A Weekend Guide to Nashville
Whether you’re driving or flying, Nashville is a short distance away from many U.S. cities, making it the perfect weekend getaway. Here is our itinerary of must-dos for your quick trip to Nashville — just remember to come back and see us again real soon.
By Taylor Ferguson • October 5, 2018
6:00 p.m. | The Big Red Curtain Goes Up
What better way to acquaint yourself with country music than at “the show that made country music famous”? The Grand Ole Opry takes place at the Grand Ole Opry House on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights from February through October. From November to January, you can experience an Opry show at “The Mother Church of Country Music” and the Grand Ole Opry’s most famous former home, Ryman Auditorium. With a lineup of eight to 12 artists on every show, audiences are treated to an array of performances by legends, today’s superstars, and tomorrow’s hit-makers. In its 93rd year, the Opry is an American icon, not just a witness to history but a part of it, as the longest running radio broadcast in the nation’s history.
Before the show starts, you’ll want to fuel up. Located on the Opry Plaza, the Opry Back Porch BBQ food truck has a variety of options to choose from, like smoked brisket, vegetarian barbecue jackfruit, and creamy banana pudding. Just beyond the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center and adjacent to The Inn at Opryland, Opry Backstage Grill will get you amped for the evening with dishes named after your favorite Opry stars, such as Little Jimmy [Dickens] Loaded “Tater” Tots and Trace Adkins’ “Just Fishin’” Fried Catfish. Many of the servers at Opry Backstage Grill have amazing vocal talents, so you may even catch them singing a rendition of your favorite country song.
During the show, bring your experience full circle with a Behind the Curtain Tour, which offers a one-of-a-kind glimpse of backstage before the big red curtain goes up. You’ll even get the chance to watch the first performance from the side of the stage. Daytime tours and post-show tours are also available. Don’t miss your chance to see where Alan Jackson used to deliver mail backstage before he became a star or Dustin Lynch’s newly minted member plaque. You never know — you may even run into a performer on the billing for that night’s show!
9:30 p.m. | Nightcap with a Side of Bluegrass
Bluegrass was born on the Opry, and in case you’re craving more of it, stop by the Station Inn located in The Gulch. The intimate venue offers live bluegrass music every night until midnight. Various Opry members have been known to perform at the Station Inn over the years including Alan Jackson, Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, and Alison Krauss, so you never know who may just drop in for a few songs.
If you’re in search of a laid-back nightcap — you know, to conserve your energy before hitting boisterous Broadway on Saturday — Nashville’s got its options. L.A. Jackson, an indoor-outdoor rooftop bar atop the Thompson Nashville hotel, is a Gulch hotspot. Those in the know love Old Glory in Edgehill, a boiler room-turned-speakeasy that hides behind an unmarked door and features a rotating array of craft cocktails. Beer more your thing? Vinyl Tap in East Nashville has a whole wall of craft drafts as well as a collection of pre-loved vinyl records available for purchase.
10 a.m. | Whatcha Got Cookin’?
Rise, shine, and embrace it: At some point on your trip to Nashville, you’ll be eating biscuits. Might as well start Saturday off on the right note with a trip to Biscuit Love. The bread item is treated as a food group here as the restaurant has become a Music City staple among locals and visitors alike. Enjoy their signature “bonuts,” fried biscuit dough topped with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote, or a Southern Benny, a buttermilk biscuit served with shaved country ham, fried eggs, and sausage gravy.
Located in Hillsboro Village, Pancake Pantry offers a family-friendly environment with options that everyone can enjoy. The menu reads like a kid’s dream — chocolate chip pancakes, sugar and spice pancakes — but even those over the age of 12 are encouraged to indulge. This is vacation, after all. Nearby Proper Bagel offers a preposterous number of cream cheese options to top your freshly made bagel (hello, cookie dough!). You can’t go wrong with their smoked salmon toast and a hot coffee.
12 p.m. | Heart and Soul
Not just a country music landmark, the Ryman Auditorium is the “Soul of Nashville,” known for its top-notch acoustics and diverse show offerings. Go on an immersive daytime tour during which you’ll learn about its founding as a tabernacle in 1892, how manager Lula Naff boldly transformed the Ryman into a world-class venue in the 20th century, and when Johnny Cash and June Carter fell in love backstage. Come back in the evening for a live show.
1:30 p.m. | Get Your Fill to Eat
After working up an appetite on your Ryman tour, pop into Cafe Lula. Attached to the Ryman, it’s a convenient place to take a breather and bask in sunshine spilling in from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows. The counter-service restaurant specializes in rotisserie-style cooking and boasts bountiful salads and artisanal sandwiches. While eating, you may even be treated to pop-up acoustic performances that occur in the restaurant daily.
3 p.m. | Country Music Crash Course
“Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum allows you to experience country music in all its eras — from early “hillbilly” music to the Nashville sound to today’s hits.
The “American Currents: The Music of 2017” exhibit contains an impressive number of artifacts including Jason Aldean’s ACM Entertainer of the Year Award; a 1962 electric guitar owned by TJ Osborne of reigning CMA Vocal Duo of the Year Brothers Osborne; and the suit Chris Young wore on the night of his Grand Ole Opry induction.
Now until June 2019, don’t miss the exhibit “Little Big Town: The Power of Four,” which showcases the Opry member group’s road to hard-won success. You’ll see Karen Fairchild’s wedding dress from when she married Jimi Westbrook, the term paper Taylor Swift wrote about the band, and a ticket stub from Little Big Town’s early days of touring when they were incorrectly called “Little Big Foot.”
Don’t forget to stop by Hatch Show Print inside the lobby outside the museum before you leave to see the inner-workings of one of the country’s oldest operating printing presses, famous for its iconic posters commemorating Ryman shows and other events.
6 p.m. | Spin Me ‘Round
As entertaining to pronounce as they are to visit, honky-tonks are the lifeblood of Nashville’s famous Lower Broadway. One guitar lick in and these bars will have you tapping your foot, belting out the chorus of every song, and dancing the night away. There’s a honky-tonk that suits every style, making it fun to hop from one to the next. If you like country from the era of Patsy Cline and Ernest Tubb, Robert’s Western World is your place. If you want to line-dance, head to Wildhorse Saloon. Want to trace the steps of iconic country performers who’d hang out on Broadway after performing at Ryman Auditorium? Tootsies Orchid Lounge’s walls can talk.
In recent years, Broadway has become a playground for many celebrities who have opened bars and restaurants on the strip. Opry members Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, and Alan Jackson each have their own outposts, as do Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, and John Rich of Big & Rich.
If you’re itchin’ to have a little fun, Ole Red has got you covered. Inspired by Blake Shelton’s hit song, the restaurant and bar has rolled out new dishes for fall, including the in-your-face Pig ’N’ Cheese fried bologna sandwich and the Absolutely Obnoxious Lucky Charm Sundae. For an escape and great views of the action happening in the streets, head to Ole Red’s rooftop bar, The Lookout.
11 a.m. | Fiery Foul
Nashville’s got a fiery delicacy — are you brave enough to handle the heat? Serving up fried chicken with a bad temper, hot chicken joints can be found all over the city. Prince’s Hot Chicken is what started it all after a woman sought to punish her husband for flirting around town by coating his favorite fried chicken in hot spices. He loved it. Now the rest of the city does, too. Every joint has its own signature flavor; Hattie B’s,Bolton’s, Scoreboard Bar & Grill, Pepperfire, and Party Fowl are also sure to satisfy your hot chicken fix.
12:30 p.m. | Athens of the South
After lunch, head to Centennial Park for a leisurely stroll or a zippy ride on one of the many electric scooters up for rental. Known for its scale replica of Greece’s Parthenon, which was built for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the park is worth getting lost in. Head inside the Parthenon’s art museum where you can take in American art from the 19th and 20th centuries as well as a 42-foot-tall statue of Athena.
2 p.m. | Strolling and Shopping
Before you head home, make sure to pick up a memento to remind yourself of Nashville. Hillsboro Village and 12South are fun neighborhoods where you can spend the afternoon shopping. From flower shops to clothing boutiques to bakeries to stores filled with unique collectables, you never know what you’ll discover. Have your camera ready, too. There are many photo opportunities in both neighborhoods, which are lined with fun murals that reflect Music City’s vibrant character.