Arts + Culture

Your Weekend Guide to Nashville: Beyond the Music City

Nashville proudly calls itself the Music City and it doesn’t take long to see why. Country music, cowboy hats, and Johnny Cash – this is one city that knows how to stay on message. For music fans, Nashville offers an endless buffet – ranging from clichéd modern country to classic blues, modern folk, and more. This is what Nashville is known for.

Beyond the crowded, tourist-centric areas like Broadway Street, there is a less well known but equally vibrant Nashville filled with eclectic vintage shops, farm to table restaurants, charming bed and breakfasts, and parks that you could spend an entire day relaxing in.

This was the side of Nashville I explored on a recent weekend getaway with my girlfriend. What we discovered was a city that is as comfortable with its old school heritage as it is with its casually hip destiny. It felt like a Southern city with a distinctly West Coast vibe and a touch of Midwest nice thrown in.

We stayed at the Instagram-able Urban Cowboy BNB and, let me tell you – this place did not disappoint. Every room was eclectic, relaxing, and photogenic. The lobby and bar downstairs, true to Nashville form, had a piano, guitars, banjo, and a bevy of musical instruments that guests could help themselves to. The lobby turns into an intimate venue in the evening when local and traveling bands do stripped-down acoustic sets for guests.

After sleeping in well beyond our usual wake up time, we needed some grub, and fast. Fortunately we didn’t have to go far. The Public House is attached to Urban Cowboy and the wood-fired, southern inspired small plates were perfect, especially the avocado toast.

With our stomachs full and a good night sleep behind us, we were ready to explore Nashville. We heard the vintage shops in Nashville were filled with unique finds with a slightly country flair and after checking several spots with little luck, we finally hit the jackpot at High Class Hillbilly. Their carefully selected collection of women’s and men’s vintage was one of the better I’ve seen. At some vintage spots, you look through racks of clothes to find that one gem – here, it’s all gems.

Beyond vintage rags, Nashville is also home to Two Son, a stylish, minimal spot with solid denim, small batch designer labels, and cool accessories. The ample natural light, minimal aesthetic, and comfy couch also made this place feel like a store I actually enjoyed spending time in. Or maybe it was just the welcoming AC on a 90 plus degree day.

Next up, it was time for a snack. We considered heading to a Jenis since there’s almost as many in Nashville as Columbus, instead we opted for The Soda Parlor where we each got a float. They were were exactly what we needed to beat the muggy, mid-summer Tennessee heat. Plus, we’d now consumed enough calories to power us through the rest of the weekend.

Now that we were reenergized, it was time to explore Centennial Park – the crown jewel of Nashville’s parks system, complete with a full scale replica of the famous Parthenon. Yes, you read that correctly, Nashville has a full scale replica of the Parthenon. We spent the remainder of the evening slowly strolling the grounds of this grand park and reflecting back on the sights and experiences of our day before heading back to the Urban Cowboy for a relaxing bath and another good nights sleep.

The following morning, with a six hour drive ahead of us, we knew we would need some caffeine. After asking folks for good coffee recommendations, the place that came up again and again was Barista Parlor. This is a place that takes its coffee seriously and you can immediately taste it. While the coffee was indeed solid, the interior of the shop was just as enjoyable. Vinyl records spun on the antique turntable, motorcycles were parked next to the counter, garage door style windows were open to let the morning light in – we could have spent the rest of the morning there, but alas, it was time to go.

Our weekend in Nashville was a nice escape from Columbus even though, in many ways, it reminded me a lot of Columbus. Both cities are often overlooked by outsiders or defined by their most known feature – country music for Nashville, Buckeye football for Columbus. Both cities have a burgeoning food scene and enough Jenis ice cream to feed the entire Midwest. But most importantly, Nashville (like Columbus) still has something for everyone – good food, and good times at a reasonable price, often served with a smile. I can’t wait to go back.

Brian Kaiser is a Columbus, OH based photographer, social media influencer, and content strategist whose iconic travel photography and creative portraits have garnered him a worldwide audience on Instagram. Brian is a sought after photographer, public speaker, educator, and thought leader on influence marketing and photography.