The Other Nashville
Nashville, Tennessee, has been the mothership of American music for more than a century. It is laden with world-class attractions like the Smithsonian-esque Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the legendary Ryman Auditorium, and the Grand Ole Opry. Today, Nashville is rocking with more than 3,000 newcomers settling in every month. The trendy honky-tonk bar scene is party central with the same freneticism of the Vegas Strip. Nashville has also become America’s Number One bachelorette-party destination so it’s common to encounter pedal pubs careening down the street with a boatload of cowboy-booted and sash-bedecked partying bachelorettes.
However, there’s another, kicked-back Nashville that cruises along relatively under the radar. Just across the Cumberland River is East Nashville where history abounds with to-die-for early 20th-century bungalows and classy Victorians.
Urban Cowboy (the owners operate a sister property in Brooklyn) proudly touts a trendy bar/eatery, a popular outdoor patio, and eight in-demand B&B suites in the repurposed elegant Victorian style. The nearby Lipstick Lounge, catering to the LGBTQ community, welcomes everyone to enjoy karaoke and live music performances.
How about spending the night in a church – actually a repurposed church reinvented as The Russell that has 23 rooms adorned with pews as headboards and stained glass windows. The bonus of a stay is that The Russell donates a percentage of their income to local non-profits; an average weekend stay generates 16 nights in a bed, 100 free showers and 30 free meals.
Neighborhood-serving ma-and-pa businesses rule in East Nashville, and their community pride is palpable. For example, the annual Tomato Art Fest held in early August commences with a grand parade where people in tomato suits and kids wrapped in red and green abound – the catch of the parade is that there are no spectators as everyone is in the parade.
On the fringe of East Nashville is Five Points Pizza where they craft killer treats, and for weekend night owls, they remain open until 3 a.m. Shelby Ave. Bicycle Co. repairs bikes, and maintains a rental fleet for explorations of the neighborhoods and guided rides – in addition to bike sales. A cool centerpiece of the community is the nearly 1,000-acre Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Natural Area with 10 miles of paved and unpaved trails for hiking and biking. The park skirts the Cumberland River’s shoreline where River Queen Voyages takes people out on kayak adventures, providing a unique perspective of downtown Nashville.
Franklin, Tennessee, is paradoxically an integral part of Nashville’s music scene but distinctively different even though it’s only 16 miles away. The dominant allure is Franklin’s imbedded history, from oh-my-gosh antebellum mansions and downtown brick structures to its role as the locale of one of the Civil War’s last battles – a deadly urban skirmish fought throughout the heart of town.
Just like downtown Nashville, Franklin not only thrums with more than 30 live music venues, but is also home to some of America’s most legendary musicians. The impetus for the lyrics in Brad Paisley’s hit tune “Heaven South” is all about Franklin, and the music video was filmed in downtown. Thomas Rhett’s “Star of the Show” is about downtown Franklin’s live music venue Puckett’s of Leiper’s Fork where grocery items surround the diners and backdrop the stage. Even Lady Antebellum has an intimate connection with Franklin: The town’s antebellum homes spurred the naming of the band.
Local resident Matthew Maxey says it’s not uncommon to find a Grammy-winning musician sitting in for a set or two at Puckett’s. Maxey also notes that local residents, such as Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban, are so integrated into Franklin’s fabric that locals basically ignore them, but are quick to run interference for the stars when visitors get too close to them.
For more details, visit: @visitfranklintn – visitfranklin.com
Writer: Thomas Wilmer
Photographer: Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp