Before you start calling yourself a Nashville expert, let’s do a little inventory. Anyone who knows Nashville like the back of their hand has most definitely checked these 17 things off of their Music City “to do” list.
Anyone who’s been to or lived in Nashville since 1961 knows that Pancake Pantry is one of the city’s most popular restaurants, which is especially true during breakfast hours when the line to get into the Hillsboro Village hot spot usually weaves its way down the sidewalk and around the block. It’s gotten to the point now where the restaurant even has a Pancake Cam so that guests can view the line from the restaurant’s website prior to going. Nashvillians love Pancake Pantry so much that they will stand in line, rain or shine, sleet or snow. But if you’re a Nashville expert, you know this already.
Even if you aren’t in the music business, you know what Music Row is. And a true Nashville expert has actually been to the historic area. You’ve walked past the home (literally) offices of music publishing companies, record labels, and recording studios. You know what the “roundabout statue” is, and you understand the difference between Music Square East and Music Square West.
If you want to see where all the tourists go in Nashville, hit Broadway. The bustling downtown street is where many out-of-town guests frequent to catch live music, savor delicious food, and shop for souvenirs. But Nashville residents are also known to head downtown and stop by the many different bars and restaurants. Weekend nights are filled with locals bar-hopping, people-watching and enjoying the high energy of honky-tonk central.
Nashville has tons of parks and green spaces, but Centennial Park takes the cake. With the famous Nashville Parthenon at the center, the park is a multi-purpose area where many in Nashville spend their downtime. There are bike paths, a large pond where families feed the ducks, a playground, and a performance bandshell. On lovely Nashville afternoons, there’s no better place to sit on a bench and watch the squirrels scurry by than in Centennial Park.
Led by captain Roman Josi, the Predators are Nashville’s professional ice hockey team. Josi is the second Swiss-born captain in NHL history and took over the role of captain in September 2017. The Predators’ jerseys pay tribute to Nashville’s music community with a guitar pick on the shoulder that has the Tennessee state tri-star inside and piano keys along the neckline. The Predators current home stadium is Bridgestone Arena, where they play home games.
If you don’t know what a “meat and three” is, you should consider yourself out of the running as an expert on Southern living. A true expert knows that the dish is a meat-centric meal that includes three Southern-style sides. And if you’ve ever ordered one, you know what the meat and side options on the menu are likely to be.
If there is even one drop of snow in Nashville, the city shuts down. And if you’ve been in Nashville long enough, you know that means people hibernate indoors. Expert Nashvillians are all too familiar with calling out of work because they can’t get out of their neighborhoods due to slick road conditions. Parents dread snow days because it means school is canceled too. If you’re the ultimate expert, you make sure to stock up on milk and bread as soon as the forecast calls for any hint of snow.
With numerous live music venues in Nashville, there’s always somewhere to go and get your groove on. But the Wildhorse Saloon is the place to go and dance like nobody’s watching. The venue hosts live music nightly but also offers free line-dancing lessons. You can even snap a selfie with one of the (wild) horse statues that stand inside.
Living in the Bible Belt means there is a church on almost every corner of every street. In Nashville, it also means that Wednesday nights are dedicated to bible study groups. It doesn’t matter which denomination you are, how old you are, or if you attend church regularly on Sundays; there is guaranteed to be a bible study happening somewhere that will welcome you with open arms.
Since Southerners are all about manners and politeness, you won’t usually hear them use profane language—at least, not bluntly. Instead, they use code words and phrases to let someone know they are being judged. Case in point: “bless your heart,” which really means “you’re dumb/clueless.” A true expert knows when to say this to someone and when to take it as an insult from someone else.
Edwin Warner Park and Percy Warner Park are the largest municipally administered parks in Tennessee, making up Warner Parks. Together, they span nearly 3,200 acres of land and see over one million visitors a year. The parks have over 12 miles (19 kilometers) of hiking, horse and biking trails, as well as picnic shelters, golf courses, and historical landmarks. The Cane Connector Trail connects the trail systems of Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks across Old Hickory Boulevard.
In contrast to being one of Nashville’s most prominent live music venues, The Bluebird Cafe is a small, 90-seat establishment located in a strip mall in the Green Hills area of Nashville. Despite its misleading appearance, The Bluebird Cafe continues to be a place where both emerging and veteran songwriters perform, with those still pursuing their music careers hoping to get discovered the same way Garth Brooks was at this very venue.
Before you can officially settle into Nashville with confidence, you’ve got to get a taste of the city’s musical culture. The best way to do this is by seeing a live show at the most iconic venue in Nashville. On any given night, legendary performers take the stage at the Grand Ole Opry, showcasing the talents, traditions and tight-knit community of Music City.
Every Nashville expert knows that hot chicken is one of Nashville’s specialties. And unless you’ve got extremely sensitive taste buds, you’re all too familiar with the spicy bird for which Nashville is known. Most likely, you’ve tried the chicken from either Prince’s Hot Chicken, Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, or Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish. Nashville is so enthralled with spicy chicken that the city hosts the Music City Hot Chicken Festival every year.
Each June, country music fans gather over several days at Nissan Stadium to watch some of the genre’s most successful artists perform. The annual event has a variety of packages available, including meet and greets, VIP seating, and Xfinity Fan Fair X. In years past, tickets have sold out before the event, making access to the festival a priority among the most diehard country music fans.
The Opryland Hotel, part of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, is more than just a place to stay. The hotel has an interior that makes it a spot worthy of visiting, even if you’re just passing through. There are nine acres of indoor gardens and cascading waterfalls, as well as 700,000 square feet of event space. The hotel has a full-service spa, golf course, restaurants, and shops. At Christmastime, the hotel becomes a tourist destination, even to locals, who stop by to see the more than three million Christmas lights on display across the resort.
Held the second Saturday in May, the Iroquois Steeplechase has been a Nashville tradition for nearly 80 years. The rite-of-spring event features professional jockeys and horses who race to the finish line over hurdles on the turf track. The Steeplechase takes place at Percy Warner Park, where Tennessee hospitality and Southern fashions come out in full force. Along with equestrian activities, there are also furnished tents, food and drinks, along with tailgates available to guests.