Planning a trip to Nashville?  If not, you should.  It was an unexpectedly delightful surprise for us and we’ve really enjoyed getting to know the city.  There are tons of things to do, see and eat.  Here are some of the highlights from our most recent trips.

Hotels:

The two hotels we are familiar with are The Hutton Hotel and The Hermitage.

The Hutton Hotel is in the West End and is the only ‘green’ hotel in Nashville.  It is down the street from Vanderbilt University and caters to music and fashion industry execs (and us of course). The lobby features local art.  The lobby and rooms are sleek, modern and sophisticated. The staff is very friendly. If you must, you can opt for one of seven rooms that include cardio-equipment right in the room.

The Hermitage is Grace Kelly to The Hutton’s Charlize Theron.  It was built in 1910 and oozes southern tradition and charm.  It is very comfortable and right in downtown Nashville. A bathroom scene in The Shining was based on the downstairs Art Deco men’s restroom.  Check out the traditional Oak Bar while you’re down there poking around – they serve a mean burger.

Activities:

The Nashville Film Festival is held in the spring for a week.  It began 43 years ago so it is well-established, very well attended and draws lots of stars, producers, directors and writers.  Last year’s festival had over 200 films representing 41 countries around the world.

We went to the Roller Derby which is an unbelievable cultural phenom.  If you’ve never been, it’s a must. The Nashville Rollergirls have killer ‘handles’ like Dani Doom, Maulin Monroe and Obscene Jessture.   The women bearing those titles are appropriately rough and tumble.  We loved it.

If you’re a music fan, check out what concerts will be on while you’re there. This visit we saw Bonnie Raitt in the Ryman Auditorium (the original home of the Grande Ole Opry) and she was unbelievably wonderful.  Nashville is Music City, anybody and everybody on tour stops through. There’s always something great going on. Even a trip to the honkey tonks on Broadway is sure to serve a sampling of the next up and coming talent.  Our daughter has a friend who saw Taylor Swift at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge when she was fifteen, and when it cost the price of a beer to see her sing.

There are several large antique shows every year in Nashville.  In October there is the Country Home Antiquing Festival, and Nashville Antiques Week is the beginning of every February.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is open every day from 9:30 – 5:30 in downtown Nashville.  Opened in 1967, it closed for a complete renovation in 2000 and reopened in 2001. Check out Elvis’s “solid gold” Cadillac and Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes.  Make sure you hop on the mini sightseeing bus for a quick trip down Music Row to see where all the country music recording studios and publishing offices are.  You’ll stop at Studio B – RCA’s studio for Elvis Presley. Currently there is a special Merle Haggard exhibit.

Restaurants:

We’ve tried two wonderful restaurants in the Germantown section of Nashville.  City House is only open for dinner and is fantastic!  For appetizers we shared a margarita pizza with house-made mozzarella, and a pizza with peas, potato, spring onion, chilies and pecorino with a fried egg in the middle, a selection of olives, and broccoli salad.  We had the catfish, steak tips, and house-made sausage for entrees and shared the chocolate mint torta and strawberry shortbread pie for dessert.  It all was mouthwatering, and most of it was made from local produce.

For Mother’s Day brunch we went to Monells, also in Germantown.  This wonderful restaurant set in a charming house serves great quantities of divine Southern food, family style. We had pickled zucchini and squash salad, pistachio salad, potato salad, biscuits and peach preserve to start. The waitress warned us to go easy on the salads because lots more food was coming and she was right.  We then had fried chicken, maple bacon bread, peas, corn pudding, pork, and chicken and grits.  Unbelievable and delicious! Strawberry cheesecake was for dessert.

It’s very reasonably priced for all that food.  Open seven days a week for lunch, dinner, weekend country breakfasts and Sunday lunch.

We went to Merchant’s on Lower Broadway – the bustling site of honky-tonk bars, nightclubs and music-oriented retail stores.  It was a second choice because Jack’s Bar-B-Que had a line out the door and we had a show to get to.  A word about Jack’s – it is delicious BBQ and a must-try.  The line moves quickly as you move up to the large glass cases and choose your food.  You’re given your choices on a tray and you head to one of several dining rooms where there are always seats available.  It’s delicious, casual and efficient.

Merchant’s is across the street, and we sat at the bar and had a delicious meal.  Try the Duck Fat Tater Tots, the Baked Cheese, Greek Salad or chile.  All delicious. It may have been a second choice but it didn’t disappoint.  It will be a first-choice next time.

Bricktop’s serves lunch and dinner and is great for a late meal after a show or an event.  It is modern and serves very good, reliable food – great steaks and burgers, fried calamari, salads etc.

The Loveless Café (“Ham & Jams”) is open seven days a week from 7 AM to 9 PM serving classic Southern food and is a real trip!  It’s worth a visit.  It is in Nashville but not downtown.  Go for breakfast and enjoy their country ham, homemade biscuits, grits and potatoes with your eggs and red-eye gravy.  For lunch have the wonderful pulled pork sandwich with some fried green tomatoes and biscuits on the side. For supper go for some fried okra, meatloaf or fried chicken, or some southern fried catfish.  It’s unbeatable!

Whole Foods Grill:  I’ve never eaten at a Whole Foods market before but there we were at the mall with an exhausted husband who needed feeding.  The saleswoman in Anthropologie (the largest one I’ve ever been in) in the Green Hills Mall (more on that later) highly recommended it and she was right!  Located between the Produce and Grocery departments in the back of the store, The Grill is open seven days a week from 11 AM– 8 PM and it’s delicious!  I had a salmon, sweet onion and lettuce wrap with Ranch dressing and sautéed kale on the side.  My husband and daughter each had a delicious cheeseburger with cheddar and avocado.  The food was fabulous.

If you’re in a rush, stop by the Sweet 16th Bakery at 311 N. 16th St. for a sandwich, piece of quiche, delicious cookie or cupcake to go.  There’s a great selection and everything is delicious.

Shopping:

Parnassus Books is novelist Ann Patchett’s new bookstore in Nashville. We applaud Ann Patchett for being brave enough to open an independent bookstore in 2012 and wish her good luck.
3900 Hillsboro Pike
Nashville, TN

The Green Hills Mall is a mall, but a very nice one. The layout is manageable and not overwhelming.  You stroll down attractive ‘streets’ lined with stores.   It’s very clean and actually quite peaceful if you can imagine a mall being peaceful. While it has all the predictable stores, there are a few not so predictable.  There’s a Billy Reid men’s clothing store that draws my husband like a magnet and there’s Teavana that has an enormous tea selection, great free samples and a knowledgeable staff. Parking can be a challenge.

There are several well-known vintage clothing stores that have fun and unusual stuff. There’s Hip Zipper Vintage Clothing,Closet Case Vintage, and Darla The Outlaw

Nashville is just plain fun!  It’s country and city, grits and ‘Smoked Sunburst Trout’, vintage clothing and couture.  It’s Nicole Kidman and Miley Cyrus, it’s stable and surprising – a city of the unexpected.  Worth a visit, for sure.

Nashville, the capitol of Tennessee and lovingly called Music City, is a direct flight from most major airports.  It is in the Central Time Zone, so from the East coast it is one hour earlier.