This article is part of our Trip Report – Adventures with Edventure in Nashville.
We’ve broken “72 Hours (Almost) of Middle Age Miles and Edventure in Nashville” into 2 parts. Part 1 covers Thursday Evening and Friday; Part 2 covers Saturday and Sunday through our departure back to Dallas.
“This ain’t your daddy’s Nashville … or even your older brother’s!”
~Middle Age Miles, having not visited Nashville in over 35 years
I have a fair bit of personal connection to Nashville. My grandparents grew up and were married there, my mom was born there, and when I was growing up we still had family in Nashville that we visited semi-regularly. But my grandparents moved to Arkansas in the late 1940’s, and their children stayed there. Over time, the family members in Nashville grew older and passed away. In the ensuing years, I never had any particular reason to return to what was then an old, Southern, country music town. Thus, until last month I hadn’t been to Nashville since I was a teenager.
Sometime since then, Nashville boomed. As best I can tell by visiting with the locals, most of the development has occurred in the last 10 years or so. And it’s still going strong, as evidenced by the many cranes jutting across the downtown skyline. Multiple people I came across over the weekend dutifully recited the statistic that Nashville’s population is growing by 100 people a day – every single day.
Nashville is now a hot, hip destination. Every day and night, the main drag on Broadway downtown and the nearby Gulch are filled with tourists and revelers. It’s still a huge music town, of course, but the music scene has evolved from the sleepy olden days of Hank Williams Sr., Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn at the Grand Ole Opry. It’s moved far beyond the times of the great Johnny Cash and George Jones. Even the more “modern” country sounds of my teenage days, like Alabama, Ronnie Millsap and Hank Jr. are relics. Nashville pays plenty of tribute to its storied past, but the music itself ranges far wider and more modern than Nashville’s country roots.
And the people downtown come to party. The locals say that Nashville hosts more bachelorette parties than any other city in America, even more than Las Vegas. On a weekend night, you can’t go far without hearing the native cry of the bachelorettes and their posses – Wooooooo!!! Broadway bars are packed and overflowing. It feels a little like Vegas without the gambling, a little like New Orleans but not as French. Or as I muttered at one point during a weekend evening, “It’s like Vegas but not as subtle.” No, Nashville hits you head-on, with a little Southern charm thrown in.
Our Weekend – 72 Hours (Almost) in Nashville
Middle Age Miles and Edventure landed in Nashville late afternoon on Thursday and were wheels up again early afternoon on Sunday. That gave us almost 72 hours to experience all that Nashville had to offer. Nashville may have hit us head-on, but we stood tall and took on everything it threw at us. We covered a lot of ground and had a great time.
Let’s take this running diary style (like one of my very favorite Middle Age Miles articles, Diary of a Mileage Run – Seattle to JFK and Back):
5:00 pm – After a slightly delayed flight from DFW (mechanical), we land in Nashville. For what it’s worth, baggage claim took a while. I’m not sure if this is standard, or if we just arrived at a particularly busy time, but it took about 30 minutes to get our bags. Note to Middle Age Miles readers – if you’re going to Nashville, carry on if you can.
5:30 pm – As with baggage claim, the wait for our Uber pick-up was long. Also, the designated Uber pick-up spot at Nashville’s BNA airport is crowded, disorganized and hectic. It probably took us 20 minutes from order to pick-up, even though the app said 6 minutes when we requested our ride.
It turns out we had a very chatty driver, Rick with a 4.98 star rating. We weren’t so sure about Rick at first, but as we settled in for our ride downtown, we were glad we’d gotten him. Rick was full of tips that we used throughout the weekend. I’m going to borrow some of them for our later article, 15 Helpful Things to Know for a Visit to Nashville. I’m giving Rick full props. He’s earned his 4.98 rating, and he got another 5-star review from us.
Rush hour afternoon traffic in Nashville is pretty bad, even going toward downtown, which you’d think might be against traffic. The infrastructure just hasn’t kept pace with Nashville’s rapid growth.
6:15 pm – Check into the Hilton Nashville Downtown and meet up with Edventure, who landed earlier and had already been taunting us with messages about drinks.
7:00 pm – Dinner at The Southern Steak and Oyster. This restaurant had been suggested by Edventure’s friend who lives in the Nashville area. It was easy walking distance, only 2-3 blocks from the Hilton. It turned out this was the best food we had for the entire weekend (and I’m pretty sure our entire group would be unanimous on that point).
True to the restaurant’s name, I had steak and others in our group had oysters. All of us thoroughly enjoyed our food. Our server was also engaging and attentive, which we appreciated. She was experienced, and while not necessarily polished, she engaged and connected with us at just the right level. In our experience, we found this good service to be the exception for Nashville rather than the rule. For most of the rest of the weekend, service was spotty.
The Southern Steak and Oyster was lively and bustling, as you can see from our pictures. We were glad to have made reservations in advance. This was a double-edged sword, as it was fun to be in a lively place, but the room was very loud making table conversation tougher than it needed to be.
After Dinner – After a big dinner, we took advantage of a pleasant evening to walk around downtown Nashville. This gave us an opportunity to get our bearings in the city, plus scout out places that might be fun for a return visit over the weekend.
Although we wandered for a bit, our main walking route took us back-and-forth across the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge (across the Cumberland River, connecting downtown Nashville to Nissan Stadium and the rest of East Nashville), up-and-down 2nd Avenue (the second-busiest nightlife street), and up-and-down Broadway (the main drag for bars and nightlife).
We learned that there are a ton of bars named for male country singers, but strangely, none for female singers. I have no idea why that’s the case, but it was an interesting observation for what it’s worth. We hopped from Florida Georgia Line House, to Luke Bryan’s bar (Luke’s 32 Bridge), to Jason Aldean’s bar. Thursday night downtown was actually less crazy than I expected, although the Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean places were hopping. Luke Bryan’s had a good band playing on the crowded ground floor, and Jason Aldean’s had a DJ upstairs. We skipped past the George Jones bar and Blake Shelton’s Ole Red bar as there wasn’t much happening at either place.
We took it easy on Friday morning, giving everyone plenty of time to recover and get some work done before we headed out.
11:45 am – Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is a Nashville icon, and I thought we should try it out. I do love some good fried chicken. So we ventured out for lunch at Hattie B’s. We took a circuitous route with a very patient Uber driver, ultimately foregoing the popular Broadway/Midtown location in favor of the less-crowded 8th Avenue/Melrose location.
I’ll have more on our selection of Hattie B’s location and our lunch in our follow-up article, 15 Helpful Things to Know for a Visit to Nashville – no spoilers yet!
1:15 pm – My most vivid “tourist” memories of Nashville from when I was a kid were of the Parthenon and the roller coaster at Opryland that included a loop that turned you upside down. A day at the amusement park was out of the question for this trip, but I wanted to make sure our group got out to see Nashville’s Parthenon.
As the name suggests, the Nashville Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The original Parthenon stands on the crest of the Acropolis and was built as a temple to the goddess Athena, protector and patron goddess of Athens. Nashville’s Parthenon was originally built in 1897 as the centerpiece of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. It was originally constructed of temporary materials, but it was so beloved by the people of Nashville (the “Athens of the South”) that it was re-constructed with permanent materials during the 1920’s and opened to the public in 1931. And it is to this day an impressive structure, the crown jewel of Nashville’s Centennial Park. It’s also made appearances in the movies, in the 1975 film Nashville, and in 2010’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
Nashville’s Parthenon also taught my longtime friend Kevin and me a real-life physics lesson when we visited during high school. First, we learned that the huge bronze doors at the Parthenon each weigh an incredible 7.5 tons. It also turns out that the doors move pretty easily. In fact, we could move them with our hand. Without a lot of advance thought, we began to show off to our friends – Hey, we’re so strong, we can move 7.5 tons with just one finger – ha ha. And sure enough, we got one of the big doors moving. However … once the door started swinging and generated a little speed, one finger wouldn’t stop it … nor two fingers … nor just our hands. Before you knew it, the two of us were both in full-crouch, leg-driving, chest-pressing mode to get the door to stop before it crashed shut. Craig and Kevin, meet momentum. Mass times velocity. And if the mass is 7.5 tons, it doesn’t take much velocity to create a lot of momentum! We laugh about that story to this day.
Back to 2018, our group had a nice time touring the Parthenon. There’s a bit of an art display, which is fine. The two main attractions inside the Parthenon, however, are the impressive giant golden statue of Athena in the center atrium, and the absolutely priceless photos from the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition with accompanying commentary.
The Athena statue is relatively new, dating to 1990, so it wasn’t there when I last visited in the early 1980’s. Athena is presented as more of a warrior than traditional goddess. To put the photo into some perspective, she’s 42 feet tall, and the statue of Nike in her right palm is 6 feet tall. We were fortunate to stumble upon a middle school tour group getting a lesson on Athena in the atrium, so we got a nice bit of free education as well.
Unfortunately, I somehow managed to not take any pictures of the photos from the 1897 Exposition. You’ll have to visit Nashville’s Parthenon yourself to enjoy those. The Tennessee Virtual Archive has a nice article on the Exposition here. It’s more detailed than the exhibit at the Parthenon, but not as entertaining.
As of October 2018, admission into the Parthenon is $6.50 for adults and $4.50 for children and seniors. Operating hours are:
- Tuesday-Saturday: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm
- Sunday: 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm
- Monday: Closed
The admission fee is only necessary to get inside the Parthenon to see the exhibits and Athena; it’s free to visit Centennial Park to check out the Parthenon’s exterior and have a nice stroll or picnic.
3:00 pm – After a short walk through Centennial Park including Edventure treating us to a tasty popsicle from a local vendor, we Ubered on to experience another unique place, the Peter Nappi store. Edventure had read about Peter Nappi and was anxious to check it out.
Peter Nappi specializes in hand-made Italian leather goods – shoes, boots, hats, jackets, book bags, you name it. The store is located inside an old warehouse near the banks of the Cumberland, roughly a mile and a half north of downtown Nashville. It is definitely off the beaten path; you’ll definitely need to Uber or drive there. In fact, when our Uber driver dropped us off, we weren’t entirely sure where to go or whether we were even in the right place. It doesn’t look like a location for a store at all. There are no other businesses around, and it really looks like nothing is there. The door to Peter Nappi is marked, but the marking is very non-descript. And it looks like you’d be walking into a loading dock or warehouse area where you didn’t belong. Edventure was brave enough to poke his head inside the door, and fortunately learn that we had indeed come to the right place.
Walking in, the great leather smell permeates the air, and indeed the space is wide open, warehouse-like. The young lady working in the store was engaging and extremely nice, immediately offering us water and answering our many questions. All our group tried on shoes, boots and/or hats. The goods were fantastic, albeit not cheaply priced. No one found anything that truly spoke to them, so sadly, we went back to downtown empty-handed.
4:30 pm – By this time, we were back downtown and ready for happy hour. The ladies had scoped out Honky Tonk Central (on the southeast corner of 4th & Broadway) as the place where they wanted to hang out. Despite the fact that it doesn’t have a country music singer in its name, the Honky Tonk turned out to be our favorite Broadway bar. The bands were really good and full of energy, the crowd was lively, and the service was remarkably attentive for a bar. We actually found some table space on the far side of the bar, which was a lot less crowded than the front side. We were glad to have at least a little space to ourselves. We had a couple of drinks, swiped some fried pickles from the group at the table next to us, and enjoyed some good music.
6:30 pm – Time for dinner at The Farm House. The Farm House was recommended by the Amex Platinum Concierge. As with The Southern Steak & Oyster, The Farm House was an easy walk, only 4-5 blocks from Honky Tonk Central (and it would have been only 2-3 blocks from the Hilton if we’d been starting there).
The Farm House is a place you want to really like. Its chef uses fresh ingredients that support local or family-owned businesses to create dishes from scratch. The thrust of the menu seems to be creative twists on traditional Southern foods. The meal started well, as our hot cornbread-skillet appetizer was very tasty. Unfortunately, other than the cornbread, I’d have to say that all of us were underwhelmed by our meals.
Believe it or not, this was not my intent when I made a reservation at The Farm House – But it hit the mark as a rare and exclusive quadruple-stacking opportunity for points/cash-back. We earned 5x AA miles with AAdvantage Dining, 5% Uber credit through Uber Visa Local Offers, 6% cash back through Dosh, and 3x Chase UR points for using our Chase Sapphire Reserve card. That’s a pretty solid superfecta!
After Dinner – After a short walk around downtown, we circled back to Honky Tonk Central for the rest of Friday night. The bands were still good, and the crowd was still quite lively. Remarkably, we actually managed to score table space again, with the fried-pickle friends we’d met earlier. There were three of them, a young couple and her girl friend, who was “celebrating” her recent divorce. We had fun chatting, doing a round of shots, and passing around some very bent-up sunglasses for funny photos. We also got to take a picture with Morgan Frazier from The Voice Season 9, which you see in the featured image for this article. I suppose this turned out to be the closest thing we had to a celebrity sighting in Nashville. I hope she hits it big!
We’ll leave things here for now, and pick up again on Saturday morning, with Part 2 of 72 Hours (Almost) of Middle Age Miles and Edventure in Nashville.
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