Nicknamed “Music City,” Nashville has been tearing up the travel charts this year, continuously topping the must-see destinations for 2016 — and with good reason. Nashville celebrates the spring in style and kicks off the warmer weather with “Awesome April” — a month dedicated to music, festivals and food. So mark your calendars and get ready for fun. Here are five reasons Nashville is on fire.
The Southern Food
Nashville is so much more than Southern home cooking and barbecue — though few do those better. Staples like a diner-style breakfast at the iconic Loveless Café, brisket and ribs at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and classic “meat and three” meals (a choice of protein and a trio of sides) at Arnold’s Country Kitchen can’t be missed on any Nashville visit.
But Nashville is drawing talented chefs from near and far to its burgeoning and edgy food scene. Restaurants like 5th & Taylor and The Farm House serve up inventive fare in trendy, industrial surroundings so hip you’ll think you’re in Brooklyn.
Whatever fare you prefer, you can’t come to Nashville without sampling its famous hot chicken (essentially fried, spicy chicken served with pickles). Our top pick for this dish goes to Hattie B’s (worth the wait, we promise).
Or go sample it all at the annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival. Try hot chicken from Nashville’s top establishments, cold beer from Yazoo and other delicious bites from local vendors. Plus, there’s live music from local bands and an amateur cooking competition.
And for the ultimate foodie, the Music City Food + Wine Festival (September 17 and 18) featuring respected chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and James Beard Award-winning TV personality Andrew Zimmern can’t be missed.
The Original Music
The live music scene in Nashville is unrivaled. You can find the biggest names in music rocking out seven nights a week at some of the best music venues in the world. But a unique way to experience live music in the city is to attend a songwriters’ show. Songwriters step out of the shadows and into the spotlight at intimate clubs to share their songs. (Our favorite, The Bluebird Cafe, is stashed in an unassuming strip mall.)
For a real musician’s experience, Tin Pan South Songwriter Festival, the largest such festival in the world, is hosted in Nashville every spring. This year’s festival takes place April 5 to 9.
Hundreds of songwriters and acts perform their songs and share the stories behind the music. Songwriters themselves can sign up for Spring Training, which is essentially a two-day boot camp about the music business and craft of songwriting taught by some of the top names in the industry.
Nashville, dubbed “Nash Vegas” for its sophistication and glamour, just might be the next big destination when it comes to style. Home to tons of local designers making names for themselves, Nashville is fashion-forward. Nashville Fashion Week is a five-day event that showcases the city’s community spirit, creativity and entrepreneurial talent.
Celebrating its sixth year, Nashville Fashion Week will feature local, regional and national designers and encourage residents and visitors alike to explore the city’s diverse fashion landscape. From April 5 to 9, enjoy runway shows, special partnerships and promotions with retailers throughout the city and educational workshops. Ticket proceeds benefit the Nashville Fashion Forward Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
The Great Outdoors
In 2009, Nashville pledged to plant 1,000 cherry trees during the next decade. And the mission has begun — every spring, the pink blossoms are in full bloom.
On April 9, check out the Nashville Cherry Blossom Festival, a family-friendly event that celebrates this pledge, as well as Japanese culture. The festivities include exhibits, martial arts demonstrations, arts and crafts, live entertainment, sumo-suit wrestling and cuisine from local Japanese restaurants and food trucks.
Proceeds will help the city continue to plant 100 cherry trees each spring.
Marking its 47th year, the Nashville Film Festival is one of the longest-running film festivals in the country. It has become a premier showcase for many American and international filmmakers. Choose from more than 250 films from over 50 countries that range from documentaries to narrative features to animated flicks.
There is also a plethora of film workshops and panels for those looking to expand their cinematic skills. Last year’s events broke records with more than 43,000 in attendance, and this year is expected to be even bigger. Red carpet events are open to the public, so dress to impress.
The festival is April 14 through 23. The schedule will be posted in late March; tickets go on sale April 4 (for members) and April 6 (to the public).
Where to Stay
Whether you come to town for the music or the food, the perfect home base for your trip is Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville’s premier luxury hotel for more than a century. It has a great downtown location that’s close to the city’s famous honky-tonks, and it even has its own destination restaurant, Four-Star Capitol Grille, which offers upscale Southern cuisine.