NASHVILLE // City Guide

I grew up about 150 miles out of Nashville and first encountered the city on a middle school trip to the state capitol. A few years later, I found myself living in third floor apartment just steps from Capitol Hill.

I did an internship in Nashville the summer after my freshman year of college, and I loved it too much to leave. Now, I consider myself a part-time Nashvillian, splitting myself between Music City and the Scenic City.

As Nashville’s popularity as a tourist destination has grown over the years, so have the city’s offerings. But never fear, authentic Nashville still exists, and it is possible to get through your entire trip without stepping foot in a Lower Broad Honkey Tonk.

First Stop: The Nashville Farmer’s Market

The Nashville Farmer’s Market is the stuff of legends, and for good reason. It not only features a bustling outdoor market, but a merchant house boasting 16 local restaurants and specialty shops. Oh, and it doubles as a flea market on the weekends.

The NFM is your one-stop shop for authentic Asian cuisine, a wide array of vegetables, handmade home goods and even a Jeni’s fix. While Jeni’s Ice Cream isn’t unique to Nashville, it is a must-taste if you don’t have one in your own city. Nashville has fullsize Jeni’s stores in three different neighborhoods–East Nashville, 12 South and Hillsboro Village–but the lines are often out the door. Their booth at the NFM offers a solution to the crowds. I recommend the wildberry lavender.

Next Stop: the Belcourt Theatre

The Belcourt Theatre is the only place in Nashville to catch an independent or classic film. Grabbing a movie becomes an experience to remember in the non-profit cinema.

The Belcourt shows movies 365 days a year, and while their brilliant Indie choices aren’t to be missed, the midnight showings of 80s cult movies have become a staple for me. Bonus: Your ticket purchase helps support the Mobile Movie Theatre, which brings inspiring films to Nashville’s children. You have to go see Die Hard in the middle of the night. It’s for charity.

While you’re in Hillsboro Village, stop by Fido for lunch and a caffeine fix. Their local latte is the most mesmerizing thing I have ever tasted, and their hummus isn’t half bad. Each table also features a cute dog picture.

Final Destination: Mercy Lounge

A guide to Nashville would not be a guide to Nashville if it didn’t include tunes. Don’t pack your cowboy boots just yet though, you won’t need those at Mercy Lounge.

Centrally located on Cannery Row, Mercy Lounge is a bit of grabbag. They host a mix of local and national artists across several genres, usually with an indie twist. The only thing you won’t hear is George Strait. The venue is small, so you experience all the intimacy of a typical bar show, but with a much better sound system.

If you came to Nashville hoping for incredible music, but not looking forward to high cover charges and impossible parking, mission accomplished.

Bonus: Everyone loves Nashville, but no one enjoys trying to navigate the half-dozen interstates surrounding the city. Nothing on this list will require you to venture on the freeway. All secondary roads, all the time. 

Ashley Coker is a journalist by day and music connoisseur by night. If she isn't writing or listening, you can find her scouting out new coffee shops, jetting off on last-minute adventures or playing with her pups. She has also tried over 75 different ice cream flavors and counting. You can find her at or