Travel Spotlight: Nashville

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Nashville is a city built for relationships. Whether it's a friendship, partnership or business endeavor, Nashville is where dreams go to come true. Full of hard work and authenticity, this is a rust worn city that melds both millennial flavor and baby boomer spice to create a bustling and crackling lifeline. If you're planning your next southern getaway, here's what you need to know*:

*Beware, you won't find any Cracker Barrel or Country Music Hall of Fame on this list. 

For Grub:

Food is a delicacy in this city. If all of Nashville shared Thanksgiving dinner, we would be well-fed for ages. Meat n' Threes are common, and every Nashvillian will have a different restaurant of choice. With this in mind, I can only rightfully recommend my favorites. I'll do you the honor of three places:

Pied Piper Eatery: Alright, y'all. Pied Piper is the OG. My friends and I have been hitting up this same corner restaurant for years (since sophomore year of high school, at least, which would be easily over 7 years ago), and it's as good as ever. Every menu item is music themed, so whether your an Elvis fan, a Dolly Parton die-hard, or a Johnny Cash lover, there's a coordinating meal for you. It's a vintage diner with red patent leather couches and tables covered in vinyl records. My meal of choice— Becky's Buffalo Chicken Sandwich; hot, spicy, fried. 

Burger Up: The 12 South location is my favorite (also, the only one I've been to, so I suppose I'm biased). 12 South is a very hip part of the city, which is weird for me to say because when I lived there, 12 South didn't even exist so.... I digress. Burger Up is in simple terms, fucking delicious. The burgers are what you go there for, plain and simple; the Woodstock Burger is especially delish. For cocktails, I recommend the Tennessee Mule or the Hibiscus Mimosa (or a lemony drink whose name I can't remember; it was that good).  

Baja Burrito: Being a SoCal resident for five years now gives me the right to judge other taco places, right? Right. Baja Burrito is a total winner. I didn't get to check it out during my last visit, but everything from the chips to burritos to tacos to fruit tea is A++, and the environment is cool, surfer-coastal, and fresh. Its location in the quaint Berry Hill community means it's also walking distance to quirky lil' storefronts and shops full of knick-knacks.

For Gifts:

No, not everyone is expecting you to bring them home something music-themed. In fact, there's a vibrant vintage community just minutes outside Nashville. Head to Old Town Franklin for a fun-filled day of shopping (and ice cream— Kilwin's is BOMB) and be sure to stop by Mignon's on your way back; it's a legit one-stop shop for both your parents and your crazy cool bestie. 

For Good Times:

Okay, now this one will surprise you. Having lived in California for six years, nearly all of my legal drinking experiences have occurred on the west coast. I thought SoCal was poppin;... boy was I WRONG. Nashville is where it's at. Truly, there are so many bars to explore in this city; there's something for everyone. While normal tourist sites will tell you to check out Broadway, I've got the locals' picks for your next Saturday night out (you're welcome):

Old Glory: If a quiet setting and craft cocktails are your thing, this place is calling your name. We ended up venturing to this speakeasy-esqué bar after our previous destination got über crowded. We were not disappointed; its Edgehill back alley location gives it the real feel of an old-fashioned speakeasy, and the spiral staircase leading down to the actual bar is spooky and reminiscent of something F. Scott Fitzgerald would write about in The Great Gatsby. It's a low-lit, flapper-inspired experience you'll be glad to have. 

Tailgate Beer Brewery: This is the place to go if you brought family, a big group, or just don't want your personal bubble popped. The beer is great and is seasonally crafted for the most relevant tasting experience (I was there in October, so pumpkin was the general draft theme). The pizza is great, too; be prepared to wait in a bit of line for both if you're there on the weekend. They've got movie nights, a big barn, and pool tables. Oh, and they're dog friendly. Win. 

3 Crow Bar: Dive bar meets craft cocktails, 3 Crow Bar is nestled in East Nashville and is a good bar hopping first stop, or if you just want a down-to-earth late afternoon drink to cool off— this is your place. 

Kung Fu Saloon: It's got arcade games, outdoor picnic games, lots of seating, lots of drinks, and lots of character. Be warned, this place gets super busy on weekend nights. Be prepared to get cozy with your neighbors. 

Acme Feed & Seed: While I'm not going to include any major Broadway locations on this list, everyone I met back home told me that this spot is worth the tourist trap and bachelorette parties. It's got a great rooftop bar, so you can people-watch all the cowboy hat-wearing, cowgirl costumed visitors make their drunken way around downtown. 

For Guitars:

While country music may have its origins in Nashville, it's not the only genre filling the ears of its residents. Nashville is a flourishing city of rock n' roll, poppy superstars, and bluegrass fan faire. Check out Music Row for a chance to peep some real fame, and if you're willing to stand in lines, spend a Friday night perusing Broadway Ave. The karaoke is better than most contestants on NBC's "The Voice." Converted? Then pick up your new guitar at Gruhn Guitars. Opening its doors in 1970, Gruhn Guitars is a premier guitar shop selling vintage and new instruments; its employees have passion, gusto, and will guide your guitar purchasing experience from start to finish. 

George Gruhn, Gruhn Guitars Founder/Owner. Picture credit:  Nashville Scene

George Gruhn, Gruhn Guitars Founder/Owner. Picture credit: Nashville Scene

For Gratitude and Grace:

It's true; you can't escape religion in Nashville. It is part of the Bible Belt, after all. If you're on the market for a new church, I can't recommend Life.Church enough. It's non-denominational, friendly, and gets to the point (none of that super-opinionated-hatred-hell-flames type of stuff). Also, the Hendersonville camp used to be a movie theater, so that's neat. It's a true community of God-loving folks, and whether you're a die-hard Christian or just exploring different faith options, Life.Church will allow you to have doubts without degrading your self-worth. It's also basically all online, so if you're just passing through, you're still good to go next Sunday. 

I was born and raised in this city, and it definitely took leaving it to appreciate all it has to offer. Nashville has surely changed since I was a kid, becoming one of the few cities in the US to experience daily exponential growth. Don't be surprised if locals warmly refer to their hometown as "Nashvegas"; it's just as bright as its casino-loving counterpart with the down home tendencies that small-towns usually possess. Say please, say thank you, and above all else, open those dang doors for strangers.