It's mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and Broadway is buzzing with frenetic energy. Girls clad in matching tees chatter under neon signs shaped like guitars, drawn to sound of live music that emanates from bar after bar. While this is a normal weekend in Nashville, one of the most popular bachelorette party destinations in the U.S., it's just a small slice of Music City—and if your vision of this Tennessee gem is confined to cowboy boots, whiskey, and country music, you're in for a surprise.
While the party scene garners a lot of attention (and for good reason), another side of Nashville has been quietly taking shape as of late. As it turns out, creatives and entrepreneurs are moving to the city in droves. By day, cafés act as communal workspaces for ambitious 30-somethings, attracted to the city thanks to developments like the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, a Google-backed venture. By night, a string of exciting new restaurants like Little Octopus and Henrietta Red come alive.
You don't have to contemplate moving to Nashville to experience it like a local, though. At the heart of the city's new openings is Bobby Hotel, a boutique hot spot with character in spades. With Bobby as our home base, here are a few of the gems we uncovered over three days in Nashville. Skip Broadway—these are the places to eat, sleep, and drink to see Music City in a whole new light.
For the purpose of this guide, we're going to assume you're acquainted with the usual Nashville recommendations. If you've been before, you've likely already listened to live country music at Grand Ole Opry, gorged on wings at Bourdain-approved Bolton's Spicy Chicken and Fish, and paid tribute to the legends at the Country Music Hall of Fame. If this is your first time, pop into some of the popular jaunts; then pepper your itinerary with these stops for a fully rounded experience.
First Stop: Check in at Bobby Hotel
Nashville might not be the first city that comes to mind for up-and-coming boutique hotels, but a string of much-anticipated openings is creating a palpable buzz downtown. Bobby Hotel, a 144-room hotel in the Arts District, manages to capture the soul and character of Music City while acting as a quiet escape from the bustle of Broadway, which is just a few blocks away.
Unlike its ultra-modern neighbors, the hotel is designed in response to its surrounds: The mini bar is carefully curated with locally made treats, floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the skyline, and leather banquettes reference the city's country music heritage. It also boasts the largest room layouts in the area, complete with enviable bathrooms with black herringbone tiles, a marble rainforest shower, and frosted glass walls. Drop your bags here; then head off to explore.
Drop a Pin: 230 Fourth Avenue, Nashville
Get Your Morning Fix at Crema Coffee
If there's one thing we research before touching down in a new city, it's where to get the best coffee. After you've checked in at your hotel, make a beeline to Crema, an award-winning artisanal coffeehouse and roaster that serves up some of the best blends in the city. Pick up a pack of the Paloma Espresso Blend to upgrade your morning cup of joe at home.
Drop a Pin: 15 Heritage Avenue, Nashville
Pick Up a Souvenir You'll Actually Use at Hatch Show Print
Think beyond cowboy boots and shot glasses—head to Hatch Show Print for an authentic Nashville souvenir instead. The family-run letterpress company dates back to 1879, and was responsible for printing iconic music posters for artists like Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong. Today you can wander the gallery, tour the legendary printing press, and shop its colorful block-letter posters in the store.
Drop a Pin: 224 Fifth Avenue, South Nashville
Bowl at Strike at Pinewood Social
There's no shortage of activities that involve drinking in Nashville, and sometimes you just need a break. Stop by Pinewood Social, a restaurant and bowling alley housed in a converted Civil War trolley. Snack on a grain bowl, and take a rest from sightseeing in one of the upholstered booths; then bowl a few rounds with friends. There's also an outdoor pool, an airstream bar, and a bocce ball area, so take the time to explore the whole space.
Strike a Cord at Carter Vintage Guitars
You'd be remiss to visit Nashville and ignore the city's country music roots. If you're looking for activities beyond the major sites—the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and RCA Studio B—go shopping instead. Carter Vintage Guitars has a large collection of electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, mandolins, and banjos, as well as celebrity-owned instruments. Corner Music is another legendary music shop that's been serving musicians for over 30 years.
Drop a Pin: Carter Vintage Guitars, 625 Eighth Avenue, South Nashville; Corner Music, 2705 12th Avenue, South Nashville
Sip Cocktails in a Vintage Bus at The Rooftop Lounge
It doesn't get more convenient than this: Head back to Bobby Hotel and head to the Rooftop Lounge for a sunset cocktail. The newly opened space is home to a 1956 Greyhound bus retrofitted with chairs and speakers so guests can enjoy views of Nashville's Fourth Avenue out the window of the bus with a drink in hand. There's also a plunge pool and an extensive whiskey menu. You might not want to leave.
Drop a Pin: 230 Fourth Avenue, Nashville
Grab a Snack at Public House
Many liken East Nashville to Williamsburg, Brooklyn: It has a completely different energy than the rest of the city, attracts young creatives, and has a ton of upbeat bars and restaurants. There's certainly no shortage of great places to eat and drink, but if you're only venturing to the area for a few hours, stop at Public House. Urban Cowboy's rustic bar and kitchen serves up excellent craft cocktails and wood-fired bites in a cool barn and outdoor patio.
Drop a Pin: 1603 Woodland Street, East Nashville
Eat Your Heart Out at Little Octopus
You can't help but feel happy when you walk into Little Octopus, a pop-up turned permanent restaurant in The Gulch. Los Angeles firm Design Bitches has made it an Instagrammer's dream: Picture pink sherbet–colored booths, blush marble tables, curved brushed brass lights, and blonde wood chairs. Thankfully the menu is just as good as the interior design. Chef Daniel Herget's menu features dishes from Spain, Portugal, India, and Lebanon, to name a few. Don't skip the ceviche sampler or cornbread—they're standouts.
Drop a Pin: 505 12th Avenue, South Nashville
This trip was hosted by Bobby Hotel. Editors' opinions are her own.