I’ve always associated Nashville, Tennessee with nothing but country music, cowboy boots, and honky-tonk, as most people do. While some people flock to Music City precisely because of those things, I finally chose to visit Nashville despite them.
I don’t like country music and I don’t exactly love traditional Southern food. Not because there’s anything wrong with either of those things, but because it’s just not for me.
Even though I was never particularly interested in any of the main draws of Nashville, I’ve always wanted to visit. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the city, and I really enjoy finding new ways to explore a place. Take Las Vegas, for example: I’m not a big fan of drinking, partying, and gambling, but I took a solo trip there anyways and really enjoyed myself.
I think most places have something to offer outside of what it’s known for.
So on my recent trip to Nashville, I avoided a lot of the major attractions. I didn’t go to the Grand Ole’ Opry, party on Broadway, or check out any live music (even though you’ll find it at just about every restaurant, every day).
Instead, I focused my time exploring the city in a way that actually interests me. That means I went to a lot of coffee shops, did a lot of aimless wandering by foot, and admired Nashville’s beautiful buildings.
So here’s how I spent my 72 hours in Nashville. Hopefully it’ll give you a few ideas if you aren’t really interested in the typical attractions either.
72 Hours in Nashville Itinerary
Day 1 – Afternoon Arrival
Coffee at Barista Parlor
As usual, my first stop for the trip was at a coffee shop. I created a list of East Nashville coffee shops beforehand, and Barista Parlor was the one I most wanted to visit. It’s located in a big, open room with garage-windows, hardwood floors, and the perfect easy-going atmosphere. I tried a Bourbon Vanilla Latte, which I would highly recommend.
Check-In to my Airbnb
I used to be all about hostels (there’s a nice one in Downtown Nashville), but in the past year, I’ve come to prefer Airbnbs. It’s so nice to stay in someone’s home and have a private place to return to at the end of the day. I chose a cozy little house in East Nashville since that’s the main area I wanted to explore. It came out to about $55/night, so it was definitely more affordable than a hotel, and only slightly more than a hostel. I wrote more about my Airbnb here.
Use my link to get a $40 credit towards your first Airbnb booking
Day 1 – Evening
Dinner at The Wild Cow
My Airbnb host suggested I try a restaurant called The Wild Cow. Located in East Nasvhille, it’s a casual vegetarian/vegan restaurant. The menu is pretty varied, so it’s not focused on a certain type of cuisine. I chose to get a vegan burrito with vegan queso. I’ve always been iffy on vegan cheese products, but this queso was so good! You can eat at the restaurant or get something to-go.
Day 2 – Morning
Breakfast at Yeast Nashville
Yeast Nashville is a great place to grab a quick cup of coffee (they had a really nice almond milk latte). But the real draw of this place is their Kolaches. These are a traditional Czech pastry topped with fruit. Here in the States, you’ll also find them filled with meat. I had a blueberry Kolache, and I am definitely a new fan of this pastry.
Parthenon & Centennial Park
The one major attraction I visited in Nashville is the Parthenon in Centennial Park. It’s an exact replica of the ancient Greek landmark, built to look how the original would have looked thousands of years ago. The Nashville Parthenon was built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition (hence the name Centennial Park), and they decided to keep the structure. Inside you’ll find a 42-foot Athena statue and some small art exhibits.
Day 2 – Afternoon
I spent most of my afternoon over at Marathon Village. It’s near Downtown, so fairly easy to get to (if you actually maybe look at directions before going). Marathon Village is a creative entertainment district housed inside of an old automobile factory—the Marathon Automobile Factory. There are tons of local shops full of vintage, antiques, gifts, and independent designers. There’s also a winery, some restaurants, a music venue, artist workshops, and creative offices up on the second floor. The hallways are lined with memorabilia, pictures, and information about the automobile factory for a quick history lesson. I wrote a whole post about Marathon Village here.
Day 3 – Morning
Coffee & Donuts
I hopped over to a couple more East Nashville joints. First, I grabbed a coffee from Ugly Mugs Coffee & Tea. It seems to be a popular (crowded) place even late in the morning, so I just grabbed it to go. Then I walked next door to grab a doughnut from Five Daughters Bakery.
John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
I started my Downtown Nashville adventures with a walk across the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge crosses the Cumberland River, connecting Downtown Nashville to East Nashville. Besides being a nice place to walk and stretch your legs, this is the best spot to get a good photo of the Nashville skyline.
Day 3 – Afternoon
Nashville Farmers Market
The Nashville Farmers Market is housed inside a permanent building. While the actual farmer’s market only takes place on weekends and during certain seasons, the Market House is open year-round. This is a great place to grab lunch, with vendors ranging from Southern fried chicken, to gyros, to Indian. There are also a couple of shops inside.
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
The Bicentennial State Park includes the State Capitol area as well as the park next to the Nashville Farmers Market. This park retells Tennessee’s history for the last 200+ years, with lots of plaques and statues to help tell the story. It’s a great walk and history lesson rolled into one.
Nashville Public Library
I love visiting libraries everywhere I go. Nashville’s main library is inside of a beautiful, stately building. As a tourist, you are free to wander around the library (quietly). There are some galleries and exhibits to check out, plus a peaceful outdoor courtyard, a café, and a grand reading room.
Coffee at Frothy Monkey
I was on a mission to visit as many coffee shops as possible while in Nashville. That’s often my goal in a new city, but as usual, I wasn’t able to drink nearly as much coffee as I thought I could. I did make it to Frothy Monkey, however, which was one of the most-recommended cafes in Nashville. It’s a really spacious place, really nice to spend an hour (or more) there with a coffee, a snack, and a book.
The Goo Goo Shop
I’d never heard of a Goo Goo before researching my trip to Nashville, but since there was an entire shop dedicated to this candy, I decided it was important. The shop is filled to the brim with Goo Goo Clusters, a chocolate-covered candy that is apparently quite popular in the South. In addition to boxes of Goo Goos, there is also Goo Goo merch & memorabilia for purchase, a small exhibit about the Goo Goo, and a café where you can order other sweet treats. I bought a box of Peanut Butter Goo Goos to take home, and I wish I had chosen the box of 12 instead of the box of 3.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel after 3 days in Nashville. I thought it might have been one day too many for someone avoiding the main attractions. Turns out, 3 days in Nashville just wasn’t enough! I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve gotten so used to slow travel, spending a week or more in a new city, so these shorter trips always prove to be…well, too short.
I’m hoping to return to Nashville soon, when the weather is warmer and the trees are greener. I would love to visit Cheekwood Gardens and some of the historic mansions. And of course, I need to keep moving through my coffee checklist.
But until next time, this little taste of Nashville will have to do.
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