Just past our office on Belmont Boulevard in Nashville, Tennessee there is a row of shops and restaurants. PM, a local eatery run by Arnold Myint (Nashville’s claim to foodie fame and as seen on Top Chef); Bongo Java, the cafe turned Belmont University study spo;, Local Honey vintage clothing store; Chagos Mexican restaurant; and oh, yeah, Belmont University, my alma mater. I’ve lived in Nashville for most of my life. And now, NOW we have a TV show (local expert Nicole talks about how the show is and is absolutely NOT like Nashville at all). No matter how far I travel, from California to France, people always associate Nashville with country music. And though yes, it is certainly a part of the culture, it is largely relegated to downtown and tourism. Most of us do not, in fact, wear cowboy hats and chew straw.
Nashville is a highly progressive city full of amazing food, an incredibly active nightlife, mind-blowing coffee, warm people and a thriving music scene not limited to country music. In fact, Lisa Gill of Conde Nast’s travel blog voted Nashville 3rd out of 5 places you must see in 2013. Bloomberg Businessweek voted Nashville 13th among America’s 50 Best Cities, Business Insider noted it in the top 15 hottest American cities of the future, we were rated the 14th drunkest city in the US by Men’s Health and Travel + Leisure placed it amongst the best cities for hipsters. Needless to say, we’ve gotten a fair amount of press lately and we’re growing faster than we could possibly have imagined we would 10 years ago. Our economy is on the rise, our city is expanding and soon our new Nashville Music City Center will be built and the entire town will explode. (Literally, we are all going to blow up… at least that’s how it feels.) But the locals—what do WE think are the best things about being a Nashvillian? I polled my friends and this is what we came up with:
- Coffee: Specifically Roast, Inc, Barista Parlor, Bongo Java and Fido (just to name a few). I am a coffee FIEND. I love it more than most things and not just because of its magical energizing powers. These coffee shops will garner you some of the best tasting brews you’ve ever had. Ever. Hannah agrees and weighed in saying her favorite thing about Nashville is the “COFFEE SHOPS!”
- The Great Outdoors: This is a big one for us. Paul said, “The Warner Parks! They span 2684 acres just 9 miles from downtown Nashville. Over 500,000 people visit the Parks annually!” To which Jess added, “Outdoorsy activities are not far away… canoeing, horseback riding, Radnor and Edwin Warner hiking, etc. We get the best of both worlds. Country and the city!” Other notable outdoor locations: Old Hickory lake, Two Foot, Percy Priest Lake, Party Cove and The Natchez Trace! Not to mention we have some of the most beautiful “porches. Stoops do not compare to porches,” adds Meagan.
- Professional Sports. Drew, one of the biggest hockey fans I know, cited the Predators and the Titans as some of Nashville’s greatest attractions.
- Music, obviously. David said, oddly enough, that “going broke on concert tickets” is one of his favorite things. Baanu loves the “Ryman’s history! And the diverse music scene regardless of the assumption that we only listen to country music,” which Edgar seconded. We also have some incredible music venues, ranging from hole-in-the-wall (dare I say12th and Porter?) to the wedding reception holding-ly nice (Cannery Ballroom, anyone?)
- Affordability. Living in Nashville allows me to keep the home I want and still have enough left over to travel. “It’s really affordable to live here still, compared to other cities. Even Austin. Obviously NY and those places as well,” says Jess.
- SMALL town feel. Nashville is a major city with over a million people in the metro and surrounding areas, but you can’t go anywhere without running into someone you know (and possibly grew up with). Screw going to the grocery store in your PJs, the chances that you’ll run into your most recent crush are exorbitantly high. David says, “I love how everybody knows everybody. You can go into any bar in Nashville and see at least one person you know.” Sarah weighed in to say, “It’s like living in a big city that feels like a small town.”
- Diversity. Nashville is an open minded city. We have every kind of person and we love them all. People from all over the country move here, which keeps our culture highly diverse. This might be my favorite part of the city. Karen talks about our “wide acceptance of other cultures and races (for the south, at least). Compare the demographics to area cities like Knoxville, Atlanta, Birmingham and Memphis. We like people and we like food!”
- Books! Earlier this year, I had the definition of a “bibliophile” tattooed on my arm for all the world to see. This is obviously an issue close to my heart. Katie said, “Nashville Public Library, if you haven’t been, is gorgeous!” And it is. We also have Parnassus book store, one of the first local (but not used) bookstores in years, which has been cited with sparking the city’s bookstore revolution.
- Alcohol. We are a drinking city, obviously. We are the 14th drunkest city in the Nation. BUT we also make some fantastic alcohol. From Corsair liquors to the Yazoo Brewery, we know our stuff. Andrew said, “Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery is a good one. At one point before Prohibition they were outproducing Jack Daniels tenfold.” We’re also the leading consumer of Fireball Whisky, what can we say? We like it spicy!
- Eating, Eating, Eating. Alex said, “The damn food. No reason to have a bad meal in this town.” And he’s absolutely right. Nashville has a full range of food options. You want tacos? We’ve got those; in fact, I worked at our local “Taco Mamacita” for nearly three years (and still like the food—and the staff!). Thai food? Go find Charlotte Pike. Organic/gluten free/vegan food? No problem. Food trucks your cup of tea? Sure, we’ve got that. Popsicles? Las Paletas has your back. Seriously, the options are endless. Not to mention we have “The Catbird Seat,” which was voted one of the top 100 best restaurants… IN THE WORLD. Good for you if you can get a reservation and can afford it, but at least we have it.
- Local publications. Magazines like “Native” and “The Nashville Scene” help keep this city alive and thriving by constantly updating us on music, food, local businesses and the arts. We love these magazines, like, a whole lot. Check them out to find out things about Nashville I don’t have time to tell you here. Native is a new publication and their layout is stunning. Even if you don’t live here you’re missing out if you aren’t reading this magazine.
- Our History! “From Andrew Jackson to The Scopes Monkey Trials to Civil Rights to Kings of Leon,” Mitch reminds us. Nashville has a rich history that is far too in-depth to break into here, but this awesome local blog does a great job.
This list only scratches the surface when it comes to explaining why this city is so incredibly awesome and not as country-centric as you might think. There is a little bit of everything here, which Austin sums up when he says we have “Hollywood hills, Pacific Northwest rains, Midwest sensibilities, Southern hospitalities, world-class music, and Broadway HICK-billies.”
We haven’t even talked about the shopping and stores like Imogene + Willie in Nashville’s 12th South area, where you can and will find the perfect pair of jeans. Or boutiques like Moda, Pangea, Posh, Muse and Boutique Bella. This says nothing of the warmth of the people, or the erratic weather (quite nice this year), or the amount of 5Ks, half marathons and marathons that run through the city, or the culture of fashion and of giving (we are a part of the Volunteer State, you know).
Rachel said her favorite thing about this city is that “It doesn’t matter if your family has lived here for generations, or you’ve just moved for college or work, it feels like home for everyone! Some cities exclude newcomers, but Nashville is all about how everyone can make us better, and wanting everyone to love it and feel part of the ‘us.’” David remarked, poignantly, about how much fun it has been to watch Nashville “grow from what it was when we were kids to now.”
This is a city you just have to experience for yourself. It is beautiful and welcoming and fun and exhausting and lovable all at once. It has been the perfect home for WallsNeedLove and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. We are grateful for the community that supports us and the family we have built here. So here is our thank you to the city we love and are proud to watch grow! Next time you’re here, be sure to stop by our office and say hello. We’d love to show you around.
*Notable Jokes when posed the question, “What do you love most about Nashville?” include “Public transportation” and “All the people that stand on every single corner in Nashville with some type of newspaper. What the hell is that about?”
- Here are some funny things you will NEVER hear anyone in Nashville say.
- And here is what Gwyneth Paltrow has to say about the city.
- Here is our Nashville Pinterest board where you can see everything we’ve been talking about.
So, have we changed your mind about Nashville? What do you think now? You TOTALLY want to visit, don’t you?!