Sunday Manifest: Nashville, TN

Photo: Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

If cities had soundtracks, none would sound quite like Nashville.

Tennessee’s Music City combines country, bluegrass, rock, pop, Americana, gospel, classical, jazz, and blues—all in perfect harmony—to create one of the best places in the world to remember music’s greatest performers, see today’s top artists, and maybe discover the next big thing.

While the music takes center stage, Nashville is also home to incredible Southern cuisine, top-notch cultural landmarks, and four professional sports teams, making it an excellent big city vacation destination.

Whether you visit for the music, museums, and creative energy, come for an NFL or NHL matchup, or just want to hit the restaurants to test your spice tolerance with Nashville’s famous barbecue and hot chicken, there’s a lot to do here. And there’s no better place to start than the city’s Downtown district and its surrounding neighborhoods.

With cool, boutique hotels, chef-driven eateries, and amazing live entertainment 365 days a year, this bustling urban area is the beating heart of Nashville’s music scene, as well as a must-visit destination for foodies and families. Be sure to check out the world-famous Wild Horse Saloon, a three-story venue featuring great local and national acts, a restaurant, and the city’s largest dance floor. It’s a family-friendly spot—perfect if you’re traveling with kids—and they offer complimentary line dancing lessons for all ages.

Photo: Chad Morehead/Unsplash

Just down the street, along the iconic neon-lit entertainment strip known as Honkey Tonk Highway, you’ll find more rollicking live music spots, including the popular Bootlegger’s Inn, Ole Red Nashville, and AJ’s Good Time Bar. Most of the bars are open until 3am with no cover charge, so it’s easy to walk the strip, enjoying the party atmosphere and fantastic live shows at multiple venues.

For a quieter pursuit, visit the Musicians Hall of Fame. This premiere museum features a variety of interactive exhibits and unique displays honoring some of the best and brightest musicians of all time—from country music greats to Jimmy Hendrix, the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, and more.

Or spend some time at Imagine Recordings, the studio where stars like Johnny, George, Alan, and Reba have recorded hits in its sound-perfect environment. Here you can relax a while and watch the magic happen during a live studio recording session. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience in a one-of-a-kind city.

Two more music-centered museums worth checking out are the renowned Country Music Hall of Fame and the National Museum of African American Music, both just blocks away from other downtown points of interest.

Though it’s easy enough to grab a cab, call an Uber, or hail a pedicab to get around, walking is the best way to explore downtown Nashville, so comfortable shoes are a must. Fortunately, the sidewalks here are wide, there are quiet side streets made for strolling, and there are dozens of hotels in the area that make a perfect—and convenient—home-base for your stay.

After taking in the local music scene, spend some time outdoors enjoying the river views at the popular Riverfront Park that spans downtown. Or grab lunch to go from one of the local bakeries or sandwich shops and have a picnic at one of the shaded tables in Church Street Park or at the expansive Centennial Park, two miles west of downtown.

Photo: STLJB/Shutterstock

At Centennial, you can also visit the must-see Nashville Parthenon, a full-scale and detailed replica of the one in Athens, Greece. Nashville’s Parthenon, originally built in the late 1800s for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, is now home to a stunning 42-foot statue of the goddess Athena as well as an incredible fine arts museum showcasing classic and modern artwork in multiple galleries.

Outside of downtown, other fun Nashville neighborhoods to explore include Opryland/Music Valley, home of the Grand Ole Opry House, the Gaylord Springs Golf Course, and a 4-acre water park; Germantown, with the Tennessee State Museum and First Horizon Park (home of the minor-league Nashville Sounds Baseball Club); and the culturally-diverse neighborhood of East Nashville, known for its eclectic vibe, vintage stores, and hip restaurants. Though a little farther out from Nashville’s center, they each have a personality of their own and are totally worth visiting if you have the time.

Of course, no trip to Music City is complete without trying the food that makes Nashville unique—Tennessee barbecue, down-home Southern, and the famous hot chicken. And with all the walking and exploring you’ll do while visiting, you’ll definitely need time to refuel and catch your breath.

Hattie B’s is the place to go for the city’s fiery namesake dish, while Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and Peg Leg Porker are arguably top of the list for barbecue.

Photo: Marsh House courtesy of Thompson Nashville Hotel

For more upscale dining, try the contemporary Southern cuisine at the stylish Marsh House restaurant at the Thompson Hotel. Or enjoy amazing 360-degree skyline views and superb dishes from the award-winning Bourbon Steak in the SoBro neighborhood. You can’t go wrong with either choice, but remember to reserve your table in advance because they fill up quickly.

Our Manifest team has curated a great Three Days of Music, Food, and Fun in Nashville trip, up now on our Experiences page. But if Music City isn’t on your vacation wish list, let us know. We’re always happy to curate a custom trip for you wherever you’d like to go.