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August 26, 2012

Destination Nashville: Why Music City has Something for Everyone

Nashville, TennesseeBlogger and Nashvillian Brittany Cooper unpacks the local haunts that make Nashville, Tenn. a great vacation spot for people of all tastes — yes, even those who can’t stomach country music.

What do you think of when you hear the word “Nashville”? One, two, three … go. It’s almost humorous, right? Of course you think of country music, and who wouldn’t? Growing up in Indiana, I always envisioned Nashville as the land of honky-tonks and rhinestone cowboys, but after a few years in Music City, I’m a diehard fan of this place that has proven to be a large small town full of rich local culture, musical diversity and hospitable people.

Now when friends tell me they’re coming to Nashville for a visit, I point them toward the local restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that make this city so unique. And I have to admit I cringe a little when I get the occasional phone call from a friend who’s already made his or her way to Broadway–the one strip in this town where honky-tonks and rhinestone cowboys still reign supreme. But even that touristy strip adds to Nashville’s charm.

If you’re thinking of making the jaunt to Music City, here are some of the can’t-miss threads that make up the fabric of this remarkable place:

Please Your Palate:

Silly Goose Food

Enjoy delicious sandwiches, couscous and more at The Silly Goose. (Photo courtesy of The Silly Goose).

The Silly Goose: Fresh and delicious sandwiches, couscous, salads and more made right in the heart of East Nashville.

The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden: Artisan burgers and beer with sweet potato fries and milk shakes to die for. Enjoy your food inside or relax with the whole family in the beautiful beer garden out back.

Pancake Pantry: You’ll have to wait in line, but that’s all part of the experience at this Nashville mainstay. And, believe me, the pancakes are well worth it!

Loveless Cafe: For a more historic, down-home spot, Loveless Cafe offers a homecooked country meal fit for the heartiest appetite. Don’t miss out on the biscuits.

Marché Artisan Foods: You’ll feel like you’re stepping into the French countryside when you enjoy any one of Marche’s innovative culinary creations. After your meal, buy fresh local bread, bacon, eggs, chocolates and more in the little market.

Satisfy that Sweet Tooth:

Dulce Desserts Cupcakes

Pop into Dulce Desserts for any number of scrumptious cupcake flavors. (Photo courtesy of Dulce Desserts).

Dulce Desserts: Even if you’re not ordering one of their custom cakes, you can stop by Dulce for succulent cupcakes, cookies and more.

Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles: Fresh fruit popsicles made in flavors ranging from lime to hibiscus.

Sweet 16th: East Nashville’s local bakery that offers up some of the most incredible breakfast sandwiches and scones imaginable. Get there early for the best selection.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: Though technically a chain, Jeni’s is ice cream on an entirely new scale. Test any number of their gourmet flavors before landing on the perfect pick.

Fox’s Donut Den: With its iconic sign hanging out front of the Green Hills shop, Fox’s Donut Den is a Nashville mainstay with confections that have kept people coming back for decades.

Curb Your Caffeine Cravings:

Crema Coffee

For to-die-for espresso drinks and lovely latte art, try Crema, Nashville's coffee "brewtique." (Photo courtesy of Crema)

Crema: A coffee “brewtique,” Crema roasts and brews an incredible cup of coffee. Try one of their perfectly crafted espresso drinks and you won’t ever want to return to a certain mega-chain coffee shop (which will remain unnamed) again.

Ugly Mugs: Essentially the family room of East Nashville, Ugly Mugs is the place to take the whole family for a latte or a cup of unforgettable tea. (Oh, and my friend recently stood in line behind Robert Plant here. Need I say more?)

Fido/Bongo Java: Both under the same ownership, Fido and Bongo Java offer great coffee as well as fresh, tasty food.

Frothy Monkey: A favorite of people from all parts of Nashville, Frothy Monkey is a great spot to get some work done, catch up with friends and enjoy the laid-back vibe while getting your caffeine fix. Their food is quite impressive as well.

Edgehill Cafe: Nestled in the heart of the quaint Edgehill Village, Edgehill Cafe makes you feel like you’re sipping coffee in West Elm. The decor and ambiance alone are worth the trip.

The Barista Parlor: If you have ever referred to yourself as a coffee snob, you will love the Barista Parlor. The purest of the pure, the Barista Parlor serves up espresso made by the cup in a variety of brewing methods. (And don’t worry, they’re friendly).

Don’t Miss the Music:

The Bluebird Cafe

Nashville's iconic Bluebird Cafe is the best place to hear Nashville's songwriters perform their hits.

The Bluebird Cafe: The place where songwriters perform and artists are discovered, The Bluebird offers an intimate, in-the-round live music setting you won’t find anywhere else.

Bridgestone Arena: For the biggest bills, Bridgestone Arena is Nashville’s largest concert venue where you can catch a show from any number of touring bands and performers.

Mercy Lounge/The Cannery Ballroom: These two venues, located at the same place, constantly bring in great talent and showcase some of Nashville’s best emerging acts while also serving as a tour stop for others.

3rd and Lindsley: This recently remodeled venue is a great place to catch a live show and enjoy a comfortable setting.

The Ryman Auditorium: One of the most historic sites in Nashville, The Ryman stage, which was constructed in 1901, has played host to the most prolific stars of the past century.

Top off your Trip:

Nashville Farmer's Market

Nashville Farmers' Market offers a wide variety of produce from local growers.

Nashville Farmers’ Market: Take an afternoon to walk through the vast selection of produce from local growers and grab lunch at any one of the many restaurants in the indoor food court.

Gaylord Opryland Hotel: If you get the chance to stay here on your trip, definitely take it. If not, it’s still worth a visit to walk through the seemingly endless expanse of lush gardens, rivers and restaurants within the walls of this massive hotel.

Centennial Park: On a nice day, walk Centennial Park downtown Nashville, where you can also take a peek at Nashville’s Parthenon. The structure is a full-scale representation of the original Parthenon in Athens, complete with a 42-foot statue of Athena.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: If you enjoy country music, you can’t go wrong at the Hall of Fame, which also features a museum full of historic relics from country greats.

Grand Ole Opry: A fun night out for the entire family, the Grand Ole Opry will keep your attention with a steady rotation of talent and a down-home country feel. And you don’t have to be a fan of twangy country music to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

For even more visuals or to create a travel board for your trip to Nashville, check out our latest Pinterest board featuring Brittany’s picks!



About the Author

Brittany Joy Cooper
Brittany Joy Cooper
Brittany Joy Cooper is a freelance writer, editor and consultant who lives in Nashville, Tenn. A native of Indianapolis and a graduate of Samford University, she spent several years editing a music magazine in Nashville before venturing out on her own. Brittany loves all things magazine, especially Real Simple and Whole Living, and now finds that she spends too much of her spare time looking for great recipes on Pinterest.




  • kandy

    This is so helpful for when we visit Nashville. We love to try new (and old) places and you have given us a good variety. We hope to come back soon.

  • Mable

    I’m making a list and checking it twice! What fun it will be to “check” off some of these reccomendations when I make my next visit to Nashville.