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We’re heading to one of those magical Music City places where legends are made. It's a storied place that's launched superstar after superstar - where music makers and music lovers travel hundreds and thousands of miles just to get their fix (because after all, isn't the sound and the stage one of the truest loves?).
It was a cold evening in a sleepy Tennessee town, November 28, 1925, when across the AM air waves a radio announcer introduced Uncle Jimmy Thompson as the first performer on a new show “The WSM Barn Dance.” It was the show that made country music famous....
Yes. It's the Grand Ole Opry.
About two years ago Ben & I had one of our first Nashville dates: a cocktail hour in the backstage dressing rooms of the Grand Ole Opry. It was MAGIC! This weekend we had our second Opry date night, this time at the Ryman, the famous former home and winter residence of the Opry, for the full show experience!
I'm asked regularly:
What should I do in Nashville if I'm a lover of style
I can only make it to one venue where should I go?
My people, ya know and I've shared a post about that.
I'm asked what should I do if I've only got a weekend, and I've got a post about that too (and lots more in my book). There's truly so many ways to enjoy the city! Today I'm giving you a peek inside one of the best date nights I've had, and one of the most dazzling places in Nashville.
Go On Tour
We started our evening early to get a little Opry history lesson. To experience it all there are three tour options available: Daytime Tour, Post-Show Tour and the ultimate VIP Tour, where you’ll get to be on stage as the red curtain goes up before being escorted to your seats. (BRILLIANT.)
We checked out famous set lists and guitars and perhaps my favorite part was seeing designer to the rhinestone cowboy stars, Nudie Cohn's embroidered and embellished suits up close and personal. Nudie was the tailor to everyone from Johnny Cash and Graham Parsons to Dolly Parton and Elvis.
It's Wine Time
After the tour we stepped into Cafe Lula - named for the secretary turned manager of the Ryman - Lula C. Naff. Lula was hired in 1904, eventually going into the booking business on her own and finally taking her business savvy skills into the top position at the Ryman before her retirement in 1955.
We sampled several small plates, and I'd go back for the Smoked Gouda Chips alone. Try them. You'll love 'em.
Magic in the Music
To me, the beauty in any given Opry night is seeing country music’s newest stars, superstars, and legends take to the stage one after the next. The Opry showcases all types of music under the country music umbrella: hit country, classic country, bluegrass, gospel, Western swing, and more. In addition to having welcomed to the Opry stage virtually every top artist in the genre, the show also introduces special guests every single week.
On our night we experienced a special moment as Rory Feek, who recently lost his wife (and musical partner) to cancer, was joined by his two daughters on stage to sing a tribute song to her. We sang along to a quirky and hilarious version of "Let It Snow" by Opry members since '82 - the Riders in the Sky. We reminisced to childhood days as Restless Heart played their #1 hits from the 80's.
The show, btw is live broadcast (just as it's always been) on 650 AM WSM (plus online, on Sirius and on the Opry app too) and it was a treat to see the behind the scenes moments involved in the making of the radio show.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the surprise collaboration as Jason Isbell joined his wife Amanda Shires on stage (a serious talent and star in her own right!) to play guitar alongside her headlining performance.
Ben & I left the night with a new appreciation for country music, and finding ourselves fans to several artists that were totally brand new to us. It was also a magnificent reminder of the starshine that is the musical community that Nashville is made of.
Interested in Planning Your Own Opry Date Night?
The Opry highlights country talent past and present, including the likes of Minnie Pearl, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Little Big Town, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Brad Paisley and countless others. The Grand Ole Opry hosts a rotating cast of talent at its live shows every Friday and Saturday year round. Additionally, Tuesday shows run from February to October and Wednesday shows from June through August.
During the winter months each year, the Opry moves back to its most famous former home, the Ryman Auditorium. Cafe Lula is open daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and later on show nights.
Opry tickets, show information and tour details are available here.
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*this post was sponsored by the Grand Ole Opry; thank you to the Opry team for a brilliant evening. opinions as always, are mine.
In my coming book there's a whole chapter on what I've nicknamed the rock n’ roll highway; it features quite a few backstage beauties that live and hang along the route from Nashville to Florence, AL to Athens, GA.
The backstage beauty is the type of girl that knows the words to every Rolling Stones song, and lives on a weekend diet of cheap beer and diner food (we can all have a cheat weekend now and then right?!). She throws the best house parties and she and all her friends are right on the brink of discovery. She’s always the most laid-back, glamorous girl in the room in her vintage band T-shirt.
Since I moved to Nashville I've been asked A LOT to share a list of where that type of girl shops and hangs here ... last summer I shared this where to hang for 24-48 hours list (and I stand by it still) so this is the expanded list of venues and shops that made it into my book.
This little tour today is where to get your music fix and find the most fabulous vintage gems all around town. So here we go: a music & vintage tour of Nashville.
Can’t Miss Nashville
For the Music Lover:
Most visitors to Nashville come for the music because there’s truly so much to see and hear. Here are a few favorite spots, and trust me... there's SO many more:
The 5 Spot: What I love about this place is that you can catch a killer early show on a weekend night (I saw my friend Andrew Duhon play to a packed house on a Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.) or go on a Monday night for the Motown Monday dance party. SO. MUCH. F'N. FUN.
Robert's Western World: If you’re ready to spend the night two-stepping the real deal, Honky Tonk is Robert’s Western World. Fried bologna sandwiches, dancing cowboys, and cheap beer make for a wild night down on the Broadway strip.
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge: A world famous historic watering hole, legend has it that Tootsie kept IOUs behind the counter for the hungry musicians. At the end of the year, the Grand Ol’ Opry guys would pay off the IOUs for the up-and-comers to make sure Tootsie stayed in business.
The Ryman Auditorium: The Ryman Auditorium is the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry. Not only have the famous feet of Elvis and Johnny Cash graced the stage of this stunning gothic auditorium, but the acoustics make it one of the best places in the country to see live music. Recently Phoenix was there (my fave) and I'm planning to see Father John Misty in September.
The Grand Ole Opry: “The show that made country music famous” continues to feature a broad spectrum of country styles nightly. Take the backstage tour and gaze into the mirrors where gals like Dolly Parton and Carrie Underwood get dressed before their shows.
For the Vintage Devotee:
An entire week could be spent diving into the vintage shops of East Nashville. On my personal best-of list:
Opium Vintage: by appointment only - stocked with a vibrantly obscure collection, including Japanese vintage sourced by owner Laura Citron. It's my favorite of the entire list.
Hip Zipper: great for well-priced denim and accessories.
Starstruck Vintage: gorgeous winter coats for under $100.
Local Honey: hand-dyed vintage by Magness Collection, and this is where I get my hair done... super hip salon and good vintage shopping, win win.
High Class Hillbilly: the place for authentic cowboy goodies and western wear.
Goodbuy Girls: located in the Idea Hatchery (a test kitchen shopping center for new brands) this shop is great for graphic T’s and loads of fringe.
Old Made Good (OMG): Just north of the East Nashville neighborhood is this kitschy vintage shop with a glitter covered floor and adorably charming handmade goods.
Savant Vintage: Over in 12 South, find this favorite of Vogue magazine, photographers, rock stars, and stylists—Savant has an extensive collection of highly curated pieces. Be prepared to spend a little more for the tremendous quality of the jackets, dresses, ponchos, and hats filling its racks.
Hope you guys put this list to good use, and if you haven't pre-ordered my book I would LOVE for you to do so now! Let me know how you love Nashville!
Hiyaaa wanderful girls (and boys),
I've been home in our new Nashville home for a full week, Ben's home too and it feels so incredibly good to be here together. We're exploring our neighborhood (baby deer sightings confirmed over on my instastories!) and it's been a nice change from our usual out in the world travels. Making time for early morning adventures and sunset drives seems like the perfect way to settle in.
I leave again Monday for a quick trip to New Orleans, then New York and then I'm off to Paris with Michelle. (!) We're going to visit my little Parisian bf Hailee (oui oui!) and I can't wait to settle into girlfriend time. Send me all the recommendations you guys. What's your favorite hidden Paris gems?
I wore this adorable dress from Personify, a shop in Lakemont, GA catering to the modern bohemian (hand raise emoji right here), to catch a Tennessee sunset the other night. My sweet friend Sam sent me the hat and it feels perfect for these Nashville nights. I just love it out here by the way, and Nashville girls - I can't wait to meet more of you, it's so nice making new friends!
I'm feeling the happiest lately and love and appreciate all of you guys for reading so much!
You guys know I love Nashville (and honestly, if you've visited, you know there are so many reasons to love Nashville). I've had the serious pleasure of getting to make it my second home this year. When Ben isn't on the road making music Nashville is his home base.
And, letting you in first on some news (well after my parents and my besties): I'll be making Nashville my home this fall as well!
That's the type of statement that deserves like a million exclamation points in my book "!!!!!!". I've lived in New Orleans for almost 10 years, however in the last year talking to my closest people the idea to be based In Nashville has come up often. New Orleans of course will always be home - I have my sister and brother here, Ben's family too and so many friends, clients and projects I love.
Ben is in process of closing on a house, it's the type of place that the second we saw it (I actually saw it in person, Ben only by video initially since he was out on tour) we knew it was perfect. So, with lightning speed, it's happening. It's been something in the stratosphere for a while.
So, with that itty bitty secret shared, here's my short list of great places to dine and hang if you've got 24-48 hours in Nashville.
And - disclaimer, this list is of the caffeine, sweets & treats and late night hangin' variety - I could and will do a post of where to shop - the vintage is killer in Nash - the local designer scene too, and I'm over due on a post about the parks, hikes and outdoors places to explore.
24 - 48 Hours of eating, drinking and playing in Nashville
In the a.m.:
Yep, it's on every list. And for good reason. It's like some hottie hipster club was founded and they hold all their meetings at BP. I mean, go here for coffee too, but also go here if you want to analyze the newest trend in facial hair (on the guys) or hair color (on, well both). And you won’t just want to hang here because of everyone’s good looks - the staff is as Southerners should be, generous and friendly.
To place your order step past the vintage motorcycles and peruse one of the hand-carved menus. As the counter barista pauses to flip whatever the vinyl of the moment is, take note of the pastries and cookies displayed in the front counter’s glass casing (and order one of course)... Be sure to pop around the corner and check out the shops next door, vintage, antiques and indie designer things galore.
Also a "best of" featuring quite possibly my favorite avocado toast in Nash and to die for donuts. It's walking distance from Ben's current apartment so I also like meeting friends on the front patio for late afternoon coffee catch ups.
Bobbie’s Dairy Dip
1950’s Americana throw back at it’s best. Outdoor seating, doo-wop music on rotation, and on a rainy day listen to rain dancing on the roof. And of course the ice cream… soft serve, sprinkles - catch a photo with your instax camera, it'll rival something your grandmother snapped hanging with her girlfriends decades ago.
It's a Nashville staple, on every menu it seems, like gumbo is in New Orleans - there's even a festival devoted to it. I personally like Pepperfire the best, Ben took me there first and despite the lines you'll find out the door at other Hot Chicken joints, this one remains my favorite.
On my first visit I got the fanciest mimosa, a bowl of fried broccoli, marveled at the bowling alley and number of people snapping instagram photos (and did the same myself later) and then discovered the pool and vintage airstream out back. I promptly hustled into my bathing suit and spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off. For you road trippers - locations with free pools and places to bathe, coupled with cocktails and cutesy eats… well there really isn’t anything better.
Cheap dinner best bets:
5 Points Pizza
You’ll know you’ve found the neighborhood when all the usual signs appear: bikes and perfectly groomed beards, plus gorgeous nuevo hippie girls in Gladys Tamez hats popping in and out of vintage and floral shops. I love the pizza and I swear, every band that’s on the brink of serious stardom is catching a post rehearsal meal. This has become our date night spot, cheap wine, delicious pizza, yep, our favorite things.
Mas Tacos Por Favor
These tacos originated in a 1970s Winnebago and now reside in a storefront curated by what was surely a roving band of hippies who’d recently scored big at the flea market. Mexican street food inspired, the carnitas are a draw and the tortilla soup is perhaps best in show.
Late night hangs:
One of the coolest bars over in East Nashville. Try their straight up ol' school cheese tots (I'm a cheese addict) with your High Life and enjoy some of the best tunes in a chill atmosphere.
A great neighborhood dive bar. They specifically market themselves as having no DJ’s, no karaoke, no trivia, just solid hangs. When we visited the juke box went from a Sade song to a Led Zeppelin song. (FTW!) Once the owner was asked about his possible Irish heritage (hence the name of the bar) his response: “It’s just a name I picked. Besides, all the cool names are already taken by the other bars in east Nashville... this building is rumored to have been a bar since it was built in 1950, I thought I’d name it something like the bars were named back then. Names like, Dino’s or Betty’s.”
Robert's Western World
This place, my friends, is the world of the Honky-Tonk. Fried bologna sandwich, real deal boots, dancing cowboys and cheap beer down on Broadway.
Of course, I'd be remiss without mentioning that Nashville is nothing without live music. While I’ve only been to a few of Nashville’s historic live music venues, I did have an opportunity to explore backstage at the Opry. WHAT A F'N DREAM.
The Basement is always a good bet too, and if you can make it happen catch a show at the Ryman Auditorium, a former church, the birthplace of the Grand Ole Opry, and “the Carnegie Hall of the South.” Not only have the famous feet of Elvis and Johnny Cash grooved on the stage of the Ryman, the stunning acoustics of this Nashville landmark make it one of the best places in the country to see live music.
So there you have it. 24-48 hours in Nashville. And, btw, for those of you in Nashville! I can't wait to make friends, drop me a line and share your personal faves! Can't wait to get there.
opening photo credit here, Bobby's Dairy Dip via FB