Oh, Nashville. If America only knew you were more than just a collection of country music labels and honky tonk bars. 2008 was the year Kristi and I first fell in love with Nashville and we’re on a mission to tell everyone we know about this killer city.

Nashville is made up of several neighborhoods and for the most part, it’s a driving city. Each area has gems on gems (on gems on gems) of its own and we are about to give you the keys to the Nashville kingdom. 6 keys, to be exact. Buckle up, friends.

1. Hillsboro Village is a small neighborhood surrounding Vanderbilt University. It is awesome.  I want to go to there again. College students and locals enjoy 1950s era architecture, indie boutiques, and restaurants.  If you like brunch (duh) you should give the Pancake Pantry a serious try.

Pancake_Pantry_Nashville

2. If there’s one place you should visit in the West End, it’s the Parthenon. You thought that was only in Greece? Guess again.  It’s glorious.

Parthenon_Nashville_2

3. Downtown is a bustling area with lots of cultural activities. Our top picks include the Frist Museum, a fine art museum that’s free on certain days, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Contrary to what you might be (read: probably are) thinking, this museum is totally worth a look – even if you’re not a die hard country music fan. They have an entire room devoted to the late, great Johnny Cash.  And, yes, to answer your inevitable question, you can see Elvis’ solid gold Cadillac on display in his exhibit area.

country-music-hall-of-fame-Nashville

4. The 12th South neighborhood features more great local retail stores, tons of renovated housing, and the minorly legendary Frothy Monkey for amazing coffee and sandwiches. Yes, we mean amazing. You should probably check it out.  You will not be disappointed.

Frothy_Monkey_Nashville

3. East Nashville is currently experiencing a lot of revitalization (and has been for a number of years). It’s a 15 to 20 minute drive from downtown (across the river) and features loads of vintage bungalows. Those that have been restored are really, really appealing.  Hands down our favorite place to grab a bite to eat is at the Wild Cow featuring the BEST vegetarian food you will EVER taste. You won’t believe it. How do you do it, Wild Cow? How do you make eating veg so amazing?

Wild_Cow_Nashville

East_Nashville_Bungelow

5. Up for a short drive? Just 30 minutes outside of Nashville, you’ll find the quaint Franklin, Tn, a small walkable town packed with shops and restaurants. Our mouths are watering just thinking about the breakfast/lunch/dessert spot called Merridee’s. You also must stop in at ReDo, a great home decor shop.  Tell Bryan and Mitzi Maynard we said hi.

Merridees_Nashville

6. What’s a trip to Nashville without a little live music? Our favorite venues include Blue Bird Café, Exit In, and of course, the Ryman Auditorium. There are also many, maaannny more. Don’t worry, you can pick up newspapers with artist listings just about anywhere.

Ryman_Auditorium_Nashville

We can’t stress it enough – the infamous honky tonk bars on Broadway are for tourists, but trust us – Nashville has so much more to offer than that. You will love the southern hospitality, great food, beautiful architecture, and artisan culture. If you’re like us, you’ll want to figure out the quickest way to call it home. More Nashville, stat.