Read Caption
Nashville may be Music City, but you have to travel to Music Valley to see a show at the Grand Ole Opry, which moved from its home at the historic Ryman Auditorium in 1974. (Photograph by Ian Dagnall, Alamy)

Just Back: Nashville

Nat Geo Travel associate producer Megan Heltzel (on Twitter and Instagram @MeganHeltzel) recently returned from a trip to Nashville.

Here are some of the high points of her trip to the Tennessee capital, in her own words:

Standout culinary experience: Until my trip to Music City, I had never heard of hot chicken. The dish is simple—fried chicken coated in a spicy sauce and served on white bread with pickle chips—and it’s all the rage in Nashville. I gave the local favorite a try at Hattie B’s and was instantly sold.

While the joint offers degrees of heat to suit any palate, even daredevils should think twice before ordering up their hottest chicken—”Shut the Cluck Up.”

Authentic Souvenir: If you ask me, the best souvenirs are edible, and Nashville did not disappoint in that regard. For a sweet treat to share with your officemates (or hoard for yourself—no judgment here!), stop at Olive & Sinclair to snap up some stone-ground, bean-to-bar chocolate. My favorite treats were the duck fat caramels (yes, you read that right) and chocolates made with Tennessee bourbon. For a more traditional (but no less delicious) indulgence, grab some Goo Goo Clusters—the “first ever combination candy bar”—just off Broadway on 3rd Avenue. Chocolate, caramel, marshmallow nougat, and peanuts. Need I say more?

Memorable Moment: No trip to Nashville would be complete without seeing the legendary custom poster and design work on display at Hatch Show Print in the lobby of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum complex. Watching the printers create fresh works of art on historic letterpress machines is truly a sight to behold. Take a tour and say hello to master printer Jim Sherraden, who you’re likely to find behind the helm of the largest press, then grab a print from the shop to take home—another authentic local souvenir.

Practical Tip: There’s so much to do downtown that it can be easy to ignore other parts of the city—but don’t. The Germantown neighborhood,Germantown neighborhood, Nashville’s first suburb, is worth visiting for its food scene, including a year-round farmers market and one of my favorite restaurants, Rolf and Daughters. Across the Cumberland River lies East Nashville, where Olive & Sinclair can be found, as well as an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Last, but not least, make time to poke around Music Valley and take in a show at the Grand Ole Opry.

Best Museum: Country music may be the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Nashville, but I’d argue that the city’s growing art scene provides more than enough reason to visit. Start your tour along 5th Avenue with stops at the Rymer Gallery, The Arts Company, and Tinney Contemporary. If you’re lucky, local artist Herb Williams will be hanging around the Rymer and you can pick his brain about his incredible artwork made from Crayola crayons.

> Related: