Travel Guide: 24 Hours in Nashville

24 Hours in Nashville

Over the past six months I’ve taken several road trips with my mom, who is currently living in Atlanta, Georgia. We explore the South’s most charming cities––Savannah, Charleston, Nashville, Chattanooga––eating and walking our way through each one.

Lately I’m more conscious of how special these experiences with my mom are. In the past year or so I’ve come to understand the realness of what was for a long time an intangible, far-off notion that my parents won’t always be around.

There’s a period of your life when you’re very young and your parents don’t seem to age at all. I remember feeling like my mom was around forty-years-old for the first twenty years of my life––ageless, certainly older than me and my friends, but not old––and then all of a sudden she became 60, 61, 62…

My mom looks young––she has beautiful pale freckly skin and wild curly blond hair. Very few wrinkles line her face. Sometimes I wonder when her face will change and become the face of an old person. You know, the kind of face that you would describe as “elderly”. Does that happen gradually or overnight?

I’m cherishing our trips together. So far my favorite has been Charleston with its enormous pastel-colored mansions and romantic, tidy streets that make you feel like you’ve gone backwards in time.

Recently I visited my mom in Atlanta for 10 days, and we decided to take a quick weekend trip to Nashville. Our excursion barely lasted 24 hours, so I can’t claim to have gotten a deep sense of Nashville’s personality or what it has to offer. The day-long trip left me with the impression that downtown Nashville is like Times Square for country music, but you’ll find a lot of heart, charm and personality in the nearby neighborhoods.

The weather was gloomy; it drizzled all day Saturday, and Sunday morning was thick with fog. I’m sure Nashville feels very different with sun and blue skies, but the dreariness was somehow kind of nice, adding a veneer of sweet melancholy.

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Here are my favorite things we saw and did during our 24 hours in Nashville:

Tried On Stiff, Stubborn, Lovely Denim at Imogene + Willie

In a wonderful instance of luck, the Imogene + Willie store was just a few blocks from Saturday’s lunch spot (BurgerUp), to which we arrived after the four-hour drive from Atlanta so hungry we could barely keep up a conversation. The best part about lunch was the big bowl of fat sweet potato fries.

Imogene + Willie is a clothing and lifestyle brand known for creating high-quality denim. Their Nashville store occupies a former gas station whose exterior is slathered in white paint and has a big red cross––the brand’s symbol––swinging from a pole at the front of the building.

The inside of their store wears a rustic-country-Americana theme with a little bit of urban mixed in. Swaths of raw fabric hang from the ceiling, and they sell a medley of items including blankets, Aesop products, delicious-smelling bundles of incense and Warby Parker glasses. And, of course, denim. Raw, stiff, stubborn denim. The kind you spend at least six months breaking in and you hate every minute of it until one day it fits you perfectly.

In a video that’s shot like a 1970s rock-and-roll documentary, founder Carrie Eddmenson reads a letter she wrote to an early supporter who had reached out to her after the Eddmensons shared their dream of starting a denim brand with their friends online:

My family has been in the denim business for 22 years. I’ve worked in the family business for what seemingly feels like like almost the whole two decades. My hands and my husband’s hands are blue most all of the days. Just would hope that the gas station would become a destination for lovers of good denim and other treasures.

Here are a few stills from their video:

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Admired Beautiful Objects at White’s Mercantile

A few blocks down on the same street is White’s Mercantil, a concept store with a mishmash of goods perfect for adding charm to your home or work space, from pumpkin-scented candles and faded copper-colored trays to porcelain pieces, oversized gold piggy banks and old-fashioned mens’ shaving products.

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Ate a Family-Style Breakfast at Monell’s

Sunday breakfast at Monell’s was communal and indulgent. They sat us at a big table with other groups of hungry diners and fed us cinnamon rolls and biscuits with gravy. Once all the seats at the table were filled they brought out the main dishes: heaping portions of corn pudding, sausage, pancakes, baked apples with cinnamon, fried chicken and grits. Each plate was passed around the table so that everyone could serve themselves a helping (or two, or three).

Imagined Ourselves Living in An Adorable House in Germantown

Monell’s is in Nashville’s Germantown, which was the city’s first residential neighborhood. After breakfast we wandered around Germantown and gazed at the beautiful Victorian homes––sweet, simple houses made of brick or wood painted in muted, earthy colors. Most seem to have been built as tiny boxes and then extended backwards more recently as wealthier families moved in.

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Wandered Around the Wonderfully Gaudy Gaylord Opryland Resort

On our way out of town on Sunday afternoon we stopped at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It’s a ridiculous, gaudy, overdone hotel, but in a good way. Its nine acres of indoor gardens are surrounded by hotel rooms with a white-brick facade and iron balconies painted in black. The experience of being in the hotel oscillates between whimsical and theme park-esque.

A bit of history: The Opryland Hotel opened its doors to guests on Thanksgiving day in 1977. The hotel was originally built to support the Grand Ole Opry, a fixture of Nashville country music, and it now has nearly 3,000 rooms.

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Stopped for Lunch in Chattanooga

Chattanooga is the halfway point between Nashville and Atlanta, making it the perfect place to stop for lunch. We went to Grocery Bar: “A chef-driven grocery store that empowers the home-cook and unites a neighborhood around deliciously simple food”.

In addition to selling groceries they serve lunch platters, sandwiches and desserts. I ate a delicious blackened chicken and my mom had a salad, then we both had flourless peanut butter cookies for dessert.

We were only in Chattanooga for about an hour, but I loved its energy and can’t wait to go back. While hunting for food we passed a lot of industrial brick buildings repurposed as restaurants and apartments, and on our way out of town we took a quick drive through the quaint Bluff View Art District.

Things We Wish We’d Had Time to Do

Packing List: Essentials