By Linda Domingo and Gina Samarotto
Country dreams meet reality in this spectacular city where Southern hospitality turns visitors into friends and friends into family. While choosing to visit Nashville is easy, all the outstanding options for how to spend your time in the city can be overwhelming. Fortunately, Emily Sledge, VIP and concierge manager at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, has plenty of recommendations and insider knowledge of Music City.
Eat: From haute cuisine to hometown favorites, Nashville’s food scene is a diverse culinary adventure. “Our food scene is blowing up,” Sledge says. “There are so many amazing choices and we love to send our guests to the places we love to go to as locals.”
For an authentic taste of Nashville, Sledge suggests a trip to Hattie B’s. “Lots of people think of barbecue when they think of Nashville, but that’s more of a Memphis meal,” she explains. “In Nashville, if you want to eat like a local you have to try the hot chicken—and Hattie B’s is the best.”
Another favorite with residents and tourists alike is Rolf and Daughters, famous for its collection of Italian specialties served up with a little Southern flair. “It can be difficult to get a table there,” Sledge says of the popular restaurant, named one of the country’s best by Bon Appétit in 2013. “Luckily, we have a great rapport with them so we can help make sure our guests are accommodated.”
Shop: Traditionally known for its world-famous music scene and hearty Southern cuisine, Nashville also has some of the coolest shopping in the region. The city’s 12 South neighborhood is ahead of trends with its charming boutiques, cafes and restaurants. Here, you’ll find White’s Mercantile, which Sledge says is essentially a modern-day general store filled with everything from hostess gifts to baby items to jewelry, with one room devoted to locally made products. “Also, the aesthetics are incredible—it resides in an old gas station turned boutique,” she describes. Plus, the parking lot is a popular stop for food trucks.
Also in the 12 South neighborhood is Imogene + Willie, specializing in handcrafted denim. “They also sell the amazing Warby Parker sunglasses line in the same boutique,” Sledge adds.
Just a short drive south in the Green Hills area of Nashville, Hill Center is a great choice for one-stop shopping, with big brands alongside local boutiques. “Each of the local stores carry various brands and the products are the perfect go-to for a date night, girls night out or a special occasion,” Sledge says.
Play: Nashville’s venues for great music are seemingly endless. This year, the Grand Ole Opry celebrates its 90th anniversary with a nine-month celebration that concludes with a big birthday bash in October. The Grand Ole Opry House has remained a frequent stop on both local musicians and industry superstars for decades. Sledge reminds guests, “There are lots of music bars and cafes in Nashville where you can drop in to hear a set. In some cases, though, like the Bluebird Café, first-come, first-served seating fills up quickly so you may prefer to have us help you make a reservation.”