“The hottest travel destination of 2018.” “The Cool List 2018.” “Best Places to Travel in 2018.” These are all just a few of accolades the booming city of Nashville, Tenn., has received this year. It’s not surprising, when you consider that the city welcomed a whopping 113 new restaurants and bars in 2017, followed by nine hotels in 2018, with another 10 under construction. Suffice it to say, there’s never been a better time to visit Nashville, located less than a four-hour drive from Atlanta. With so many new things to do and see, here are 12 fresh things to check out in Music City.
The Tennessee State Museum opened in its new location at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in October. The new 137,000-square-foot facility features interactive experiences, a 250-seat Digital Learning and Outreach Center and a Children’s Gallery with hands-on exhibits. The museum has seven permanent exhibitions, ranging in topics from natural history to the Civil War, along with temporary exhibits, such as “The State of Sound: Tennessee’s Musical Heritage,” which tells the story of Tennessee’s music through artifacts and audio-visual media. 1000 Rosa L. Parks Blvd. Free. 615-741-2692, www.tnmuseum.org.
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Launched by musician Jack White in Detroit in 2001, the popular Third Man Records opened its Nashville location in 2009, housing the Third Man Record Booth, a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine that records up to two minutes of audio and dispenses a 6-inch record. It is also home to a record store, label offices and distribution center, photo studio, and the world’s only live venue with direct-to-acetate recording capabilities. Behind-the-scenes tours reveal the inner workings of the direct-to-acetate recording facilities and expansive label offices. Tours are limited to 10 people. Tickets available on a first-come-first-served basis in the store on the day of the tour. Tours 2 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $20. 623 7th Ave. S. 615-891-4393, www.thirdmanrecords.com
James Beard Award-winning chef Tandy Wilson, the culinary master behind City House in Nashville, recently opened his second restaurant — Mop/Broom Mess Hall, a casual eatery in Germantown specializing in Southern cuisine. The no-reservations, laid-back restaurant is open daily for dinner. In addition to a selection of craft cocktails, beer and wine, the menu features starters such as charred collards, chicken wings and oxtail chili, alongside entrees including grilled catfish, pork chops and barbecue chicken. Come dessert time, save room for sweet potato pie made with Cinnamon Toast Crunch and served with sour cream ice cream. Although the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, you can call 30 minutes before you arrive to add your name to the wait list. 1300 3rd Ave. N. 615-689-5224, www.mopbroomnashville.com.
Newly opened this year is the 144-room Bobby Hotel, boasting gritty-yet-polished vibe rooted in all things local and authentic to the Music City. Located in the North of Broadway area of downtown Nashville, the hotel features funky design touches like a lobby chandelier constructed of car parts, a wall inspired by safety deposit boxes (a nod to the bank that previously occupied the building) and historic world maps on the walls of each guest room inspired by the musician’s life on the road. Original artwork by songwriter and artist Bernie Taupin is hung throughout the lobby. While visiting, you might catch a glimpse of the hotel’s canine ambassador, Sasha. (Swipe a towel embroidered with her face on it, and $25 will be charged to your card and donated to the local animal shelter where she was rescued). The hotel offers four distinct dining venues, including a rooftop bar complete with retrofitted 1956 Scenicruiser tour bus, the street-side Café at Bobby, signature restaurant Tavern at Bobby and the hidden Bobby’s Garage, where you can make your mark on Nashville within its graffiti-covered walls. 230 4th Ave. N. 615-782-7100, www.bobbyhotel.com.
Live out your country music dreams on the Nashville Studio Tour, where you’ll be treated to a Nashville recording studio experience featuring NBC’s “The Voice” star Meghan Linsey and producer Tyler Cain. As part of the two-hour experience, you’ll see how a real recording session works, hear an acoustic performance (complete with stories about the songs) and get behind the mic to record with Linsey. Then walk the Nashville Studio Tour red carpet and have your picture made. Afterwards, take home a digital copy of your recording. $39.99. Bold Studio Nashville, 526 E. Iris Drive. 615-293-4147, www.nashvillestudiotour.com
Debuting in East Nashville last spring, Folk is the latest venture from chef Philip Krajeck, chef-owner of Rolf and Daughters restaurant, and it’s already garnering recognition, having been named one of Bon Appetit’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants of 2018. The casual space greets diners with exposed brick, wood tones and plenty of greenery, making for a welcoming atmosphere to gather and dine. The pizza-focused restaurant cooks up Instagram-able pies. You can get a basic tomato, mozzarella and basil pie, but why bother when you can get pizza topped with clams and bonito or kale, fermented potato and raclette? There’s also a hearty selection of entrees, as well as seasonal vegetable dishes. Open daily for dinner. 823 Meridian St. 615-610-2595, www.goodasfolk.com.
Nashville isn’t just about country music and rock. It’s also home to this intimate listening room in The Gulch district, where local and touring jazz musicians perform. Throughout December, Tim Rushlow & his Big Band bring a Classic Christmas show to the club for an extended run. Other acts include Anna Moon, Laura Mayo and Oracle Blue. Meanwhile, chef-owner Michael Braden serves up New Orleans inspired dishes, including gumbo, seafood pie, red beans and rice, and beignets. Cocktails include prohibition era drinks. The kitchen stays open late, until one hour before closing. The venue is for ages 21 and up, except on Sundays when it hosts a jazz brunch (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) and jazz jam (9 p.m.-midnight). 809 Gleaves St. 615-988-2458, www.rudysjazzroom.com.
Transport yourself to an exotic oasis in East Nashville at Pearl Diver, a bar and lounge hideout that highlights tropical food and drinks in a converted mid-century garage. Palm-frond wallpaper, a fun outdoor space, tiki drinks and tropical grub (think yucca fries, fish tacos, etc.) create a funky, care-free atmosphere. No reservations, no servers, no table service — just walk in, order up, explore and enjoy. 1008 Gallatin Ave. 615-988-2265, www.pearldivernashville.com.
Nashville’s first and only craft cidery produces gluten-free, fresh-pressed ciders with no added sugar. Located in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood at The Finery development, the 8,000-square-foot warehouse space includes a tasting room, event space, outdoor patio and a full in-house cider-making operation. Stop by the tasting room Thursday-Sunday and sample some of the year-round or seasonal blends. You can also purchase a cider cocktail and shareable dishes from the farm fresh menu that changes weekly. 1235 Martin St. 615-248-8000, www.diskincider.com.
The newly named Frist Art Museum (formerly the Frist Center for the Visual Arts), is a 124,000-square-feet facility with 24,000 square feet dedicated to exhibiting works by local, regional, national and international artists. The revamped Martin ArtQuest Gallery is a hands-on, art-making space for families and school groups, featuring activities focused on creative collaboration, critical thinking and communication. Don’t miss the 16-foot Everbright wall composed of color-changing dials, where you can create large-scale designs, or the full-body-animated digital painting experience that transforms visitors into colors and shapes on a wall mural. Open daily. $12, free for visitors 18 and younger. 919 Broadway. 615-244-3340, www.fristartmuseum.org.
Trusted Tours & Attractions offers this guided walking tour of Nashville’s Music Row. Spanning 90 minutes, the tour includes 20 stops. As you make your way through the district, you’ll pass everything from recording studios and record labels, to publishing houses and offices that make up the stories behind some of music’s biggest stars, dating back to Music Row’s inception in 1955. You’ll learn the history and behind-the-scenes tales along the way, about artists like Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Garth Brooks and others. $35. 800-844-7601, www.trustedtours.com
Last July, a new hotel opened in Nashville that transformed its skyline. One of the tallest points in the city, JW Marriott Nashville is a dramatic, 33-story glass tower housing 533 guest rooms and suites, boasting impressive views of the city. Accommodations include executive suites and two presidential suites. Amenities in this sparkly, new property include a spa, fitness center and three restaurants including the top floor Bourbon Steak by Michael Mina, offering 360-degree views of the city. A collection of contemporary art located throughout the hotel honors the city’s musical history. 201 8th Ave. S. 615-291-8600, www.marriott.com