As the capital of and the second largest city in the state of Tennessee, Nashville is quickly establishing itself as the new capital of the South. Spend some time in this city dubbed “Music City” and “Nashvegas” and you’ll experience world-class art museums and galleries, the cuisine of incredible restaurants, sporting events starring the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Tennessee Titans and great live music in some of the best venues in the world. In short, you’ll never run out of things to do, but this can pose a problem if you don’t have that much time to see the sights. Not to worry: with a little planning and some flexibility, you can see all that Nashville has to offer in just 24 hours.
Early Morning: West Nashville
You’ll want to gear up for a long day ahead, so start off with a good old country breakfast at Nashville institution Loveless Café. Since it’s early enough, you just might get a good table, as this café, which opened in 1951, has received acclaim from USA Today, Southern Living and Frommer’s, and regularly sports a line of people outside waiting to chow down on the best Southern cooking in the city. Make sure to try the biscuits, country ham and red-eye gravy, which is mixed with black coffee. On your way back into the downtown area, stop at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Ar and wander amongst the permanent collection of American, British and contemporary art, as well as the 55-acre botanical gardens.
• Loveless Café, 8400 Tennessee 100, Nashville, TN 37221
• Cheekwood, 1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37205
Late Morning: West End/Hillsboro
Head back into the city along Highway 100, which turns into West End Avenue when you get closer. Late morning is the perfect time to take a tour of Vanderbilt University, and if your visit is during the academic year, you’ll get a glimpse of students rushing to and from classes, athletic events and social activities (as well as the highest concentration of squirrels you’ve ever seen in your life). The campus was designated as a national arboretum in 1988, so you’ll see over 300 species of trees and shrubs, including the Bicentennial Oak between Rand Hall and Garland Hall, which is certified to have lived during the American Revolution and is the oldest living thing on campus. If you feel like your energy is waning, walk over to Hillsboro Village and check out Fido, a quirky coffee shop that is a favorite of stars like Ben Folds, Nicole Kidman and Taylor Swift. If you don’t order one of the specialty espresso drinks like the Rolo(ver), you’re definitely missing out.
• Vanderbilt University, 2201 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37212
• Fido, 1812 21st Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37212
Afternoon: Centennial Park
Walk back through Vanderbilt campus (and avoid the squirrels), cross over West End and you’ll soon find yourself in the lush, green expanse known as Centennial Park, one of the largest parks in the city. If you’ve ever wondered why Nashville is nicknamed “Athens of the South” you’ll find out why here. City officials built a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, and for $6.00 you can stop in and view the recreation of the gold Athena Parthenos statue, as well as other works of art. Or, skip it and enjoy a nice walk around the park’s lake. By this time, you’re probably hungry, so head a block away to Rotier’s Restaurant, which is the go-to spot in Nashville if you’re craving a good burger. Don’t let Rotier’s dive bar feel fool you: they’re serious about their food, and the grilled cheeseburger on French bread with onion rings can’t be beat. If you’ve saved room for dessert, walk down the street to the retro chic Ellison Place Soda Shop and grab some of their famous banana pudding.
• Centennial Park, 2600 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37203
• Rotier’s, 2413 Elliston Place, Nashville, TN 37203
• Ellison Place Soda Shop, 2111 Ellison Place, Nashville, TN 37203
Early Evening: East Nashville
Just over the Cumberland River, the up and coming neighborhood of East Nashville feels like a world away. Far from the glitzy lights and noise of the downtown honkey-tonks, East Nashville moves at a slower pace, but it’s anything but boring. This part of town has become a haven for creative, artistic types, and hipsters abound in its many galleries, coffee shops and dive bars. If you’re a music lover, stop in The Groove, which houses a great selection of rare and obscure vinyl. Then, check out Wonders on Woodland, a Victorian house that holds vintage goods and antiques downstairs and features an art gallery upstairs. Before dinner, have a cocktail at the Prohibition-themed Holland House Bar & Refuge, where the skilled bartenders can whip up classics like a Pisco Sour and more exotic cocktails like the Continental de Oro, made with tequila, roasted orgeat, fresh lemon juice and mole bitters. Once you’ve primed your palate, sit down to a great meal at Margot Café & Bar, which has been a mainstay on the Nashville culinary scene for years. The menu changes frequently according to what’s in season, and everything is fresh and tasty.
• The Groove, 1103 Calvin Ave., Nashville, TN 37206
• Wonders on Woodland, 1110 Woodland St., Nashville, TN 37206
• Holland House Bar & Refuge, 937 Eastland Ave., Nashville, TN 37206
• Margot Café & Bar, 1017 Woodland St., Nashville, TN 37206
After Dinner: Downtown
No trip to Nashville would be complete without checking out the music scene, so try to take in a concert at the beautiful and historic Ryman Auditorium. First opened as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892, it is now one of Nashville’s most iconic music venues, famous for being the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. Many notable bands have graced the stages of the Ryman, so chances are you’ll be in for a good show. If there’s nothing going on at the Ryman that night, no worries; Nashville isn’t called Music City for nothing. Head further into downtown and you’ll find (or hear, rather) the sounds of bluegrass and country spilling out from just about every establishment. Robert’s Western World is one of the best honkey-tonks on the Broadway strip. The live country music is great, the beers are cold and cheap and there’s no cover, making it the perfect way to end 24 hours in Nashville.
• Ryman Auditorium, 116 5th Ave. N., Nashville, TN 37219
• Robert’s Western World, 416 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203