Oh Nashville. I love you.
Seriously, I don’t think I’ve met anywhere in the States that I’ve fallen for this much, this quickly. Not even San Francisco. If Nashville was on Tinder, I’d be super-liking every day.
From the moment I turned the corner onto 2nd Avenue on a stroll towards Broadway, the city’s main party street, I instantly felt a buzz I’ve never really picked up from another US city. Country music and rock’n’roll covers drifted from the bars. Lively chatter from locals and holidaymakers alike filled the air.
In my brief visit to the more built-up central area, I felt very safe and welcome – walking back to the hostel after catching some live music, I didn’t once feel nervous or threatened. Obviously there are definitely dodgy areas like anywhere else, but in the main tourist-friendly areas of the city it really did feel like an incredibly welcoming place towards visitors.
Sit back with a snack, this is a long one…
Nashville was a pretty exciting prospect for a few reasons. One, I was really looking forward to the city as a whole. And two, we were spending two wonderful nights in a hostel in the Downtown area. We’d spent the past few hot, sweaty days camped out in tents, so I was incredibly excited to get myself into a proper bed for two nights.
That meant AIR CON. Sweet heaven.
Plus, the Nashville Downtown Hostel is really, really cool. Each room is named after a famous musician/band, and the six of us girls rocked up to ‘Bob Dylan’ to dump our belongings before embarking on a boot-stompin’ Nashville night out.
On the way to an evening of line dancing, we stopped by to pick up vital supplies for the evening at Nashville Cowboy. Yes, they sell cowboy boots. And a lot of ’em. We’re talking wall-to-wall boots, in every colour of the rainbow.
Alright…we didn’t actually pick any up because I definitely didn’t have $300 to spend on a fancy new pair. But after trying some on and strutting around, a new life ambition is definitely to own some of these babies. Yee-ha indeed.
The Whitehorse Saloon sits on Nashville’s 2nd Avenue, and you won’t miss it due to the model horse perched outside. Line dancing
Before getting our dancing shoes on, we raided the bar for some pricey but tasty cocktails. Aka necessary dancing fuel. We sipped our cocktails from souvenir glasses while a live band played along. Nashville is THE place for live music, I swear – every bar we went to had a band playing. I guess it isn’t called ‘Music City’ for nothing! I wouldn’t place myself as a huge country fan, but it’s such easy music to listen to and enjoy.
I’ve done line dancing once or twice before, but luckily we had an instructor up on the stage to walk us all through our grapevines and triple steps. The dancefloor was absolutely packed and it was such a fun experience. Until I line danced a bit enthusiastically and hurt my feet from excessive stomping, at least…
We ended the night in Tequila Cowboy, where two other Trek groups joined us for one big party, dancing the night away and singing along to some classic rock given a country twist. And I may or may not have danced with an elderly Elvis impersonator…
After jumping out of my hostel top bunk (by jumping, I mean carefully scaling the very precarious ladder), we headed down for breakfast and a full day of exploring Nashville. Aiming to see as much as possible, we took a walk beyond the bright lights of Broadway to see another side of Nashville.
As we strolled past the impressive Bridgestone Arena (where Drake was playing that very night!), the scenery started to change. In place of honky tonk bars we found older buildings, like the Union Station hotel which definitely gave me vibes of London’s St.Pancras.
We were headed for the Gulch neighbourhood – formerly home to the downtown railroad terminal and now a hotspot for the community of young urbanite Nashville dwellers. Full of bars and restaurants, it’s definitely an area of the city I’d love to delve a little deeper into.
But we were on the hunt for something specific. Nashville probably isn’t the first city you think of when it comes to street art, but tucked away in the Gulch area you can find some pretty awesome murals.
The What Lifts You wings mural is probably one of the better known wall-painted sights in the city. Created by artist Kelsey Montague, her #WhatLiftsYou campaign focuses on creating empowering and uplifting images. These intricately painted wings are 20 feet high, and took 60 paint pens to create. There’s also a smaller pair of wings for kids and pets, if you’ve got them in tow.
If you’re a big street art fan, check out some other murals you should see in Nashville.
So Third Man Records is super cool. It’s owned by Jack White of The White Stripes fame, and has a recording studio as well as a record store.
Aside from actually selling records, the store was filled with interesting things to look at and awesome decor. Merchandise, images, a little machine where you popped in a quarter and some monkeys did a dance…there was also a listening booth, where you could check out some of the records at your leisure.
I didn’t actually spend much or buy any records (I don’t even have a record player anyway…), just bought some stickers and guitar picks, but it was still really cool little place to have a look around. The decor is amazing, the staff are friendly and there are loads of little oddities scattered around the store.
I also picked up a flyer for a gig the next day and got sad that Joyce Manor had a Nashville gig THE DAY WE WERE LEAVING. I really want to go to a proper rock show in the states, but nothing I liked seemed to coincide with my trip. Boo.
Once we’d done our exploring, we headed back to the hostel for some lunch in the kitchen, and headed back out to see the Country Music Hall of Fame.
On the way, we walked past this beaut of a building. The Pinnacle building is definitely the prettiest skyscraper I’ve laid eyes on. The reflective glass catching the sky and clouds almost makes it look see-through. Can we have one in London please?
In case you were getting excited for it…I’ve decided to leave the Country Music Hall of Fame for another post. Even though we were only in there an hour, I have loads of photos and this post is already pushing 1100 words and you’ve probably run outta snacks by now…
(I’ll just say, my one tip is, if you’re not a huge country fan and just want a quick look around, head there an hour before closing as we got our tickets half price and still managed to see everything I wanted to see in the hour!)
I’ve already banged on a bit about how good the food at Acme Feed & Seed was in my post all about my five best meals in the States, but it really is such an awesome place, it deserves a mention in here too. Spread across multiple floors, with one dedicated to sushi(!), it offers up live music and great eats, as well as a sprawling rooftop garden with epic views over Broadway, the Cumberland River and the Nissan Stadium.
We grabbed our food from downstairs, and headed up to find a table on the rooftop. There’s a handy bar up there, mainly useful because the elevator up there can take a while to arrive with room to squeeze in.
We ended our last night in Nashville on such a high, I was really sad to be leaving – I could have happily line danced a few more days away in this wonderful place.
I feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface of a lot of places I’ve visited so far. One thing I’ve really loved about visiting lots of places in a short space of time is being able to find out the places I really want to explore in more depth.
And Nashville is most definitely one of those places.