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AAA World Article

Four Seasons in Nashville

Country music isn’t the only draw to the culturally rich capital of Tennessee.

By JoAnn Greco

Thanks to its popular strip of honky-tonks, its Music Row of record-label studios and offices, and its multiple museums dedicated to iconic performers, Nashville, Tennessee, has long been defined by country music. But this burgeoning Southern city has of late surpassed that music-centric reputation while staying true to its roots. A stellar food scene, a collection of new design-centric hotels, a bevy of designer fashion boutiques, and its historic presence as the capital of Tennessee mean there’s something to entice most travelers—and it’s available year-round. Here’s how to enjoy Music City even if you never set foot into the Grand Ole Opry or the Country Music Hall of Fame (though you should). 

Nashville Tootsie's Lounge
Orchid Lounge, legendary Nashville honky-tonk
Photo courtesy of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp

Spring: Shopping Beyond Spurs and Spangles
According to The New York Times, Nashville ranks third (behind New York and Los Angeles) when it comes to the country’s top fashion scenes. Spring is a great time to take a shopping trip, perhaps around April’s Fashion Week, which features runway shows, a fundraising gala and other citywide events. Include visits to the North Nashville storefront of Nisolo, the locally based online retailer of hip, ethically made shoes; the warehouse-like Germantown showroom of Peter Nappi, where art books, artisanal candles and vintage treasures are artfully arranged among high-end leather bags; and the 12 South locale of Draper James, owned by hometown girl Reese Witherspoon and offering flirty feminine dresses. For smaller locally made items, consider Keep Shop at the Noelle Hotel and the lobby display inside the Visitor Information Center, which are both downtown.

Nappi Studio, Nashville
The Peter Nappi Studio showroom    
Photo courtesy of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp

Summer: Hot Weather, Hot Chicken
The Nashville dining scene has been elevated in recent years, but that doesn’t mean the old staples (see: “meat-and-three” sides, buttery biscuits and GooGoo Clusters candy bars) have disappeared. The ruler of the traditional food roost remains the fiery dish known as Hot Chicken. It’s no wonder that there’s an Independence Day festival each year to celebrate this most uniquely Music City cuisine—complete with live bands; the city’s best purveyors serving up plenty of samples of Hot Chicken (each deep fried and coated with proprietorial dry rubs of varying but always-startling intensity); a fire truck brigade; lots of cold beer; and a lively amateur cooking competition.

Prince's Hot Chicken, Nashville, TN
Hot Chicken
Photo courtesy of Prince’s Hot Chicken

Fall: Fair Play
Shortly after Labor Day, as the humidity begins to lift and the evenings seem to stretch, the Tennessee State Fair rolls into town for 10 days. It’s all here—amusement rides, food, entertainment, agricultural competitions and lots of farm animals—plus such quirky additions as a cowboy-centric comedy show, a frenzy of fiddles and a bonanza of balloon art. In October, the arts rule thanks to events such as the Southern Festival of Books, featuring book signings, readings and discussions, and Fall Fest @ The Hermitage, a celebration of local and regional artisans.

Winter: Spa and Sip
The prevalence of spa experiences in town is among the main reasons why Nashville has become a top destination for bachelorette parties. (All right, the party scene and music don’t hurt.) For a more grown-up take on these proceedings, escape to the just-opened JW Marriott, a rare urban appearance by this resort brand. Its four-hour Winter Warming Ritual package includes a massage, facial and mani–pedi, followed by a relaxing glass of wine to be enjoyed in one of the spa’s private cocoon-like seating areas. Afterward, venture to The Fox, a moody speakeasy in East Nashville for a cocktail-making class—and take your time doing your homework.

Spa Entrance, Nashville, TN
The Spa by JW at the newly opened JW Marriott
Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Nashville


This article originally appeared in the May/June 2019 edition of AAA World.

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