The South’s funkiest town gets even cooler
Nashvillians like to joke that the crane is the city’s unofficial bird. After all, nearly 30 of the huge, steel species soar in the sky right now.
Music City is in the midst of a building boom, with 22 hotels under construction and more than 125 restaurants slated to open by the year’s end, according to the tourism bureau.
At the same time, there’s a creative renaissance underway, as the city’s thriving music, fashion and food scenes gain national attention. Tennessee’s capital is so happening that both Frommer’s and Travel & Leisure included it on their lists of the best places to go in 2017 and Thrillist recently named Guitar Town America’s best weekend destination.
“Nashville has always been cool, but today people seem to be more proud of the city than ever before,” says Libby Callaway, founder of The Callaway, a branding and public relations company (and former fashion editor of The Post) based there. “We’re an alternative to the coasts.”
Over the past decade, the home of country music evolved into a hipster hub with a strong “maker” culture of craft and creativity. Visitors can explore funky neighborhoods like East Nashville, 12South, Germantown and the Gulch, lined with specialty coffee shops, brew pubs, craft cocktail bars and critically acclaimed farm-to-fork restaurants.
Or scour the quirky lifestyle and clothing boutiques for local labels such as Ceri Hoover (leather bags and shoes) and Imogene + Willie (heritage denim).
Cowboy boots are always in style — Boot Country on major thoroughfare Broadway has a crazy buy-one-get-two-pairs-free deal — rocked the Coachella way.
Speaking of all-star concert extravaganzas, the world’s biggest country music celebration takes place downtown from June 8-11.
This year’s CMA Music Festival will feature more than 100 acts, including legends like Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley.
The best part: Seven of the 11 stages are free and a number of them are outdoors. Later this summer, produce and creativity will make beautiful music together at the 14th Annual Tomato Art Festival the weekend of Aug. 11-12.
Of course, Nashville doesn’t need festivals to be fun as hell: Cold beer and live music are on tap seven days a week. Country, blues and rock acts perform nightly at the boozy, neon-lit Lower Broadway honky tonks — don’t miss Robert’s Western World with its $2.50 Pabst Blue Ribbon and no-cover policy — and nearby Printer’s Alley, the historic nightlife corridor. Meanwhile, The Station Inn in the trendy Gulch is the premier club for bluegrass and roots performers.
Even if you’re not a country music fan, a visit to the Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry for 31 years, is obligatory. It’s worth paying extra for the guided tour, just to walk backstage where icons Johnny Cash met June Carter in 1956.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is another must-see, with Elvis’ gold Cadillac, Gram Parsons’ “high”-fashion pot leaf-embroidered “Nudie suit” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” cheerleader outfit on display. Hatch Show Print is the historic letterpress company in the same building that has cranked out iconic show posters since 1879.
Feeling hungry? Savor a meal at one of the restaurants opened by James Beard Award-winning chefs like Donald Link (Cochon Butcher), Sean Brock (Husk) and Maneet Chauhan (Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Tànsuo and The Mockingbird, opening any day).
As Callaway says, “Nashville has gone way beyond barbecue.”
Where to stay and eat in Guitar Town
- Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown (from $199) recently underwent a $35 million renovation and boasts immaculate rooms, a revamped fitness center and the new Library Bar, serving more than 50 varieties of bourbon and regional dishes (order the house-made smoked mac and cheese). The property — one of five in the US to gain the chain’s “Grand” distinction – is a short stroll from Lower Broadway nightlife and the Ryman.
- Just around the corner is The Hermitage Hotel (from $255), Nashville’s Southern belle. The century-old landmark edifice is known for its plush lobby, luxurious rooms and old-school chophouse, the Capitol Grille.
- The new boutique hotel, Thompson Nashville (from $305), is a sleek addition to The Gulch. James Beard Award-winning chef John Besh and Nathan Duensing helm Marsh House, a seafood restaurant.
- Nashville native Julia Sullivan trained at New York’s Per Se and Blue Hill at Stone Barns before opening Henrietta Red, one of Germantown’s hottest tables. To die for: wood-roasted oysters with green curry
- Just down the block sits City House, serving James Beard Award-winning chef Tandy Wilson’s inventive Italian-Southern fare. His belly ham pizza was rated top in Tennessee by the Food Network.
- Celeb-spotting is par for the course at the bustling Rolf and Daughters in Germantown.
- Chef Philip Krajeck is famed for his rustic pasta dishes, like squid-ink paccheri with octopus and breadcrumbs.
- In the mood to pig out? Head to Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint‘s downtown hub. Pitmaster Pat Martin hickory-smokes mouthwatering West Tennessee whole hog, ribs and beef brisket.
This article originally appears in the NY Post.