Nashville is who inhabits it. The locals - be it businesses or people walking down the street - effortlessly provide an at-home feeling to anyone visiting. There’s a reason why it’s growing so fast: you don’t have to be a musician to settle here, and that secret’s out. Below are some local stops that I adore. Hopefully I can clue you in to why people are flocking to Nashville.
I moved to Nashville in 2017 and that makes me a somewhat recent transplant. But I was already familiar with Nashville in some capacity – when I was 15, I wanted to be the next Taylor Swift and brought a demo to the streets of Music Row. I frequented Music City in college for shows, too. Something about driving through the night to see a band you love; it changes you. Or at least adds to who you are in some mysterious way. That same feeling permeates Nashville. It feels like everyone here is chasing something, be it the American dream, musical success, or the world’s finest leather jacket.
So maybe I wasn’t going to be the next Taylor, but the city opened up for me when I was offered a job with a local design studio after college. Considering everything the studio touched turned cool, I had all the best spots in Nashville right at my fingertips, curated by some incredibly creative people.
Now that I’ve been here for a year, I’m glad I can provide visitors with a starting point on exactly what and who makes Nashville great. I’m going to give you a suggested itinerary that I force most of my visiting friends to endure— 48 hours in Nashville with me. I hope you’ve saved some money, because this is going to be good.
Arrive: You’re here! Whether you’re flying or driving in, you’ll likely be starving, and Nashville is the ideal destination for good food. As one of my good friends from Los Angeles put it, ‘Everything in Nashville is basically free,’ as in we’re urban but our prices are reasonable. My recommendation upon getting in is to drop off the bags and head over to Germantown for some window shopping and dinner.
4pm: Before dinner, hop over to Wilder to shop homewares. This store’s inventory is eclectic. They have sculptural furniture and lighting, jewelry, and more. The owners are incredibly kind, and their quirky, curated, and design-minded collection is one of the only of its kind here in Nashville. It’s my stop for Japanese incense, all my favorite magazines, and Hasami Porcelain.
5pm: When it comes to dinner on your first night in town, let’s just cut straight to the point: Rolf & Daughters. My favorite restaurant in town and also a place I was very hesitant to go at first. It seemed like an elevated experience I wasn’t quite ready for, but it’s laid-back and easy. Their pastas and breads are handmade every day, and when it comes to their ingredients, they’re shopping the local markets every weekend. The menu morphs with the seasons. The only thing that doesn’t disappear from the menu is Chef Philip Krajek’s Garganelli Verde; once you have a serving of it, you will never be the same. In a perfect world, you’ll get there right when they open at 5 if you lack a reservation. Even if not, you can join the usually short queue and start daydreaming about the seaweed butter.
7pm: In regards to stay— my recommendations are Urban Cowboy B&B, a serious Nashville-vibe that actually hails from NYC. If you’re in the market for a traditional hotelier experience, Thompson and Noelle are excellent picks, the latter having just opened in the heart of downtown. If you’re here on a budget, Nashville has some beautiful selections on Airbnb. Go back to where you’re staying, change clothes, and prepare for drinks!
Some people really crave the excitement of Broadway; I’m not one of them, but more power to you. My favorite spots are Attaboy or Rosemary & Beauty Queen in East Nashville, Barcelona in Edgehill, and Bastion in Wedgewood-Houston. After drinks, head back and sleep for a while. You deserve it!
10am: Proceed to the East side of town, where New York Times bestselling chef Julia Jaksic recently and quietly opened Cafe Roze. They brew Birmingham-based Revelator Coffee, and my favorite drink is the Roze Latte— a perfect cocktail of milk, espresso, cardamom, and rose. My top item on the menu for brunch is the stout waffles with mascarpone and seasonal fruit. My partner usually opts for the Roze Bowl and if we’re feeling crazy, we get fries. The fries are dang good. The aesthetic inside is clean and minimal with an ever-present pink glow from the neon sign (designed locally by Madeline Westfall). The banquette and ceramics were made locally, too.
12pm: After brunch comes shopping, obviously. Since you’re already in East Nashville, I recommend a couple shops, first being Black Shag Vintage. A favorite of everyone from Margo Price to Jaden Smith, Black Shag has a classic collection that’s nestled in the historic Engine No 18 Fire Station off Gallatin. Also off of Gallatin is Two Son, a clothing and homewares shop that feels more New York than Nashville, and is run by husband and wife duo James and Aubrey McCoy. They stock names like Ace & Jig and D.S. and Durga. Their shop gets tons of natural light (perfect for Instagram), and it’s a must-see for tourist and local alike.
Shopping’s likely got you lagging, so it’s time for a second wind. Coffee choices in East are abundant— the original Barista Parlor location lives off Gallatin, and local-favorite Dose is in Riverside Village, tucked into the suburbia of East Nashville. For those of you that don’t do coffee, juice bars are a-plenty and High Garden is a must-see for tealovers.
3pm: Another noteworthy stop on the east side is The Shoppes on Fatherland. It’s an outdoor mall of independent boutiques and the place to pick up any small souvenirs. A fairly new and notable tenant is Withco, a craft cocktail brand. They make some delicious, fresh ingredient drink mixers and all you have to do is add the alcohol. If you’re lazy like me, this is right up your alley. After raising more than $30,000 on Kickstarter, they now have a storefront and all the mixers you could need. And lucky for travelers, they now have airplane-approved bottles.
Lemon Laine is a natural beauty and wellness shop off Eastland Avenue. Laura Lemon opened the shop with 10 years of experience in the beauty industry and hand-selects every item she sells. It’s my go-to place for Sun Potion superfoods and locally-made Clary balm— which I use for just about everything.
5pm: Wow, dinner time again? What a dream. My East Nashville dinner recommendations are Five Points Pizza for a great slice, Duke’s for a sandwich, and Nicoletto’s for mind-blowing pasta. If you head to Five Points Pizza, go to the pizza window for a pepperoni slice and an order of garlic knots or sit inside for kind and timely table service, even when they’re packed out. At Duke’s, the best sandwich is the Veggie or the Italian. They always have someone DJ-ing with real vinyl records that they bring from home, and it makes a difference knowing that the tunes are curated just for that particular time. Any of Nicoletto’s pasta is insane; my personal favorite is the walnut pesto. The best part of all three places? They’re all locally-owned and operated.
7pm: Make your way downtown (walking fast not required) to Noelle for a calming nightcap after your long day. Snoop around the archives, sit in a velvet lobby chair, then progress downstairs to the secret bar. Look for a door that says “Storage”. And careful— no pictures allowed in there. That’s all I’ll say about that!
10am: Let’s be honest— there are as many coffee shops in Nashville as there are Grey’s Anatomy episodes, and at this point in the trip you’re going to need an IV of espresso. For a different part of town, go over to 12South and park your car on a side street. Plan to park it for a while, as 12South has plenty to do and see. Stop into Frothy Monkey, a cafe right in the heart of it all. Grab a coffee and some pancakes. Shopping is plentiful, so bop around: there’s White’s Mercantile, Imogene + Willie, Ceri Hoover, Draper James, and more.
2pm: If you get hungry for lunch, Taqueria del Sol serves fast and flavorful Mexican. Try a Texas margarita and the salsa trio. For dessert, stop into Las Paletas and hope that the hibiscus popsicle is on the menu. Above all, take your time and meander– hopefully the weather’s nice, and the people you encounter are kind.
If you haven’t gathered already, anywhere you go in Nashville has a story. The city’s history runs deep, and locals really do love to support one another. Just know that when you lay by the pool at Pinewood Social, a local spent hours upholstering the pool chairs. Go inside for a bowling match, and another local designed the lights overhead. Even the neighborhoods I didn’t touch on here are teeming with small businesses; for example, tucked into the background of Berry Hill are local makers Christina Kober, Oil + Lumber, Jamie + the Jones — the list goes on.The retail and food communities (that I’ve only broken the surface of here) are tight-knit yet fully welcoming to out-of-town-ers. Remember to simply drive around and stumble upon things while you’re here. Hopefully we’ll even have you in a leather jacket by the flight back home.