I grew up in Nashville, but I moved away in 2001 for 20 years—off to Seattle, London, New York, and LA. When I returned, I found a whole new city. It’s been such a joy to rediscover my hometown and realize that Nashvillians are still the warmest folks in the world, and that along with our music scene, we have some of the best restaurants and museums in the country. Here are some of my top discoveries.
Where to Stay
Four Seasons: Enjoy next-level luxury and dine at Mimo, led by Michelin-starred chef Aniello “Nello” Turco.
Conrad: It’s worth staying at this upscale property if only for the lavender shortbread cookies left during turndown service.
The Hermitage Hotel: The timeless and elegant Hermitage has been open for over 100 years. It recently underwent a spectacular renovation, and it’s now home to the Pink Hermit by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Nashville is called the Athens of the South because of its dedication to higher education and culture. Whatever sparks your interest—from history to architecture to the Man in Black—the museums here are as varied as our music scene. I’d start with a visit to the National Museum of African American Music. The space is well designed, with tons of interactive exhibits. From there, you can walk to D’Andrews Bakery & Cafe for lunch. Its salads and sandwiches are bright and fresh, but you really come here for the pastries. Then go to Rhapsody Spa to relax with a dry brush treatment. Or keep walking until you get to the Frist Art Museum, which is just the right size to leave you inspired but not exhausted. If you have littles in tow, take note that it also has an amazing kids’ wing, where you can all create your own art.
For dinner, there’s Henrietta Red, an airy seafood spot nestled in the funky Germantown neighborhood. Or Husk, which is celebrating its 10th year and is known for its elevated twist on classic comfort foods. Either way, make sure to book an early dinner so you can catch a show at the Ryman Auditorium, where the venue itself is the star attraction.
I’ll offer two ways to get outdoors today, and you should make time for both: First, there’s Percy Warner Park, where you can go for a hike or just climb the famous steps designed by landscape architect Bryant Fleming. Or you can go to Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, a sprawling botanical garden on a 1930s estate. It has a stunning sculpture trail that includes work by artists Jenny Holzer, Alicja Kwade, and James Turrell, among others. For lunch, make a reservation at Roze Pony, a café where you’ll be charmed by every detail—even the to-go cups.
Green Hills has the best shopping. Head to Hill Center and make H. Audrey your first stop. Every item in this store is handpicked by the owner, musician Holly Williams, granddaughter of the legendary Hank Williams. From there, walk down to Private Edition, an old-school beauty counter that does brows and facials, too. Afterward, hop across the street to Parnassus Books, author Ann Patchett’s slice of bibliophilic paradise.
If you’re in the mood for a late-afternoon bite, go one block over for oysters and rosé at Santo. Or head straight to Locust for dinner on bustling 12 South. It’s the best restaurant in Nashville. Reservations go fast, so it’s worth planning your trip around this meal. The menu is full of Asian-inspired dishes; get one of everything. And don’t be surprised if chef Trevor Moran stops by your table to chat. If you show up with time to kill and are still in shopping mode, skip across the street to Emerson Grace for a carefully edited selection that runs from Clare V. to Ulla Johnson.
A few more options for dinner: Peninsula’s octopus is my favorite dish in town. Or try for chef Sean Brock’s restaurant Audrey, which does a contemporary take on Appalachian cuisine. I’ve been taking all my out-of-town guests here lately. If you’re here on a couples getaway, you should be able to slide into a window spot at Folk for some naturally leavened pizza made out of the freshest seasonal ingredients.
Afterward you can explore East Nashville, which is Nashville’s equivalent of Bushwick or Echo Park. Check out Jane’s Hideaway for Americana music, or go for craft cocktails at the Fox Bar & Cocktail Club, Attaboy, or Martha My Dear. If you stay out late, head back to East Nashville in the morning for a meditative soak at Holiday Salon & Bathhouse and a visit to the essential oil bar at Lemon Laine.
Just a few blocks south of downtown is Wedgewood-Houston, where you’ll find a creative hub of converted factories and warehouses. Go to the Soho House for a lobster Sunday brunch and a dip in the pool, head to E+ROSE for a fresh juice, or visit Dozen Bakery for some of the best local coffee and pastries.
Then take your time poking around WeHo’s stores and galleries. You can learn to screen print at Hip Hues and browse high-end musical instruments at Retro Gear Shop. The Zeitgeist and David Lusk galleries are a must. You also can’t miss a visit to Darlin’ Lingerie. Make a reservation for Nashville mainstay Bastion; do the tasting menu. Or swing downtown to the Continental, where you can indulge in an ultralush meal and an hour-long martini and caviar tasting at the Vesper Club. After dinner, stop at the Station Inn for some classic bluegrass: one last taste of glorious Nashville.
What to Pack
You’ll fit in anywhere in white jeans and a pair of sandals. But you should know that women in Nashville turn it up. They’re not afraid to wear color and patterns. Their nails are always done.
If you come in the spring, bring allergy meds; the pollen here is aggressive. If you visit in the summer, bear in mind the humidity. Your hair will do things it’s never done before. Adjust your products accordingly. On the upside, the heat also gives your skin the healthy glow we all chase. Fall is perfect. And the winters are usually mild.
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