Robert’s Western World
416B Broadway, Downtown
Our favorite honky-tonk for dancing, this low-key bar has live music every night, bringing couples young and old out to showcase their skills on the dance floor. It’s a great place to go on weeknights since it gets rowdier on the weekend as it is located right on the main strip. You can also buy cowboy boots here; one of the walls is lined in shelves full of pairs in every shape and size imaginable.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
422 Broadway, Downtown
The lovely Reese Witherspoon, a born and bred Nashville girl, gave us a list of some of the places she likes: At the top, the orchid-hued Tootsies, which is apparently the #1 honky-tonk bar in the world! (A fun historical fact: Artists performing at the Grand Ole Opry used to sneak to Tootsie’s through the alley connecting it to the Ryman Auditorium during the show.)
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
222 5th Ave S., Downtown
Not only is a visit to this museum a must for anyone with a passing interest in country music; it also provides a lot of context for the city as a whole. Every aspect of the industry is documented in painstaking detail. Standout exhibits include Sing Me Back Home, full of photographs and original recordings that go back to the nineteenth century. Kids get their own exhibits and programs—there are live instrument demonstrations, songwriting classes, and interactive galleries in the Taylor Swift Education Center.
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
1 Symphony Pl., Downtown
This neoclassical stunner looks straight out of the nineteenth century but was actually completed in 2005. And it’s so much more than a typical symphony hall. Aldridge is a fan of the movie nights, where feature films (like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Star Wars) are played with a live orchestral accompaniment: “It’s such a magical experience for families to hear the symphony play alongside classic movies,” she says. “We love watching Home Alone at Christmas. It’s fun for both grown-ups and kids.”
200 4th Ave. N, Downtown
Noelle is a 1930 Art Deco gem of a building. Located steps from Printers Alley, it’s a few minutes’ walk from places like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Frist Art Museum. Stellar location aside, it’s great for those who like their hotels beautifully designed but without a lot of fussiness. A night in one of the sparse guest rooms feels like staying at the apartment of your most stylish Danish friend—hardwood floors, marble side tables, and custom-made fabric headboards. There aren’t a ton of bells and whistles, but none are needed when the place looks this good. And come morning, you don’t have to go far for an excellent cold brew—the in-house café, Drug Store Coffee, is one of Nashville’s best, which is saying something.
401 Union St., Downtown
In the middle of downtown Nashville’s arts district, the polished, mid-century-inspired Fairlane Hotel fits perfectly amid the area’s urban charm. The overall design is striking—original travertine columns, terrazzo floors, and plenty of brass finishes. And guest rooms are pleasantly pared back and uncluttered, with marble bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling windows that look over the cityscape. Stop by Mile End, an offshoot of the Brooklyn-based deli that serves some of the best bagels and lox in town. Union Teller, meanwhile, is great for a grab-and-go cup of Stumptown coffee and almond croissant.
21c Museum Hotel
221 2nd Ave. N, Downtown
Part hotel, part contemporary art gallery, 21c Museum Hotel occupies a massive warehouse from 1900 (formerly the headquarters of a wholesale hardware company). The whole art aspect hits you immediately: There’s over 10,500 square feet of exhibition space, filled with rotating shows and installations. Guest rooms are spare but comfortable, each featuring prints from local photographers. Spring for a terrace suite and you get your own (huge) outdoor space, complete with sofas and dining table for alfresco meals. Three of the suites were designed with artists: one by actor Adrian Grenier, another a collaboration between painter Sebastiaan Bremer and musician-composer Josephine Wiggs, and a third by Yung Jake.
200 4th Ave. N, Downtown
This gift shop (at the Noelle) is “a great place to find a curated collection of local products and gifts,” says Aldridge. Inside the pretty store you'll find a tightly edited selection of painted ceramics, jewelry, bags, and clean beauty products and hosts various pop-up events throughout the year.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
410 4th Ave. S, Downtown
If nothing else, come here for the Redneck Taco. It’s famous in Nashville—and not just for the controversial name. It’s not so much a taco as a heaping pile of brisket, sausage, pulled pork, fried catfish (whatever you like) and coleslaw on top of a cornbread “hoe-cake.” We’ve never seen anything like it. There are long communal tables, and the huge space has a rustic cabin feel (plus dartboards and Ping-Pong tables), so it’s ideal for large groups and families.
15 Hermitage Ave., Downtown
These specialty coffee roasters (they roast their own beans in the back of their shop) can be found all over Nashville, but their brick-and-mortar is more than worth a visit. The bright, white-washed cafe is outfitted with free WiFi and the requisite hipster crowd, and there's also a wide front porch that offers an excellent view of the downtown skyline. All of the espresso drinks are excellent, as are the avocado and ricotta toasts. It's a no-brainer if you need a cozy desk to hunker down with your computer for a few hours.
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