As a huge country music fan I am just awaiting the day when I get to visit Nashville, I seriously can’t wait. One of my mom blog friends from Nashville has graciously provided us with the local’s guide to Nashville and I’m so grateful.
Megan Whitaker is a former Registered Nurse turned hippie mom and wellness blogger in Nashville TN. She and husband Kody are expecting baby number 2 this winter and currently have 2 cats, 3 backyard chickens and an out of control garden. Please check her out at www.GoingCrunchyNotCrazy.com.
Without further ado here is the guest post from Megan Whitaker on Nashville Tennessee…many thanks Megan.
A Native Mom’s Nashville Travel Guide
I first moved to Nashville in 1992. To say it looks like a different city is a bit of an understatement, but it has kept its charm and quirks. Nashville is stereotypical for Southern manners and openness while surprisingly progressive. The last few years has seen enormous growth with new stores, bars and restaurants opening daily.
Now that I’m heavily pregnant totting around a 2-year-old, I’m not exactly staying up on the bar scene. Luckily, contrary to what you’ll see on TV, Nashville has a lot more than Honkey Tonks and Open Mics.
Nashville is Much More Than Downtown Broadway
On Saturday afternoons Downtown, there will be thousands of tourists on Broadway, packed into loud, live music bars wearing cowboy boots. Less than 2 miles south you’ll find the locals lounging in Centennial Park. Built for the world’s fair, it’s 132 acres complete with ponds, gardens, an amphitheater and a full-scale replica of the Parthenon – yes, as in the one from Ancient Greece. Inside the Parthenon there’s a statue of Athena that is covered in gold and is nearly 100 feet tall. Outside, families picnic under trees, students play pick-up soccer and Summer days hold all day concerts (that are country music).
There’s Lots to Cheer For
The Titans may be the most well-known team in town but the locals are most likely down the road. Two years ago a magnificent ball park opened for our AAA baseball team, the Sounds. Games often sell out, especially the coveted game day $11 lawn tickets, where families can spread blankets out and wait for home run balls to catch. My family likes to sit at the Box Seat, a huge outdoor bar/restaurant with great views of the game on one side and putt-putt golf, corn hole, ping-pong tables & a “kids zone” on the other.
Last month, we claimed some lounge chairs in the open-seating bar against the game-side fence. We played Jenga and ordered local grass-fed burgers with a hummus and veggie plate for dinner (Nashvillians pretty much expect local, healthy food everywhere). We didn’t make to the fireworks because of Munchkin’s bedtime, but older kids will love that weekend games come with a grand finale.
For more dedicated sports families, Predators games are the place to be. It may seem odd in the South, but we are very serious about our hockey around here. Games are PACKED. The stadium is in the very center of downtown, right up against the oldest and most famous bars in the city. It’s one of the largest hockey stadiums in the world. We hold the Guinness World Record for the loudest hockey crowd – visiting teams often complain about not being able to hear each other. It’s quite an experience. Bonus: both the Sounds and the Preds have private nursing / fussy baby rooms for moms!
Don’t Settle for Tourist Food
I’ll say it again. Don’t settle for tourist food. By far the biggest change in the last 10 years has been Nashville’s food scene. There are dozens of local, Nashville-owned restaurants within walking distance of Broadway that will satisfy even the pickiest eater. You can get anything from authentic high-end Indian cuisine (Chauhan Ale & Masala House) to authentic Japanese ramen (Otaku Ramen) to super Southern fare (Arnold’s Country Kitchen).
If you’re willing to Uber or drive just a couple miles you will have scores of amazing, family-friendly and affordable places to choose from with no long lines or so-so “country cooking.” There are 4 incredible quality burger joints (Burger Up, Farm Burger, Pharmacy, Gabby’s), 3 authentic pizzerias (Desano’s, Bella Napoli, Five-Points Pizza), and no fewer than 5 hot chicken places (Hattie B’s, Pepperfire, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Party Fowl, and Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish).
And if you’re the kind of person who feels like you can’t come south of the Mason-Dixon Line without eating BBQ, please, don’t go anywhere besides Edley’s.
You Can Even Learn Something
There’s all sorts of historical sites and tours to interest school-aged kids and adults, besides the enormous Grecian temple in the park, of course. Nashville was once Fort Nashborough and downtown sits right on the bend of a river where the original fort protected settlers from Native Americans in the late 1700’s. Down 1st Avenue at the end of Broadway there are replica cabins and artifacts from the time and 2 miles south Fort Negley, the largest inland Civil War fort, is free and open to the public.
Mansions used as hospitals and cemeteries during the Civil War can be found in Franklin, 30 minutes from downtown and the home (and resting place) of President Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage, is only 10 miles from downtown. This summer they have had daily reenactments of a Gentleman’s Duel, as our late President was apparently not well liked and found himself in several of them himself.
Oh and There’s County Music Stuff
The singer-songwriters and country cover bands may all be down on Broadway, but most of the music actually gets made a couple miles away. Music Row holds the big guys, major record labels and some old studios. But a lot of today’s hits are recorded in tiny Berry Hill, a little city 15 minutes from downtown and only a few streets long, but almost completely covered in recording and writing studios.
If you want to see The Grand Ole Opry, just be aware, it’s half an hour (on a good day) from downtown. During the Holidays, it can take an hour or more to get off the highway into Opryland. The Ryman, on the other hand, is right off Broadway, a couple blocks from the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Tourist Traps That Are Worth It
Loveless Café – it’s not close. It’s 35 minutes from downtown and there is ALWAYS a wait. But it’s fabulous.
Country Music Hall of Fame – kids are free. And some of the stuff is ridiculous (Elvis’s Cadillac with pistols attached?!)
Anything Civil War – all the homes and grounds are restored and the tours are amazing across the board.
The Zoo – it’s cheap, super family friendly, well shaded, and has an enormous playground in the middle. Every mom I know has a membership. See leopards, monkeys, rhinos, giraffes, lemurs and more – even feed and pet some giant tortoises.
You Might Be Surprised That
Traffic is terrible. Pretty much everywhere in Nashville has really bad traffic mornings, mid-afternoons and evenings – every day. And I say this as a person who has also lived in Los Angeles and Chicago. It’s not a joke.
There’s no public transportation. Sure there’s the Free Downtown Bus that follows a tiny route around Broadway – I’ve taken it twice. If you want to go beyond that you’re going to need a car or be prepared to Uber. You’ll see a few Metro Transit buses but the stops are few and far between and not convenient. I’ve never taken the MTA at all.
We’re into neighborhoods. Every single piece of Nashville is divided up and named, and we take our areas seriously. When someone tells you to go eat in The Gulch or Germantown or East Nashville, they aren’t other towns or borrows. They are just a few blocks from each other but are very different -and everyone has a favorite.
Thank you Megan for your insight into Nashville, I am even more excited to visit. Please take a moment to visit Megan at www.GoingCrunchyNotCrazy.com.
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