Welcome to NYLON’s City Guides, your one-stop shop for the ideal vacation. Here, you’ll find the ultimate recommendations when it comes to where to stay, eat, drink, shop, and more for the world’s hottest cities — all tried and tested by NYLON editors. Read on for your ideal, NYLON-approved itinerary.
Maybe it’s the inevitable result of culture’s obsession with Western aesthetics over the last few years, but Nashville seems to be at the top of the world’s travel itinerary at the moment. To be fair, the historic Tennessee city has never really left the cultural conversation. But there does appear to be a subtle renaissance happening within its music-gilded avenues — the city’s skyline dotted with new construction during my last visit there and a topic of discussion with nearly every person I met. “We’re the crane capital of the world right now,” joked my hotel’s manager on my first day.
While that may be, the bones of Nashville still run deep. Despite the recent facelift, the goings-on about town still carry a sense of humble routine: the locals frequent their favorites, the honky tonks play the old classics, and, like a small town, everyone knows everyone — just talk to the gaggle of local musicians in the smoking section outside of every bar.
In that same sense of mixing old and new, NYLON’s guide to Nashville is our ideal balance of tradition and an update to the classics. Read on to prepare your next trip to Nashville from where to stay, eat, drink, and more.
Where To Stay
W Nashville: There’s nothing like staying in the heart of downtown Nashville, and the W Hotel’s glamorous branch is the perfect place for those trying to take advantage of everything the city’s got to offer. They call it Music City, and with W Nashville’s prime location in the flourishing Gulch area, you’re literally in the mix of it. A couple minutes drive from the hotel is the city’s illustrious (albeit a bit boring) Music Row; a few minutes in the other direction and you’re on Broadway, the main strip of Nashville, and functionally a double-lined avenue of bars and live music. Everywhere you go there’s a reminder of what this city’s known for, and in that way there’s a coursing bit of electric energy in the air.
The music motif extends inside the hotel which is completely decked out, and will lovingly serve as your safe haven after staying out at the locals’ favorite honky tonk bar until 3 a.m. The rooms are Southern-style roomy and modern, but not over-the-top. The hotel’s L-shaped pool, generous terrace of green space, and its nearly 360 degree rooftop bar all are perfect for when you’re looking to relax. When you are ready to rev it up again, you’re never out of sight range from a bar. (There’s upwards of eight throughout the hotel.) Then, when you’re ready to be revitalized the next morning, there’s The Dutch, where the hotel’s breakfast and cafe eatery with tomato poached eggs and a breakfast spread is a top choice.
Where To Eat
Arnold’s Country Kitchen: Any trip to the South isn’t truly complete without at least one meal of hefty, decadent, and not-great-for-the-body-but-great-for-the-soul comfort food. Arnold’s Country Kitchen, or just Arnold’s, will do the trick. The certified institution has been in operation in Nashville since 1982 and serves up all its comfort classics — fried catfish, roast beef, brisket, roast chicken, and more depending on its daily menu — cafeteria style. We recommend the roast beef, which is sliced to order, the melt-in-your-mouth brisket, the gooey pie, and, duh, the mac and cheese. The best part? The whole thing will set you back, maybe, $12.
Henrietta Red: Tennessee may be a landlocked state, but Nashville’s seafood scene is still, surprisingly, popping. A standout is Henrietta Red, a white-walled and bright eatery in the city’s Germantown area that was named a best new restaurant by Bon Appetit and GQ in 2017. The spot has a stellar vegetable-forward seasonal menu, but the real star of the show is its raw bar, which boasts 10 different varieties of oysters from coasts every which way. After your fill of those, you can’t go wrong with any seafood dish, as well as the lamb sausage and gnocchi.
Carne Mare: Big spenders and meat fiends, turn your gaze to the gleaming newest location of Carne Mare, the upscale Italian chophouse by famed Chef Andrew Carmellini that’s named “meat sea” and (for you) conveniently attached to the W. You don’t need me to tell you that all the meat is decadent, sinful, rich, incredible, etc. Instead, I’ll point out two non-meat items: the beet steak, a feat of chef ingenuity that makes this vegetarian meat option a smoky, taste-bud-exciting delight, and the 17-layer chocolate cake, because, well, the reason is in its name.
Where To Drink
The Blue Room/Third Man Records: There’s no shortage of famed bars, dives, and alcohol-dispensing spots all along Nashville’s main street Broadway, but for a truly unique drinking experience, you’ll want to visit an unlikely spot (or maybe likely spot for Nashville): a record studio. Jack White’s renowned Third Man Records opened its Blue Room Bar in July 2021, and it’s truly an all-senses experience.
Bathed completely in electric blue light with a real taxidermied elephant’s head hanging on its walls, the bar feels like entering a surreal and swanky outer-world club. Equipped with a stage, it’s the same room where hundreds of artists have recorded and posed for the label’s famed 7” vinyl series, Blue Series. While the menu’s signature cocktails skew a bit old fashioned, we recommend The Champ — reposado tequila, creme de cassis, lemon, ginger beer, orange, and bitters — to get you started.
What To Do
Go thrifting at High Class Hillbilly: Something strange happens to the brain the second one lands in Nashville. A deep, sudden, and unexplainable desire to wear cowboy boots, hats, and fringe overwhelms the body. (Maybe it’s because real people actually wear those items on the daily here.) If this happens to you, sideline the Stetsons and boot stores and hit-up High Class Hillbilly, a quaint, two-level boutique thrift shop that stocks all of the above and more well-curated curios to help you complete your look. There’s normal clothes, too, and actual vintage pieces taken from the closets of notable locals and collectors. Plus, the week I was there, rumor has it Kate Moss visited and picked up a few pieces. If it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
Visit the Museum of African American Music: Beyond being a robust, educational, and history-rectifying resource for tracing the musical lineage of the African American diaspora, the Museum of African American Music is also really fun. It opened its doors in January 2021 and has a ton of interactive features that complement its text-heavy walls, like stations for you to produce your own beat, make a song, and rap along to the greats. Learn about how every music genre really does trace its roots to the Black diaspora and, if anything, it’ll give you a place to work off a meal of Prince’s Hot Chicken from the Assembly Food Hall next door.
Do a Honky Tonk Tuesday at American Legion: American Legion Post 82 is technically a hub for U.S. veterans, but on Tuesdays it transforms into a rowdy and festive social locale complete with a dance floor and live music from local country and hillbilly bands. It’s, what we’ll say, reaaal country — but the music, most likely performed by Nashville’s most well-known honky tonk band The Cowpokes, is the best of it kind, the beers are cheap, and everyone is more than nice enough to teaching you how to two-step on the fly when you’re finally done observing on the sidelines and ready to jump into the mix.