By Laura Barkema, MLIS, Collection Development Librarian
You don’t get the title of “bachelorette party capital of the world” without great, fun bars to shuffle between, and Nashville has them in spades. There’s even a new country rap song by Willie Jones titled “Bachelorettes on Broadway” that is a pretty accurate account of the excellent people watching you can do. Whether you want to find a place for people watching, live country music, great cocktails, or excellent beer – I’m here to tell you about all the best spots for your visit in February for PLA.
Since the Music City Convention Center is nestled right downtown near Broadway, you’ll need to know the best places to hit up while in this area. Broadway between 1st Ave and 5th Ave (also called Lower Broad) is where you will find most honky tonks and country-star branded bars. Classic establishments worth a visit are Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Robert’s Western World (classic/old country music). Other standouts are the combination of both Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge and Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar, as they are connected by their amazing rooftops. Luke’s has live music on the roof, while Jason’s is where you can go to dance. There are great views of the hustle of Broadway from here.
For a variety of live music, I like The Stage and Tin Roof. You do not have to love country music to visit Lower Broad, as many of the honky-tonks have multiple floors with each floor having different music (i.e. first floor is a large band playing country music, the next floor might be a band playing rock or alternative music, the third floor might be more acoustic sounds, and the rooftop is usually stereo/DJ tunes). Other personal favorites not already mentioned are AJ’s Good Time Bar (Alan Jackson’s bar), Nudie’s Honky Tonk, and FGL House (Florida Georgia Line’s bar on 3rd Avenue), which has pretty good food too. Lastly, if you want to learn how to line dance, go one block off Broadway onto 2nd Ave, and you’ll find the Wildhorse Saloon, which offers free lessons multiple times throughout the day and night.
If you are downtown and looking for drinks, but you don’t want to be surrounded by bachelorette parties (aka get off Broadway), you have a few options. First, check out Printer’s Alley and visit Skull’s Rainbow Room, another historic (and possibly haunted) venue. For great cocktails, visit Black Rabbit (also excellent for dinner), Oak Bar at the Hermitage Hotel, and Bar Sovereign. For local beer and whiskey, make sure to stop at Yee Haw Brewing and Ole Smoky Moonshine’s combined space on the outskirts of downtown. Or, if you feel like playing some old, free arcade games while having some good drinks, make sure to hit up HQ Beercade.
As a self-proclaimed beer geek, my expertise lies with knowing the best places to get beer in the city. If you’re willing to take rideshare or a bus a little outside of downtown, you’ll find my favorite breweries to visit. The closest to downtown of these is Bearded Iris. You may have seen their flagship brew around town, Homestyle. Being a New England IPA, it is an excellent introduction to what they specialize in – juicy, flavorful, hazy IPA’s. Another brewery with three locations around the city, one of them being in Music Row (fairly close to downtown) is Tailgate Brewery. Tailgate doesn’t specialize in any one style of beer, so it’s one of the better places to go if you have a group with varying tastes. I’ve had excellent sours, stouts, and IPAs there. Southern Grist, my favorite brewery in Nashville has two locations, both a bit farther afield but worth a trip. They specialize in funky, amazing concoctions spanning from stouts to IPAs, with a definite focus on sours. Here’s a perfect example: Hawaiian Thanksgiving – “gose with Hawaiian black sea salt, coriander, passion fruit and cranberry”. A newcomer to the beer scene that I immediately liked is Living Waters Brewery, which makes small batch beers AND coffee. Don’t want to just visit one brewery? Check out the Filling Station (two locations) or Craft Brewed - both great beer bars with a variety of local brews on tap.
If you are still up for exploring out of the downtown/Broadway bubble but want something other than beer, you can’t miss the following spots: the Patterson House, Bastion, Old Glory (coolest space award), The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club, and Attaboy all for the best cocktails in town. For wine, visit Louie’s Wine Dive, City Winery, Barcelona Wine Bar, or Nashville Urban Winery (and get the skillet cookie!). The best local distillery, Corsair, has two venues you can visit – one in the Gulch and one in Wedgewood-Houston. Just down the street from the Wedgewood-Houston location is Diskin Cider, the top local cidery that also has some pretty awesome hard seltzers as well (Lola Berry is a fave).
There is no denying Nashville is a fun place, and with this list, I hope you have plenty of things to do in your downtime during PLA. Take a look at the list below for books and travel guides on Nashville for more inspiration that is a little less boozy. Enjoy the conference and enjoy your visit to Music City!