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8 Insider Tips to Have the Best Nashville Experience Ever

From where to get your southern comfort cuisine to where to catch live country music.

From rowdy honky tonks with live country music to hole-in-the-wall comfort food eateries, Nashville is brimming with good times. Add in all the historic sites, museums, and outdoor attractions, and you'll have a packed itinerary before you know it. But in order to make the most of your stay, experts say you'll want to keep a few things in mind.

For one, CamperGuide founder Johnathan Smith advises visiting during fall or early spring, for a more relaxing experience—plus, lower flights and hotel prices than peak seasons. "Be prepared to eat a lot," adds Smith. "Nashville is known as a food town."

Pam Howard, the owner of the travel blog Our Adventure is Everywhere, strongly recommends buying tickets to The Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, Hatch Show Print Studio, and other popular attractions at least several days ahead of time since they can sell out fast. And speaking of music venues, if Broadway is a little too wild for your tastes, Howard suggests grabbing some grub at Assembly Food Hall for a more low-key experience with live entertainment.

But all that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what to know before jetting off to Music City. Heed this handful of insider tips to have the best trip ever. And next, don't miss the 10 Best U.S. Islands to Add to Your Bucket List—No Passport Required.

Catch dinner and a show at House of Cards.

Nashville certainly has no shortage of stellar restaurants. But Brodi Cole, owner of the family travel website Our Offbeat Life, says House of Cards promises a speakeasy experience like no other, complete with live entertainment.

While feasting on their famous steaks and sipping hand-crafted cocktails, you'll be treated to a magic show, whether you come by at dinner or brunch time. Just be sure to follow the cocktail dress code, which is strictly enforced.

Fun fact: it just so happens that House of Cards was named one of America's 100 Best Restaurants by OpenTable.

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Hop on a Nashville Pedal Tavern party bike.

pedal bike tour
Hugh K Telleria /

According to Jenny Ly, founder of the travel guide site Go Wanderly. Nashville Pedal Tavern is one of the most unique ways to experience the city. Just reserve your slot on the 15-person party bike, pack your own beverage of choice to enjoy along the way, and pedal away to explore the Midtown or Broadway area. Along the way, you'll get to stop at some legendary establishments, where special partners have exclusive drink specials for pedal tavern customers.

"It's a two-hour journey led by tour guides who give you the lowdown on Midtown's Music Row, Broadway's famed clubs, and more," says Ly. "And if you'd rather save energy while indulging, a shuttle brewery and bar tour covering four breweries are handpicked by your local guide."

Do a daytime backstage tour at the Grand Ole Opry.

Parker McCollum performs Grand Ole Opry
Jason Davis / Getty Images

No trip to Nashville would be complete without a visit to the world-famous Grand Ole Opry. But for a more special experience—and to beat the crowds—consider doing a daytime backstage tour, says Dymphe Mensink, travel blogger at Dymabroad. While strolling through the various spaces, you'll get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes. Not only will a guide regale you with fun little-known stories about famous artists who've performed there, but you'll also get to see the artist's entrance and even step right on stage.

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Stay along the Music City Circuit.

lower broadway area, nashville, Tennessee, street
f11photo / Shutterstock

If you can, try to book accommodations somewhere along the Music City Circuit, says Tim White, CEO and founder of the Michigan-based travel brand and blog MilePro. "This free MTA bus service takes you along two routes," he explains. "The Green Circuit runs between the Gulch and Bicentennial Mall, while the Blue Circuit runs between Riverfront Station and the Tennessee State University campus. If you don't need to travel too far within Nashville, you can save money and a lot of hassle by walking to the bus stop and traveling throughout the city."

Less spending and easier access to all the popular sites? That's what we call a win-win.

For example, the ultra-luxe Hermitage Hotel—the state's only AAA Five Diamond Hotel—is just an eight-minute walk from Ryman Auditorium on the Blue Circuit.

"From John F. Kennedy to Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash, the Hermitage has entertained a slew of celebrities, statesmen, and musicians since its inception in 1910," says Ly. "It's located right in the heart of downtown Nashville, features old-world Italian and French Renaissance architecture, and boasts a painted glass skylight in the foyer that may steal your breath away."

Take a stroll off the beaten path.

nashville tennessee

When you're seeking a little change of pace from downtown, Mensink suggests exploring charming Hillsboro Village, which is packed with trendy bars, restaurants, and boutiques—plus, the iconic The Belcourt Theatre, which screens independent films as well as classics.

While the lines tend to get long at the super cozy brunch spot, Ly says The Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro Village is well worth the wait for their pancakes (in more than 20 different flavors), omelets, waffles, and more—all made from scratch using secret family recipes, and served up with a side of Southern hospitality.

Howard also recommends spending a day checking out The Gulch or the eclectic 12South section of town. In The Gulch, you'll find the world-class Frist Art Museum, which hosts ever-changing exhibits, as well as The Station Inn, a tiny club featuring bluegrass acts, and Mercy Lounge, which is known for soul and folk music. 12South is known for its chic and quirky boutiques, fine dining, stunning Sevier Park, and the oh-so-Instagrammable "I Believe in Nashville" mural.

Join the First Saturday Art Crawl.

There are plenty of impressive art museums in Nashville, but if you're interested in local art, Mensink advises stopping by the art crawl, which happens on the first Saturday of every month from 6-9 p.m. More than 50 art venues participate in this event, which spans every genre you can think of.

No tickets are required, and some galleries often have live music and light refreshments to enjoy while you scope out the art. Best of all, the art crawl is totally free—which means you'll have plenty of funds left over to invest in a stunning work to bring home.

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Grab drinks at The Greenhouse Bar.

Close up color image depicting a group of people celebrating with a toast. The people cheers their glasses of beer (pints of beer) together in a gesture of celebration, togetherness and happiness. The people are defocused in the background, while focus is on the glasses of beer in the foreground. Room for copy space.

Set right in the heart of bustling Green Hills, The Greenhouse Bar offers the best ambiance in the city for some pre- or post-dinner cocktails, according to Jodi Bird, a certified travel ambassador and founder of the Bountiful Blessings blog.

True to its name, this lush oasis features lots of greenery—plus twinkly lights galore and wood-top tables. While soaking up the scenery, enjoy one of the many innovative drinks (like a prickly pear marg) and tasty sandwiches, salads, or other light bites.

Stay at The Russell to give back.

If you're looking for a different hotel experience, Bird suggests staying at The Russell. Set right in the heart of East Nashville, these tech-driven, concierge-less boutique accommodations have been repurposed from an old church, as is evident from the striking steeple and stained glass windows.

But what sets The Russell apart, aside from the eclectic decor, is that the hotel donates a percentage of your stay to local nonprofits serving beds and meals to Nashville's homeless and in need. Hence, the hotel's motto: Stay here, change lives.

For more travel tips, check out The 10 Best U.S. Cities Every Traveler Should See.

Rebecca Strong
Rebecca Strong is a Boston-based freelance health/wellness, lifestyle, and travel writer. Read more
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