Let me preface this post by saying, I’ve experienced the country music side of Nashville. I was fortunate enough to visit Nashville on a family vacation when I was about 10. I loved it! I went to the Grand Ole Oprey, did line dancing on Broadway, bought cowgirl boots, saw the Country Music Hall of Fame and even had a celebrity sighting of Vince Gill at Pancake Pantry*.
This time around I was there to visit a close friend and to uncover why so many twenty-somethings were moving to this Southern city.
Ok, I know, I know. I am putting Pancake Pantry up there at #1? I have no shame. These pancakes were the best pancakes I ever consumed and every single person in the establishment was sweeter than their cinnamon cream syrup. *When I called my mom to recap my trip to Nashville, she reminded me that we saw Vince Gill at Pancake Pantry back in the ’90s. So this was apparently not my first experience with The Pancakes. Clearly, my 10-year-old self didn’t know the value of great pancakes because I did not recall my first encounter, aside from the country music star sighting.
On my revisit to Pancake Pantry, 16 years later, my friend and I attempted a Saturday morning breakfast, which you should avoid because there is no waitlist. The waitlist is literally waiting in a line to get in the door (Vince Gill even had to wait in line!). If you go on a weekday morning you should have no problem grabbing a seat. I got their Sweet Potato Pancakes and loved every delicious morsel.
After pancakes comes music & dancing. Nashville has plenty of music and dance options, an overwhelming array of choices, really. Since I was staying with a local I got to see one of the coolest dive bars I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few including my favorite- Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA.
The 5 Spot plays ’50s & ’60s rock n roll, soul, doo wop and motown every Monday and charges only $2 for a heavily loaded vodka soda (your dancing juice). Don’t worry if you can’t dance, there are plenty of real dancers more than ready to take you for a spin.
I wish I could go to The 5 Spot every Monday and dance my blues away.
3. Radnor lake
Nashville is a real city with tall buildings, traffic, fine dining and culture but only 20 minutes outside the city is a the beautiful Radnor Lake nature preserve. Over 1,200 acres of wildlife (think, TONS of deer), miles of trails with varying degree of difficulty and a peaceful lake to ponder your busy city life.
My friend is fortunate enough to bop over to this preserve a few mornings a week to get her heart pumping before work. Meanwhile I hop over trash and used needles while running the streets of Philly… but anywayyyyy check it out if you are in town.
Thankfully I live in a neighborhood in Philly that is starting to have a little local shopping scene but there aren’t many other neighborhoods like that in Philly. Nashville has really creative boutiques in the West End area of the city.
My favorite was Pangaea, a boho-chic boutique full of women’s apparel, accessories, jewelry, home decor, stationary and gifts. Beautiful shop and great selection. There was also a fun used book store (you don’t see those much anymore!), a record shop, and a few other women’s boutiques on that strip. Worth a stroll after you stuff your face with pancakes.
A definite must-do when visiting Nashville. Park on the East Nashville side and walk over into Nashville (pausing for for photo ops mid-bridge, obviously). Best views of the city! My local guide also said that the park that is at the Nashville banks of the bridge is perfect for an early evening walk near the riverfront.