travel guide: nashville, tn

Nashville is by far my favorite city I have ever visited in the U.S. The country music, hot chicken and live bands almost everywhere you go are just some of the reasons that I fell in love with this Tennessee city.

I went to Nashville with a few of my friends in 2017, and since then, I have been itching to go back (thankfully I am going back later this year!). From doing a pedal tavern in a rainstorm and celebrating the Nashville Predators winning two Stanley Cup games, to talking about how we pretended to be a bachelorette party on the radio, it is safe to say that our trip to Nashville was full of adventures! Read on below for some of my favorite activities and places we visited while we were there!

Where to Stay

Courtyard by Marriott Nashville Downtown
Just two minutes away from the historic Ryman Auditorium, the former home of the Grand Ole Opry, and a short walk to Lower Broadway, the main street of bars and restaurants downtown, the Courtyard is a great location to stay at while in Nashville. The hotel has clean, comfortable rooms and a Starbucks — the perfect combination to kickstart a full day in Music City!

What to Do

Grand Ole Opry Tour
Normally, I would recommend seeing a show at the Grand Ole Opry if possible, but unfortunately, there were no shows scheduled when we visited. I still wanted to check out this important piece of Music City’s history, so my friend Allie and I jumped in an Uber and spent an afternoon touring the Grand Ole Opry. Having the opportunity to go backstage and even step foot on the Opry stage is something I will never forget! Find out more about the backstage tour here!

Join the Studio Audience at The Ty Bentli Show
Formerly known as the Ty, Kelly & Chuck show, the Ty Bentli Show on Nash FM is one of my favorite radio programs to listen to. When I found out you can be a part of the studio audience, I knew it was a must for my trip to Nashville. As someone who works in media, it was great to see Ty and Chuck in action. They were incredibly welcoming, and they even gave me an opportunity to be part of the show! After the show, we got to tour the other studios in the building, and we even learned how to line dance with Shawn Parr from Nash Nights Live! Whether you listen to Ty’s morning show every day or hear it for the first time while in Nashville, this is an experience I highly recommend! Click here to learn more about how to join the audience!

Nashville Pedal Tavern
When you walk around in Nashville, you are bound to see groups of people pedaling through the streets, singing songs and drinking. While there are several different pedal taverns to choose from, we chose Nashville Pedal Tavern and had a great time. Unfortunately, it was pouring out the day we were scheduled to ride, but Nashville Pedal Tavern employees provided us with ponchos and a driver who made the day so much fun despite the bad weather! The Pedal Tavern also stopped at a few bars along the way, giving us an opportunity to explore parts of Nashville we had not been to yet. Book your bike tour here!

Lower Broadway
Lower Broadway is a must for your Nashville getaway. No matter where you go, there is live music playing all day and night. The bands are so talented and they all take requests. Some of our favorite spots include Tootsies, Honky Tonk and Nudie’s!

The Gulch
Have you ever seen pictures of the famous wall murals in Nashville? My favorite is this one pictured here: “What Lifts You?” created by Kelsey Montague! You can check them out in person by visiting The Gulch. A short ride away from downtown, The Gulch also has some great boutiques and restaurants, including a few of my favorites: Kittenish and Biscuit Love.

Belle Meade Winery
Belle Meade Winery just exudes southern hospitality. We booked a food and wine pairing with one of their sommeliers, and it was such a great experience. We got to taste Belle Meade’s award-winning wines, pair them with foods and learn about the proper ways to taste wine. After our pairing, we were able to enjoy the property while sipping on a few bottles of wine and snacking on some cheese and crackers. The best part is that they ship wine to almost all states, so you can enjoy Belle Meade’s wines long after you leave Nashville!

Shenanigoats
Two words: Goat. Yoga. This is definitely not something I ever thought I would try, but when I visited Nashville for my friend’s bachelorette party, this was at the top of the agenda. The goats are incredibly cute and playful, and are ready to climb all over the yogis in the room! They are even willing to pose for some fun pictures at the end of the session!

Where to Eat

Biscuit Love
We may have waited two hours in the hot, Tennessee sun, but Biscuit Love was well worth the wait. This is the first restaurant we stopped at once we hopped off the plane, and from fluffy biscuits to large mimosas, Biscuit Love did not disappoint! Make sure you try a Bonut (fried biscuit dough) while you are there. I promise you, you will not regret it!

Pancake Pantry
This was my favorite breakfast spot we ate at while in Nashville, and we all agreed that the food was amazing. I am a big fan of breakfast, and Pancake Pantry exceeded all of my expectations. From the best crepes to melt-in-your-mouth hash browns, I am still dreaming about this meal!

Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
Hattie B’s Hot Chicken has some of the best hot chicken around Nashville. You can’t go wrong with a hot chicken sandwich and a side of pimento mac & cheese!

Burger Republic
Declared one of Zagat’s 50 Burgers in 50 States, the Tennessee burger at Burger Republic is one of the best burgers I have tasted to date! Topped with a Jack Daniel’s honey glaze, maple bacon and crispy onions, this burger was absolutely delicious! Definitely make this one of your stops while in Nashville!

5th & Taylor
The drinks, appetizers and dinner coupled with a cozy, family-style ambiance makes 5th & Taylor the perfect place to go to celebrate a special occasion. Everything is delicious, especially the duck wings appetizer and the pork tenderloin with rattlesnake beans, peach and jalapeño.

These are just some of my favorite spots we visited during our weekend in Tennessee! I hope this travel guide inspires you to put on a pair of cowboy boots, blast some country music and travel to this amazing city!

breakfast with santa

Merry Christmas Eve! It is hard to believe that Christmas is tomorrow! It is no secret that I love this time of year, and no matter how old I get, nothing beats the feeling of waking up early on Christmas morning and spending time with loved ones.

Once the presents are opened and the coffee is consumed, breakfast is the next best part! Read on below for two sweet treats to make on Christmas morning!

French Toast Casserole

This French Toast Casserole from Savory Magazine is been my go-to breakfast for the holidays, and it is too good not to share! The recipe is just five ingredients, and you can even prep it overnight and pop it in the oven first thing in the morning!

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Ingredients
1 loaf (16 oz) of cinnamon swirl bread (Pepperidge Farm)
¾ of a container of blueberries
5 eggs
2 ½ cups of half and half
1 tsp of vanilla extract

  • Cut the entire loaf of bread into approximately 1-inch pieces. Use a 13 x 9 non-stick pan and lay the cut pieces of bread across the bottom. Once the bottom is covered, continue to layer the bread on top of itself until the full loaf is in the pan.
  • Scatter the blueberries over the bread.
  • Mix the eggs, half and half, and vanilla extract in a large bowl, and pour the mixture over the bread and blueberries.
  • Let sit in the refrigerator overnight or one hour prior to cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 350º. Cook the casserole for 50 minutes.
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top and serve immediately!

Pop’s Pancakes

Growing up, my dad always made pancakes for my family on Sunday mornings, and whenever possible, Connor and I continue that tradition for ourselves! Pop’s Pancakes are a twist on the classic Aunt Jemima recipe. His modifications create a much thinner pancake — perfect for stacking on your plate!

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Ingredients
1 cup of Aunt Jemima Pancake Mix
1 cup of milk
1/2 cup of half and half
1 egg
1 tbsp of vegetable oil

  • Mix all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until the batter is smooth.
  • Preheat the griddle to 350º and coat with a little butter.
  • Pour batter, cook the pancakes evenly on both sides, pour on the syrup and enjoy!

 

the one where we plan friendsgiving

One thing I have learned over the years is the importance of celebrating friendships. Your friends are your chosen family, and what better way to express your gratitude for them at this time of year than by hosting friendsgiving?

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The rules of friendsgiving are simple: the hosts cook the turkey, gravy and any other menu items they would like, and the rest is up to the guests! From appetizers to side dishes and desserts, it gives guests the opportunity to choose what they would like to bring.

Connor and I have both hosted and been guests at friendsgiving, and no matter what, it is an enjoyable evening filled with good food, laughter and memory-making. Here are some tips for hosting your own friendsgiving event this November:

  • IMG_0181Plan the menu: There are Thanksgiving staples that everyone loves, but writing up a few suggestions will help your friends think outside of the box for other foods to bring if you have a larger guest list. Surprisingly enough, there is such a thing as too many mashed potatoes! Also remember to include food options that cater to any diet choices your friends may have, including vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian or gluten-free options!
  • Ask your friends to prepare dishes ahead of time: Cooking the turkey is hard enough; having to worry about friends preparing their dishes at the same time that yours is finishing up can definitely get hectic. Instead, have your friends bring their already-cooked meals to the house, and set up sternos for food items to keep everything hot before and throughout dinner!
  • Set up the food buffet style: While setting the table is lovely, with a large group of people and a plethora of food, buffet style just makes everything easier. To make the table setting feel cozier while everyone is dining, light some candles and scatter some small pumpkins and other fall decorations on the table.
  • Processed with VSCO with acg presetMake the event BYOB: Having a few staples on hand is great, but asking friends to bring their favorite types of wine, beer or liquor contributes to the potluck vibe of the evening, and it gives everyone a chance to share their favorite beverages with the group! If you are feeling creative, add a signature drink to the menu, like this apple cider mimosa: apple cider, champagne and a brown sugar rim is the perfect combination for a festive, fall beverage!
  • Go around the table and ask everyone to say one thing they are thankful for: Everyone is going to be so excited to dig into the amazing dinner and desserts that have been prepared for the evening, but it is important to remember why you are all together — to celebrate your friendships and express gratitude for each other. After all, this is what brought you all together for friendsgiving in the first place!

I hope these tips help you host a wonderful friendsgiving event this holiday season! Here is a sample menu to help you get started with the planning! Hope you enjoy gobbling up these tasty dishes!

friendsgiving menu

appetizers
• veggie platter
• meat and cheese platter
• chips and dip / salsa

main course
turkey
gravy
mashed potatoes

• sweet potatoes
• stuffing
• cranberry sauce
• salad
• green bean casserole
• corn and/or other veggies
• mac and cheese
• pasta
• chicken or eggplant parmesan
• dinner rolls

desserts
• apple pie with vanilla ice cream
• pumpkin pie
• pecan pie
• brownies
• cookies
• doughuts

drinks
• red and white wine
• beer
• cider
• sangria
• soda
• hot apple cider
• hot chocolate
• coffee
• water
• signature drink

fall favorites

IMG_5704This past weekend, Connor and I celebrated our sixth anniversary! I feel so blessed to have someone like him by my side each and every day, and I am always amazed by how much we have done and accomplished together — being in love with my best friend is truly something special. We have shared so many memories and milestones over the years, and our anniversary is the perfect excuse to celebrate all of that!

IMG_5706In the past, we have always tried to travel somewhere new for our anniversary, but this year, we chose to do something different. Life has been pretty busy these days, and our work schedules are completely opposite, so we decided to take a step back and have a relaxing, fun weekend at home. 

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From pumpkin picking and carving to dinner and a movie, we spent the weekend doing some of our favorite things together. 
We had such a great weekend, and in the spirit of celebrating, I wanted to share some fun activities that you can add to your fall bucket list. Grab your significant other or a group of friends and hit up some of my favorite spots before the season ends!

 

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetDemarest Farms
Demarest Farms is the perfect place to spend a crisp fall day. Hop on a hayride to search for the perfect pumpkins to carve for Halloween, and on the way back, grab a bite to eat. Make sure to pick up some apple cider donuts before you leave, and heat them before you eat them! They are so delicious!

Tip: if you visit Demarest Farms earlier in the season, you can also go apple picking there! Connor and I have some apples that we are planning on baking into a pie this weekend!

Angry Orchard
This is a great place to go with a group of friends! From cider tastings and treehouse tours to live entertainment and lawn games, Angry Orchard has a great property for all-day entertainment.

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Warwick Winery
Warwick offers wine and cider tastings, as well as a distillery tour and live music. In the cooler months, there is an indoor tasting room complete with a wood-burning stove; when the weather is warmer, there is plenty of outdoor space to enjoy drinks and food with friends!

Pennings Farm Cidery
There is a variety of ciders on tap here, offering a variety for all palettes. Pair your favorite with lunch or dinner and enjoy! Starting in November, the tasting room is only open on the weekends and for adults 21 and over.



BE5945FC-8B6C-417D-85EE-B65B78C09FDE.JPGBear Mountain Oktoberfest
This is your last weekend to visit Bear Mountain for Oktoberfest (it closes Oct. 28). Grab a stein, fill it with beer or cider and snack on some pretzels while hanging out with friends!

Brownstone Pancake Factory
Brownstone is great any time of year, but it offers amazing fall-themed dishes! From Pumpkin Cheesecake Nutella Pancakes to a Halloween Ultimate Shake, you will be drooling over all of the options!

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Movie Night
Halloween is the perfect movie to get you into the fall spirit this season. Michael Meyers makes his chilling return to the big screen in this classic series, and it is definitely worth the watch. Movie theater popcorn is always an added bonus!

Netflix & Chills
Netflix has several Halloween movies available for binging, but this season, give your full attention to The Haunting of Hill House. This show may have given me nightmares for days, but it is so good. Cuddle up with some hot cocoa and light a few candles, because you will not want to watch this one in the dark!

Almost all of my suggestions are for locations that are open throughout the year, but I do love visiting these places in the fall! Let me know if you have visited any of these spots or have any suggestions of your own in the comments below or on Instagram by tagging @ livingsimplygray!