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A Traveler's Guide to Nashville – Boston magazine

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Music City has become so much more than the bachelorette party capital of the South.
Photo via General Jackson Showboat
While it’s always been a bucket-list destination for country-music lovers, Nashville has recently upped its overall game to become so much more than just the Music City/bachelorette party capital of the South. Now often called “NashVegas,” there are countless reasons to spend a long weekend here—from swanky rooftop cocktail lounges and fare from Michelin-starred chefs to revitalized five-star accommodations and adventurous attractions, all served with a side of that legendary southern hospitality. Plus, the music scene remains second to none.
The neon lights of Broadway at night. / Photo by Nina Dietzel/Getty Images
With a comfortable climate most of the year, getting outdoors onto the Cumberland River is a great way to kick things off. Big Willie’s has you covered with invigorating paddleboarding and kayak tours offering fantastic views of the skyline. For more lavish aquatic endeavors, hop aboard the General Jackson and enjoy spectacular views, dinner, and a live show on one of the largest showboats ever built.
While old-school voyages have their charms, more contemporary delights can be found at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which houses the Taylor Swift Education Center. Ideal for families, the space features an interactive gallery, art installations, and workshops.
Gold Records Wall at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum / Photo via the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
One of the newest hot spots downtown is Layer Cake, which features four levels of southern-fried fun. From the hickory-smoked wings and flatbreads on the rooftop to the sriracha-and-bourbon-glazed salmon on the dining room level, think of this as a culinary choose-your-own-adventure. Mimo Restaurant and Bar is another one of the city’s newer establishments, offering southern Italian fare and seafood dishes with local flair from Michelin-starred chef Aniello Turco. Wherever you eat, be sure to leave some room to try the Nashville staple known as hot chicken. The sandwich seasoned with cayenne pepper can be found virtually everywhere, but Vandy students know Helen’s Hot Chicken does it best.
With your appetite sated, it’s time to kick back and enjoy Nashville’s famous live music scene. Head for Printers Alley, where you can check out the Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar and the questionably named Dirty Little Secret, both offering blues, country, and rock nightly. For more-refined late-night fun, raise a toast at the new Pullman Standard: Just opened in the iconic Cummins Station building, the atmosphere hearkens back to the golden age of railway travel, with original cocktails such as the whiskey-based “Midnight Train.” Rooftop bars are plentiful here in Nashville, so we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the best, the Rooftop Lounge located atop the Bobby Hotel. It’s the only one that boasts both amazing views and a 1950s tour bus on display that, according to local legend, was once used by Willie Nelson. How did he drive it up here? Only Willie knows.
Cocktails from Pullman Standard. / Photo by Amy Zawacki
Posh boutiques can be found around every corner of downtown, so why not stop into the literal Posh Boutique? The sweet shop, which has been styling the ladies and gents of Nashville for more than 20 years, has three locations in the area. Cross the river into East Nashville for more of a hipster scene, including galleries, vintage shops, and the adorable Abode Mercantile, where you can pick up jams and cheeses for cocktail hour and apparel and bath products to take home.
The posh Hermitage hotel. / Photo by Alyssa Rosenheck
One of Nashville’s most opulent and historic hotels, the 1910-built Hermitage once served as the headquarters of the South’s suffrage movement and has hosted presidents including Taft, Wilson, Kennedy, and Nixon. A recent property-wide renovation modernized the already expansive grand lobby and 122 guest rooms and suites with lush bedding and stylish décor. On-site dining venues include the Pink Hermit, a chic café, and the glamorous Drusie & Darr restaurant, which serves up wood-fired pizza and prosciutto-wrapped pork chops from celebrated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Several carriers offer nonstop daily service to Nashville, including Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest. Flight time to Music City is just three hours.
First published in the print version of the April 2023 issue with the headline, “Boston Traveler: Nashville.”
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