This Nashville travel guide will help you plan your dream trip to a scenic town with endless music, plenty of activities, awesome locals, and even better food!
I knew Nashville would be cute and fun and delish and a nice little break from a reality that as of late has been...more than overwhelming.
What I didn't know was that I would stay at the best Airbnb, eat the most scrumptious food, and experience one of the kindest, cleanest, prettiest, cities all at once. My sister and I flew my mom out last Labor Day weekend for her 60th birthday (sorry I just revealed your age, Mother). Nashville, you took us by surprise and we kind of totally adore you.
Where to Stay:
After hearing from a bunch of you on Instagram (thanks for all the recommendations!), we decided to stay in a charming neighborhood called 12South. Think trendy new restaurants, cozy coffee shops, eclectic boutiques, and awesome walkability. The surrounding homes are just beautiful! You can tell that this area is really up and coming.
We booked the most lovely and bright mid-century modern Airbnb straight outta my DREAMS that was a quick three minute walk from the main street.
I loved the house so much that I asked the sweet owner Amy to design my house. I kid you not. From the dreamy white open kitchen with quartz counters to the impeccably decorated bedrooms, this house could've been on the front page of a home magazine. A magazine that I hope to someday live in. What a gem!
What to Eat:
I came to Nashville with a pretty hefty itinerary that was 99% restaurants. When I started planning the trip, my number one goal was to taste my way through Nashville. I knew the food would be good, but it definitely exceeded my expectations! Nashville has a super impressive food scene that I'm so glad I was able to explore.
Bartaco is a wondrous spot situated right in the heart of 12South. I have to say that my dining experience that evening was one of the best I've had to date. It wasn't just that the cauliflower tacos and key lime pie in a jar tasted out of this world; it was the lighthearted beachy vibe, the unpretentious yet carefully crafted menu items, the genuine staff, the sense of effortlessness in it all. You won't find any TVs at this unique taco joint. Food really is the focus.
Thanks to the gracious staff, we were able to try nearly the entire menu. While there wasn't anything I didn't love, I especially enjoyed the portobello tacos, guacamole, plantains, mushroom mole tamale, street corn, and gazpacho. I left very happy and very, very full!
photos courtesy of bartaco
The Wild Cow
I would do anything to have a vegetarian restaurant like The Wild Cow in Columbus. This super cool, eccentric joint came highly recommend from herbivores everywhere, and for good reason. The food was incredibly good. My meat-eating sister and mom loved it just as much as I did! It was the kind of menu that I could easily eat off of every single day---tons of innovative salads, sandwiches, bowls, tacos, and more.
We shared the caesar salad with cashew parm, sun dried tomatoes, and portabellos along with the market veggie salad with buffalo tempeh and ranch (all vegan). Holy moly...that buffalo tempeh. And the ranch. I wanted to bathe in them both. We had vegan cupcakes for dessert to top off the epic lunch. If you want to impress even the pickiest of carnivores, take them to Wild Cow!
"I'm not waiting in line two hours for a biscuit." We're still laughing over my mom's proclamation when we saw the line wrapped around the block. Twice. Not surprisingly, it was that good. Biscuit Love started off as a food truck and is now a full blown restaurant in one of Nashville's trendiest neighborhoods, The Gulch. I ordered a biscuit with jam, a fried egg, kale salad, and fruit a la carte since most of the menu had meat and/or lots of cheese. But I was in HEAVEN. I'll never want to eat another biscuit again.
The owner (who we had no idea was the owner...he said he washed dishes) was super sweet and brought us an array of spreads including apple butter, blueberry compote, and the most drool-worthy bananas foster jam that I'm still foaming at the mouth over. Did I mention they also have incredible coffee? Do brunch right and don't skip this place. Of note, I do very much regret not buying the "resting brunch face" mug.
This is a cute casual joint featuring unique coffee drinks (lavender rosemary latte, anyone?), sandwiches, salads, and breakfast items. It's not farm to table cuisine that'll knock your taste buds off, but it's a good place to grab a quick meal.
We went to the 12South location but there are a few around the city. I had "The California," which was sourdough toast, avocado, salsa, sprouts, and fried eggs. The coffee was delish!
Five Daughters Bakery
We stumbled into this adorable pink and turquoise family-owned donut shop after a big southern meal and were so glad we did. They have tons of different donuts ranging from vegan to paleo to the big bad Donut Sandwich, which has ice cream and chocolate ganache stuffed in the middle. I'll never forget that sammie!
I'm not gonna lie...I was a little skeptical when my sister booked a reservation at this Southern comfort spot. She really wanted a typical Southern meal, and I totally understood that. Puckett's is where you should go if you want down home comfort food like pulled pork, BBQ chicken, mac and cheese, shrimp and grits, and the like. It's not fancy, but it really is tasty. I decided on the Shrimp and Grits and I have to admit...it was pretty divine. The fennel, okra, and gouda grits really took it over the top! This isn't where you should take your vegan gluten-free hippie cousin, clearly. Lolz.
Other notable eateries: I was looking forward to trying Franklin Juice Co but they were closed by the time I got there. I heard great things about Avo, Flipside, Josephine, Sunflower, Las Paletas, The Tavern, City House, and Tree House. I'm hoping to try these next time around!
What to Do:
We didn't do the typical Broadway stops. Wasn't my scene! We focused on exploring different neighborhoods around Nashville to soak up the true culture, not the touristy stuff.
Franklin is a cute town with lots of restaurants and shops kind of similar to 12South except less trendy and more classic/family-oriented. We rented a car since we knew we'd be driving 25 minutes to Franklin and another 20 to the vineyard. We found tons of great little shops to occupy us for a few hours before hitting the road again. We didn't get to East Nashville but I heard that's a nice area, too. If you're not staying in 12South, that's a must-visit neighborhood as well!
Situated only 25 minutes from Nashville, Arrington Vineyards is a gorgeous little getaway with wine tastings galore. Sit on the hill and stare at the breathtaking view, sip on a flight of your favorite wines, and relax to the tune of live bluegrass and jazz bands. This would be a great activity for a group of girlfriends or your honey! We really enjoyed this place.
After we finished eating at Puckett's, we partook in the free Art Walk that luckily falls on the first Saturday of each month. Most of the local galleries offered wine, too! This was the perfect way to end the evening strolling around downtown Nashville.
There really is live music everywhere in Nashville. We spent a couple hours in the wide open park listening to the live country music, staring at the tourists oohing and ahhing over the Parthenon, and enjoying the beautiful sights. There's a pretty lake you can roam around and lots and lots of dogs. Dogs everywhere.
Take a Bus Tour
I don't really think of bus tours as being my thing, but I absolutely loved the Home of the Stars Tour. This was when I really got to soak up views of Nashville's gorgeous green rolling hills. Did you know Nashville has more trees than any other city its size? It's so damn green! Brentwood and Bell Meade just took my breath away. We saw the regal hideaways of Faith Hill, Taylor Swift, Dierks Bentley, and Dolly Parton to name a few. This is a good activity if you need a good chunk of the day occupied, too.
How to Get Around:
I use Uber like it's my job here at home, so same thing applied in Nashville. It was pretty amazing being anywhere in the city and having the ability to be picked up within three minutes at any time. I'm a huge Uber fan!
The foodie delights, the scenic views, the live music...Nashville truly is a gem. I hope y'all get to visit soon! (See what I did there?)
Extra special thanks to Uber Ohio for providing free rides around Nashville and both BarTaco and The Wild Cow for providing us with free meals that we'll never forget! I was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.
Jordan Slice-Metcalfe says
I am planning a family trip to Nashville next summer and ran across your post - LOVE these recommendations! I've added them to my list 🙂 The Airbnb you shared is gorgeous! I tried to follow the link, but it didn't recognize it. Do you know if it is still available via Airbnb? I'd love to check it out in hopes of booking next summer!
Already planning my next foodie adventure! I had an amazing time taking a trip to NYC, but omg Nashville's food scene looks so incredible. As soon as I read this post I texted my mom promptly informing her that we were taking a trip down south. Can't wait to check out these restaurants!
dixya @food, pleasure, and health says
i went to Nashville for FNCE last year and enjoyed my time. i went to frothy monkey for a little meetup, which was nice.. i will have to refer to this post next time im visiting. omggggg, that air b n' b is so beautiful.
Ahhhhh I'm sad I missed FNCE last year but I'm super pumped to go in October for the first time!
It looks like you checked out some good eats! I'm from Nashville originally but still haven't gone to Wild Cow and Bartaco. It's amazing how much the food scene has grown there in the past 5 years, when I was growing up all you could find was southern food so it's nice that there are some new food entrepreneurs bringing some innovation to the city. Also the frothy monkey is my favorite coffee shop!
Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health says
THAT HOUSE! OMG, goals.
I will definitely be referencing this post when I make it to Nashville, hopefully one day soon. Because we are basically like the same person, and like all of the same things.
Also, have I told how adorable you are? I feel like you should do a fashion post. Just throw in a picture of hummus somewhere and it will blend right in with food theme. 😉
Amanda F says
Gah! This post makes me homesick 🙁 I am from Tennessee and currently reside in South Carolina.
My husband grew up in Franklin and it totally has my heart. My inlaws still live there and I wish I could stay everytime we visit. I absolutely adore the Frothy Monkey and Puckett's in downtown Franklin 🙂 And the juice company at the Factory. If you go back you need to try Jeni's ice cream. THE BEST 🙂
Fun tidbit: I got married at Arrington Vineyards. Absolutely gorgeous. Take me back...
My best friend and brother live in Nashville so I've been often. Wild Cow was such a great experience. My friends were sweet to wait for 1 hour with me so we could eat there. I hope to go again some day.
ACKTIVE LIFE says
OMG I loved loved loved Nashville! I ran the Rock n' Roll 1/2 Marathon there a couple of years ago and would love to go back and do some more exploring. Great recap friend! XOXO
I'd love to visit Nashville someday.
The new site look is beautiful, btw!