The Best Areas to Stay in Nashville
The epicenter of Nashville tourism is Lower Broadway, a five-block strip of Downtown honky-tonks and celebrity-owned mega-bars also known as the Honky-Tonk Highway. Bachelorettes descend in droves for wild weekends, helping the city earn bragging rights as the “official” Bachelorette Capital of The World. The famed Ryman Auditorium – an architectural and acoustic wonder – brings a bit of respectability to it all. The Cumberland River just east of downtown adds a touch of natural beauty.
In recent years enormous construction cranes have broken up the skyline across burgeoning SoBro, the South of Broadway neighborhood that surrounds the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Within walking distance of Downtown, this former industrial district is growing vertically, with sleek new hotels rocketing skyward at a frenzied pace. Despite all the hotel openings, expect high prices on weekends across Downtown and SoBro.
The old railyard west of SoBro has also re-imagined itself, strutting its stuff today as The Gulch. This compact neighborhood is marked by glossy high rises and swish restaurants and shops.
Elsewhere, neighborhood boundaries are a bit loose because Nashville is dotted with micro-neighborhoods that fill only a few trendy blocks. Vanderbilt University anchors Midtown, a commercial and work-a-day neighborhood west of Downtown and the I-40. At its most expansive, Midtown encompasses Music Row, Demonbreun, Edgehill, and the West End. Just south of Midtown are several buzzy enclaves known for dining and shopping: Hillsboro Village, Belmont, and 12 South.
Scrappy but cool East Nashville is due east of Downtown and the Cumberland River. Opryland and Music Valley are a 20-minute drive northeast of the urban core. Look for budget accommodations near the airport in Donelson, which is ten miles east of Downtown.
Mid-range and budget hotels border I-65 between Nashville and the city of Franklin twenty miles south, particularly in Brentwood and Cool Springs. The trade-off for lower prices, however, is bumper-to-bumper traffic along I-65 at rush hour.
It’s a two-mile straight shot on Broadway from Midtown to the Lower Broadway honky-tonks.
Nashville is generally a safe place to visit. Just make sure to have some situational awareness on Lower Broadway because crowds are thick and often rowdy. Pockets of East Nashville remain gritty and should not be explored late at night.
And in case you’re wondering, a honky-tonk is a bar with a small stage for live music. The music is most likely country. Shows are typically free, but toss in a few dollars when a band member passes the bucket around.
The Best Places to Stay in Nashville
Best Luxury Hotels in Nashville: Thompson Nashville, Hermitage Hotel, The Bobby, Kimpton Aertson, Germantown Inn
Best Boutique Hotels in Nashville: 21c Museum Hotel Nashville, The Russell, Noelle Nashville, Hutton Hotel, Fairlane Hotel, Bode
Best 3-star/4-star hotels in Nashville: Loews Vanderbilt, Union Station Hotel, Drury Plaza Hotel Nashville Downtown, Gaylord Opryland Resort, Margaritaville Hotel Nashville, Graduate Nashville
Best Cheap Hotels in Nashville: Home2 Suites Vanderbilt, Hampton Inn & Suites Nashville-Vanderbilt, Best Western Plus Music Row, Sheraton Music City
Best Neighborhood for History & Sightseeing: SoBro
The immersive Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum celebrates the origins of country music and its most talented performers. After checking out its informative exhibits, you’ll soon understand why Nashville is nicknamed Music City. The museum building is also home to Hatch Show Print, a long-running print shop known for its iconic woodblock concert posters. Across the street, Walk of Fame Park honors top performers. Johnny Cash takes the spotlight at his namesake museum a block and a half from the Walk of Fame. Stretch your legs on the John Siegenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses the Cumberland River. This pretty span honors a former editor of the Tennessean, who was a champion of the civil rights movement.
Best Neighborhood for Dining: 12South
It can be tough to keep up with the city’s ever-changing culinary hotspots, but for a reliably good cross-section of eateries, head to 12South. The neighborhood stretches for a half-mile through a residential area along 12th Avenue S, which is lined with recommended restaurants, many of them fronted by large patios perfect for people-watching. Culinary highlights include cronuts, barbecue, tacos, and shawarma. Airbnbs are the lodging option here.
Best Nightlife & Live Music: Downtown
With neon lights aglow, country music spilling from the bars, and tipsy revelers careening down the sidewalks, Lower Broadway nearly busts its sequined seams on Friday and Saturday nights. Enormous celebrity-owned bars have recently swung open their doors along the wide street, but smaller stalwarts like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Robert’s Western World keep things old school – if elbow-to-elbow within their narrow confines. Just north of Broadway, the acoustically acclaimed Ryman Auditorium hosts a up-and-coming bands and big name acts across musical genres. Marked by twinkling lights, tiny Printer’s Alley and its bars are a fun downtown nook to explore.
Best for First Timers: Midtown/West End/Music Row
True to its name, Midtown is a centrally located neighborhood that works well as a basecamp for exploring the city. Vanderbilt University and its hospital are a dominant presence. A convivial stretch of bars near the college echoes the party vibe of Lower Broadway but on a smaller, more local scale. Centennial Park and its striking Parthenon are also here, specifically in the West End. Country music fans can tour the famous recording studios dotting Music Row. Just south of Midtown proper is musically inclined Belmont University and the historic Belmont Mansion, which doubled as a Union army headquarters during the Civil War. Trendy Hillsboro Village and trendier 12South are nearby. Chain hotels are abundant in Midtown and tend to cost less than their counterparts downtown.
Most Romantic Neighborhood in Nashville: Midtown/West End/Music Row
With its pretty lake and manicured lawn, Centennial Park is a beautiful spot for a romantic stroll. The park, named in honor of the state’s centenary anniversary, hosted the World’s Fair in 1897. A full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece, built for the event, still stands. Dolly Parton recorded one of the world’s greatest love songs, I Will Always Love You, in 1973 inside RCA Studio B, a historic recording studio open for tours in Music Row. Wander the shops of Hillsboro Village and explore the nearby Belmont University campus, home to a small museum spotlighting rare guitars. Surrounded by lovely gardens, the romantic Belmont Mansion resembles an Italian villa. The cool confines of the Patterson House are an intimate setting for a craft cocktail. Settle in at the upscale Catbird Seat for an innovative multicourse dinner.
Best for Families: SoBro
With its proximity to rowdy Lower Broadway, SoBro is not obviously family friendly. But several factors make it a good option. Kids are the focus at the immersive Taylor Swift Education Center inside the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. The GooGoo Shop & Dessert Bar celebrates the Nashville-born GooGoo Cluster and offers a candy-making experience. It’s fun to admire the Batman Building – you’ll know it when you see it – from the John Siegenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. Across the bridge there are kid distractions galore – including a sprayground – at Cumberland Park. The Adventure Science Center and Shelby Bottoms Park are both a short drive from SoBro. New hotels are opening at a rapid clip across the neighborhood, offering a variety of accommodation options. Beyond SoBro, Opryland and Music Valley also work well for families.
Best for Bachelor & Bachelorette Parties: SoBro
On weekends, a steady stream of tipsy bachelorettes and groomsmen dash from wheeled party-bars into the honky-tonks of Lower Broadway for live music and booze. Musicians Kid Rock, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, and Luke Bryan have recently muscled onto Lower Broadway with their own multi-story bars, amplifying the party vibe. Another hotspot is Acme Feed & Seed, a riverside bar and restaurant known for its open-air decks and city views. City Winery and several craft breweries offer tastings in the industrial fringes of the neighborhood. A Top Golf driving range is a short drive north of the neighborhood. Bloody Mary brunches at restaurants in and around SoBro are perfect for nursing hangovers, or continuing the party.
Best Without a Car: Downtown
More than a dozen hotels cluster between the Greek Revival Tennessee state capitol building and Lower Broadway in Downtown. Neighborhood attractions include Ryman Auditorium, the Frist Art Museum, the Nashville Farmers Market, and Printers Alley, known for its twinkling lights and cozy bars. The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in SoBro is within walking distance of Downtown as are several museums dedicated to country music luminaries. The Bridgestone Arena and Schermerhorn Symphony Center are also close, and it’s easy to walk to the riverfront. It’s a mile-long walk from downtown to restaurants and shops in The Gulch.
The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Nashville for Tourists
For culture, don’t miss the artwork at the world-class Frist Art Museum, or live music at Ryman Auditorium. History is a highlight at the state capitol, where tours are offered Monday through Friday. The informative Civil Rights Room, found on the 2nd floor of the Nashville Public Library, is another interesting stop. The sleek AT&T Building, nicknamed the Batman Building because it resembles Batman’s mask, is also Downtown. Known for its chef-driven restaurants, compact Germantown is a short drive north. Downtown hotels cater to political and corporate crowds, as wells as tourists, so prices run high year-round. Convenience may outweigh costs, however, if you want to walk to Lower Broadway and SoBro.
Best Hotel: Hermitage Hotel
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Hotel Indigo Nashville
Constructions cranes have dominated the SoBro skyline for the last few years, working hard to finish new hotels to meet soaring demand. Country music fans flock to the massive Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum as well as the Johnny Cash Museum and Walk of Fame Park. Wedding parties use SoBro as a basecamp for long weekends of hard-partying fun on Lower Broadway. The party continues at 6th & Peabody, where beer, moonshine, and tacos collide in one hard-to-leave place. Bridgestone Arena hosts the Nashville Predators professional ice hockey team as well as live performances by internationally known performers, from Justin Bieber to James Taylor. In warmer months outdoor concerts beside the Cumberland River are also popular.
Best Hotel: Bode Nashville
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Drury Plaza Hotel Nashville Downtown
Sitting within a geologic depression southwest of Downtown, the Gulch is the former home of the city railyard. Today, the neighborhood has been transformed, jammed with sleek apartment buildings, glossy hotels, and up-to-the-minute restaurants and bars, many with patios overlooking the action. Neighborhood highlights include Biscuit Love breakfast joint, the Two Old Hippies clothing and accessories boutique, the Turnip Truck organic market, and the old-school Station Inn, a longtime destination for live bluegrass.
Best Hotel: Thompson Nashville
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Fairfield Inn & Suites
Best Small Hotel: 404 Hotel
Midtown/West End/Music Row
Restaurants and hotels cater to tourists, Vanderbilt students and their families, and visitors to the university medical center. A 362-acre green space, Centennial Park, is the heart of the West End area. A full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Greece rises from the center of the park. Numerous recording artists, from Elvis to Willie Nelson, recorded hits in music studios in Music Row. Just know that there’s not much to see in this largely residential area unless you book a studio tour. South of Midtown you’ll find several inviting micro-neighborhoods – Edgehill, Hillsboro Village, Belmont, and 12South – that are optimal for a half-day of people-watching, dining, and shopping, but lodging options are minimal. Hotels in Midtown cost slightly less than accommodations downtown.
Best Hotel: Kimpton Aertson
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Loews Vanderbilt
A patchwork of working class homes, brand new homes, industrial sites, and up-to-the-minute restaurants, galleries, and shops, East Nashville is increasingly popular with millennials and motivated creative thinkers. In addition to the cutting-edge galleries and boutiques, come here for cool vintage shops, quirky airbnbs, craft breweries, pack-a-punch music venues, and the Tomato Art Fest in August. The Five Points area is a bustling hub, and a good place to experience the entrepreneurial spirit of the neighborhood. Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans professional football team, overlooks the Cumberland River.
Best Hotel: The Russell
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Vandyke Bed and Beverage
Opryland & Music Valley
The Grand Old Opry started as a radio “barn dance” in 1925, but over the years it morphed into a country music phenomenon, a weekly live performance and radio show synonymous with Nashville and country music. In 1974 the show moved from Ryman Auditorium to the Grand Old Opry House, 4,400-seat performance hall. Today, Opryland is a family friendly resort and entertainment complex anchored by the show. Attractions include a riverboat ride, a small waterpark, and a Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Chain hotels, family restaurants, and outlet stores fill the surrounding neighborhood, dubbed Music Valley.
Best Hotel: Opryland Resort
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Sheraton Music City
The city of Franklin is twenty miles south of Nashville, but I-65 between the two is lined with mid-range lodging options. Many of them cost less than their counterparts in Nashville. Franklin itself has a number of charms. The compact downtown retains a traditional feel, with pedestrian friendly sidewalks, boutiques, restaurants, antique stores, and a historic theater. There are several Civil-War era homes with fascinating stories to share, all with a connection to the Battle of Franklin. Arrington Vineyards, co-owned by country music star Kix Brooks, is a popular spot for wine tasting just south of Franklin.
Best Hotel: Harpeth Franklin Downtown
Best Cheap/Midrange Hotel: Drury Plaza Hotel Nashville Franklin