One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
In the fall, my mom told me it was her dream to take a mother-daughter vacation to Nashville with me. She’s been to Nashville twice; I’d never been there. She’s a huge country music fan, and we’ve never taken a mother-daughter trip before.
There are several Nashville lovers in the Chicago office of Travelzoo, and they willingly shared their recommendations on things to do and places to eat during our trip. Their ideas, coupled with my mom’s past faves, filled three days with good times.
Staying in the central West End puts guests close to the Vanderbilt campus and less than four miles from the hub of the entertainment district. It’s a straight shot down a hill to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, The Stage and other famous places for live music, entertainment, food and shopping.
We headed down to the entertainment district on Broadway for a late lunch. On a freezing cold Friday afternoon, things were pretty quiet compared with the scene on the street on Saturday and Sunday. We noshed on po’ boys and salads, then made our way from place to place up Broadway Street.
After lunch, we stopped into one bar after another down Broadway to listen to live bands. Several were quite good, living up to the reputation I’d heard that you can pop into any bar and perhaps hear the next Brad Paisley or Carrie Underwood. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, though, easily tops all. The band playing that Friday afternoon was incredibly good; the bar was packed, whereas other bars were nearly empty, and the servers were at the top of their game. It’s easy to see why this place is famous and has been the starting stage for many bands over the years. We stayed for quite a while to listen to the band then continued on our way.
We then headed to the Opryland area of Nashville, which is close to the airport and more in a suburban area. This area experienced a major flood in 2011. We drove around the Grand Ole Opry building and toured the Gaylord Opryland hotel right next to the Grand Ole Opry. You’d never know it was flooded; the indoor gardens are beautiful, and the hotel is huge.
We started our Saturday at the Pancake Pantry, as recommended by co-workers and online travel guides. As warned, the line outside was about an hour long. I’m not sure the pancakes were quite worth that long of a wait, but they were good anyway. We then spent the day touring some of the suburban areas with my cousins who call Nashville home. We ate at a truly Southern restaurant and stopped by Willie Nelson’s General Store and Cooter’s Place, which displays all kinds of memorabilia from “The Dukes of Hazzard” show -- including the famous orange car. Both “museums” are right across the street from the Gaylord Opryland and the Grand Ole Opry.
Saturday night, we had tickets to the Grand Ole Opry at Ryman Auditorium. I’d never heard of any of the performers that night, but completely respect the experience. Each performer or band gets to play a song or two. The evening lasts a little over two hours. I’m not that big of a country fan, but found every act to be pretty impressive -- with a few newcomers I’m sure I’ll hear more about in the years to come.
On Sunday, we drove out of town a bit to a famous Southern restaurant known for biscuits and cured meats, the Loveless Café. Again, there was a line; it took about 90 minutes to get seated. The Loveless Café grounds include the restaurant, a shop and a few kitschy stores. They could easily expand the restaurant and continue to fill it just fine. Yes, the biscuits were quite good, especially for a pregnant lady like myself at the time; I ate four. We then headed to Bell Meade Plantation. They claim that every horse who’s won the Kentucky Derby can be traced back to this horse breeding and training farm. It’s huge, beautiful and historic. We took the tour led by a woman in her 80s who’s lived in the area and knows the family who started the plantation many years ago. It’s a lovely experience to take the tour, especially with a mom or family.
All in all, Nashville takes no more than two or three days to truly see and experience. For country music lovers, it’s a must-go. For those who appreciate music and southern hospitality, this city offers plenty of both.