For me, to spend a long weekend in Nashville is to find bliss.
Ever since my first visit to Nashville nearly two years ago, I’ve been entranced by Music City, from its permeating music scene to its innovative restaurants to its overall creative energy. In many ways, Nashville reminds me of Austin with a country twist, and being there feels like discovering something brand new while simultaneously feeling right at home.
In February, I set off to Nashville with my two oldest daughters to discover some new sides of the city and revisit some favorite spots, too. Here’s our guide to the perfect long weekend in Nashville.
Thursday afternoon: Explore Franklin
We started our long weekend in Nashville by making our way to Franklin, which, despite being just 30 minutes away from downtown Nashville, manages to embody a lovely mix of small-town character and big-city energy. Our home base was the stunning Harpeth Hotel, a Curio by Hilton property that opened in October 2019 and features 119 stunningly appointed guestrooms including our sprawling suite that featured one of the most amazing bathrooms we’d ever seen. Everything we experienced at the hotel was thoughtful and meticulous, from the expertly curated library to the welcoming staff who never once forgot or mispronounced our names.
RELATED: Destin delights: How to spend a long weekend on the Florida Panhandle
From the hotel, we set out to explore downtown Franklin, which is famous for its walkability and its historic and completely charming Main Street. We adored the atmosphere at Landmark Booksellers, which offers floor-to-ceiling new, old and rare books in every genre. The space is so iconic, in fact, that it was the basis for a New York Times bestselling book, “The Bridge,” by Karen Kingsbury and subsequent Hallmark movie. Other must-stop destinations during your walk include White’s Mercantile, owned by Holly Williams, daughter of Hank Williams Jr.; the historic Franklin Theatre; and Hester & Cook.
Thursday night: Dinner and music at Puckett’s
Yes, Puckett’s is well known as a Nashville-area institution thanks to its 1950s grocery-store roots, wide menu filled with Southern staples, and well-stocked music line-up. And guess what? It deserves that reputation. We found the Franklin location to be intimate, upbeat and welcoming, with menu standouts including Cherrywood-smoked baby back ribs, shrimp and grits, and, of course, the Music City Hot Chicken Sandwich, a delectable version of the city’s famed dish that offered the perfect combination of spice and flavor. The interactive banter from musician Joe West, who played an upbeat set that featured fun covers such as Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” only added to the atmosphere.
Friday morning: Take the leap to Leiper’s Fork
We couldn’t help up fueling up for our full day ahead, and we had plenty of options, including the beloved Biscuit Love, the brunch-centric Ruby Sunshine, the java-loaded McGavock’s Coffee & Provisions, and Gray’s on Main, where Southern charm and a modern aesthetic blend seamlessly.
After, we made our way to Leiper’s Fork, which can best be described as Nashville’s version of Austin’s beloved Gruene. Nicknamed a “come-as-you-are treasure,” the tiny community of Leiper’s Fork – population 650 — offered a charming blend of art galleries, boutiques and restaurants that made it a perfect afternoon outing for us. We loved the stunning Leiper’s Creek Gallery, the thought-provoking David Arms Gallery, and the whimsical Copper Fox Gallery.
RELATED: An insider’s guide to Universal Studios Hollywood
And even though Leiper’s Fork is tiny, don’t be surprised if you spot a celebrity or two. Leiper’s Fork is frequented by Nashville musicians, including country crooner Chris Stapleton, whose wife, Morgane, runs a turquoise shop, Tennessee Turquoise Company, there. Work up an appetite? Grab a bite at Fox & Locke, which was founded in 1947, spent many years as a Puckett’s location, and now hosts famed Thursday open mic nights attended by everyone from up-and-comers to Nashville record execs.
Friday evening: Head to church
For music lovers like my daughters and me, no trip to Nashville is complete without seeing a show at the Ryman Auditorium, a world-renowned concert venue that hosts artists of all musical genres. Nicknamed the “Mother Church” because the building was actually constructed as a church in 1892, the Ryman hosts its guests on pews instead of chairs, and concerts here feature an almost spiritual energy unlike any other venue. We had booked our trip around seeing Mitchell Tenpenny, a longtime Nashville country artist whose songs such as “We Got History” and “Truth About You” in recent months have been topping the country charts. Seeing Tenpenny onstage and hearing him perform “Bucket List’ – a song he wrote following his father’s death that has given me great solace following the unexpected death of my own dad in December – was a moving moment I’ll never forget.
Saturday morning: The Café at Thistle Farms
Ever dreamed of enjoying a delicious piece of cake while giving back to a good cause? Then you’ll love The Café at Thistle Farms. Thistle Farms is a 501c3 nonprofit that supports survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction by offering a free two-year program that includes a safe place to live, a meaningful job and a sisterhood of support. As part of its mission, the nonprofit operates The Café at Thistle Farms, which serves breakfast, lunch and tea, with proceeds from each meal helping a woman survivor heal. Sweet treats on offer include almond cake, toffee-chip cookies and gluten-free blueberry muffins. There is also a boutique, The Shop at Thistle Farms, next door where you can purchase candles, body products, jewelry and other items that have been handcrafted by women survivors in Nashville and around the world.
Saturday afternoon: In the studio
To meander through the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum feels almost like visiting artists in their homes – you can spy everything from Chris Stapleton’s high school yearbook photos to Taylor Swift’s coat from “All Too Well.” During our long weekend in Nashville, we added on a tour of RCA Studio B, where artists ranging from Dolly Parton to Elvis Presley recorded countless hits. Standing next to the piano that Elvis used was magical.
Saturday night: In the round
If there is one place in Nashville that encompasses its iconic music scene, it’s The Bluebird Café, where everyone from LeAnn Rimes and Taylor Swift to Kathy Mattea and Phil Vassar has graced the stage. Garth Brooks was even discovered here. In addition to being a springboard for up-and-comers and a popular spot for Nashville’s country royalty to stage pop-up shows, the 90-person venue is also a place where the city’s songwriters test out their potential new hits. Buy tickets as soon as they’re released to ensure you get a seat, or take your chances by waiting in line the night of the show. Either way, you’re sure to have an unforgettable night in an unforgettable city and the perfect ending to a long weekend in Nashville.