With its iconic music scene and central location, it’s no wonder Nashville has become a prime spot for party weekends and girlfriend getaways. But spend a couple days here and you’ll find that its “Nashvegas” nickname and the bar-hopping culture it suggests barely scratches the surface. From a thriving creative scene to its easy access to nature, this is a city that offers so much more.
For the Partiers
Make no mistake, Nashville is a honky-tonk town. While most locals avoid the lower Broadway strip like New Yorkers avoid Times Square, it’s worth starting off an evening there to soak up the chaos of it. Get decked out in the local attire with a stop at Boot Country, where row upon row of this fashion staple provides the perfect runway montage moment. From there get your night started with live music at Acme Feed and Seed, then if the mood compels you, head to Tin Roof for dancing or Tootsies Orchid Lounge which offers a rooftop with great views of the city.
For the Foodies
To keep your energy up for an evening on the town, there’s no shortage of good eats. From Nashville’s iconic “meat and threes” to mouth-watering barbecue and biscuits, their southern hospitality shines through in meals that stick to your ribs. Believe the hype at Hattie B’s and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, both delivering on meals suited to your spice threshold, while Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint or Peg Leg Porker serve up some of the city’s best pulled pork and beef brisket. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, stop by the Goo Goo Cluster Shop, an adorable and historic candy shop with mouth-watering treats.
Wash it down with a locally crafted beer from the Black Abbey Brewing Company or Smith and Lentz Brewing. If your group can’t decide between grapes and grains, check out the combined tour with Tennessee Brew Works and neighbor City Winery.
For the Live Music Lovers
Once you get the tipsy tourist-packed Broadway scene out of your system, more intimate settings await. The Grand Ole Opry is arguably Nashville’s most iconic music venue, but it’s by no means the only place to see a good show. If you’re able to snag tickets to a show at Bluebird Café, it won’t disappoint. Stop by and even pick up a guitar yourself at Bobby’s Idle Hour on Music Row for a dive bar frequented by locals for its no-frills vibe. Or you can check the schedule to see which bands may strike your fancy at the End or the Station Inn, among a seemingly endless array of beloved live music venues nearby.
For the History Buffs
The music culture that’s built into Nashville isn’t just for night owls. During the day, history lovers will appreciate a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum where you can take a tour of the studios where legends like Elvis recorded their hits. There is also a new Madame Tussauds wax museum with uncanny recreations of both living and past music stars for you to pose with. And don’t miss the city’s crown gem, the Parthenon. It’s a full-size replica of the one in Greece adorned with a glowing 42-foot statue of Athena, built years after Nashville earned its more refined nickname, “The Athens of the South.” [Read more about the full-size Parthenon replica.]
For the Nature Enthusiasts
If you’re lucky with good weather, the Parthenon’s Centennial Park is an excellent place to relax on a picnic blanket or play lawn games to break away from activities in the city. Or, if you have a half a day to spare, a short drive to Radnor Lake State Park will be a lovely retreat. This 1,332-acre nature preserve offers several miles of lakeside hiking trails with ample opportunity for seeing native wildlife. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Head to the scenic recreation area of Percy Priest Lake, the perfect place to hang in nature for the day. Nashville Paddle Company offers kayaks to rent, and stand up paddle boards to row about or strike a yoga pose. And if you’re short on time but want to catch some fresh air, hop on one of the many shared bikes stationed around the city by B-Cycle, and peddle off your latest indulgence on the way to the next.
Kelly Barrett is the senior producer of social media for National Geographic Travel. Follow her on Instagram.