There are places in Nashville you shouldn't go to due to higher crime or significant risk to your safety.
However, chances are good that you will not go to any of those neighborhoods. Have you ever heard of Glencliff? I didn't think so.
You've probably heard about the glitter and glam of Downtown and the famous “honky-tonk” highway known as Lower Broadway in the Downton District. Some people think that the only thing to do in Nashville is Broadway. 🗞️NEWS FLASH!: IT'S NOT!
I won't tell you not to go there; you should. But the truth is, it's not for everyone.
In this post, I highlight the biggest mistakes that Nashville tourists make and what to do instead.
Why Listen to Me? I've lived and worked in Nashville for 12+ years. My family owns and operates the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Nashville, so we interact daily with Nashville visitors. I'm a local and have also been a visitor to the city. Learn more about me here.
Where Not to Go in Nashville
Areas such as Antioch and Glencliff have been noted for higher crime rates compared to other parts of the city. Neighborhoods like West Meade and Heron Walk, while safe, are largely residential with fewer attractions and tourist amenities.
Similarly, the Bordeaux Area, Talbot's Corner, and Four Corners may lack the allure of Nashville's more tourist-centric areas due to their industrial and commercial focuses. Salemtown and Buena Vista, while experiencing some revitalization, still suffer from socio-economic issues that might detract from a visitor's experience.
Why You May Want to Avoid Broadway
Don't go to Lower Broadway if you dislike noise, drunkenness, loud music, pushy security, or dancing.
It is undoubtedly the most popular and famous strip of bars downtown, and it's no surprise.
Bars like Tootsies, Roberts Western World, and AJ's Good Time Bar have been in operation since the early days of the Grand Ole Opry. They have minted country music superstars. They are still there today and are thriving more than ever.
Millions of people flock to Broadway from all over the world every single year. It's a very touristy place.
But there is more to Nashville than Downtown.
MY FIRST RECOMMENDATION: 👉you may want to avoid Broadway. I've written a bazillion words about why you would like to visit honky-tonk highway. But it's not for everyone.
A close friend of mine recently visited Nashville from Los Angeles. He and his wife naturally found themselves on Broadway, as it's seen as the place to go.
Upon arriving, they found it crowded and noisy. I can't fault them. It is.
Even as I write that, I'm reminded of my parents who go straight to Broadway when they visit from Australia. I have to drag them off the dance floor kicking and screaming.
On occasions when it isn't closed off for the seemingly frequent country music award shows (which honestly makes one wonder when these country musicians find time for recording in the studios), pedestrian traffic tends to spill into the streets during the day.
Furthermore, after dusk, safety concerns arise due to the increased presence of individuals engaging in risky activities, spanning from Lower Broadway to the vicinity of Vanderbilt University. Therefore, please exercise caution to safeguard your belongings in these areas.
Local Tip: 👉If you still decide to visit lower Broadway, plan to arrive at 10am when the bars open. You'll find it way less crowded than at nighttime. The music is fantastic all day, so if you don't like the nighttime scene, you can still enjoy the honk-tonks without the crowds and drunkenness.
Explore The Gulch
In just a 20-minute walk over the river from Downtown, you'll find the quiet area of Nashville called the Gulch. It's a progressive, walkable, urban neighborhood packed with excellent restaurants, music venues, and brunch and lunch locations. I wrote a complete guide to the Gulch vs. Downtown here. It offers Nashville visitors a fantastic taste of Nashville life. Top recommendations include:
- The Station Inn. An Authentic Nashville pickers, bluegrass, and American Roots musical experience.
- Carter Vintage Guitars. Live events and a range of guitars.
- Nashville Boot Co. Get yourself a pair of authentic Nashville boots.
- Rudy's Jazz Rooms. New Orleans cocktails, local beers, and swinging Jazz.
- Milk and Honey. The all-day menu is excellent for breakfast, brunch, and lunch.
- Wings Mural in the Gulch.
Midtown is just a 9-minute drive from Downtown. The best part of Midtown is an area called Division Street. It's walkable, with many great patios, bars, and restaurants. For a complete guide to must-visit Midtown Nashville Bars, click here.
My top recommendations are:
- The Patterson House. A high-class cocktail bar.
- The Red Door Saloon. Chicago-style bar.
- The Winners and Losers Bar and Grill. Great for live music, karaoke and dancing on a Friday or Saturday night.
Another advantage to the Midtown area is that it's close to Music Row, Nashville's famous strip of recording studios and record labels that were particularly active during the 1960s to the 1990s. It was home to names like Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Dolly Parton, and more. I've written a complete guide to Music Row that you can find here.
Explore 5th and Broad
Nashville has undergone a significant improvement with the introduction of Fifth & Broadway, a new development situated at the upper part of lower Broadway. This location offers easy access to the honky-tonks, Ryman Auditorium, and is conveniently across the street from the Bridgestone Arena. Additionally, Fifth & Broadway provides onsite parking.
Fifth and Broadway serves as a wonderful place to relax, grab a bite to eat, or enjoy a drink. It's an ideal spot to take a break from lower Broadway or wait for a show to begin at the Ryman, Bridgestone Arena, or Nissan Stadium.
One notable feature of Fifth and Broadway is the Assembly Food Hall, which boasts a diverse range of dining options and bars. Visitors can indulge in various cuisines such as pizza, desserts, cocktails, salads, hot chicken, burgers, and Thai cuisine, among others.
Noteworthy restaurants and eateries at Fifth and Broadway include Hattie B's and Princes, renowned for their hot chicken, as well as CAVA, known for its healthy salads.
For a comprehensive list of restaurants and bars available, you can click here.
Printers Alley is a Nashville gem that many visitors need to learn about. Before Broadway, this was the spot that attracted all the attention.
Originally it was the hub of the printing and banking industry in the area. Then, it was transformed into restaurants and bars that became prominent during the prohibition era of the united states.
It's hosted the greats of music, including Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Jim Belushi.
I don't often say this, but Printers Alley is a must-visit in Nashville. I promise it will be utterly different from anything you've experienced. I wrote a complete guide to the best places on Printers Alley here.
I also wrote a guide to my favorite fish and chip shop in the alley.
Printers Alley, as an alternative to the country music, hard rock, noise, and lights of Broadway, is a really nice change.
Here's a list of my favorite venues:
- Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar
- Skull's Rainbow Room
- The Brass Stables
- Alley Taps
- Fleet Street Pub
Avoid Chain Restaurants – Visit These Instead
Did you know that Nashville is a “foodies paradise”? Yep, chefs have been moving in from all over the country to take advantage of the ingredients that are close by. Like the creative songwriters and musicians around them, they are taking old-style southern cuisine and making it new again.
Try these instead of visiting Hard Rock Café, Hattie B's Hot Chicken, or Biscuit Love.
- Acme Feed & Seed. A multi-level venue that was once a farm supply store. They are now a fantastic restaurant, bar, and music venue.
- Bowery Vault. A unique venue in East Nashville that blends retail with live entertainment. The establishment features a vintage clothing and accessories store up front. At the same time, the rear portion serves as a stage for live music performances, focusing heavily on local artists.
- Biscuit Love in the Gulch. A renowned breakfast and brunch spot known for its Southern-inspired biscuit sandwiches and other comfort foods. It started as a food truck before becoming a popular brick-and-mortar restaurant beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Don't Think Nashville is Only Country Music
A popular misconception about Nashville is that it's all about country music. When I told people back in Australia that I was visiting Nashville, they all asked me to bring back a cowboy hat and boots.
Instead, Nashville is an eclectic mix of all types of music. From country to rock, gospel, R&B, Jazz, Blues, Pop, and more. For a taste of noncountry music, try these locations:
- Alley Taps. A mix of blues, rock, pop, Americana, and country.
- Skull's Rainbow Room. Amazing for Jazz.
- Sid Gold's Request Room. The best live karaoke in Nashville, where you can request songs for the pianist to play.
- 3rd & Lindsley. Popular for Jazz.
- Exit/In. Rock'n'roll.
- Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar. The venue offers nightly live blues music from local, national, and international musicians, with a distinctive stage replicating a front porch setting.
Don't Stick to the Biggest Tourist Hotspots – Visit These Instead
If you Google “things to do in Nashville,” you'll see things like the Parthenon, Frist Art Museum, Belle Meade, The Country Music Hall of Fame, etc. These are great, and you should make time to see them.
However, if you want to take advantage of some alternatives that locals love, check out the following:
Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum. This museum is the best-kept secret in Nashville. It features exhibits, instruments, and artifacts that will blow your mind. Get behind the scenes of the music industry and learn about the songwriters, engineers, and musicians who have shaped music for decades. Learn more here.
Gibson Garage. Try out amps, guitars, and other gear. Visit the museum with exhibits on the history of Gibson guitars. They also have a great retail space to pick up something unique. Learn more here.
Shopping and Lunch at Hillsboro. Walk down 21st Avenue in Hillsboro, and grab breakfast or lunch at Fido's coffee shop or the Pancake Pantry. Do some shopping.
Sounds Baseball Game. Seeing a Nashville Sounds game is a unique local experience. My local tip is to get some drinks at the Tailgate Brewery that overlooks the stadium. Learn more here.
Coyote Ugly. The bar, made famous by the 2000 movie, offers high-energy entertainment with bartenders performing dance routines on the bar, a wide variety of music, and a vibrant atmosphere that captures the spirit of Nashville's nightlife. Learn more here.
Arrington Vineyards. Arrington Vineyards provides a unique experience beyond the music scene Nashville is known for. Amidst rolling hills, visitors can indulge in exquisite locally-produced wines, enjoy picturesque views, and partake in picnic-style dining, all while listening to live music. Learn more here.
Pedal Tavern. Nashville bike bars are the perfect way to explore and experience the city. Whether you want to explore the city’s iconic sights or take a leisurely ride with friends, these bike bars are a great way to do it. Learn more here.
Red Phone Booth. The Red Phone Booth is an exclusive speakeasy, and the only way to gain access is with a unique (secret) number that you can only get from a member, concierge, or friend. Learn more here.