I Believe In Nashville: A Travel Guide

  • Visited March – April 2019

‘I Believe In Nashville’ is the title of a mural by Adrien Saporiti that appears in various places around Nashville and frequently appears in tourists’ photos on Instagram. Meant as an expression of support, it’s unabashed celebration of the city captures how I felt after spending two months living and working there and was therefore the perfect title for my second, and final blog, on Nashville. For my first post, ‘Welcome to Nashville, y’all’ https://wp.me/p9u5hw-1C3 I covered the main sights of Downtown Nashville, which is where the majority of travellers visiting the city spend their time. As much fun as it can be to bar-hop down Broadway’s Honky Tonks, there is much more to Nashville than that and the locals tend to avoid going to Broadway as it’s full of drunk tourists. To really love and appreciate Nashville, you have to venture away from Downtown and check out the treasures of other neighbourhoods. This blog post is intended to give you an insight into other areas worth exploring and suggest highlights to inspire you. Enjoy! 🙂

MIDTOWN

Music Row is located in this area so this is where you can see some of the major recording studios as well as visit the famous Historic RCA Studio B, where the likes of Elvis have recorded – note that to visit Studio B, you have to buy an official tour through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Vanderbilt University is also in this area so you can find some cool bars and eateries offering food and drink deals to attract students. Highlights:

  • Patterson House – swanky bar. You will have to wait to get in as every customer is allocated a seat. It’s definitely worth the wait. Cosy and dimly-lit inside, your bartender will suggest drinks for you. Not cheap but good for a treat.
  • Whisky Jam at Winners Bar – this is a free concert on Mondays and Thursdays where people go to watch real talent. Go early as the venue gets packed out.
  • Parthenon – a full-scale replica of the original in Athens. An adult ticket is £6. Worth a visit as it is impressive.
  • Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – there are daily queues down the block for this eatery.
  • Buffalo Exchange – a hip store that buys, sells and trades vintage and used clothing for men and women. Great if you are looking for something unique and quirky.

*If you need to buy groceries in this area head to Piggly Wiggly.         

GULCH

A gentrified area of Nashville where you will find upscale boutiques, bars and restaurants. Highlights:

  • The Station Inn – a concert venue that hosts bluegrass acts.
  • Pemrose – I enjoyed a meal here with friends when it had just opened. A lovely seafood restaurant. I can recommend the mussels and fries appetiser.

*If you need to buy groceries in this area head to Turnip Truck.

HILLSBORO VILLAGE

Trendy area of Nashville with character. Highlights:

  • Belcourt Theatre – a nonprofit cinema that shows classic and arthouse films.
  • Biscuit Love – keen to try southern biscuits? Biscuit Love is the place for you. The original opened in the Gulch but the Hillsboro Village venue tends to be quieter. Open for breakfast until 3pm daily.
  • The Grilled Cheeserie – as I love a grilled cheese sandwich I couldn’t wait to eat here and it did not disappoint!

12SOUTH

Upscale neighbourhood with boutiques and hip eateries. Home to one of the most photographed ‘I Believe In Nashville’ murals (located opposite Draper James). Highlights:

  • Draper James – Reese Witherspoon’s clothing store.
  • The Flipside – relaxed place offering 22 versions of sautéed chicken.
  • Bartaco – popular taco spot.

GERMANTOWN

Upscale historical neighbourhood with many restored Victorian buildings. Worth a wander around. Highlights:

  • Monells – highly rated Southern dining. Come here hungry and ready to eat!
  • The Cupcake Collection – they lured me in with the promise of a free cupcake – I was given a small sample sweet potato cupcake to try – and I left with a delicious red velvet cupcake.

EAST NASHVILLE

East Nashville is the equivalent of New York’s East Village. Cool and quirky with lots of character. Its laid-back arty vibe makes this a popular place to live in Nashville. Highlights:

  • The 5 Spot – Sunday Night Soul is a bi-monthly event and Motown Monday is every Monday. The Sunday Night Soul event I attended was brilliant – amazing singing talent was showcased. £10 entry fee. Highly recommended.
  • 5 Points Pizza – lauded as the best pizza in Tennessee. I certainly enjoyed my pepperoni pizza and can recommend the garlic knots.
  • 5 Points Tacos – popular food truck with tasty tacos.
  • Ghot Wingz – no frills chicken wing eatery
  • Lipstick Lounge – Gay-friendly bar that welcomes everyone. Fun venue.
  • 4Way Market – massive craft beer selection on offer.
  • Attaboy – speakeasy no-menu cocktail bar. I didn’t make it here but I’m told by friends that it is great.
  • Shoppes on Fatherland – lovely collection of stores perfect for an afternoon mooch around.
  • Local Honey hair salon (download the 20% off voucher from their website before you go) – if you need to get your hair done in Nashville, I had an excellent experience here. Mackenzie, my stylist, was warm, friendly and she did a good job of my highlights.

Other Suggestions

  • Grand ‘Ole Opry – a must-do for country music fans
  • Opry Mills – huge outlet mall
  • The Hermitage – this historical mansion was the home of President Andrew Jackson
  • Belle Meade Plantation
  • Nashville Zoo

Useful websites worth checking out when planning a trip to Nashville:

Nashville Guru http://nashvilleguru.com/

Nashville Scene https://www.nashvillescene.com/

Blog about Nashville’s Street Art https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/nashville-murals/ Fantastic street art can be found all over the city and this blog gives a useful overview of key areas and standout pieces that should not be missed.

Selection of pictures from my stay:

 

 

Chattanooga, USA

  • Visited April 2019

Keen to explore more of Tennessee after my positive experience of Nashville, I ended up in Chattanooga on a whim. Only a couple of hours drive from Nashville (plus a one hour time difference) and $13 dollars for a single journey on Mega Bus, Chattanooga is definitely worth visiting for those travellers who enjoy outdoor activities and the Arts. Chattanooga is known as The Scenic City as it is located at the base of Lookout Mountain; spectacular views and great opportunities for climbing and hiking can be found in the surrounding area. It is also nicknamed Gig City as the city boasts citywide 10 -gigabit-speed internet, and has become a prime location for Start Ups and entrepreneurs. Back in the day, the city had the first factory bottling Coca Cola and was notorious for its industrial pollution. That is no longer the case today. Residents are proud of the city’s transformation and it has been voted one of the best places to live in the US. It’s not hard to see why. It’s family friendly, green spaces abound, has some fab eateries and drinking spots, and it has a thriving arts and culture scene. As much as I loved my time in Nashville, for me, its smaller Tennessee cousin Chattanooga, was more my kind of place and I would happily live there.

The city is quite compact and walkable but helpfully, a free electric shuttle runs every 5 minutes from the Chattanooga Choo Choo (in Southside where I was based) up to the North Shore, to a station near to the popular Aquarium, which makes it easy to get from one end of the city to the other. You can also rent bikes from bike stations dotted throughout the city.

Suggested Activities

  • Explore Lookout Mountain. Trek through Rock City, visit Ruby Falls (an underground waterfall) or ride the Incline Railway (the world’s steepest, operating since 1895). Another attraction is Point Park, a 10-acre National Park.
  • Visit the Chattanooga Choo Choo, a hotel in the old Terminal Station. Get an instagrammable pic with the illuminated Chattanooga sign. Train enthusiasts can book to stay in one of the old train carriages.
  • Art lovers should check out the Hunter Museum of American Art and their sculpture park. Loved this place!
  • Nearby, you can also explore the Bluff View Arts District, where you will find the River Gallery and sculpture park, and the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts.
  • Explore the Sculpture Fields at Montague Park. Download the app OtoCast before you go to listen to each of the artists explaining their sculptures.
  • Check out the public art in Southside or go on a street art hunt around the city – there are some amazing large scale murals to be found, such as ‘Traveling Musician’ by The Artist Seven on Passenger Street.
  • Hang out with pooches and have a beer at Barks and Beers.
  • Visit the Songbirds Guitar Museum – one of the world’s largest private collections of guitars.
  • Visit the African American Museum and Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
  • Go to the Aquarium.
  • Have a look around the vendors at Merchants on Main.
  • Eat a Moon Pie and read about the history of this iconic local treat at the Moon Pie General Store.

Food/Drink Recommendations

  • Next to the Chattanooga Choo Choo there are a couple of different bars and eateries, such as the Terminal Brewhouse. The Frothy Monkey is the perfect place to grab a coffee and people watch. 
  • Main Street Meats – a meat-eaters heaven! Whatever you choose to eat, wash it down with a Homegrown – a mix of Chattanooga whiskey reserve, Mexican coke and peanuts!
  • Flying Squirrel – cool place, offering reduced price drinks and tasty eats during happy hour. Guests staying at The Crash Pad get 20% discount on food.
  • The Pickle Barrel – great place to grab a snack and craft beer on the rooftop terrace. They even offer a fried Moon Pie dessert on the menu.
  • London Calling – classy speakeasy with great cocktails
  • Champy’s – iconic fried chicken venue. Delicious!
  • Taconooga – cheap and tasty tacos.
  • St John’s Restaurant – a good choice for a treat meal
  • Zarzour’s Cafe – this 100-year old food venue offers Southern-style home-cooked classics.
  • Chattanooga Whiskey – one for whiskey connoisseurs
  • Clumpies Ice Cream Co – popular ice cream parlour with an array of flavours.

Selection of pictures from my stay:

 

 

 

Welcome to Nashville, y’all

Read my second post about Nashville ‘I Believe in Nashville’ here https://wp.me/p9u5hw-1N7

  • Visited March and April 2019

I first visited Nashville back in October 2018 and then was fortunate to be invited to be an Ambassador at Nashville Downtown Hostel and its sister hostel, Music City Hostel in Midtown. Nashville is one of the fastest growing US cities, with an estimated 100 people moving here daily, and it is a sprawling city with distinctive areas that offer different vibes and attractions. For this first post, I’m going to focus on Downtown Nashville and the key tourist sights.

Honky Tonks

Nicknamed the Music City, Nashville is indeed a vibrant city full of aspiring musicians and great live music venues throughout the city. Most tourists who come here spend the majority of their time in Downtown, enjoying the Honky Tonks of Broadway and 2nd Avenue. Honky Tonks for those of you that don’t know, are bars that play country music and the ones on Broadway are always busy and very lively. A Friday or Saturday night on Broadway is quite something, with the street packed with revellers hopping from bar to bar. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Broadway’s Honky Tonks are quiet in the day time – when these bars open at 10 – 11 am, the live music and drinking begins. Always carry ID if you intend to go as it is standard to ID all patrons regardless of how old they look. You are spoilt for choice in terms of which bars to visit but Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is a must do, Nudie’s has the longest bar in Nashville, you can sign up for free line dancing lessons at Wildhorse Saloon, Jason Aldean’s Kitchen & Rooftop Bar offers a great view of Broadway from its rooftop and friends tell me Robert’s Western World is their favourite Honky Tonk. On Friday afternoons there is always a long queue to get into Margaritaville as the radio show Buzz Brainard’s Music Row Happy Hour is recorded live here.

Key Sights

  • Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: I’m not a big country music fan per se myself but this museum is excellent. There are always several temporary exhibitions on as well as the permanent displays of costumes worn by big names in the industry. $25.95 Adult ticket or $40.95 when combined with the Studio B tour.
  • Music City Walk of Fame – FREE – located near the Country Music Museum, this is a small ‘walk of fame’ featuring artists such as Elvis, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash.
  • Johnny Cash Museum – a must for Johnny Cash fans (such as myself). This small museum boasts the largest collection of Cash artefacts and memorabilia. $19.95 general admission.
  • Ryman Auditorium – the original home of the famous Grand Ole Opry. You can take a self-guided backstage tour for $24.95 or catch a concert here.
  • Printers Alley – FREE – historic alley way home to a number of bars, notably Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar and Skulls’ Rainbow Room.
  • Nashville Public Library – FREE – a lovely space to study and escape the cold/heat outside. The second floor has a large reading room with a view of the Tennessee State Capitol but the highlight is the Civil Rights Room, a room dedicated to documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville compete with a recreation of a lunch counter (a nod to sit-in protests) and video library. I highly recommend a visit to enhance your understanding of Nashville’s history *Don’t be alarmed by the large presence of homeless people on the third floor or by the fascinating eloquent homeless man who likes to have debates with the two statues placed at the top of the staircase. This is a safe place to be. It also has a nice outside courtyard.
  • Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum – often over-looked by tourists in favour of the Country Music Museum, this museum honours musicians regardless of genre or instrument. I haven’t been here yet but I intend to go as I’ve heard it’s excellent. $25.00 Adult ticket.
  • Tennessee State Capitol – the seat of government for Tennessee. Closed on weekend and state holidays. Free guided tours offered. I haven’t been yet but I plan to go.
  • Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park – FREE – located near the State Capitol building, this park was opened to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Tennessee’s statehood. The park aims to tells to the story of Tennessee’s history through plaques, a war memorial, fountains and tours – FREE tours take place very Wednesday. I enjoyed exploring this site.
  • Tennessee State Museum – FREE – a short walk from the Bicentennial Park, this museum is definitely worth a visit. Dedicated to telling the history of Tennessee, the exhibitions are informative and engaging. I spent about two hours here and will probably go again before I leave Nashville as there was so much to take in in one go.
  • Nashville Farmer’s Market – FREE – good place to grab a snack after a visit to the State Museum. Various food options available. My favourite place was Butter Cake Babe Coffee Cafe, a cute cafe selling varieties of gooey butter cake, amongst other treats. Batch sells cool and quirky Nashville souvenirs. A night market takes place every 3rd Friday 5 pm til 9 pm.
  • Frist Art Museum – located in a beautiful art deco building that used to be the post office, this art venue is worth a visit. $15 Adult ticket. If you don’t fancy forking out for the ticket, just pop in to have a look at the interior of the building.
  • John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge – FREE – spanning the Cumberland River, this bridge offers lovely views of Downtown Nashville and the riverside.

Food Recommendations:

  • Sun Diner – spot on breakfast place next to the Johnny Cash Museum – open 24 hours on weekends. My Eggs Benedict was fab.
  • Oscar’s Taco Shop – good budget option on Church.
  • Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant –  Tasty Southern food with live music. Can get very busy but solo diners can eat at the bar. My fried chicken main course with mashed potato and green beans was delicious.
  • Merchants – Southern food served in a casual bistro downstairs and more formal dining room upstairs. I had Mac n Cheese in the bistro and it was the ultimate comfort food experience.
  • Martin’s Bar-B-Que – Had a kitchen tray of chicken tenders with sides of mac n cheese and green beans washed down with a beer. So good!
  • The Diner – a six storey 24 hour restaurant perfect for late night eats. Casual dining can be found on the 6th floor.
  • Pinewood Social – hip hangout where you will find a trendy eatery, coffee shop, bowling and cocktails.

*If you need to buy groceries whilst staying in Downtown your only option is H.G. Hill Urban Market on Church which closes at 9pm every night. It’s a decent supermarket so you should be able to find everything you want here.

Getting Around Nashville:

Nashville is very spread out so you won’t be able to get everywhere you want to by foot. Here are some transport options:

  • Old Town Trolley Tours –  Hop On Hop Off 15 stops $39.42 online on their site. Fully narrated tour. Good option if you are short on time as it includes a stop at the Belmont Mansion.
  • The FREE bus – MTA Music City Circuit operates two routes.
  • Electric Scooters – can be booked through apps such as Bird and Lyft and are an easy way to zip between the different areas of Nashville.
  • Uber/Lyft also operate here.
  • Pedal Taverns and various party specialist tour buses can be booked for groups coming here to party – a frequent sight up and down Broadway on weekends.

The Nashville Bucket List

The first week I arrived I was given this list of Nashville must-dos – so far I have done three of these. Let’s see how many I can do before I leave at the end of April 🙂

  • Drink a Bushwacker
  • Go to a Predators Game
  • Go to The Ryman to watch a show – done 
  • Sing Karaoke at Wannabe’s
  • See the city from Love Circle
  • Honky Tonks on Broadway – done
  • Get drinks at The Patterson House – done
  • Stop by The Loveless Cafe for some food
  • Go to Piranhas and get a “Donut Burger”
  • Take in some art at The Frist Museum – done
  • Go on a Full Moon Hike
  • Watch an outdoor movie at Elmington Park

Adding my own Nashville Bucket List suggestions here:

  • Eat a Goo Goo Cluster – visit the store on 3rd Ave S
  • Queue up for fried chicken at Hattie Bs – 19th Ave S
  • Get your photo taken with the ‘I Believe In Nashville’ street art mural – 12th Ave S, opposite Reese Witherspoon’s store Draper James.
  • Catch a movie at the Belcourt Theatre.
  • Eat a sweet potato cupcake from The Cupcake Collection in Germantown.

Selection of pictures from my stay:

Click here to access the full list of Artbird Network properties and other travel promos https://uncagedartbird.com/artbird-network/

Memphis, US

  • Visited October 2018

Memphis often gets a bad rap. An Uber driver in Nashville told me not to bother going to Memphis and said even people who live in Memphis don’t recommend visiting. I’m glad I didn’t listen to him. I thoroughly enjoyed my two-night stay in the city and actually wish I’d booked to stay longer as there was more to do than I’d realised. Though I have heard that Memphis is not the safest city in the US, if you keep your wits about you, you can stay safe and have a great time here.

I arrived early evening and immediately walked to iconic Beale Street. This is the legendary home of the blues and as expected, Beale Street is full of bars and restaurants providing live music and southern hospitality. I was lucky to have scheduled my stay when the ‘Hot Rods on Beale’ event happens, when classic cars line the street and add to Beale Street’s vintage atmosphere. At the top of the street I spotted a queue forming outside the Blues City Cafe – always a good sign of somewhere decent to eat) – joined the queue and got chatting to two local guys. When the hostess called out for a table of three, it seemed like fate had intervened and the guys invited me to join their table and very kindly paid for my meal. I had my first catfish at the Cafe – the portion size was massive (three fillets of fish plus potatoes and coleslaw) and the fish was good. One of the guys I was with, Kevin, used to be a drag racing star and he introduced me to local reality TV celebrity Jamie Otts from the TV show ‘Street Outlaws Memphis’, who had brought his family into the Cafe for traditional southern food. After dinner, we hit up some of the bars on the street, enjoying some brilliant live music and beer.

The main purpose of my visit, as it is for so many visitors making the trip to Memphis, was to visit Graceland and I had a very personal reason for visiting. My dad is a huge Elvis fan and I am named Lisa after Elvis’s beloved daughter Lisa Marie. Apparently my mum had wanted to name me something else but as I was born a month after Elvis passed away, dad was insistent on the tribute. It was always my dad’s dream to visit Graceland but unfortunately his poor health means that he is never going to be able to fulfil this dream. I came to Graceland for my dad and I know he would have loved every minute of a visit here. Even if you are not a die-hard Elvis fan like my dad, Graceland is an excellent place to visit. There are different tickets available depending upon how much or how little you want to see. You can just do the mansion tour if you wish but I would recommend paying for the Elvis Experience ticket, which gives you access to the mansion, numerous museum exhibits and Elvis’ cars and airplanes, including being able to walk through the Lisa Marie airplane.      

When you arrive at the site, you are shown a short pre-video which remind you just how legendary Elvis was. You are then given an iPad to do the self-guided tour of the mansion before being herded on to a shuttle bus which drives the short distance to the mansion entrance. The iPad tour is very good and you can walk through the mansion at your own pace. The upstairs section of the house is closed to the public – has been closed since Elvis died up there – but there is still plenty to see. The mansion tour ends with a visit to the Meditation Garden where Elvis and his family are buried, and I felt quite moved, thinking of my dad, as I paid my respects to Elvis. You then get back on the bus and go through the museum exhibits – I particularly loved seeing on the embellished jumpsuits on display.   

An extra day would have been perfect – but I’d already booked my stay in New Orleans for Voodoo Music festival – and I would have liked to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located at the spot Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated, and watched the famous Peabody Duck parade at the Peabody Hotel (the duck parade is 11 am and 5 pm daily).

The people of Memphis are very welcoming and keen to give tips and advice to tourists. Beale Street and Graceland are safe but I was advised not to wander off too far from those immediate areas as the surrounding streets can be sketchy. If in doubt, Uber your way to and from the places you visit in Memphis and don’t go wandering around late at night.

Selection of pictures from my stay: