All Articles 3 perfect days in Nashville

3 perfect days in Nashville

Jay Blades
By Jay BladesOct 31, 2023 10 minutes read
Downtown Nashville music entertainment establishments on lower Broadway
Broadway
Image: FangXiaNuo/Getty Images

Nashville is the perfect city for a long weekend getaway. By day you can scour vintage stores, feast on hot chicken, or take in a museum; at night you can boot-scoot on Broadway, see an intimate performance, or sip fancy cocktails against the Nashville skyline (hello, Batman building).

Because many neighborhoods are walkable (and within a short car ride of each other), you can fit in a lot over the course of three days. Still, you’ll need to be strategic. This itinerary makes the most of your time by clustering stops by area and balancing out the heavy-hitters (the Grand Ole Opry) with local gems (Mas Tacos Por Favor). Everything is based on real advice by Tripadvisor travelers so you won’t waste a second.


DAY ONE

Exterior of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in Nashville

MORNING: Batter up

Start your day at one of Nashville’s most iconic breakfast spots, Pancake Pantry. Open since 1961, the Hillsboro Village diner is famous for two things: lines around the block and from-scratch pancakes. The latter is worth the wait. Go traditional with old-fashioned buttermilk or mix things up with sweet potato or banana bread flapjacks. Pair either with a side of candied bacon.

After, browse the neighborhood’s shops (Posh, Pangaea, Impeccable Pig) or meander through one of the nearby universities—Vanderbilt and Belmont are considered two of the prettiest college campuses in the country.

AFTERNOON: A food hall and a hall of fame

Head to downtown Nashville for lunch. Fifth + Broadway is a sprawling complex with shops, restaurants, bars, and a massive food hall. Choose from Nashville favorites like Thai Esane (khao soi, paid thai), Slim & Husky’s (flatbread pizza, cinnamon rolls), and Steam Boys (dumplings, boba tea). Or try the OG hot chicken at Prince’s so you can taste-test it against Hattie B’s (on the agenda for tomorrow).

Spend the rest of the afternoon at the Country Music Hall of Fame, a two-story shrine to the genre. Admire Elvis’s gold Cadillac, peep the bedazzled costumes worn by Hank Snow and Gram Parsons, and check out the temporary exhibitions (past ones have centered around Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, and Kacey Musgraves). If you have time, add on a visit to Hatch Show Print and/or RCA Studio B (where Elvis and Dolly used to record) for the full experience.

Travelers say: “Loved the Ken Burns documentary, and this experience brought to life many of the stories revealed in the series. The additional RCA studio tour busses small groups to Music Row, and it was our favorite part of the visit. Elvis fans will be awestruck sitting in the studio where many of his hits were recorded. Our docent Debbie is an absolute treasure. Her humor and extensive knowledge are priceless!”—@Michael D

DOWNTOWN TOUR OPTIONS

  • Sample Nashville’s signature dishes with this walking food tour (a Tripadvisor fave). You’ll snack on hot chicken and barbecue, plus get a primer on downtown landmarks like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Printer’s Alley.
  • If you prefer to sip while you sightsee, this pub crawl covers some of the same ground (Printer’s Alley, the Ryman) but with more of a focus on bars and live music.
  • Save your legs with a Segway tour. You’ll zoom by all the major sites while learning about Nashville history and architecture.

EVENING: Honky-tonk hopping on Broadway

While you wait for Lower Broadway to heat up, take in the Nashville skyline at The Westin’s swanky rooftop bar, L27 (just a few blocks west of the museum). It has one of the best views in the city and great, albeit pricey, cocktails.

When you’re hungry, walk over to Martin’s for a taste of West Tennessee barbecue. If there’s a line out the door, don’t worry; it moves quickly. Order at the counter (ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, wings, Redneck Tacos—you can’t go wrong) then post up at any open table or the upstairs beer garden.

After, mosey over to Honky Tonk Highway, the stretch of bars along Lower Broadway. Drop into Tootsie’s to see where Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline got their start, take in the rhinestone-covered costumes at Nudie’s, or two-step the night away at The Stage or Wildhorse Saloon. Need a late-night snack? Robert’s Western World serves a mean fried bologna sandwich. Might as well go all in with the Recession Special (for $6, you also get a Moon Pie, chips, and a PBR).

Worthy detours along the way

DAY TWO

Chicken sandwich at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, in Nashville
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Image: Steve R/Tri padvisor

MORNING: Stroll 12 South

Carbo-load for the day at The Butter Milk Ranch, an Instagrammable breakfast/lunch spot with beignets, biscuits, and cube-shaped croissants. Waits can be long (especially on weekends), but you can join the list ahead of time. Or grab a churro croissant and coffee to-go and take it to Sevier Park.

Leave time to walk around 12 South, one of Nashville’s trendiest neighborhoods. The half-mile stretch is chock-full of local boutiques (Imogene + Willie, White’s Mercantile, Judith Bright), vintage stores (Savant Vintage), coffee shops (Frothy Monkey, White Bison), bakeries (Five Daughters, Christie Cookie Co.), and photo ops (the I Believe in Nashville mural).

MURAL ART TOUR OPTIONS

  • Why drive all over the city searching for backdrops when you can hop a golf cart with an expert? This tour takes you to all the good stops in 12 South, the Gulch, downtown, and beyond.
  • If what you really want out of a mural tour is a new profile pic, opt for this one with a professional photographer.
  • Make it a party with Nashville Party Barge’s Murals, Mimosas, and Margaritas tour. You BYOB; they provide the cups, ice, and ride.

AFTERNOON: Feel the burn

Drive through Music Row (16th and 17th Avenues) on your way to Hattie B’s. You’ll pass by famous recording studios and record labels like RCA Studio B and Quonset Hut.

There’s a lot of debate over who does hot chicken best, but Hattie B’s makes nearly everyone’s top list. Heat levels range from Southern (no heat) to Shut the Cluck Up (not for the faint of heart). Proceed at your own risk. (Pro tip: If the line’s too long at the original Midtown location, try the one on Charlotte.)

Once your mouth has cooled, drive or taxi five minutes to the Parthenon. Situated in Centennial Park, it’s a full-scale replica of its namesake in Athens, Greece. Be sure to go inside to see the towering Athena statue and collection of American oil paintings.

EVENING: Visit a bluegrass mecca

Next stop is the Gulch, a hip little neighborhood just south of Broadway. Snap a photo at the What Lifts You mural then sit down to an early dinner at Emmy Squared. The Brooklyn import slings delicious Detroit-style pizzas (try the Colony—Ezzo pepperoni, pickled jalapenos, and honey) and burgers (get Le Big Matt).

Then stake your place in line for the nightly performance at Station Inn, a no-frills bluegrass club where greats like Bill Monroe and John Prine used to play (and Dierks Bentley and Alison Krauss more recently). The free Sunday jam is always a good time, but it really doesn’t matter what night you go—you’re bound to hear someone good. Doors usually open at 7 (bring cash).

Travelers say: “Arguably the best bluegrass venue anywhere. It is a very modest and unassuming bar that has only general admission with a varying cover charge of about $20 and no presales or reserved seats. The line usually begins forming at 6 before doors open at 7, and shows usually begin at 8. Although there really are no ‘bad seats,’ if you can arrive early to sit front and center, that is worth doing.”—@MidlanticBoomerGuy

Worthy detours along the way

DAY THREE

Carrie Underwood at the Grand Ole Opry, in Nashville
Grand Ole Opry
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

MORNING: A down-home breakfast

Work up an appetite while waiting for a table at Monell’s (you’ll need it). Set in an old Victorian home in historical Germantown, the charming Southern restaurant dishes out an all-you-can-eat spread (sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken, cheese grits, pancakes). Everything is served family-style around communal tables (it’s part of the fun).

After, stroll the neighborhood’s tree-lined streets and swing by the Nashville Farmers Market. The indoor part is open every day year-round, with shops and food stalls like Made in TN (locally made products) and Pink Door Cookies (nostalgic treats), while the outdoor section features the usual farm stands and is mostly just open on weekends, depending on the season.

DAY TRIPS FROM NASHVILLE

  • If you’re a fan of Tennessee whiskey, it might be worth setting aside a day to see the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg. This tour takes care of everything for you (transportation, admission) and includes a tasting.
  • More of a wine person? Arrington Vineyards is just 30 minutes from downtown. If you’re with a group, book a shuttle for there and back.
  • History buffs should carve out time for the Civil War tour, which stops at three homes that played a part in the Battle of Franklin. You’ll also get time to see (and have lunch in) charming downtown Franklin.

AFTERNOON: Tacos and retail therapy

Cross the bridge to hipster haven East Nashville. Start at Mas Tacos Por Favor, a local fave for tortilla soup, elote, fried avocado tacos, and aguas frescas. Then hop over to Five Points, where you can browse rare and out-of-print titles at Defunct Books or pick up a pair of vintage cowgirl boots at Goodbuy Girls. Amble down to the Fatherland District, where you’ll find a cluster of indie shops (perfect for souvenirs). If you need a pick-me-up, pop into Nashville coffee chain Frothy Monkey.

EVENING: The show that made country music famous

Doors for the Grand Ole Opry open at 6:30 p.m., which doesn’t leave a ton of time for dinner. Options are also limited near the theater. If you want something light before the show, Lockeland Table’s community hour (Monday to Saturday, 4 to 6 p.m.) is a good option. The menu includes $7 nibbles (pimento cheese arancini, turnip dip) and classic cocktails (old-fashioned, dark and stormy), with a portion of proceeds benefiting local PTOs.

While some of the Opry’s most famous performances took place at the Ryman, its current home is on the far northeast side of town, about a 15- to 20-minute drive or cab ride from East Nashville. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, with eight or more artists taking the stage over the course of two hours. Depending on the night, you might see a headliner like Vince Gill or Carrie Underwood alongside country-western legends and up-and-comers.

If you need a bite after the show, swing by Joyland on your way back through East Nashville. Run by Nashville’s favorite chef Sean Brock, the retro, fast-casual restaurant serves burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and curly fries till 2 a.m. on weekends.

Travelers say: “If you are like me and grew up on country music, then you need to, at least once in your life, attend the Grand Ole Opry live and in person. The best thing to do is to get tickets way in advance for the best seats. Don't worry about who is there that night—the experience of the Opry live is why you go; the artists are only secondary. Parking tip: Come early, park in the mall across the street and have dinner there, then just walk across the street after dinner and you will avoid the parking craziness.”—@Roger R

Worthy detours along the way

Know Before You Go


You’ll get the best weather (and fewer crowds) in spring and fall, though music fans may want to brave the summer heat and humidity for big-ticket events like CMA Fest and Bonnaroo. Winter tends to be mild (though it can get cold), making it a good, budget-friendlier time to visit, especially if you want to catch a Predators game or the lights at Cheekwood.



You can catch live music nearly every night of the week, but if you have your heart set on the Grand Ole Opry, check the calendar (the Opry typically has performances on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, but it varies).

Restaurants and bars are generally open every day, though some are closed on Mondays. Many museums are also closed one or two days a week (for example, the Country Music Hall of Fame shuts down on Sundays, The Frist on Tuesdays and Wednesdays).



Coffee shops and breakfast spots typically open around 7 or 8 a.m., with weekend brunch going from 10 a.m. till about 2 or 3 p.m. Dinner is usually served from 5 to 10 p.m. (or thereabouts), though Nashville has its share of late-night options.

Last call is 3 a.m., with some bars and honky-tonks shutting down earlier on weekdays (2 a.m.) and Sundays (midnight or 1 a.m.).



Downtown: If you want to be right in the action, downtown is your best bet. Noelle and The Fairlane are great design-forward options, while the Homewood Suites by Hilton is a solid, fairly affordable choice among the bigger names.

The Gulch: Walkable and close to downtown and Music Row, the Gulch makes an excellent home base. The W Nashville is the kind of hotel even locals want to hang out at, with a welcoming lobby, L-shaped pool, two restaurants from big-name chef Andrew Carmellini, and a Barista Parlor outpost. The Thompson, just down the block, is another fan favorite.

Midtown: Midtown is also close to everything with lots of good hotels, in part due to its proximity to Vandy. The Kimpton Aertson is chic and comfortable with great views, while Graduate Nashville is a fun, kitschier choice with country music-themed decor and a very pink, very Instagrammy rooftop bar (you may have seen its chicken-wire Dolly Parton bust on your feed).

East Nashville: More of a residential neighborhood, East Nashville doesn’t have as many hotels, but hip, new spots like The Russell (and its sister hotel The Gallatin) are changing that. Note that The Russell doesn’t have a front desk or daily housekeeping, but the unique setting (a 115-year-old church) and modern, light-filled rooms feel really special.



Public transportation: WeGo Public Transit has bus routes all over the city, and an unlimited, all-day pass is just $4, making it one of the most affordable ways to get around.

By bike/scooter: Nashville BCycle has e-bike docking stations in most neighborhoods. Several electric scooter-sharing companies (Lime, Bird) also operate in the city.

By taxi and rideshare: Most people use Uber and Lyft, though there are also several cab companies in the area (Magic Taxi, American Music Taxi). You may be able to hail one from busy areas; otherwise, call ahead of time.

By car: Nashville is a driving city, so you’ll want a car if you’re staying farther out, doing a lot of exploring, or don’t want to shell out for rideshares. Just keep in mind most hotels charge for parking, and parking downtown can be tricky (and expensive).

Airport transfers: The cheapest way to get from the airport to downtown is the WeGo bus, which costs just $2. If you prefer a taxi, it’s a $30 flat rate (+$2 per extra passenger) to downtown or the Opryland Hotel area.


Jay Blades
Jay Blades is a writer, content strategist, and design-led nomad. When she's not eating fish tacos in Baja, she's usually hiking in upstate New York, driving cross-country, or drinking rosé piscines in the other South of France. She's also the founder of Upstate & Elsewhere, where she and her husband document their adventures and daily life.