Crowd walking down the streets of Broadway in Nashville.
Sometimes you just need a girls’ weekend away…

 

There’s nothing quite like the transformation of sleepy Nashville streets during the day to the chaos that ensues under the blazing neon lights at night. The crowd that swarms Broadway is like a crawling tornado that rips through sidewalks with pure adrenaline. And no one can stop a group of girlfriends out for a night on the town, adorned in their best boots and jeans, looking for the next bar to play “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.”

 

Yes, I was a part of that group.

 

Being a Chicago native, it was like turning on a switch; I put away my gym shoes and became a country girl for one weekend, ready to two-step until the early morning crowds slumped away and the bands called for one last song request.

 

Important note: Speaking of two-stepping, the famous Wildhorse Saloon closed after almost 30 years. However, it is currently undergoing renovations, with musician Luke Combs and the Opry Entertainment Group planning to reopen the site as an entertainment complex called Category 10 this summer. The line dancing floor is said to remain a part of this complex.

 

Broadway – What to Expect

Crowd walking down the streets of Broadway in Nashville.
Photo credit: Megan Kudla

A night out on Broadway feels like taking a step into a time portal—one minute you’re listening to “Strawberry Wine” at 8 pm at Layla’s, then suddenly it’s past 12 am, and you’re dancing to “All the Small Things” at Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row. (Yes, you’ll find more than just country music, too. I heard this late 90s banger twice in one night.)

 

Broadway is meant for bar hopping, and the way that Nashville achieves this constant ebb and flow is by eliminating cover charges. But, don’t be surprised when your drink bill is higher due to venue fees. And if you want to request a song, you’re going to have to Venmo a minimum of $20 to the band. (But, boy, is it fun when they play your pick!)

 

If I were to recommend at least one bar to visit, it may be Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, one of the most historic on the street and right across from the world-famous Ryman Auditorium. Everyone from Willie Nelson to Patsy Cline has been known to be spotted here.

 

Other Nashville Bars:
The Stage on Broadway
Blake Shelton’s Ole Red
Layla’s Honky Tonk
Nudie’s Honky Tonk
Luke Bryan’s Luke’s 32 Bridge
Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa
Dierks Bentley’s Whiskey Row
Honky Tonk Central
…and more!

 

Other than hopping between these Nashville bars under the light of the moon, what can you do during the day? And how can you fit a well-balanced itinerary into a short weekend road trip to Nashville, Tennessee? And if you do happen to visit with the family, what is also kid-friendly?

 

Essential Tours for First-Timers

 

My group had only 2 full days in Nashville. We searched for a variety of activities—but we simultaneously vowed not to sacrifice the sweet downtime that we craved after a long night on Broadway. Plus, it’s vacation! No need to take things at lightning speed.

 

Some of the top tours are below. For a short weekend away, try picking two to three to attend. Tickets are not cheap, so to save a few bucks, you can bundle the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Hatch Show Print Tour, and Historic RCA Studio B Tour for a small discount; this trifecta, the “Experience It All” bundle, is $73.95.

 

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

3rd floor gallery of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee
Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Elvis' gold cadillac at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is one of the most popular places to go for an initial introduction to the country music scene. Self-paced, you’ll be able to meander two levels of exhibits that teach you about the history of country music, tracing back to both African and European roots. You’ll see mentions of today’s hit artists, like Allison Russell, Kacey Musgraves, and more. If you’re a big country music fan, you’ll love seeing paraphernalia like Elvis’ Gold Cadillac, Shania Twain’s hot pink 1999 CMA stage costume, and many folk and country instruments you may have never known existed.

 

Plan accordingly—the crowds are large, so you’ll find timed entries necessary. Tickets are $29.95.

 

Hatch Show Print Tour

Hatch Show Print Shop in Nashville, Tennessee
Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Letterpress templates at the Hatch Show Print Shop in Nashville, Tennessee
Courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

This was an especially interesting and fun add-on to our afternoon after visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Hatch Show Print is a letterpress print shop that originally began in 1879 and still utilizes the same techniques to continue printing posters for various music artists and companies today. The 1-hour small group tour includes a comprehensive history of the business. As you tune into the letterpress lesson, you are surrounded by walls completely covered by artwork, old and new, each hand-designed. The finale is a peek at the old machines that are still diligently fulfilling present-day orders.

 

As a bonus, you get to sample the process by pressing a design to take home as a souvenir. Bundle with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and it’s $51.95.

 

Historic RCA Studio B Tour

 

Located on Music Row, the Historic RCA Studio B is charged with the spirit of country music history. Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and “Coat of Many Colors” were recorded here, along with Chet Atkins and Everly Brothers tunes, plus many more. My favorite part was sitting down at the piano Elvis once played…

 

The tour is guided and lasts for 1 hour. Bundle with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and it’s $51.95.

 

Grand Ole Opry & Ryman Auditorium Tours

The Grand Ole Opry Stage in Nashville, Tennessee
Photo credit: Megan Kudla
A dressing room backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee
Photo credit: Megan Kudla

The Grand Ole Opry is a famous music show that began as a radio program and grew into a country music phenomenon. The live performances were originally broadcast from the historic Ryman Auditorium. However, the show got so popular that a new, grander venue was built about 20 minutes away. Both stages are still in use, and both venues offer tours, including guided backstage experiences. What’s more, the Grand Ole Opry show has never stopped—and you get a discount to go see a performance if you take their backstage tour.

 

Depending on the kind of ticket you are purchasing, tour prices at both these music venues can range from $35.80 to $62.50.

 

For a Leisurely Morning

 

The Parthenon

The Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee
Photo credit: Megan Kudla
Centennial Park in Nashville, Tennessee
Photo credit: Megan Kudla

Why go see a replica of the Parthenon? What’s so special when you’re not even in Athens? You may be surprised—not just because it’s a pretty impressive structure (the only existing exact-size replica in the world), but also because you’ll find a two-story museum inside. Level one includes artwork, including the permanent James M. Cowan Collection of American Art exhibit. Level two has a towering statue of the goddess Athena, which ascends to the ceiling. Tickets are $10 for adults.

 

The grounds surrounding the Parthenon are called Centennial Park. It has walking trails and Lake Watauga to traverse around, garden beds to admire, and more. We grabbed donuts from Five Daughters Bakery (see below!) and watched some baby ducks swimming behind their mother through the rippling water on a chilly morning… 

 

Vanderbilt University

 

Another way to relax and get away from the Broadway crowds is by walking the 340-acre Vanderbilt University campus. It’s a gorgeous university, and they offer self-guided tours to learn about the history while admiring the grounds (and staying out of the way of the busy students). These virtual tours are accessible via your smartphone and offer an interactive map with audio information in multiple languages.

 

BBQ, Moonshine & Donuts

 

Five Daughters Bakery

A pink Five Daughters Bakery box sitting on a white table with flowers behind it.
Photo credit: Megan Kudla
Donuts behind a glass case at Five Daughters Bakery in Nashville, Tennessee
Photo credit: Megan Kudla

While Five Daughters Bakery is a family business, it has expanded to multiple locations, so you’re sure to find one to stop at during your travels in Nashville. They are known for their thick, fluffy 100-layer donuts, as well as their accompanying “mini” donuts for a perfect smaller snack. I was careless and gleeful as I allowed the powdered sugar of a Vanilla Cream donut to snow all over me, watching as my friends’ eyes got big after taking the first bite of their own Blueberry Lemon and Maple Glaze donuts. There’s no wrong choice!

 

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

A rack of ribs with a side of mac and cheese, coleslaw, and potatoes
Photo credit: Megan Kudla

We felt right at home jumping in line at Martin’s Bar-B-Que, where everything is made from scratch. You can order an entire feast for a group of hungry people: hickory-smoked rack of ribs or pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw, mac n’ cheese, and more. The location has a huge outdoor patio scattered with large tables, which makes diving into some classic Southern cuisine under the sun feel like an elevated backyard picnic experience. While there was no entertainment during our lunch hour, I can only imagine the place becoming lively when musicians take the stage.

 

Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery & Yee-Haw Brewing

 

At 6th and Peabody, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery and Yee-Haw Brewing come together to create a social space with moonshine tastings, live entertainment, bars serving beer and spirits, and hot dog and taco vendors. If not listening to live music, there are lawn games and large screen TVs to watch the latest sports games. Tours of the distillery and brewery are also available, with tickets priced at $44.95.

 

We opted for some moonshine margaritas and an oversized game of cup pong in the back—if we had more time, I think a moonshine tasting, and perhaps a purchase of one of their outrageous flavors (Key Lime, Mountain Java, Lemon Teashine), would have been warranted.

 

Hattie B’s

 

As a final food recommendation, Hattie B’s is a first-time visitor staple. People will line up out the door and down the street for a chance to try the famous hot chicken. Pick your heat level, add a side of fried pickles, and get comfy. It’s conveniently on the corner, right off Broadway. Just be aware of that wait time!

 

By the end of our girls’ weekend, we felt as if we achieved a nice balance between late-night gallivanting and daytime leisure. If not a separate trip, Nashville is a great place to simply stop for a few days on a road trip through Tennessee—just remember to either pack your boots or stop at the Boot Barn before heading out to a country bar for the evening!

 

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