Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to this one day in Nashville itinerary. Being from New York City, it’s hard for me to imagine what it’s like having your hometown associated so strongly with one particular style of music. NYC can’t even pick one sports team, let alone one style of music.
But New Orleans is known for jazz, Chicago’s got the blues, and of course Nashville is the worldwide capital of country music, no matter what Shania Twain and her legions of Canadian fans have to say about it. Join me for a one day in Nashville itinerary, and I’ll take you to church. By church, I mean the Opry at the Ryman of course.
One Day in Nashville Itinerary
Where to Stay?
Nashville hotels are much more expensive than I was expecting. But I suppose that’s not so surprising given how popular Nashville is with tourists. It was a little tricky for me to find a hotel that was in a good location and affordable.
That’s why I was grateful to the Best Western PLUS Downtown/Music Row. The location could not have been better, as it was within walking distance of the Grand Ole Opry show at the Mother Church of Country Music. And the price didn’t leave me broker than a hound dog crying in the rain over your cheatin’ heart.
One Day in Nashville Itinerary
What to Pack?
You’ll need comfy shoes for all the walking we’re going to do today. If it’s summertime, I love my special pink Birkenstocks. These aren’t your grandpappy’s Birkenstocks anymore. They come in every shade, and I always get compliments on my electric magenta shoes.
Nashville can get very hot, so don’t forget the sunscreen. My favorite is the Neutrogena spray bottle because it’s so easy to apply. And as a solo traveler, I can actually use it myself on my own back. I just put it in my purse and re-apply throughout the day.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
One Day in Nashville Itinerary
Morning: Tennessee State Museum
It’s important for tourists in Nashville to remember that Nashville is not just the figurative capital of the country music world. It is the literal capital of the state of Tennessee. As is the case with most US state capitals, this means that the city is home to a thorough museum documenting the long and rich history of the state.
If you visit the Tennessee State Museum, you’ll learn about basically everyone who lived in the Volunteer State. This can include the First Peoples, Daniel Boone, or some random guys I pranked using an Egyptian artifact. Don’t delay; jump in and enjoy the…
Three Fun Facts: Tennessee History
1) Effigy Bottles
The Tennessee State Museum thoroughly documents the fact that the first peoples of Tennessee lived there for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. They did not leave behind documents, but they did leave behind a rich material culture. I thought the most interesting items in this exhibit were these effigy bottles.
No one is exactly sure what they were used for, though they were clearly containers of some sort. They were probably used to store food or liquids. I love how many of the bottles are topped with an animal head of some sort. It evokes a time when the Tennessee Valley was teaming with rich wildlife instead of highways and strip malls.
2) Daniel Boone
Now we come to the arrival of the Europeans. I was surprised to learn that the Spanish were the first Europeans to explore Tennessee. However, they didn’t stay long. I assume it’s because they didn’t find raccoon skin hats fashionable. The first European settlers to get a serious mention in the Tennessee State Museum are the Long Hunters.
These men were of European ancestry, but born in the United States. They started coming to the Tennessee area in the 1760s in order to make money by hunting the animals who had been the inspiration for the heads in the effigy bottles. (Their prime target was the deer.) Daniel Boone, the gentleman in the fancy chapeau pictured above, was the most famous Long Hunter.
Before the Long Hunters started coming to the Tennessee area and making money, settlers weren’t much interested in the region. Apparently the mountains seemed too dangerous and unappealing, even to colonists who were used to battling dangers like taxation without representation and scurvy.
But once the Long Hunters proved you could get rich off of buckskin, settlers started a’coming! So I guess in a convoluted way, Daniel Boone is responsible for the existence of the Grand Ole Opry. I guess that’s why the country music scene continues to honor him today by wearing Boone’s down home style of clothing.
3) Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson
Now we come to perhaps the most controversial man to come out of Tennessee: Andrew Jackson. For those of you not up on early US history, Jackson was the 7th President of the United States! He was the first US President who wasn’t born wealthy.
At the time of his election, his victory was considered proof that any man could be president. In New Orleans, they have a statue to him because he fought (and whupped) the bloody British there during the War of 1812. (Tennessee got its nickname, the Volunteer State, because so many Tennesseans enlisted during the War of 1812.)
However, his most famous act as President was probably the Indian Removal Act, which was responsible for forcibly removing Native American tribes, like the Cherokee, from the Southeast to the western United States. Many Native Americans died of hunger, fatigue, and sickness during this forcible removal.
I already knew all this about Jackson before visiting the Tennessee State Museum. What I didn’t know was that Jackson had a reputation as an avid duelist. He actually killed a man in a duel before he was president. I’d like to think someone who killed a man in a duel couldn’t get elected today. I say, I’d like to think that…
24 Hour Treat
The basement level of the Tennessee State Museum inexplicably has an Egyptian mummy. (I believe it was brought there by a world traveler from Tennessee.) I hid behind a shelf near here and watched two good ole boys turn a corner, see this random mummy in the middle of the room, and scream. Then I laughed heartily at them for being so weak. And a good time was had by me!
One Day in Nashville Itinerary
Afternoon: East Nashville Food Tour
There’s so much scrumptious food in Nashville, you’re going to want to take on as many restaurants in one trip as you possibly can. After all, you don’t want to experience FOMOONAF. (That’s Fear Of Missing Out On Nashville’s Amazing Food.) The best way to jam as many tastings as possible into one afternoon is to jump on board Walk Eat Nashville’s East Nashville Food Tour.
A lot of tourists to Music City miss out on East Nashville, but you really shouldn’t! It’s the heart of Nashville’s more offbeat side of the city. If you come on over here, you’ll get to experience the side of Nashville that doesn’t regularly sport a Stetson hat. You’ll also get to experience the…
Approximately Top 5: East Nashville Food
1) Five Points Pizza
The Five Points area is the center of East Nashville. And it is here that you can find the best pizza in Nashville: Five Points Pizza. Because I’m from NYC, I usually find myself skeptical about trying pizza other places. We have so much good pizza back home, why would I want to try it when I travel?
So I was happy to hear from our guide that the owners of Five Points had actually gone to New York City to learn how to make our pizza. Basically these guys are performing an essential community service by bringing real pizza to Tennessee. This is a cause I can definitely support.
On the tour, you get a choice between cheese, pepperoni, and prosciutto and basil pizza. That way there’s an option whether you are a vegetarian or a carnivore. I have to admit that my pepperoni slice tasted just like the pizza I grew up on! I was especially impressed with how tasty the crust was. Usually the crust is the worst part of the pizza.
Our guide explained that this is because they age the crust two days before baking it. I believe that Daniel Boone also used to do that to his pizza when he was going hunting, so this is a really local Tennessee tradition.
2) Marche Artisan Foods
Marche Artisan Foods is the offspring of another East Nashville restaurant called Margot Cafe and Bar. Like many hipster neighborhoods, East Nashville had become rundown and disregarded by many. The opening of Margot Cafe and Bar is credited with kicking off the revitalization of East Nashville.
Now Margot is so popular in the evening, it needed a sister restaurant, Marche, to handle all those Nashvillains who needed their French bistro fix during the daytime hours. Marche was happy to oblige by serving these hungry folk brunch all day.
This is a food tour, so we didn’t have time to sit down for a full brunch. Instead, we had a light bistro lunch of warm potato soup and salad with blue cheese, onions, and strawberries. That sounds like a freakish combo, but actually all the contrasting flavors came together in a surprising and harmonious way, much like East Nashville itself. Or the surprising and harmonious way in which I pranked a couple of good ole boys with a mummy. Either/or.
3) I Dream of Weenie
Of course, no hipster neighborhood would be complete without a food truck, and what is better than a food truck shaped like a hot dog? I Dream of Weenie just may be the greatest name for a hot dog truck the world has ever known. But the name and the decor only count for so much when we’re talking about food trucks. Lemme me see if this hot dog has the goods!
I loved that we got to sample a small bite of three different kinds of their hot dogs instead of having to stick to one. Variety is always better! Going from left to right, we have the slaw dog, the chow chow dog, and the famous mac and cheese dog. They were all delicious–ain’t nothing wrong with mac and cheese on a hot dog. Someone tells me it’s wrong to put mac and cheese on a hot dog, they may as well just burn the American flag! But my favorite of these was the chow chow dog.
In Nashville, chow chow is not a breed of dog. It’s a special kind of relish that is very popular in Tennessee. My understanding is that you can make it with whatever vegetables you have at hand. I loved the sweet and spicy flavor of the chow chow on the hot dog, but then pickle relish is my favorite hot dog condiment anyway.
4) Lockeland Table
Aside from food trucks and street art, the one thing every hipster neighborhood needs is a farm to table restaurant. East Nashville has one of the best with Lockeland Table. One of the highlights of the tour was getting to meet Chef Hal, the Executive Chef of the restaurant, and hearing him explain the thinking behind the restaurant. At Lockeland Table, they provide different tastings for each tour group.
Our tasting was a fresh pasta with arugula and spinach pesto with some chili oil drizzled on top for heat and cornbread crunchies thrown in for texture. I savored the opportunity to hear a chef explain how he had come to put a dish together. I’m a food tour aficionado, and this kind of opportunity doesn’t come along that often.
Also, the fresh pesto was amazing. I’m a true 80s baby, and pesto is definitely one of my favorite foods. When I was in high school, I used to eat pesto with crackers and my friends would call me Pesto Head. But this pesto was vastly superior to the sodium laden monstrosity I’d buy pre-made at Morton Williams.
Another thing I like about the restaurant is that it gives back to the community. A portion of the proceeds from Happy Hour go to the local Parent Teacher Organization. Now you have a reason to feel good about yourself while you drink!
5) Soda Parlor
Of course it wouldn’t be a proper food tour without dessert! And doesn’t this look tempting? I know I’m being mean because I’m actually the one who got to eat this beauty at the Soda Parlor. You just get to look at my picture and drool. This confection is also known as a Waffle Mondae. At the Soda Parlor, a Waffle Mondae is an ice cream sundae served on top of a fresh, fluffy waffle. Definitely an upgrade! Waffles are tastier than bowls. That’s just science.
This Mondae is called the Boy Scout, and naturally it is a S’mores dessert. I loved how you could taste the real graham cracker flavor. It was a tad mindblowing to have a cold S’mores dessert. It was almost as mindblowing as finding a mummy in the middle of the Tennessee State Museum.
One Day in Nashville Itinerary
Evening: Opry at the Ryman
Of course, it’s not a trip to Nashville without seeing the Grand Ole Opry. Going to Nashville and skipping the Grand Ole Opry is like going to New York City, covering all your eyes, and saying to the skyscrapers, “La la la! I can’t see you!” That’s why I definitely recommend…not necessarily going to the Grand Ole Opry during your time in Nashville.
Allow me to explain. As I mentioned in my previous post about Nashville, the Grand Ole Opry began as a radio broadcast of “barn dance” music in the 1920s. (That’s not a joke.) The Opry performances moved to the Ryman Auditorium in 1943.
The Ryman Auditorium was named after a businessman named Thomas Ryman. He built it as a church after being converted to evangelical Christianity. When the church was converted to a performance space, they named it the Ryman Auditorium in his honor. (That’s why the Ryman is often called the Mother Church of Country Music.)
Sadly for lovers of church-concert hall combos, the Grand Ole Opry moved to a new venue in the 1970s and the Ryman Auditorium fell into disrepair. But like all good things, the Ryman was restored in the 90s and you can see shows there today! Most days of the week, the Grand Ole Opry shows will be located in the new venue.
However, on Thursdays, the Ryman hosts the Opry Country Classics show. So if you’re following this itinerary on Thursday, your Grand Ole Opry show will actually be located at the Ryman Auditorium. That will give you a chance to see a special performance in this historic building!
24 Hour Treat
There’s no way to guarantee which performers will be on when you’re in Nashville. I don’t have psychic powers, Internet Stranger! But my favorite performer I saw at the Grand Ole Opry was the singularly named Sylvia.
Sylvia’s big hit in the 1980s was called “Nobody”, and it combines all my favorite country music topics: cheating, sarcasm, and holding on to a terrible man who is bad for you for no reason. Please listen to the song because I promise the lyrics are funnier than I am, and I almost never think anything is funnier than I am.
That’s a Perfect One Day in Nashville Itinerary!
What would you do with a One Day in Nashville Itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Nashville? Does it count to say that I’ve been to the Grand Ole Opry if I just went to the Opry at the Ryman? And have you ever pranked some strangers with a mummy? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Nash