Nashville is 100% made for fun girls weekends. I haven’t been in over ten years and I was absolutely amazed by the place both trips. Around every corner was a new group of women in sashes or matching outfits celebrating a bachelorette or a fun birthday weekend. I would highly recommend visiting “Nash-Vegas” for a weekend away with the ladies, even if there isn’t a specific special occasion. We found that everyone that we interacted with in the city was so nice and warm and polite. It was really a treat and a testament to Southern Hospitality. The only thing that sucked a bit was I had a lot of problems with cell coverage from the airport to the honkey tonks. Maybe it was just Sprint, or maybe it was because there were so many people densely packed?
This is the year we turned 40. Well, half of us were forty, the other half will be there soon. We got all but one of my college girlfriends to make it out to Nashville for a four-day weekend. There were ten of us, eight were in the same sorority. Seven are moms, two are single. All are Wolverines.
I am in several Facebook travel groups, and I always see the question “Is it safe to travel to _________?” so I’m going to start including that answer in all of my blog posts. I don’t think anywhere is really safe anymore. (If it was in the first place.) There can be a random shooting down the block from me at any moment, going somewhere else isn’t necessarily safer. How safe you are depends on you being smart and being aware – not necessarily on the location. Don’t get too drunk, don’t put your drink down, don’t get in random cabs and check that your rideshare license plate matches your app. Cross body bags are key, and always make eye contact when walking around so they know you’ve spotted them. A spot with this many partying women is sure to attract some sketchy predators. Look out for yourself and look out for other women. We were staying at a really nice hotel and the maid let a strange man into one of our hotel rooms. You can’t always be prepared for everything, but not going is worse to me than the risk.
My favorite souvenir I have from any trip are the professional photos my mom and I took when we were in Paris. I thought that it would be fun to do that again for the girls – so we have great photos to look back on at 70 and remember how hot we were at 40. I was going to do Flytographer again, but they didn’t have anyone available. I found Mary Lea photography through Instagram, and she could not have been sweeter or nicer to work with. We wanted to do the photos somewhere that felt very Nashville, and she recommended the pedestrian bridge over the river, it was a great location! She got us a gorgeous teaser (cover photo) not even two days after our shoot, and the whole gorgeous album in a week! She over-delivered and gave us more shots than I was expecting! My one piece of advice is that it would have been better if we had an “Instagram Boyfriend” with us or someone to watch our purses. We put them on the ground and kept eyeing them because someone could easily run off with them – Mary Lea photoshopped them out like a boss!
I don’t know if I would have picked this if I had known about it, but THE COOL THING TO DO if you’re having a group celebration weekend is to get a party bus. We saw lots and lots of them. Many were old school buses that had the top sawed off. We saw a John Deere tractor pulling a covered wagon. All of them had flashing lights, loud music, and lots of drinks! (I’m assuming you can drink in a moving vehicle in Tennessee?) They also had barcycles (we did one in Austin!) which are really fun, but maybe seemed like too much work in that heat and humidity.
This was a topic of controversy from all the locals we spoke with – but the city was totally overrun with electric scooters – Lime, Bird, Lyft, etc. They are pretty dangerous – especially since nobody wore helmets, and there were drunk people sharing the road with cars. I think they’re a fun easy way to get around a city, but Nashville may soon ban them altogether (someone died recently). I had the Lime app on my phone from using them in New Zealand and Seattle, so when we walked by one, I hopped on it really quick. Every chick that was all “Oh em gee I would totally fall off it” wanted to give it a try when one was available. It was fun to do a little scoot around.
The other cool thing to do is visit the murals – If you don’t get a photo with the “What Lifts You” black and white wings mural, they delete your Instagram account. (LOL, I kid!). It’s in the Gulch, where there’s some great shopping and other murals too. Please be safe, it’s right by the exit to a parking garage, and be polite and follow the signs painted on the sidewalk to help you queue up!
Where We Stayed
You know from my Travel Hacking Tips that I always recommend that you pick a loyalty program and stick with it so you can earn free vacations. We went with the JW Marriott. It was a very very beautiful property, and ultimately we picked it because it had a larger pool deck, even though the rooftop pool at the Westin looked amazing. However, as friendly and accommodating as all of the employees were, there were a few lapses in the details that made it not seem worth that much money – there was always a huge line at the front desk, and one/some of the elevators were down. I spoke with another guest who said he waited twenty-five minutes for an elevator to go downstairs! (We waited 14 minutes!). I mentioned before the security problem we had. One of the rooms never had maid service in three nights, despite calling. If we stayed at/paid for a Courtyard or another hotel, I don’t think I would have even mentioned half of this stuff, but I thought they could have done better. Please don’t let that discourage you from going – they’re a newer hotel and I’m sure they can work out the details, and they were quick to compensate us for issues. Just being honest!
We didn’t eat at the sit-down breakfast place downstairs. We went upstairs to the fancy steak house with a view, but were just there for a drink, and service was slow and we ended up leaving and going to bed. (View was great! Worth a peek!) There was a coffee shop in the lobby that was also an amazing desert shop – complete with rotating wheel of gelato! I was saving my calories for alcohol, so I didn’t partake, but this is a good spot! (Coffee and breakfast were SUPER expensive though!)
The best part of the hotel was definitely the pool – It was well designed with a tanning shelf (a big ledge that’s only about ankle deep – so you can lounge and get some sun while keeping cool.) There were lots of lounge chairs and regular chairs for a lot of people, however, if you weren’t down there by nine am, you weren’t getting a lounge chair! I thought it was rude that people would come down early and put down a towel and then not use it until after lunch. We spent time there both on Saturday and Sunday. We reserved a cabana for Sunday Funday. It was a great deal with ten women – we had a $450 spend minimum, we didn’t have to spend any extra money for the use of the cabana. Spending $45/woman on lunch and two drinks was super easy to do. It also included a free fruit tray and a bucket of Fiji waters. The guac was good, and I had the Tennessee Salad. They had Aperol Spritzes, which is my go-to not too sweet drink for the summer. The frozé here was excellent – they had a lime base that went with it, so it was refreshing in the heat. However, on Sunday they were having a problem with the machine keeping up with the heat or something – our frozés never got fully frozéd. If you ordered a beer, the can came with a JW Marriott Nashville koozie that you get to keep. Another amazing thing about this pool was the service and the waitresses there were all great and went above and beyond. One waitress walked around and would professionally clean your sunglasses for you. They would come around and give you a refreshing Evian water spritz! This was the next level service that we were expecting from a JW Marriott.
The other thing I appreciate about a JW Marriott is that while I wouldn’t call it “family unfriendly,” there weren’t huge families and unsupervised kids running around here. The feel was much more of an adult party trip, or somewhere for business people. There was a Shriner’s Convention that was going on the same time, so we were even kinda freaked out to see actual clowns in the lobby!
Where We Ate
Dinner our first night was at the 404 Kitchen and it was perfect! They had us set up with a prix-fix menu where we had three different family style appetizers and three different entrees, followed by desert. We had a vegan in the group, and they were really accommodating. The bathrooms were really cool – if any dudes read this blog and go there, can you please let me know what your wallpaper looked like?
When we were shopping at 12 South we had burgers and a beer for lunch at Mill Creek Taproom. It was yummy, and I love the cute mural on the wall!
Mexican Food Saturday was at Bakersfield – it was great for a group! We got pitchers of sangria and margs, YUM! I didn’t see what it was called on the online menu, and I can’t remember, but they had a great group deal where you got a few shareable salads (the Johnny was YUM!) and some plates of assorted street tacos. It was super easy on us. And the waiter was super nice and brought us a round of tequila shots for our birthday!
My mouth is still watering thinking about the brisket I had at Martin’s BBQ – this place was so good I bought a T-shirt. Definitely worth the wait. Did they have live music? Yep, and it was awesome!
There was a lot of hype around going to Biscuit Love in the gulch. We went early on Monday morning, hoping to avoid the crazy line. We essentially walked right up to the counter at 0830, but when we left, there was a line down the block to get in! The place was adorable, and I had the East Nasty (the menu said it was named the best sandwich in America!). I thought it was really really tasty, but maybe not “wait outside for two hours in the humidity” tasty. The restaurant had some cute stuff to shop for and super adorable decor. The oatmeal was so creamy and delish that my vegan friend had to ask if there was dairy in it! There wasn’t, but I think that’s a sign of some pretty good oatmeal.
Where We Shopped
Because everything doesn’t always go smoothly when you travel, I had to run to pick up some foundation as I had forgotten mine. I landed and took a Lyft to the Cosmetic Market at Hill Center. They were super great and it was an adorable store. The whole street had a bunch of cute stores, this would be a fun area for shopping!
I think it’s an absolute requirement for women to head to the 12 South area for shopping, particularly to make a Draper James pilgrimage. This brand is from Reese Witherspoon, and it’s quintessential southern ladylike preppy dresses and cute bags. I saw so many women walking down 12 South with shopping bags from there. Double bonus is that the blue and white striped wall is super Instagrammable, and the I believe in Nashville mural was across the alley.
We popped into Moda Boutique and it was cute though some things were out of my price range. Behind it you can check out the “nashville looks good on you” mural (@thenash.tn). We wanted to stop in the Frothy Monkey for an iced coffee before heading back, but the line was too long. Seems like it must have been good, I’d be down to go back another time.
After getting our Wings photo and biscuits for breakfast, we walked around the Gulch on Monday morning before most things opened up. We walked a ways to Uncommon James (which is a Kristen Cavalleri thing and is on a reality TV show? I am apparently not hip) – had really cute jewelry and some kids clothes and stylish housewares. I also have to say that I really like stores like Two Old Hippies. Hip clothes and jewelry and cards and really neat gifts. The kind of place that has things that you don’t necessarily NEED but that you really want. Good gift shopping!
Where We Partied
Broadway is THE place for partying in Nashville – and going there doesn’t involve too much advanced planning. You can seriously walk down the street, pick a place that looks good with an OK-ish line, and you’re set. The music was great absolutely everywhere. There was no cover, and all the lines moved pretty quickly. There were so many GIANT bars on Broadway, we were always surprised when we got in how big they were. Many of the bars are multiple levels with different stages and different types of music on different floors. It’s super easy to hear music coming out of a place, think “this song is my jam!” pop in for a bit, and move on to the next. Or you could stay at the same place all night. Generally it’s really dense right at the waterfront and heads East. Number one rule of catching live music in Nashville is to bring a bunch of small bills with you and tip all the performers! Here are my thoughts on the specific bars we went to on, or just off, Broadway.
- Our first night we went to the Stage on Broadway because the music sounded good and we just stayed there. Felt like an authentic old school spot that had been around awhile instead of something new and shiny that had investors trying to figure out how to make more money.
- We saw a little bit of everything at Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge – the 1st floor had good country live music, and then you went upstairs and it became a bit of a *clurb* – started out great with a lot of 80s/90s dance music that we were really enjoying, and then it got a lot more techno and so we left. Amazing roof top bar with a great scene. LOL we had some little 20 something dudes hitting on us aggressively. They said they didn’t care that we either weren’t single or 40. #eyeroll
- Jason Aldean’s spot was great, we stayed there for quite some time because they had good music and a strong female vocalist. It wasn’t too crowded at the main stage, we got our dance on and had a blast with a few rounds of beers. We saw Travis Bishop Band
- Acme Seed & Feed had a fantastic roof top with a great view of the river. It was pride weekend, and they had flags everywhere and more of a hipster techie vibe. (While we were there, I’m sure it changes). I was totally impressed that all the levels had wildly different themes for food. We were only on the roof and the ground floor – but I’ll tell you that I was NOT impressed with their frozé – it was wine mixed with strawberry daiquiri, so gross and sugary and not what we were expecting.
Perpendicular to Broadway was 2nd Street, which was nice and a little slower pace. We walked North from Broadway on Sunday night and found:
- Line dancing at Wildhorse – which was pretty fun! We found that they were giving line dancing lessons, and it’s something we wanted to try. We had two rounds of beers here, but it was definitely the only spot that we went to that I would describe as family friendly.
- Benchmark was a great bar that felt more like a pub – after raging on Broadway, you could go here and actually sit down to listen to the good music.
We also went to The Pub Nashville, because it was the next closest place we found to 404 Kitchen in the Gulch. It’s generic, I’ve been to the one in Orlando and it’s like Disney tried to manufacture the feel of being in the UK. It was fine because we weren’t there for anything other than a space to have a beer and catch up with each other the first night.
What We Packed
I was checking out what everyone was wearing at all the bars, and I saw the absolute gamut of outfits. There were a lot of jean shorts with cute flowy tops, a lot of summery day-dresses. Look to our fab professional photos or Draper James for inspiration. For going out on Broadway, you can go full Vegas clubby slutty, or you can be casual wearing shorts and a band t-shirt. Do what’s comfortable for you! I saw a lot of cute rompers, and a lot of colors and floral patterns. Stripes were in too! You don’t have to wear a cowboy hat, but you would totally fit in if you wanted to.
I saw a lot of cowgirl boots, and I brought mine because I figured “what’s the point of owning them if you’re not going to wear them in Nashville?” However, I will say that with weather in the nineties and 5000% humidity, they did not feel good on my feet, even though they are comfortable boots. I saw lots of strappy sandals – but be kind to your feet and don’t feel like you have to kill yourself with heels if you don’t find them comfortable.