Full disclosure, I do not like country music, so finding myself in Music City for a weekend getaway was an interesting choice. Wandering around down lower Broadway with the sounds of live music and surrounded by happy enjoying the Nashville scene quickly won me over. Getting there were only 1.5 hours by flight, and I couldn’t pass up a sale on airfare. One February weekend, I found myself in the heart of Nashville enjoying every minute of it!
I love to travel and lately weekend trips to new locations have been the best way to balance my day job with my insatiable travel bug. With some planning, a solo trip to Nashville could be exactly what you’re looking for too. I admit I have an independent streak so a balance of solo travel along with some trips with friends and family works for me. If you’re nervous about solo travel, read my tips below on some great ways to get the most out of the city.
Solo Trip Planning
Being a solo traveler takes some planning as you are your trip coordinator and can follow whatever schedule works for you. Before visiting a city, I explore Instagram hashtags to find unique or interesting places. For my visit to Nashville, I picked an activity for each day, knowing I could fill in the rest of my days with exploring neighborhoods or finding sites after talking to others. Through my research, I knew I wanted to explore the Johnny Cash Museum right in the center of Nashville. Second, I booked a walking tour that was a combination of local history and cuisine. Food walking tours can be a great way to combine finding new restaurants and avoid eating alone if that makes you nervous. Also, it’s an easy way to connect with likeminded people so you don’t feel as alone. Lastly, I found a local market that was new to Nashville that had a combination of boutiques and eating places. It was a little farther outside of the city center, but I thought it would be worth it to venture out. With an outline of my adventures planned and my luggage dropped off at the hotel, I was ready to explore the sites of Nashville.
Where to stay in Nashville
I decided to use rideshares for the weekend as Nashville has many neighborhoods, but I wanted to be within walking distance to some sites. I found a Tru by Hilton hotel in the convention center area which was three blocks from the music of Broadway and only 2 blocks from the Country Music hall of fame. The hotel was packed for the weekend but the staff greeting me at check-in was friendly and the process was efficient to check-in. In the lobby, there were whiteboards of staff picks for shopping, eating, and other local sites. If you went to a spot they had magnets with “loved it” “Liked it” etc.
Making my way to my room, I was surprised by the size of the room as the website advertised a European style room which from previous experience can be on the tiny side. With big windows overlooking the city, it was great to enjoy some natural light. The room had a comfy chair, desk and side tables with plenty of outlets to plug in all the electronics. With a huge tv in the center of the room, it had all the comforts for a perfect weekend away.
A bonus to this hotel is that breakfast is included with the room rate which did provide some savings from eating out every meal. Offering southern favorites like biscuits and gravy (my personal favorite) along with a hot food buffet of eggs, hashbrowns, and sausage. For lighter fare, there were pastries and cereal options. Overall, it was a great menu to start the day before venturing out to explore Nashville.
The weekend I visited, it seemed like the hotel was completely booked as the lobby was always buzzing from those enjoying breakfast or waiting to get checked in. With large screen TVs, game tables and several comfy chairs, it was an inviting space to hang out and people watch.
Taking a Walking Tour through Nashville
When traveling solo, I often look for a walking tour as it’s a great way to see the city but join in with like-minded people. Nashville had plenty of options, and I chose a tour that combined local food and the history of the city. We stayed right around lower Broadway and the tour lasted around three hours. We started with Jack’s BBQ, which has a marquis sign of pigs flying. It’s a local landmark and it’s said that the restaurant opening helped revitalize the area to its current state. Continuing the tour, we ended up at Café Lula by the Ryman theatre. Named after Lula Naff, the longtime manager of the Ryman theatre it offers local food including chicken and waffles. For those who can handle spice, go for the Nashville hot chicken. I went for regular fried chicken and it was crispy and cooked perfectly. With syrup and waffles, it was just the right amount of sweet and savory.
Continuing our tour, we discovered Goo Goo Clusters, a candy made in Nashville sure to delight the sweet tooth. The candy is comprised of caramel, nougat, and marshmallow, while some versions contain pecans or peanut butter. The shop on Broadway is full of merchandise and a photo wall and is a fun place to visit. A full-sized candy was included in our tour, but I considered bringing home some extras.
From discovering the Ryman, the local food scene and some country music history, I felt like I understood the city better. We ended our tour on printer’s alley, home to some great live music venues. In the 1915’s the area was home to numerous publishers and printers. Today it’s home to a lively music scene just beyond the Lower Broadway area. I enjoyed some music with the tour group before venturing back out to the city.
Understanding Johnny Cash
When traveling solo, museums are a great way to discover some history at your own pace Right on lower Broadway and third street in Nashville sits the Johnny Cash Museum. An ode to a country music legend, I enjoyed learning about the life and times of Johnny Cash at the museum. The exhibit covered an entire floor covering his growing up years, contributions to television and of course music contributions. One of my favorite exhibitions was how many artists have covered Johnny Cash over the years. Using headphones and choosing a song you could enjoy a myriad of music genres to Johnny Cash classics. Another feature of the museum was a presentation on all the movies and tv shows Johnny Cash had appeared in over the years. To be honest I had previously only thought of him as a singer but his number of acting gigs over the years proved me wrong!
My favorite part of the museum is that it was so hands-on, plenty of artifacts, visual displays, and music to listen too. Also, as the museum was in chronological order of his life, it was interesting to learn about his life and contributions made. Johnny Cash was a major contributor to prison reform and frequently would play to inmates. After I had finished exploring the museum it led to the souvenir shop and I couldn’t resist picking up some gifts for family who are true Johnny Cash fans. Touring the museum was a great start to my Nashville experience and I recommend you give it a try even if you might not be the truest of country music fans.
Finding a marketplace
When traveling alone I like to find a marketplace or food hall that’s locally owned. It’s a great way to find a bite to eat and support small businesses. Located in East Nashville, I visited L&L Marketplace. It’s a new establishment with new businesses opening all the time. Located in a refurbished 1920’s era, it’s a beautiful space hosting bakeries, shops and restaurants with exposed brick, wood beams and industrial concrete floors.
My first stop was Gracie’s Milkshake Bar. An adorable 50’s style bar where decadent milkshakes are served with a friendly smile. Candy-coated, frosted glasses with various ice cream flavors make a beautiful, but also a delicious sweet treat. I went for a strawberry milkshake with whip cream and sprinkles and enjoyed every bite. The menu is limited to shakes and French fries but it’s a fun spot to people watch as friends and families enjoyed their treats.
Right next to the milkshake bar was a boutique store called Imago Dei (Latin translation for the image of God). Filled with jewelry, accessories, clothing and statement art, I took my time looking around. The store owner was so kind and made me feel welcome in the space. I found some unique stationery to bring home to family and some accessories to add to my collection. With wares artfully displayed, it was a delight to wander around the store and discover a store exclusive to the Nashville Area.
Continuing my wander through the L&L marketplace, I noticed Amelia’s flowers. A flower shop offering custom bouquets and flower arrangements. My favorite part was the small tables located by the shop, waiting for visitors to have a rest and enjoy the atmosphere. Each table had a small flower arrangement reminding me that although it was winter, spring will be on its way with even more blooms.
Only 15 minutes back to downtown, it was time to leave the East Nashville Neighborhood to explore more of what Nashville had to offer.
Art and shopping in 12 South
Nashville has an ever-growing street art scene with many taking advantage of great shots to add to their social media. After chatting with the worker at Gracie’s Milkshake Bar, I ventured out to the 12 South area for some street art and boutique shopping. From the country music bars and cityscape, 12 South offers craftsman houses and white picket fences. Such a charming neighborhood that showed the diversity of options available in Nashville.
I started at Draper James, a women’s clothing and an accessory store started by Reese Witherspoon, the Hollywood Actress. Welcoming from the start, sales ladies provide you with a small glass of sweet tea. The store was bustling but everyone was friendly, and the décor was worth a peek inside. Blue and white was the color theme and It’s carried out to a lovely mural on the side of the building. Just across from Draper James is the “I Believe in Nashville” mural, and I was amused at those lined up ready to take their picture.
The 12 South District has a nice range of restaurants and boutiques with the Frothy Monkey being the coffee shop of choice. If you need a sweet treat check out Five daughters Bakery. Although get there earlier on in the day as when I tried to go, they were sold out for the day!
Along with the murals noted above, there were others in the area that were a sight to see. I enjoy street art and hope to learn more about the artists on my next adventure to Nashville.
History at the Ryman
The Ryman theater is named after a wealthy Nashville native who was a riverboat captain. After attending a tent revival and inspired by an evangelist named Sam Jones, Ryman was inspired to create a tabernacle for the city of Nashville to gather at. Although the Ryman is no longer a church, the stained-glass windows and interiors are a reminder of its past.
Today the Ryman is a very busy music venue that hosts a variety of musicians and bands. It’s a favorite for many artists as it has great acoustics.
I took a self-guided tour of the Ryman, and it started with a video production over the history of the theatre. It was well done and kept my interest so that I was ready to explore the music venue. As it’s a running venue, workers were getting the theatre ready for a performance, but it didn’t interfere with touring the facility. Full of memorabilia of the many stars who had graced the stage of the Ryman it was interesting to see how music had changed over the years. From country greats like Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash to rock and roll legends like Elvis Presley to modern artists like Cold Play, the Ryman has been a legendary music venue in self-proclaimed “music city, Nashville Tennessee.
I had a great time in Nashville, and I hope you visit soon. From discovering country music, locally-owned boutiques, and fantastic food scene, Nashville has so much to offer as a solo trip.