Surprise Birthday Trip to Nashville

Nashville had been on my short list of top U.S. cities to visit for quite some time until a few months ago when my girlfriend surprised me with a trip there for my birthday. A week prior to the trip she wrote me a note telling me what to pack (and not pack) and I had guessed that we were just going on a road trip up or down the coast of California (where we live). I got to her house the morning of the trip ready to hit the road, but she booked an Uber to the airport and told me to grab my bag. When we got to the airport I asked her where we were going and she handed me a card with an itinerary for a trip to Nashville. I was incredibly surprised and super excited to explore Nashville!

Where to stay in Nashville

There are a lot of cool places to stay in Nashville but we stayed at an Airbnb downtown that is one block from Broadway (Honky Tonk Row), Printer’s Alley, and the Riverfront.  I highly recommend that area for first time travelers to Nashville since it’s the perfect location to explore from and is within walking distance of many of the things worth checking out.  There are also plenty of bike rental racks and scooters if you want to venture further out, and of course Uber and Lyft are readily available.

What to do in Nashville

I’m not going to give you a top 10 list or tell you which honky tonk bar to check out since you’re sure to find one with the vibe you’re looking for.  I will however share a few places we went to that are pretty awesome and worth checking out. 

If you’re like me and love BBQ, then you should visit Martin’s BBQ.  It’s the best BBQ in downtown Nashville and I recommend trying one of their Pit Master Combos and an ice tea to wash it down for lunch.  We went to Skulls Rainbow Room in Printers Alley for dinner and a burlesque show.  Both the food and the show were excellent.  Do yourself a favor and order the prime rib and be sure to make a reservation because it fills up fast! 

Nashville Alley
Printers Alley After Dark

If you enjoy hand crafted cocktails, then you should definitely check out The Patterson House in Midtown.  It’s a speakeasy with a really cool atmosphere and the best hand crafted cocktails in Nashville.  Just down the street from The Patterson house is Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, the best place to try Nashville’s famous hot chicken. Unfortunately it was closed when we stopped by, but I did buy some hot chicken rub during the trip and made my own hot chicken when I got home.

East Nashville was by far our favorite part of the city.  It has a cool hipster vibe with the perfect amount of grittiness.  We stopped by 3Crow Bar, a dive bar in the 5 points neighborhood, for a couple Bushwackers and made friends with a couple locals.  We then went to Mas Tacos for lunch and ordered a variety of tacos and the pozole.  The tacos are amazing but you have to order the pozole, it’s so good!

We visited the Gulch but weren’t really feeling the vibe there.  Waiting in line for an hour to take an Instagram photo in front of a mural or for biscuits and gravy just wasn’t our cup of tea.  After the brief stop in the Gulch we headed to Pinewood Social to meet up with one of the friend’s we made (who works there as a chef) and to hang out before our flight.  Pinewood is the perfect place to gather with a group or kill time.  It has a bowling alley, pool, ping pong, multiple bars and areas to order food, and it’s a lot of fun.

Nashville, TN
Broadway (Honky Tonk Row)

Nashville was a blast and we’ll definitely be visiting it again in the future! For photos and videos of our trip please check out my Instagram story @matt.vanmetre

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