Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Native's Guide to Visiting Nashville

     My aunt and her book club are planning a visit to Nashville this fall to coincide with the Southern Book Festival. Turns out that in addition to being book-a-holics, these lovely ladies have also become addicted to the television series, Nashville, that showcases much about our lovely city. Thus, when my aunt called me to tell me about their impending visit, she told me that number one destination on their list was the vaunted Bluebird Cafe. The ladies learned all about the Bluebird from the TV series. I hate to tell them that Scarlett really doesn't work there, but surely they are smart enough to tell fact from fiction (even though you can never be sure which is which in the music business...) Deep down I chuckled at their request. Ever since the series debuted, the lines around the Bluebird have grown longer and longer. Part of me is proud that this little gem tucked far and away from the touristy honky-tonks down on lower Broad is garnering an extended national reputation, but the other part of me is downright sad. I don't want the Bluebird to get any harder to get into than it already is, but I guess that's the price of burgeoning fame.

   I thought I might pass along some of my recommendations for any other folks out there who might be thinking about visiting Music City in the near future.

Part One:  Accommodations in Downtown Nashville
    There are lots of options in the downtown area for folks who want to make this their base of operation. These are a few of my recommendations.
1. The most luxurious history-laden hotel in the city is The Hermitage Hotel (not to be confused with The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson.) This is a gem of a hotel that sparkles with its restored beauty, but be forewarned that this accommodation will definitely set you back some serious bucks. There is also a fabulous restaurant at the hotel and an amazing bar, but I will get to those when I get around to talking about food.

And while you are at The Hermitage, you absolutely must check out the world famous art deco men's public bathroom. Don't worry, someone will stand guard so that you ladies can view it without any bonus sightings. It's actually not uncommon to see brides and grooms taking their pictures in there. Here's a glimpse of the glory!
2. The Indigo - the hipsters like this place, but I think my aunt would, as well. The Indigo is only a couple of blocks from Broadway and has a great contemporary vibe with live music and a hopping bar scene. The hotel is also housed in a former bank building that has found new life. That kind of repurposing makes me happy.

3. The Hilton - for a chain hotel, this is one of the nicer ones. The lobby is large and filled with nooks and crannies for reading and relaxing, and the location could not be more spot on. Situated directly across from the Country Music Hall of Fame, adjoined on one side by the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and on the other by the Bridgestone Arena, the honkytonks, bars, and sounds and sights of the city are just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Hilton Nashville Downtown Hotel, Tn - Exterior
Hilton Nashville Downtown Hotel, Tn - Atrium Lobby
4. The Hampton Inn (not the one up on West End, but the one adjacent to the new convention center.I actually have not been in this hotel, but one thing about the Hampton chain is that they are totally predictable. You will get exactly what you pay for. No more, no less.
5. Midtown Courtyard Marriott - (not the one on West End, but the one in the century old high rise on 4th Avenue North. This hotel is located in yet another former bank building that is finding new life as a hotel. The soaring lobby has recently been remodeled. Centrally located, this hotel is just steps away from all the fun!

Another option is to do VRBO and rent out an apartment in one of the downtown high-rise apartment buildings: you don't get your towels and sheets changed out every day, but you can do your part to stay green if you stay there.

There are some obvious omissions here, but these are my faves for downtown.

Oh and watch this happy, snappy video of Nashville before you come. It will get you in the right frame of mind to visit our beloved Music City!

Stay tuned, Part Two to follow soon!

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