Nashville, Tennessee is one of those cities appearing on many bucket lists these days. Tourists crave the country music scene, the food and the dancing. You honestly can’t help but get swept away in the vibe and energy that seems to engulf you as soon as you set foot in the airport: you’re immediately greeted by neon signs, ads for the Grand Ole Opry, concert listings and more.
(#ad)I recently visited the city on a girls trip, using Aeroplan’s estore to book flights hotel and car rental (which earns you up to 4 x the points for every dollar spent through their shopping destination), to help spread the word about the ease of booking all-encompassing travel through their eStore.
More than anything else, I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse culinary scene in Nashville and shopping excursions:
When most people think of Nashville as a vacation destination, they immediately conjure up images of line-dancing, hot chicken, live country bands and booze tours (which is all there in full force). But. there’s another side to the music city scene that offers quaint neighbourhoods, fresh food and unique shopping.
Here are some of our must-do/see experiences in Nashville based on our girls trip:
(1) The Gulch
The Gulch is a modern, urban strip that’s ideal for Instagrammers and photo opportunities. Shops are distinct and quaint; restaurants feature urban menus and the entire strip offers picture-perfect posing areas. You’ll find Christie’s bake shop, Reese Witherspoon’s famed “Draper James” store and other unique shops.
There’s a vintage guitar shop, Barry’s Bootcamp, Bar Taco, Five Daughter’s Donut Shop and other eclectic, cool stores.
In the evening, expect long valet lines outside of all of the restaurants as locals and tourists vie for a spot on the well-designed patios.
(2) Milk & Honey Restaurant
After we checked into our hotel, we wanted a great spot for fresh, filling eats that threw us head-deep into the Nashville scene. Instead of a honky-tonk bar, our concierge pointed out a hip restaurant called “Milk and Honey.”
Nestled only a short 15-20 minute walk from the downtown strip sat this energetic restaurant/patio.
When we opened the menu, we couldn’t believe our luck. Offering everything from roasted carrots, burrata & figs and pastrami poutine, to a fish sammy, reuben and roast chicken Bahn Mi, everyone will find a unique, flavorful meal.
The salads are large enough for a satisfying lunch, but the Bahn Mi (gigantic) is perfect in it’s own way too. Everything we tasted was delicious and we plan to go back again.
(3) Gas Lamp Antique Mall
If you’re a fan of markets and/or antique shopping, you’ll want to make the drive/uber to Gas Lamp Antique Mall. There are two large “malls” next to each other and you could easily spend a day sifting through all of their goodies. We found everything from old historic baseball books and medical dictionaries to precious jewels and lamps.
The mall came recommend to us by someone familiar with the Parisian antique scene and apparently this place is on par with the world’s finest markets. There are room vignettes that help you visualize the pieces in your own home and a huge jewelry area too.
(4) Wildhorse Saloon Nashville
If you’re looking for some souvenirs, the Wildhorse Saloon store is the place to shop. It’s right next to the world famous country bar/wedding venue so you can’t miss it down in the main area.
From tank tops, baseball shirts and cowboy hats to earrings, harmonicas and kids paraphernalia, this place has it all and it veers away from the typical tacky souvenir offerings. We’d gone into quite a few other stores in the downtown area, but they all felt a bit too “honky tonk” or silly. Since it’s next to one of the best line-dancing venues in the city you can consider it a one-stop-shop type thing.
We found items for our kids (t-shirts, harmonicas and treats) and for ourselves (tops, a hat and bullet stud earrings).
(5) Five Daughters Bakery, 12 South location
Ok, this is one of the best donut shops I have ever been to in the world. No word of a liee…there’s no taste like these light, fluffy, flavour filled donuts.
Apparently, their croissant style donuts (the base is light and flaky) take four days each to make and it’s well worth the wait.
The bakery we visited is located in the Gulch area (12 South) and it’s a “must visit.” There’s a play area for toddlers, an Instagrammable photo wall, picnic tables and a little shop inside the bakery. If this location isn’t near your hotel/vacation home, there are others that you can check out too.
Travelers tips: I definitely recommend buying a drink to go with your donut because they’re quite tasty and sweet.
(6) United Apparel Liquidators (UAL)
If shopping is on your to-do list in Nashville, TN you’ll want to check out UAL. We visited three stores (including their flagship location) in one day since they were within 15 minutes (driving) of one another. UAL offers top designer items at a fraction of the cost (sometimes 70% off or more). You’d never really know it from their exteriors, but these stores contain serious shopping gems.
On our shopping excursion, the girls scored: Stella McCartney shoes ($115 usd), See by Chloe pullover ($179 usd), Nicholas Kirkwood embellished boots ($200 usd), a designer denim jacket ($115 usd) and a lot more. You’ll find popular high-fashion brands as well as lesser-known finds too. They’ve got everything from men’s and women’s fashion and beauty products to home decor, accessories and footwear.
It’s essentially like a treasure hunt because you never know what brands will be in store, if it will be in your size etc so it really adds to the excitement of finding that perfect purchase.
Shopping tip: give yourself time to dig through everything and dress lightly (it got warm in the stores). There’s not a lot of room between racks and you’ll want to have free hands to sift through everything.
To learn more about Aeroplan’s eStore, click here. You’ll find over 170 online shops linked through the website and if you shop through their portal, you’ll earn at least 1 mile for every dollar spent. It’s an easy way to up those Aeroplan points to earn free flights around the world. That’s essentially how we do all of our travel (our credit card earns us miles too so we put everything on our card).
For more resources on Nashville:
Information on the foodie scene in Nashville