Nashville is known for two things – country music and barbecue. but NOT a country music musician. I was a big country music fan when I lived in Texas (it would have been quite the travesty if I had not been – there’s two things Texans are serious about, their barbecue and their country music). I digress…
So when I head to Nashville to visit my son, I’m always on the lookout for something to do that doesn’t involve country music. The city is really underrated as a great all-around destination with a tasty culinary scene and some terrific historical sites. And best of all, the town is filled with good old-fashioned Southern hospitality.
1. Visit mansions – Nashville’s historic roots are best explored in the city’s two iconic mansions, Belle Meade Mansion and Belmont Mansion. Belle Meade, meaning ‘beautiful meadow’, was built by thoroughbred horse breeder John Harding in 1807 as a working farm. Take a guided tour of the 34 acre site dedicated to the preservation of Tennessee’s Victorian architecture, history and equestrian history. Belmont Mansion, an Italian villa built in 1853 as a summer getaway for a wealthy Louisiana family, is a must see for anyone interested in Tennessee history, the Civil War, architecture, art and decorative arts.
2. Visit gardens – When you’re feeling the need to walk off some of that barbecue, head over to the Cheekwood art museum and botanical garden where you’ll find an American art collection, flowers in bloom and a sculpture garden.
3. See art – Nashville’s Frist Center For The Visual Arts features a world-class Art Deco collection housed inside an old post office. But the standout attraction here is the hands-on art space where you can roll up your sleeves and create your own art at one of more than 30 stations.
4. See history – Nashville is home to the Parthenon. Wait, what? Yep, Nashville is home to the world’s only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, a nod to Nashville’s nickname, ‘Athens of the South’. In the summer, it’s the backdrop for the city’s Shakespeare in the Park series.
5. Eat – Nashville may be in the South but if you come here thinking you’ll be eating collard greens and cornbread, think again. Nashville’s culinary scene is hot as some of the South’s best chefs are settling here and opening nouvelle cuisine restaurants. Make reservations at Little Octopus, Rolf & Daughters or Tansuo. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is not to be missed – yes, it’s Southern fried chicken dipped in hot sauce – you choose the level of spice.
6. Drink – Visit a real speakeasy, The Patterson House (if you can find it), where bartenders are more like drink curators where they can virtually read your mind and serve up something that suits your palate with ingredients you’ve probably never heard of. Be sure to follow the rules, yes rules posted at the door. And order the sage and rosemary pork rinds.