It wasn’t until I heard Rascal Flatts’ ‘Life is a Highway’ on the Cars movie soundtrack in 2006, on the cusp of my coming out at 16 years old, that a fire for country filled my spirit.
Growing up in the British countryside, there are some parallels to draw between my surroundings there and the US deep south – an affinity with nature and a contented life.
Country music didn’t call to me for its heavy religious connotations, it called to me rather as a reminder to return to our spiritual roots when life’s journey tires. The affirming lyrics and nature of country music gives me grounding, and as an adult in the harsh world of ambition and expectation now living in the UK capital, London.
So as the seed of love for country music flourished, I spent 12 years of acquainting myself with the wonderful presence of stars like Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Little Big Town.
Nashville, the home of country music, was calling and I wanted to stand on the stage of the mother church, the Ryman.
Tips from Nashville-born drag queen Kameron Michaels…
Without direct international flights, Nashville found its popularity with US visitors, while other travellers tended to find themselves in Nashville only as an optional stop-over on their travels from coast to coast – a popular whistle-stop route for foreign visitors.
Now, the tables have turned dramatically as, thanks to British Airways, Nashville has not only become a viable and popular destination for UK visitors but a gateway for Americans in rural states to reach Europe, a once long and difficult journey otherwise.
As the only airline to fly direct to Nashville from the UK, the homeland of country music is calling lovers from around the globe to finally experience the history and culture for themselves – and we were lucky enough to be one of the first to touchdown in Music City!
With only 72 hours to spend in Nashville, immersing ourselves in the culture as quickly as possible was essential – this meant little sleep but great times were coming our way!
Here are some of our recommendations to make a flash-in-the-pan visit to Nashville as unforgettable and, most importantly, full of spirits (including Tennessee Whiskey!) as ours:
‘You know I like my chicken fried…’
While famous for its speciality hot fried chicken, the most notorious and popular dish in town, Nashville’s sticky rib joints and fine dining eateries all celebrate homegrown southern food.
Hattie B’s is a must for a hot fried chicken fix, and if you have any taste buds left – choose your heat level carefully – spend time straddling the various takes on southern food.
It’s not all about what’s on the grill or in the fryer here in Nashville, believe it or not.
Over in Rutledge Hill, Husk is reinterpreting southern food and making waves in the process, clinching the title of Nashville’s Best Burger five years running. Broadway’s quaking.
“If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door,” says Sean Brock, Husk’s Founding Chef. Husk’s ethos stays true to the origins of southern food, focusing on ingredients, but brings vibrance to its menu through modern interpretation and chic style.
The end result: A menu fused with sophistication and guiltless gluttony.
The menu at Husk changes with the provisions available to the kitchen from its suppliers, so while every day is different at Husk there’s always exciting dishes to choose from in this historical home from home for the adventuring travelling or gathering of neighbors.
Think open kitchen, wood fires and vintage furniture with a modern windowed annex – where we watched a gardener pick homegrown chilis and pull up root vegetables from as we dined.
‘Cold beer on a Friday night?’
If you’ve chosen a Friday flight and can’t wait a minute longer to see the live-recording of The Grand Ole Opry, the radio show that made country music famous, you can make the 21:30 show no problem – and have time to freshen up at a downtown hotel!
And of course – they have bars with Tennessee brewed beers to enjoy the show with!
The British Airways flight from London Heathrow lands in Nashville at 18:00 local time, while downtown is within a twenty minute drive of the airport.
Don’t spend your first night in Nashville sleepin’, darlin’.
‘A pair of jeans that fits just right…’
Don’t expect to get these on after sweet treats like deep fried biscuit dough!
Brunch is booming in Nashville, and there’s no place more unique than Biscuit Love.
Quickly becoming a staple in the Music City food scene, nested in the Gulch and the hipster vibes of Hillsboro Village, Biscuit Love sprinkles extra love on the Southern brunch.
Every staple needs a staple: Introducing Bonuts. Fried biscuit dough topped with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote.
Because everything at Biscuit Love is made in-house and from scratch you best be at the front of the line to avoid missing out on the last five.
Biscuit Love also has its own unique take on hot fried chicken. Order the Nasty Princess from the secret menu and the enjoy the local dish done like nowhere else in Nashville: doused with sausage gravy!
Excited by the Nashville food scene and intrigued by its traditional past and modern tastes?
Walk Eat Nashville is the perfect way to visit as many of Nashville’s top eateries as you can in the short time you have in the city. A taste test in culinary Nashville and total time saver.
Tours cover Downtown, East Nashville and Midtown and include a generous tasting in each of the 5-6 venues visited in each location.
‘And the radio on…’
Forget the radio (unless you’re tuning into The Grand Ole Opry) – live music is the lifeblood of Nashville!
The city isn’t called Music City for nothing. From the iconic Honky Tonk’s billowing music down Broadway from dawn until way past dusk to the historical Ryman Auditorium calling country lovers home, you could be forgiven for thinking all music resonated from here.
In Nashville, the history of music comes to life. Take the tour to RCA Studio B and gasp in wonder at the very Steinway piano Elvis Presley composed most of his biggest hits on and imagine what it would’ve been like to work in the studio alongside incredible artists.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is also a must see for any visitor to Nashville. It really is one of those ‘You haven’t been to Nashville if you haven’t…’ kind of things to do.
Check out Worried Wanderer’s Nashville Instagram story…
If you’re lucky enough (as we found ourselves, incredibly!) to visit The Bluebird Cafe, where Taylor Swift was discovered, it is the pecan on top of the sweet tea pecan pie that is Nashville.
There is something so incredible about a out of town 90-seater strip mall dive venue receiving world renowned attention, and we mean that in the best way – it was the highlight of our trip.
Opt for the open mic night to see aspiring artists from around the world as they take steps to their taste of fame…
Top tip: The Hick Chick Honky Tonk tour is a great (and hilarious if Kristy is your guide) way to dip your toes into the many bars on Broadway and get some cheeky exclusive drink deals.
Watermelon Moonshine anyone?
‘There’s no dollar sign on a piece of mind…’
Our stay was supported by Courtyard by Marriott Nashville Vanderbilt/West End, striking a perfect balance between close proximity to the lively tourist nightlife of downtown with a restbite in the local neighborhood of the West End and surrounding bars popular with locals.
The hotel is a short 5 minute car ride to Broadway and 20 minutes to Nashville International Airport. One of Hattie B’s famous hot fried chicken is also conveniently opposite.
For the summer months the hotel has a rooftop pool, along with gym access and suites.
Visit Music City offers a Total Access Attraction pass with free entry to six attractions, including the Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame, along with two other discounts for $75.
Read Dan’s ‘Quick guide to making memories in Toronto’ here.
British Airways is the only UK airline to offer direct flights to Nashville, flying from Heathrow to Nashville from GBP671 return including taxes/fees/carrier charges.
Flights operate four times weekly (Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Fridays/Sundays). This will increase to a daily operation on the summer ’19 schedule (from April).