Travel

Downtown

Establishment neighborhood
Noelle
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.
21c Museum Hotel (Closed)
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.
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.
CREMA
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.
Acme Feed & Seed
101 Broadway, Downtown
Even though it's the central hot spot for a lot of Nashville's live music scene, South Broadway's huge bars can skew touristy and get overwhelmingly rowdy at night. Acme Feed & Seed's bold challenge to that stereotype has been really well received so far, offering the familiar multilevel bar and live music experience in a cleaned-up, modern style that draws a local crowd. The first floor of the space features a store with locally crafted goods and Acme-branded pantry items, plus a restaurant with a fast-casual menu of Southern-inflected dishes like Redneck Lo Mein with collard greens and an andouille soy glaze, a Down Home Falafel Sandwich, and flavorful ribs. The vibe is more casual upstairs on the second level, which has a built-out bar and lounge, a small-bites food menu, and a sushi bar. The live music space occupies the third floor, where the calendar is filled up with a solid lineup of local bands (it can also be rented out for private parties). The open-air roof at the top of the building offers some of the best views in the city, and you can come in early…
Pinewood
33 Peabody St., Downtown
Pinewood calls itself "a place to meet," which is really the most accurate description of this hybrid between bar, restaurant, coffee shop, and (dare we say) rec center. It's open from early in the morning when you can camp out with a coffee and enjoy the free WiFi, until late in the evening, when groups congregate with cocktails around the bocce courts and bowling lanes. There are two pools in the back, alongside an airstream trailer that actually has its own menu, and a wide patio that makes a great spot for pre-dinner drinks. The menu is surprisingly good for a place with so much going on—you'll find an excellent fried chicken, lobster roll, grain bowl and fried broccoli.
The Southern Steak & Oyster
150 3rd Ave. S., Downtown
A central gathering place in the busting SoBro neighborhood downtown, the Southern occupies the first floor of the Pinnacle at Symphony Place, a new skyscraper that (impressively) is LEED-certified. The restuarant itself also takes sustainability seriously, serving locally-grown produce and fueling their wood-fired grill with salvaged hickory on top of the requisite non-toxic cleaning products and ambitious recycling program. Food-wise, the specialties are freshly shucked oysters, which you can order at the oyster bar, and an old-school steak menu. Also good to know in this parking-sparse area: Valet is on the house.
Frist Art Museum
919 Broadway, Downtown
The Frist has an entire gallery—the Martin ArtQuest Gallery—devoted to art activities where children can come by every day between 10 and 5:30 and on Sunday starting at 1 p.m. There are thirty decked-out stations set up for kids to experiment with different media including drawing, sculpting, printmaking, and even filmmaking with toy dinosaurs, plastic animals, and big toy spiders. For everyone else, there’s an encyclopedic lineup of rotating exhibitions from all over the world. Bonus: Children under eighteen can visit for free.