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The best of Nashville
When exploring the best things to do in Nashville, there is one cardinal rule: don’t avoid the attractions, activities and highlights that you’ve heard about before, deeming them “too cliché.” Namely, we’re talking about the music scene, the hot chicken and, of course, the top bars in the area. They are, after all, cliché for a reason. Of course, there’s more: from the "mother church of country music" to the local answer to New Orleans' Bourbon Street and super-fun distillery tours, Nashville is an endlessly entertaining town that offers historical treasures and modern entertainments in the same breath. Are you ready to explore the Tennessee capital properly?
The ongoing influx of people moving to the Tennessee capital means many things, including a revamping of the best Nashville restaurants: as folks from different cultures start calling the city home, they are influencing the sorts of food served at local eateries. And we’re oh-so-happy about it. Not only that: chefs are taking advantage of a grander number of diners in their establishments, also enjoying the access to new flavors and ingredients. Locals, on their part, are reveling in culinary choices that involve more than the (very good) hot chicken that Nashville is known for. Winners all around. So, before embarking on a tour of the city’s top attractions and things to do, grab a quick, fresh breakfast taco in the morning, enjoy a yakitori skewer and a mai tai while soaking up the Southern sun at lunch or opt for a three-hour, multi-course exploration at dinner. But there is more: Tennessee’s climate and agricultural history give cooks easy access to local ingredients, so even if you’re feasting on an Israeli dish, you’re likely biting into an eggplant grown a few miles away. Southern dishes are inspired by the traditions of the Appalachian Mountains to the east (and more places with that focus, including Sean Brock’s anticipated eatery, are in the works). Other trends include wood-fired grills charring dishes to perfection, and restaurant owners teaming with others to maximize the use of their space as rent prices have increased. Ready to eat? One caveat: we’re not including any of the eponymous Nashville hot chicken places in this ranking; we have a whole separate list for that particular delicacy.
Whether you want to sample some Tennessee whiskey or just grab a cold beer while you listen to the live music that made this city famous, the best Nashville bars are sure to deliver. In recent years, Music City’s imbibing scene has grown as renowned as the local restaurant and music culture—which is saying a lot—making bar crawls some of the very best activities and things to do in town. Craft cocktails abound, but plenty of places also stock unique brews and extensive wine lists. East Nashville, in particular, has become a hotbed for locals and tourists, brimming with stylish, low-key hangouts that serve really good liquor. But notable spots have opened up all over town, from the fast-developing Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood to Lower Broadway and rooftops downtown. This once-quaint Southern city boasts bars worth writing songs about, and we’ve rounded up the best of them below. Word of advice: to minimize your chances at a nasty hangover the next day, indulge in some delicious hot chicken either before or after your bar run. You won’t regret it.
There is a reason why the best Nashville attractions are some of the most discussed destinations in the U.S. This is Music City, after all. The Athens of the South, Smashville: a city with a nickname for each one of its personalities. Where to begin exploring when in town? Depends on your mood. Culinary fiends will likely already have a list of best restaurants to visit handy, but we urge all sorts of travelers to indulge in every entry on our roster of best Nashville hot chicken. You’re welcome in advance. If you’re partial to activities, events and things to do, consider kicking off your tour of the city at the famous Country Music Hall of Fame or the plantation home. Home to more than 20 colleges and universities, the town is also drenched in a rich tradition of academia, as evidenced by the many libraries and museums you’ll see at every corner. Sport lovers will be amazed by the loudest fans in the NHL (for real), who even throw catfish on the ice when possible (true story) at Bridgestone Arena. Basically, everyone will find something to adore in Nashville. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Nashville
When considering where to stay in Nashville, you should do some research. And we are here to help. There's a joke about the city's real estate listings: in other towns, expect "two bedrooms plus office." In the Tennessee capital, the bonus room is a music studio tucked behind the garage... and your favorite album was likely recorded there. That's Music City in a nutshell: the best neighborhoods in Nashville, where you should consider booking a hotel room or Airbnb, are filled with hidden gems and surprising destinations. From out-of-this-world restaurants and bars to live-music venues and kid-friendly things to do, the city is ripe for discovery (true story: your new favorite gig spot may be tucked inside an old barn). The following five neighborhoods are the most visitor-friendly, home to must-see attractions and unexpected finds. The best part? When staying in these areas, you won't have to rent a car (a rarity in this city of sprawl).
Nashville hot chicken is much more than a local delicacy. First off, a bit of history: it was the 1930s and a woman whose identity is lost to the ages wasn’t thrilled about her boyfriend, as they say in the South, “stepping out on her.” Her revenge on the cheating man? Cooking him a too-hot-to-handle variation of his favorite fried chicken recipe, with blistering peppers and extra spices. Unfortunately for her (but fortunately for us), her erstwhile paramour Thornton Prince liked it hot—and then some. The relationship ended but Prince’s family ran with the idea: Prince’s hot chicken, now referred to as Nashville hot chicken, was born. In recent years, as the dish has gained even more popularity, chefs across city restaurants have developed their own interpretations of the signature dish. And, just like Prince, most of them keep their recipes closely guarded—making a culinary trip around Nashville’s hot chicken scene one of the very best things to do in town, an attraction in its own right. If you want to try an authentic take on the stuff, expect an open-faced white bread sandwich, bone-in with a pickle on top. Traditionally, the bird is pan-fried at varying levels of spiciness: the darker the spice mix, the hotter the fare. On our list, you’ll find both traditional and more jazzed up versions of the delicacy, but one rule holds true across them all: it is milk only (not water, not beer and certainly not a frozen cocktail) that will settle down the intensity of the spice in your mouth—so have some handy at all times. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best Nashville restaurants
Sure, life in the south moves at a slower pace, but attending even one of the best Nashville events will speed up your heart rate—and in a good way. It’s not uncommon for the city to host two or three festivals, a couple of big-name concerts and a baseball game all in the span of a few blocks at the same time. After all, the Tennessee capital loves to show off and throw a party (not to mention the city’s passion for hot chicken, awesome music, top-notch restaurants and, of course, incredible bars) and signature events are just as friendly, outgoing and down-to-earth as the people that call the city home. We should warn you: this is Music City—so all of these entries come with a side of oh-so-amazing sounds, of course. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Nashville
We found the best things to do in Nashville with kids that guarantee a successful visit for your brood. Time to start figuring out where to stay! While the city screams country and might inspire a Johnny Cash jam session or two, you don't necessarily have to embrace its musical roots (though, of course, we're all for a trip to the Grand Ole Opry). There are plenty of things to do in Nashville that satisfy all interests, after all. Branch out with trip to local museums that boast interactive science exhibits and free family art programs. Grab a bite at some of the best restaurants in Nashville, one of which puts a quirky twist on breakfast that the kiddos will appreciate. And, when the temperatures begin to soar, head outside and cool off with a dip in J. Percy Priest Lake. As your trip down south comes to a close, make sure to enjoy the best brunch in Nashville before making your way to the airport. RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Nashville
This is Music City. While in recent years Nashville has become known for other things (hipsters, celebrity chefs, NHL hockey and bachelorette parties, to name a few), at its core, Nashville is still a place people come to play and hear music. While there’s sound 24-7 in this city, the best of it happens at night in bars, particularly in honkytonks, which are spots that play Western swing and offer dance floors for people to cut loose (when it’s not too crowded). Swing dancing the night away to classic country jams is one of the top things to do in the city. Honkytonks are no-cover-charge joints, but you must tip the band when the hat is passed.
Nashville didn't used to be known as a brunch town. To be honest, for many years not much happened in Music City before noon on Sundays—musicians were sleeping off their previous nights out at the bars, everyone else was in church, and few restaurants were even open at all. As Nashville's demographics have changed, so too have its brunch options. Today plenty of eateries open for this most leisurely of meals. Whether you're looking for things to do on the weekend or a hangover remedy after hanging out at the best nightlife spots in town, these brunch spots are well worth your while. And it’s not all chicken and waffles, poached eggs and bloody Marys (though Nashville does all three very well). Here are the best places for catching up with friends, feeding that hangover, people watching and ordering another mimosa.