About 5 years ago, my small family unit decided to start a holiday travel tradition. Every other year, instead of spending Christmas in South Carolina, we would meet at an exotic destination. Presents are replaced by experience. Our first trip was to Paris, France. Experiencing Christmas Eve service at the Notre Dame, champagne tasting in Épernay, strolling the streets of St. Germain bundled up against the winter chill and of course hot chocolate at Angelina were just a few highlights. Two year later, my mother chose a tropical escape to the untouched island of Dominica. Located in the South Caribbean, this small island proved to be the most beautiful tropical location I had ever been to. In the warmth of the Caribbean sun we spent the days hiking, snorkeling and trekking through the undisturbed landscape of this island.
This year was supposed to be our trip year.
Life circumstances led to unexpected financial obligations which led to an inability to go on a trip. Itching to do something, we made a drivable destination work, the popular country music capital, Nashville.
The day after Christmas, we loaded suitcases into the car and journeyed the 8 hours from Bluffton, SC to Nashville, TN.
1. Nashville is more than just Honky Tonks...but you can choose to make it only about Honky Tonk.
Most famous for the 4 blocks of Broadway leading up to the Cumberland River, the street is lined with bar after bar, beckoning you in with drink specials and live popular country rock music. Tootsies, Stages, Acme Feed & Seed..Broadway is a place you could spend all day, singing and dancing along to your favorite songs being sung live at request.
Not a self-labeled "country music fan", I have to believe some of the experience was lost on me. Caught up in the experience one might have found me, at moments, attempting a two-step and truly messing up the lyrics singing along.
There is more to see in downtown than the Honky Tonks, I recommend you check out the Johnny Cash Museum and possibly the Country Music Hall of Fame. Some other neighborhoods near downtown to spend time...12 South, Germantown and The Gulch.
We ate some incredible meals in Nashville, as always, food was the star of the show.
Rolf & Daughters - located in Germantown, a very industrial hipster vibe. Eclectic dishes with an Italian flare, my favorite dish was the butternut squash, salsa mocha mimolette, and mint salad. I also loved that it boasted a wine list with really funky options. I enjoyed an orange wine from Slovenia!
5th & Taylor - also located in Germantown, this warehouse space was much larger and filled with purposefully chosen decor (you can read more on their website). The open kitchen welcomed you into the cooking process to observe the chefs hard at work. The cuisine is American traditional with a southern flare. My favorite dish was the smoked grand pearl oysters with horseradish, sherry vinegar and chili.
(I just LOVED this wallpaper in the bathroom!)`
Josephine - located in the trendy 12 South neighborhood, Josephine did not disappoint. More traditional in decor and food, I had the best dish of the trip here; slow braised beef cheeks over horseradish risotto and rye crumb. We learned later on that Chef Andrew Little designed the rest of the menu around this dish. It did not hurt that you could pop next door after for dessert at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams.
Hattie B's Hot Chicken - Every single person I asked about Nashville said "you have to go to Hattie B's for Hot Chicken". When everyone tells you something is a must, how can it be passed up?
What is "Hot Chicken" you might ask? Well, Wikipedia explains, "In its typical preparation, it is a portion of breast, thigh, or wing that has been marinated in a water-based blend of seasoning, floured, fried, and finally sauced using a paste that has been spiced with cayenne pepper".
So we ventured there for lunch one day and were treated by a line down the street. Committed to the experience, 90 minutes later, we sat with piles of Hot Chicken in front of us. Feeling adventurous I got the Hot! level (other levels pictured below). That was a bad decision, I'll spare you the details.
Side note: anyone who attempts the "SHUT THE CLUCK UP!!!" should say their goodbyes before because it will probably kill you. The chicken was good, but seriously people, not worth the wait.
3. History is thriving! In and out of the downtown area, there is so much to learn and see. About 20 minutes from the city center you will find The Andrew Jackson Hermitage. The home of our 7th president, they have constructed a museum about his life along with a walking audio tour of the grounds and gardens. We ended our out of town day with a wine and food pairing at Belle Meade Plantation. The hour long tasting took place in the old carriage house. After we enjoyed a glass of wine on the grounds and played a few rounds of corn hole.
Nashville is perfect for a long weekend visit. It is even better if you are a country music fan. The food scene was impressive, but in the end, this city girl was ready to go back to the Big Apple.