Nashville is evolving.
The city’s beloved hallmarks—like the live music scene, hot chicken sandwiches, and Southern hospitality—are never going to change, thank goodness. But Music City has also gotten more luxurious, offering new high-end options for foodies wanting to eat their way through town, people seeking weekend getaways, and bridal parties looking for a fun bachelorette destination (they call it NashVegas for a reason).
For those seeking to experience a more glamorous—but still authentic—side of Nashville, here is a recap of where I stayed, what I ate, and how I played on a recent trip to the Music City.
WHERE TO STAY
Located in the heart of downtown, the Conrad Nashville is one of the city’s newest modern hotels. It’s a short taxi ride, or a 20-minute walk (standard for New Yorkers), to Broadway, a four-block stretch of live music, bars, and restaurants. You’re close to the action while being able to retreat and relax when you want to.
The hotel is designed to reflect the spirit of Nashville through its architecture, aesthetic, and restaurants. Though there are several room options—like suites that feel like apartments and wellness rooms with Echelon Fitness Mirrors and Peloton Bikes—I opted for something more low-key and stayed in one of the Deluxe King Rooms.
The Conrad provides services that will make you feel uber-fancy during your vacation, like valet parking, a house car, luxury bath products, and some of the lushest bed linens I’ve ever slept on. Other amenities include a pool with shaded cabanas (don’t forget sunscreen), a fitness center that could rival Equinox, and three places to eat and drink within steps of your room.
Nashville has incredible food, but if you’re having a night where you don’t want to leave the hotel, you’re in good hands: I loved the hush puppies with pimento cheese at Blue Aster (named for the Tennessee wildflower). The vibe is upscale and intimate, but the staff would be just as welcoming if someone (like, say, me) were to stumble in jet-lagged in a Naruto anime T-shirt after a delayed flight. The Southern hospitality is real.
You can also find it at Thistle and Rye, the bar on the third floor, where the bartender may give you an informal cocktail class if you’re lucky. Hear me out: You have to try the Cotton Candy Sky. It’s Thistle and Rye’s take on the famous Ramos Gin Fizz. It’s a bit pricey and takes 12 minutes to prepare, but it’s unlike anything you’ve had before.
WHAT TO PACK
WHERE TO EAT
Housed in a converted fellowship hall, Hathorne offers an upscale farm-to-table menu and a friendly vibe. Hathorne’s menu helped me step outside my comfort zone and expand my palate with flavor pairings I had never tried before—like the goat cheese with fennel and radish relish and fermented honey.
Head chef Chris Gass sources produce from the farmers’ market directly across the street to create the hyper-seasonal menu. The menu was so intriguing that I had to ask him how he developed it. He said, “I like to work as seasonally as I possibly can and stay in constant contact with my farmers and purveyors. There’s nothing like a stroll through the farmers’ market to jump-start a new menu item.”
They make a wonderful focaccia bread that is baked fresh in house and served with ricotta spread or pepita butter. (I couldn’t stop eating this bread, seriously.)
The perfect place to stop for brunch at the end of your weekend, Chauhan Ale & Masala House was developed by co-owner and executive chef Maneet Chauhan, who wanted to celebrate both her Indian roots and affection for Southern cuisine.
The restaurant is a short taxi ride from the airport, and you’ll sleep peacefully on the plane after eating this comfort food. One of the most unique and delicious appetizers is the Golgappa Shots. It was my first time trying them, and I’m not sure how I survived 25 years without them. For those with a sweet tooth, the jam and Nutella naan is a fun take on the popular Indian side dish, and the sweet dosa pancakes are a sugary rendition of a savory staple.
There are classic brunch dishes like omelets, steak and eggs, and a burger, but the best entree options (in my completely biased, yet valid, opinion) are the desi Indian fare. The Ginger Garlic Shrimp curry will earn a spot on your list of the best curry dishes you’ve ever had.
WHAT TO DO
It almost feels illegal to visit Nashville without experiencing the live music scene. Downtown Nashville is known for its string of bars and honky-tonks that are filled with people looking to dance, sip cold drinks, and listen to live music. Broadway is the popular nightlife destination in the city and is where most people go when they want to get that NashVegas experience.
Robert’s Western World is a honky-tonk favorite known for classic country music performances. Yes, it was a popular hangout for many musical greats, but one of the coolest and most nostalgic attractions—for me, at least, as a born and raised Southerner—is the Recession Special: a fried bologna sandwich with chips and a Moon Pie.
My next stop was Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa, a Tex-Mex-inspired bar with live bands and an upstairs dance floor where DJs mix hits from all genres. Casa Rosa attracts a younger crowd, and don’t be surprised if you see people celebrating their bachelor and bachelorette parties.
And don’t miss Tootsies Orchid Lounge, a historic Nashville landmark, a world-famous honky-tonk, and a renowned part of the city’s musical heritage. Country icons like Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn were some of the earliest customers, and even Dolly Parton performed on the Tootsies stage.
Besides The Electric Jane’s food menu and upscale design, the real appeal is its craft cocktail menu and live music performances by local musicians and bands. Some perform original music, some cover popular songs from decades past, and others do a little bit of both.
Sometimes I fall victim to gravitating to those Instagram-worthy moments, and I can say the That’s S’more Than I Can Handle was “lit AF”—in the sense that there is a literal open flame fire pit on the table. The “campfire” is made with sugar and is a way to roast marshmallows that you can top with Nutella, fresh fruit, Jason’s jam, and more.
The cocktails are reasonably priced, and the Lulu’s Margarita, Purple Rain (inspired by the Prince song), and classic espresso martini are definitely worth trying.
Pinewood Social seamlessly merges a coffee shop with comfortable workspaces, a craft cocktail bar and restaurant, and a retro-themed bowling alley. I brought my laptop to finish up the workweek before fully going into vacation mode, and would probably visit this spot several times a week if I lived in the city.
Using reclaimed wood lanes from an old Bowl O’ Rama in Indiana, Pinewood Social created a designated bowling area at the back of the cafe. Each lane can accommodate groups up to six. Reservations cost $40 an hour and include shoe rentals.
One of the best times to visit is during breakfast. The Brown Butter Waffle will satisfy your sweet tooth without being too overwhelming, and the Chicken + Biscuit with sausage gravy reminds me of the Southern comfort food I grew up on. There is also an extensive hot, cold, or frozen cocktail menu; the Crema Cuban espresso latte is so flavorful.
Nothing captures Nashville’s musical legacy more than the Ryman Auditorium, a 130-year-old historical landmark. Formerly known as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman has a rich musical history as the former home of the Grand Ole Opry and performance space for iconic musicians. If you have the chance, see a live show during your trip.
Dedicated to Black musicians who have made significant contributions to the American soundtrack, the National Museum of African American Music is a must-see for history buffs and music lovers alike. It’s another popular Nashville tourist attraction travelers should add to their itineraries if they want to learn more about Nashville’s musical roots.
I love adding a relaxing activity to a vacation itinerary to balance out the late nights in the city. Lemon Laine is the perfect place to do that—especially if you’re a skincare junkie like me. You can also pick up any beauty products you forgot at home or even a bath soak, because no other bath is comparable to the one you take in a hotel soaking tub while on vacation.
You can also learn more about skincare while creating a facial product tailored to your skin concerns at the oil bar. This is a popular activity for bachelorette parties, since this spot can accommodate groups and provide complimentary beverages.
Mariah Morrison is the senior social media editor for Harper’s Bazaar. She is a digital and social media strategist and content creator. She is a North Carolina native, skin-care aficionado, content creator, and dog mama to her fur baby, Blaire. Prior to working with Harper’s Bazaar, Mariah served in the United States House of Representatives for two years, working as a social media manager, digital strategist, and graphic designer for the House Democratic Caucus and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.