Nashville has undergone a number of iterations in recent decades, from its longstanding position as the “home of country music” to its boozier, fun cousin “Nashvegas” to its most recent as home to one of the fastest-growing foreign-born populations in the United States (not to mention the country’s No. 1 destination for bachelorette parties). Tourism aside, Nashville lures those wanting the cultural heft of larger cities on the coasts without the price tag. Behind the swell of newcomers are the expected bonuses: flourishing restaurant and art scenes, and a new crop of gleaming hotels that have brought with them performance spaces and rooftop bars.
For now, open-mic nights in taverns across town continue to be where new talent gets heard, so Nashville’s abiding place as a singer/songwriter mecca remains. For this short visit, skip the party madness on Second Avenue and Broadway, and find places like the Station Inn and the Douglas Corner Cafe that showcase what Nashville is famous for: fresh, original songs and the people who give them voice. Nashville has a large Hispanic population and sizable numbers of Kurds, Somalis, Egyptians, Sudanese and Laotians. So that food scene? It has some interesting contributors.
1) 5:30 p.m. A Fine Tribute
The renowned chef Jonathan Waxman’s tribute to his mother, Adele’s, in the reinvented Gulch neighborhood, focuses on seasonal comfort food with little fanfare; the awards, food and breezy space do the talking. Situated in what was formerly the Universal Tire Center, Adele’s is a fine example of the visionary dining that is blooming in Nashville. Start out with the crispy shrimp with basil and togarashi aioli ($16), then move on to the pork loin with watermelon, jalapeño chutney and mint ($24). When the weather permits, the garage doors are rolled up and the diners inside join those outside.
2) 8:30 p.m. Pickin’ Pedigree
Everyone’s favorite bar for bluegrass and roots music, the genre-bending, boxlike Station Inn sits genially amid the shiny high-rises of the Gulch, a little like an architectural Luddite — but that’s part of its charm. Until recently, Vince Gill played there on Mondays with The Time Jumpers. Other artists who’ve graced the small stage include Bill Monroe, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton and Gillian Welch. The Doyle and Debbie Show, crack satirists, play the Station Inn on Tuesdays; patrons sit on folding chairs at movable tables that become chaotic as the night progresses (you will be talking to your neighbors). Devotees can also nestle into seats salvaged from Lester Flatt’s tour bus. Get there early for the 9 p.m. show (admission, $15 to $20).
3) 11 p.m. Nashville Skyline
Stay in the Gulch and top the night off with a view of Nashville’s glittering (and ever-changing) skyline, late-night snacks and thoughtful craft cocktails at the recently revamped Up Rooftop Lounge atop the Fairfield Inn. The chipotle-smoked salmon nachos with avocado crema, comeback sauce and herb aioli ($14) are a favorite. Pair that with the “no sorrow amaro” (amaro Montenegro, Berentzen apple whiskey, Combier apricot and lemon juice, $13) one of the bar’s signature drinks. Take your time; that free valet parking the club provides is good for three hours, time enough to download Nashville Live Music Venue, the city’s free app for finding live music.
4) 10 a.m. Yes, the Parthenon
Grab breakfast (try EiO and The Hive in the Nations neighborhood) and head to the Parthenon at Centennial Park, the only full-size replica of the Athens monument, built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and a bit of a guilty pleasure. It took the sculptor Alan LeQuire eight years to finish the colossal 42-foot statue of Athena inside, and considerable finesse to gild her in more than eight pounds of gold leaf, part of the Parthenon’s makeover in 2002. Ironically, some find out about this Parthenon during the tour of the actual Parthenon in Athens. It’s a good way to start the conversation about the history of democracy — and maybe the difference between pathos and bathos (admission $6.50 adults, $4 children).
5) 2 p.m. Johnny and Patsy Together Again
Save the ever-great Country Music Hall of Fame for a longer visit; two bite-size treasures honoring the country legends Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline are conjoined just a block south of Broadway and pack a lot of wallop per square foot. Cash’s museum opened in 2014 and houses elements from June and Johnny’s Hendersonville home, his trademark outfits, awards and state-of-the-art technology to help tell his remarkable story (admission $19.95). The space just above it, which opened in 2017, is devoted to Patsy Cline: A wall displays every 45 record released, a trove of handwritten letters, gowns and jewelry, including the gold watch she was wearing on March 5, 1963, the day she died. Cline’s meticulously set table in her early 1960s dining room hits hard for those who know that she would perish in a plane crash at the height of her career at the age of 30 (admission, $18.95). Tip: The entrance to the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge is just across the street; it’s free and freeing.
6) 4:30 p.m. Vegan Soul Food
Opened in 2018, The Southern Vhas pulled off what many have attempted and at which many have failed: tasty comfort food that won’t stop your heart or break the bank; it’s 100 percent vegan. In a cheery, modern building in the Buchanan Arts District, the owners, Tiffany and Cliff Hancock, have put together a compelling menu that indulges the stomach while the smooth R&B in the background does the same for the spirit. Two barbecue jackfruit sliders with mac and (vegan) cheese and baked beans are $12.25; three crispy “chicken” strips with greens and green beans, $12.25.
7) 6 p.m. Break Out
Long a hub for budding Americana and country talent, Douglas Corner in the Melrose neighborhood has often been referred to as the “Improv” for songwriters: a small venue where many a career has been launched (Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, The Kentucky Headhunters and Blake Shelton, among others). Douglas Corner is one of the few venues in town that has a 6 p.m. show, so go; you never know who you will help discover. Cover: $5 to $10.
8) 8:30 p.m. Hush
With the famed Bluebird Cafe usually reserved for months in advance, the Listening Room, which seats 300, is helping shoulder the mantle of hosting established singer/songwriters as well as young blood. Shows usually have three or four performers who take turns, with amusing banter in between. Hearing a hit song by the songwriter is different from hearing the hit song by someone else, which is often the case. The club, which, despite its size, has an intimate feel, also offers a full dinner menu. Tickets: $15 with a drink, or food minimum of $15.
9) 11 p.m. Nightcap
Rudy’s Jazz Room is like a little snifter of Remy Martin: dark, delicious and seemingly from another era. Rudy’s opened in 2017 and was modeled after Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village. The club has a speakeasy feel with stone walls made warm with mood lighting and casual seating, not to mention a Steinway Model B grand piano. Local musicians, as well as major acts from around the country, offer a smooth, urbane palate cleanser for those who may be over-twanged from recent evenings at bluegrass and country venues. On weekends, there is an 11:30 p.m. late show. Rudy’s also serves New Orleans-style cuisine, craft cocktails and beers on tap. Admission: $10 to $20.
10) 9 a.m. Sunday Drive By
While much of Nashville is still asleep (or in church), see what all the hoopla is about downtown and on Broadway without the frenzy or the hangover. Your 9 a.m. Joyride appointment with a “driver ambassador” will take you to places of your choice. Swing by Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and the other honky-tonks on lower Broadway. Learn the full history of the Ryman Auditorium and take a long look at The Country Music Hall of Fame; every curve of that structure has built-in significance, including a section that suggests the tail fin of a 1959 Cadillac. And let’s face it, running around in a golf cart is fun (cost: $45 per person).
11) 10:30 a.m. Brunch and More Music
The Sutler Saloon opened in 1976 and became a prominent watering hole for Nashville’s music business community as well as famous, and infamous, players. It reopened in its original spot in 2014 as part of an urban revival of the Melrose neighborhood. The Sutler’s longstanding bluegrass brunch, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., has live music to go along with that provenance. The brunch offers two kinds of sangria ($16 for a pitcher; $8 for a lass) and bottomless mimosas for $17. The sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon bourbon syrup ($10.95) are just like they sound: Southern and delicious.
12) Noon. Vacation From Vacation
Let onscreen characters take the wheel for a while and decompress at Nashville’s oldest and newest art house, The Belcourt Theater. It opened in 1925, underwent a monumental sleek overhaul in 2016 and is now the pride of Nashville’s film community, as well as the city. With three screens, it runs new indie releases and repertory classics, and there is usually a noon Sunday showing. The theater stocks a full bar and locally made edibles. The Belcourt is in the middle of Hillsboro Village, some of the best gift-shopping, coffee-sipping and eating in town.
Nashville has embraced a number of short-term rental platforms, including Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. They come in handy in trendy neighborhoods such as East Nashville where hotels are few. Short-term accommodations in that neighborhood for a night can cost anywhere from around $60 for a single bed to roughly $400 for an entire house.
Formerly a 19th-century train station, the downtown Union Station Hotel was built in 1900 and was updated with $16 million worth of upgrades in 2007. The hotel is Southern, traditional and opulent, but with contemporary amenities and close to everything downtown. Rates start at $229.
The Bobby Hotel, a boutique hotel newly opened in the heart of downtown, offers rooms designed around pieces found in cities around Europe, 24-hour room service, a fitness center, a rooftop bar and an original kind of branding: “Bobby” is the spirit of a traveler who brings back treasures from faraway lands. Rooms start at $259 a night.
What to do when you’ve got 36 hours to get to know a city.
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The article "36 Hours: 36 Hours in Nashville" was originally published on https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/04/travel/what-to-do-in-nashville.html?partner=rss&emc=rss