Start with…
NASHVILLE HOT CHICKEN
As you’d expect from any true Tennessee girl, I’ve already written a FULL POST on Nashville Hot Chicken. In it, I tell you this:
So what’s the big deal with Nashville hot chicken? Well, it’s delicious; it’s a local specialty; and it’s like a hug from your mom… but like, after she just got done mowing the lawn. It’s comfort food—if you find comfort in being extremely uncomfortable. It’s basically your typical fried chicken but smothered with the likes of paprika and cayenne pepper and what I can only assume are tiny scales off Satan’s back. (Satan is totally a dragon, right?)
It’s said that Nashville hot chicken was started by the people behind Prince’s—Nashville’s original hot chicken spot. The tale goes that Thorton Prince was quite the ladies’ man—a reputation his girlfriend didn’t like too much. After a night when he’d clearly been steppin’ out, his girlfriend doused his Sunday morning fried chicken (God bless the South!) with loads of hot pepper to teach him a lesson. As goes most times a woman tries to teach her husband anything, it backfired. He loved the extra spicy chicken, spread the word, and eventually opened his own chicken shack.
You can find Nashville hot chicken all around town but my favorite spots are Hattie B’s, Bolton’s, Pepperfire, and Biscuit Love because nothing says “Wake your ass up already!” like Nashville hot chicken first thing in the morning.Want to know more about Nashville hot chicken? Check out my full post here:
Like many up-and-coming, on-the-smaller-side cities around the United States, Nashville has a booming craft beer scene. And by ‘booming’ I mean I have a habit of slamming my glass down way too hard. The list of Nashville craft breweries is LOOO-OOONG and I haven’t been to them all yet. What! I’m trying! I have the tolerance of a baby bird!
In the meantime, I’ll share a few of my favorites with you:
- Yazoo Brewing Company | Open since 2003, before craft beer was cool
- Jackalope Brewing Company | Started by two women, became the first brewery in Nashville to can its beer
- Tennessee Brew Works | Delicious beers. You can find their little brewery stand in the airport too!
- Black Abbey | My favorite Nashville brewery—all Belgian-style beers.
- East Nashville Beer Works | Recommended by my friend Marla, and she lives there. In Nashville, not at the brewery. *ba-dum tsssh* Clearly I’ve already have a couple.
MORE DELICIOUS EATS AND DRINKS
Y’all. I’m not gonna lie, there are more hip restaurants and bars in Nashville than there are honky tonk badonkadonks. Now, spending a weekend in Nashville if you hate country music is totally doable. Spending a weekend in Nashville and not eating some unforgettable food is impossible.
Until I visit all the places, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites from the last year:
- Edley’s BBQ | The fried catfish sandwich + the fried okra here is something I eat every time I’m in Nashville.
- Arnold’s Country Kitchen | Grab a tray and head down the assembly line. It’s like middle school but the food is way better and the staff is far more friendly. Choose your southern fried entrees and fixin’s and fill ‘er up with a sweet tea. (Or, just whatever you wanna get. Accent optional.)
- Barcelona Wine Bar | Fancy-ish Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant (I mean, they have white tablecloths so…) where, for some crazy reason, the servers will sit on each others’ shoulders and pour booze into your mouth from high above. It’s really a sight.
- The Green Pheasant | Delicious Japanese food… asstacular Japanese toilets.
- Pinewood Social | Part great restaurant / part bowling alley
- Brunch at L.A. Jackson | Way too hip for me brunch spot with great views of the city and even greater food. Like literally what is everyone wearing here? I’ve never felt more like a cast member from the Golden Girls in my life. You need to check this place out.
- Biscuit Love | They have biscuits and they put all kinds of stuff on them. Me loves very much. I recommend the “Princess.”
- Old Glory | Dark bar, cool scene, you’ll feel like you just stepped into a Manhattan-based rom-com, but like, in a good way.
- I also really, really love the Bagel Deluxe at the Tower Market and Deli | So if you’re ever in the mood for breakfast from what looks like the inside of a fancy gas station, go here!
CHECK OUT BROADWAY, BUT LISTEN UP
Surreeee… Broadway is the world leader in honky tonks and boot shops and pedal taverns. And sureeee… you may leave here with a new vocabulary that’s heavy on the “y’alls” and the “all y’alls” and the “fixin’ tos.” I get that. But! You can visit Broadway during your weekend in Nashville if you hate country music and NOT have to suffer through country music. I’ve been lucky that way.
Broadway may be Country Music Central, but it’s keen to share the spotlight. The last time I was partying away on Broadway (look, I was showing a first-time visitor to Tennessee the ropes and I’m not talking about the ones tied to the hitching post), the majority of the music I heard blasting from the bars was, in fact, not country music at all! It was rock, classic rock, a variety of other kinds of rock. Even Kid Rock, take him or leave him. But what it was not, was mostly country. This shocked no one more than yours truly.
There will be denim, there will be big hair, and there will be boot-scootin’, but know that you can still have a good time in Nashville’s party central without having to hear Luke Bryan’s twang ringing in your ears all night. Talk a walk down Broadway and let your ears be your guide. Plus, the people-watching is like none other.
AND AVOID THESE
However, and this is important, you’ll want to avoid Broadway’s country music hot spots like:
- Tootsie’s | It’s been voted the #1 honky tonk in the world and is three floors of the root-tootin’-est live country music from here to Calabasas. Avoid that purple building like the country music plague that it is.
- Any bar with a country musician’s name in the title | And since you don’t know country music, just be on the safe side and avoid any place with a person’s name in the title. For instance, Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row, Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar, Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge, etc.
- And just avoiding anything with the word “Redneck” in it is a safe bet.
VISIT SOME MUSEUMS
Though Nashville may be famous for a handful of… other museums we will not be naming, it does have two hands, my friends! And in that other hand are all of the non-country-music-centric museums. Like…
➤ The brand-spankin’-new Tennessee State Museum | Okay, so the Tennessee State Museum has been around since 1817, but they just revamped and moved into their brand new home (as of 2018). The Tennessee State Museum focuses on all things Tennessee history—from the Mississippian tribes and their earthen mounds, to the Civil War (obviously), the area’s natural history, reconstruction, and almost nothing music related. I said almost – this is Music City after all.
As always, your visit to the Tennessee State Museum (and parking there) is 100% free! And they’re closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Easter.
➤ The Parthenon | Yes, that Parthenon. At the center of Nashville’s Centennial Park is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Why, you ask? Because, for reasons that are neither here nor there, Nashville is known as the “Athens of the South.” Why that’s not Athens, Georgia (hello!!??) is beyond me.Inside Nashville’s Parthenon you’ll find an art museum and, because sure, a full-scale replica of the Greek Athena statue. It’s an interesting building in a nice park—just go check it out. Wear a toga. Have someone feed you grapes.
➤ Frist Art Museum | Unlike many-an-art museum, the Frist does not have a permanent collection. Instead, the museum is stocked with constantly rotating and traveling exhibits. They host many of the country’s most popular touring exhibits and features art, history, you name it. Current exhibitions include: Native Women Artists and Eric Carle’s Pictures Books: Celebrating 50 years of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Check out the list of planned exhibitions for 2020 here.
➤ Fort Nashborough | The tiny, original fort built to house a few people that would later become the 24th largest city in the United States and the home of Goo Goo Clusters. Originally it was made up of 20 log cabins built to guard against wild animals and Native Americans and today it still stands on the banks of the Cumberland River, just across from a football stadium that could swallow it whole. You can take self-guided tours of this tiny cabin for free every day from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
➤ The Hermitage | The former home of President Andrew Jackson is one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions. It opened to the public in 1889 and takes you on a tour through the mansion of our country’s 7th president who now graces our $20 bill. (The fact that admission costs more than a $20 bill is just a slap in the face of irony.) He’s also buried here so score one for #darktourism. And there are people in period dress so if you’re a fan of time travel like me, head here.
➤ Lane Motor Museum | The Lane Motor Museum is “an eclectic and technically interesting collection of cars and other transportation-related objects for the purposes of educating the public about the history of transportation.” This non-profit museum is one of the few museums here in the United States that focuses on European cars. The long list of vehicles in this place is astounding. Not country-song-title astounding, but still pretty shocking. I mean, c’mon. “Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life)”? What on Earth? I would have left a link to the song there, but I know how much you hate country music. And that song sure as hell ain’t gonna help the cause.
SPORTS SPORTS SPORTS
As most Southern cities are, Nashville is as big a sports town as any. When you’re looking to spend a weekend in Nashville if you hate country music, these sporting events are a good place to spend some time. Jock Jams > country music. (Plus they’ve got bats and blades in case someone hits PLAY on a Blake Shelton album.)
➤ Tennessee Titans, NFL Football | You can find the Tennessee Titans playing at Nissan Stadium downtown between the months of September and December (and hopefully beyond buuut time will tell).
➤ Nashville Predators, NHL Hockey | At the Bridgestone Arena, also downtown, is where you can find the NHL’s Predators playing from October to April-ish even though it seems like hockey is a year-round thing. Am I crazy?
➤ Nashville Sounds, MiLB Baseball | The Nashville Sounds are the AAA, minor-league affiliate of the Texas Rangers and play at First Tennessee Park in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood. Their season lasts from April to September and, God willing, their soundtrack remains of the organ variety.
➤ Nashville Soccer Club, MLS Soccer | If professional soccer is something you’re after, Nashville even has that. The Nashville Soccer Club will play their first MLS match on February 29th, 2020 at Nissan Stadium, Titans-style. MLS soccer takes place between March and October.
ADMIRE THE VIEWS
Nashville is… country music aside… a very sexy city. Its skyline and color aesthetic are pleasing to the eye and you can get great views of it from all over. While some look for the best views in the city, I look for the best views of the city.
The absolute best views of Nashville, in my humble yet 100% accurate opinion, are from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge over the Cumberland River. From here you can see the whole beautiful skyline on an easy stroll from one side of Nashville to the other. You can easily walk here from downtown Nashville, or park at Nissan Stadium and walk towards downtown. It’s quite accessible and won’t take up too much of your time (unless you stop to pet all the puppers).
For great views of the city right in the thick of it all, you’ll want to head back to Broadway—to the top of it to be exact. Ladies and gentlemen! Bring out your earplugs for you may need to brave a honky tonk or two. Most of the enormous bars on Broadway in downtown Nashville have huge rooftops with incredible views… but they just might be blastin’ the Billy Ray. You’ve been warned.
And, though I haven’t personally experienced this for some strange reason, they say the views of Nashville from the river on a General Jackson Showboat cruise are awesome. And though I have zero experience with this, I’m inclined to agree as I always make it a point to take a river cruise if the city I’m in has a river. It’s always such a unique way to see a city that you can’t get otherwise.
GO MURAL PEEPING
Taking your picture in front of Nashville’s MANYYYY street murals is basically a pastime for visitors. I know you’ve seen the “What Lifts You” mural on your Instagram feed. (Which just so happens to be located just outside the Gulch location of Biscuit Love so you can kill two birds with one very hipster stone.)
Additionally, Nashville is home to murals of all shapes, sizes, colors, and references to millennials’ obsessions with avocados. They are located all over the city and, chances are, there’s a Nashville mural near you! On one of my recent trips, I researched the murals I wanted to see, mapped them out, and spent a good hour or so driving around town and getting my picture taken on random sidewalks. And now I’m advising you to do the same.
When trying to map out your favorite Nashville murals, the best source out there is this post by Kristin Luna.
TAKE A JACK DANIELS DISTILLERY TOUR
Alright, alright, this one is a little bit outside Nashville, but not by much. Besides, there’s whiskey at the end of that day trip tunnel and it’s totally worth it. Sure, there are distilleries you can visit in Nashville—Green Brier, Corsair, Nashville Craft, for example—but go big or go home, right? Why not just head straight to the mother of all Tennessee whiskey? And yeah, every drop of Jack Daniels in the entire world comes from the distillery right here in Tennessee.
To be honest, I’m not even a real fan of Jack Daniels but… you had me at “samples included.” A tour of the Jack Daniels distillery in nearby Lynchburg, Tennessee is tons of fun, entirely enlightening, and as a bonus you can have lunch at Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House and it is DELICIOUS, oooh doggie!
There’s a lot to know about taking a Jack Daniels distillery tour and I’ve written an entire post about it. Just click on that link for all the tasty information! Or click on this:
HIT UP THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Being located along a river and in the hills of Tennessee the way that Nashville is, it’s a great location to get all up in Mother Nature’s business. As I said earlier, Nashville is only the 24th largest city in the country which means it’s pretty damn easy to get out of the city and spend some time in some green space. Here are some outdoorsy ways you can spend your weekend in Nashville if you hate country music:
Bike the greenway | Bike the Greenway is a mobile bike rental operation that will provide you with bikes to *bike the greenway.* It’s all very self-explanatory, no? They operate out of a trailer at a trailhead just 10 minutes from downtown Nashville. You can bike through nature, through the city, but not to the Jack Daniels distillery so don’t even think about it.
Because Nashville straddles the Cumberland River, you can also take advantage of paddle boarding, kayaking, or even rent a pontoon boat for a day, you baller you. Note that these water activities tend to be seasonal from spring to fall.
Goat yoga | Working out on vacation is just plain crazy, but add in some teeny tiny goats and suddenly it’s a good time. Write me a country song about a baby goat and then just maybe I’ll give it a listen.
Take a hike | All around Nashville are nature trails galore that make for easy and quick (if you want them to be) day hikes. This article on 10 great hikes near Nashville lists many of the most popular.
Have a great time in Nashville!