Nashville will no longer sit by and fulfill your stereotype of a sleepy country music town populated by starving songwriters in cowboy boots with acoustic guitars. Rather, it’s a city that’s fast-tracking itself to become the South’s most thriving metropolis, with flourishing new neighborhoods offering the best in music, food, and culture, all without sacrificing the heritage of southern hospitality and charm. (It’s also the setting of the new ABC drama “Nashville,” starring Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere, which premieres tonight at 10/9C.) The next time you stop through, make sure to sample the diverse atmosphere and discover what each corner of Music City has to offer.
EAT/HANG: Blue Bird Cafe
It’s not simply a set piece for scenes in “Nashville.” But rather, the Blue Bird is where many songwriters and artists have gotten their starts before beginning major careers in the country music industry. After 30 years, it still remains an intimate setting for major executives and unknowns alike to unwind and hear amazing music with lines queuing out the door every Sunday for Writer’s Night.
HANG: The Ryman
For over 120 years the Ryman Auditorium has served as a place of worship in one capacity or another. It was first built as the Union Gospel Tabernacle In 1892 before the original Grand Ole Opry broadcasts graced its stage. Now, major world touring talent goes out of their way to play this venue, embrace the rich musical history, and give amazing and intimate acoustic performances in this 2,300-seat theater.
EAT: San Antonio Taco Co.
Unless you enjoy sticking out as a tourist, use the shorthand SATCO when referring to the best tex-mex and wings in the city. Though it boasts two locations (downtown and Vanderbilt), the atmosphere and food of Vandy is far superior, especially if you want the authentic experience complete with a bucket of beer. Their queso is the perfect cure for hangover or just a bad day. Sign your name on the wall — if you can find room — to leave your mark on this Nashville institution.
SHOP: Hillsboro Village
Hillsboro Village offers an alternative taste of a more artistically inclined side of music city. Restaurants, boutiques, galleries, hip coffee spots, and dive bars all make up the menagerie of local flavor that coexist within a few short blocks. It boasts both The Belcourt, the city’s oldest independent theater, and the Pancake Pantry, a breakfast spot which has customers queuing around the block even before the doors open each morning.
HANG: Love Circle
It’s a little known spot — even among locals — but offers unparalleled views of the city, day or night. Wind your way up the small sleepy streets of this residential hill at the end of West End till you reach the summit and suddenly you’re presented with the perfect patch of grass for a picnic or space to share scenic moment. It’s not an expansive park by any means, but definitely worth a trip up a few side streets to make your trip truly memorable.
EAT: The Pharmacy
This East Nashville burger parlor draws on a bit of nostalgia to complete its charm. They’ll make you a phosphate soda or a milk shake the way they were meant to be made, but don’t write this place off as another retro homage to the ‘50s. The atmosphere is just as contemporary and modern as their approach to food. The patio and beer garden, complete with string lights and picnic tables, make it a highly sought after summer location after hours.
EAT/HANG/SHOP: 5 Points
The best East Nashville has to offer all converges into this compact hot bed of bars, vintage stores, and sublime restaurants, all nestled among larger neighborhoods of Victorian style homes and gorgeous parks. The businesses are all locally owned and offer a character that’s completely unique to this side of town. 5 Points is the place to be if you’re looking for bar hoping, offering something of the best dive bars in town, including The 5 Spot.
This post was sponsored by the new ABC show “Nashville” — premiering tonight at 10/9C — but the opinions expressed are the writer’s own.