How to Beat the Crowds and Navigate Nashville Like a Local
Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities and the number one destination for bachelorette parties (who knew, right?). But that doesn't mean it's all crowds; just follow the locals to explore authentic neighborhoods, insider spots, and things to do.
Hit the Biscuit Sequel
Sure, you could make authentic southern biscuits at home, but when in Nashville, it’s best to go to the pros. Many people line up for hours to get their fill of the fluffy southern breakfast pastry at Biscuit Love in its original 11th Street location. Not you, though. Instead, follow those in the know to the brunch staple’s second location in Hillsboro Village, a favorite neighborhood for college students from Belmont and Vanderbilt universities, and you’ll be eating their signature “bonuts” (fried biscuits with a sweet glaze) in no time.
Get into the groove in East Nashville
Yup, Broadway is where all the Honkey Tonks are (see below), and also where you’ll find lots of lines, but it’s not where you’ll find all the locals. Head instead to hip East Nashville on the opposite side of the Cumberland River to check out live music at rocking spots around the 5 Points area of Woodland Street such as The Basement East. Did you know that Nashville was the location of an iconic movie?
Get on line early for Nashville Hot Fried Chicken
Some things you do have to wait for, and the city’s crispy skinned, hot sauce-doused fried chicken specialty is one of them. Hattie B’s and Prince’s are two hometown favorites—plan to eat lunch well-before noon, when you’ll see plenty of neighborhood residents, to skip the chicken line at lunch, and before 5 to beat the dinner rush. Here’s how to make your own irresistible fried chicken.
Eat and sleep in Midtown
Nestled against the esteemed Vanderbilt Campus, Midtown is where to find trendy new dining spots such as the stylish new farm-to-table Henley Restaurant, hip small plate bistro The Southern, and all-day hangout Caviar and Bananas, all of which draw music industry insiders from the neighboring Music Row. On the same block as the hip eateries is the art-filled Kimpton Aertson Hotel, which boasts a luxurious rooftop pool for private views of the city, and local art (including city building mosaics in the bathrooms and elevators).
Shop in 12 South
For real Southern hospitality, don’t miss the boutiques and independent shops in this charming neighborhood. Among the highlights: White’s Mercantile and Reese Witherspoon’s dress shop Draper James, which celebrates its hometown with a Nashville mural.
Grab a beer in The Gulch
Yes, it’s a whiskey town (and we’re up for that, too), but instead of leaving the city to join the tipplers in Lynchburg, those in the know stay local to drink up the growing beer culture. In the downtown-adjacent Gulch neighborhood, you can create your own hops tour with stops at Jackalope, Yazoo, and Tennessee Brew Works to watch the brewing process and raise a pint our two. Check out the best craft beer in all 50 states.
Honkey Tonk off hours
Ok, most locals will tell you they don’t come to Lower Broadway because it’s too crowded, but it is absolutely one of the Nashville attractions that they bring friends and family to, and that you should visit too. When you do, you’ll likely find the locals on the left side of the street where the classic music spots Robert’s Western World, the multiple floors (and awesome rooftop) of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, and Layla’s are located, probably at 2pm on a Thursday instead of 10pm on a Saturday night, since they know that the live music goes all day and is great anytime. Oh, and follow the local lead and be sure to tip the musicians when the hat comes around. (Love country singers? Here’s what your favorite music says about your personality.)
Visit music legends
Here’s another must that you should do regardless of locals saying “we never do that,” because secretly they wish they had the time to join you: Explore the museums dedicated to the music legends of Nashville. Start at the Ryman Auditorium, the first home of the Grand Ole Opry, to discover how the city became the home of country and western music. Then walk to The Johnny Cash Museum for an in-depth look at the man in black. Finally, wrap up your day learning the secrets of the Country Music Hall of Fame to see everything from Elvis’ gold Cadillac to Taylor Swift’s immersive education center. Before you leave, stop in the Hatch Show Print Studio to pick up a locals-approved souvenir: A limited edition block print of your favorite Music City performer.