Today and tomorrow, I'm diving into my new city. In reality, there are many "areas" of town that can offer you a variety of flavors. But, for this mini-tour, I'll take you to Hipsterville, Countryville, and few hidden gems you might not hit in Nashville if you didn't know about them. Sure, I've only been back a couple months - you can probably get more information from Yelp or Travel Advisor, but stick around if you want the ten-cent-Pardy tour.
First things first, a good breakfast. There are three places that are "quintessential Nashville" that I would proudly take you for breakfast if you come visit. The Loveless Cafe (a bit outside of town), The Puffy Muffin (technically in Brentwood), or The Pancake Pantry. Go to Loveless if you want biscuits and gingham table cloths. Go to the Puffy Muffin if you want to throw a baby shower and serve amazing quiche. But, GO (run, don't walk) to the Pancake Pantry if you want history smothered in syrup.
You will definitely wait in line, rain or shine, any day of the week. But, The Pancake Pantry is pure Nashville, and you just might see a celebrity there. (The dining room is wide open, so there's no where for them to hide!) I recommend the orange and walnut pancakes, my personal favorite, and don't fill up on coffee too much so that you can walk next door for some killer lattes at FIDO just up the street.
The street you'll be on, in fact, is 21st Ave, one of my favorite parts of town. Unfortunately, it's a LOT of people's favorite parts of town, so parking can get a bit tricky. But, it's worth it since there's plenty to do while you're there. Twenty-first is kinda hipsterville, I won't lie. Everyone is young and hip and writing something (songs, mostly, but also books or poetry or just blogging like I do!) You'll want to wear your skinny jeans and leave your hair messy, but don't worry - get a latte from FIDO and you'll fit in just fine (order the Local Latte, made with real local honey, and you won't regret it).
Then, walk across the street to Pangaea, an eclectic and fun little shop that carries everything from kitschy Nashville lampshades to handmade jewelry, some clothing, and other anthro-type accessories for your home that you never knew you always wanted.
Just around the corner is Belcourt Theatre, a little independent cinema that shows everything from newish indie releases to old school cult classics. Sometimes they even host events or live music, their schedule is about as unpredictable as their audience.
After you've got your latte in hand and your new stack of handmade stationery from one of the local shops, you're ready to get back in your car and hit up Centennial Park at West End, just a few miles away. You'd be surprised how many Nashvillians don't go to Centennial Park that often. At least, having come from California, it's amazing to me that people aren't constantly flocking to such open space in the middle of an urban setting...but, then again, land isn't as hard to come by out here (collective deep sigh here).
Centennial Park is open, beautiful, and landmarked spectacularly by the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the actual Parthenon located in Athens, Greece. It was originally constructed in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and you can read more about it here.
You can also walk around it for free (it's very peaceful) or pay to go inside and visit the art museum where you'll see a giant statue of the goddess Athena (and I do mean GIANT). Centennial Park also has a little pond, a bandshell, and hosts fun things like "Shakespeare in the Park" and other local talent. It's also great for letting your toddlers run around and burn off some serious energy. Bring a frisbee.
When you've run up a good appetite, walk over at the edge of the park to Hog Heaven for some of the best bbq in the city (are you salivating yet?) In my opinion, however, you'd have to traverse a few more miles into the city for my absolute favorite bbq: JACK'S in downtown Nashville. Not only is Jack's an historical gem of the city, it's as downright delicious as a pig can get. (Just bring a pack of baby wipes with you, and fully indulge in the pulled pork and brisket. It's well worth the saucy beard you'll be flaunting afterward.)
And Yeehaw! just like that, we're downtown. You'll want to stay late until the lights come on to experience downtown at night. This is when the singer-songwriters all get off working their day jobs to hob knob the local scene and see if tonight is their night to get discovered (you really just never know). Leave the kids at home and get ready to walk the strip. You'll inevitably hear live music bursting out of every doorway downtown after 8pm. You'll want to hit The Stage, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Legends, and pop in the Ernest Tubb Record Shop just to say you did. On Second Street, you'll want to see the Wildhorse Saloon, and then bounce around the corner to the riverfront.
The Nashville riverfront is beautiful. You can see the stadium just across the river where the Titans play, and you can see the riverfront bandstand where a ton of festivals and bands rock out all summer long.
Downtown Nashville is also home of the Ryman, the original home of the Grand Ole Opry (and one of my favorite venues of all time). You'll also find The Country Music Hall of Fame, FRIST center for the visual arts museum, Bridgestone Arena (where the Predators play and BIG concerts are held). The Nashville Library is within walking distance, and Union Station Hotel is not far up the street (a beautiful and very old train-station-turned-hotel that's worth seeing). Needless to say, there's LOTS to do downtown, and I'm sure I'm not touching on a zillion other things.
Whew! You worn out? Kick your boots up for a bit, and we'll hit the pavement again in the morning.
Tomorrow I'll be taking you to some spots off the beaten path and a little outside the city.