Finding new boots & new friends in Tennessee…
While boarding our flight home to Los Angeles, I overheard a woman saying, “Well, Nashville wasn’t that great…”
I was shocked. My neck jerked around to lay eyes on the person who had uttered those words. I wanted to hug that poor darling, grab her by the hand, sit her down and ask her where in the world she had been? Her words did not make any sense to me.
My daughter and I were at the end of a fabulous week in Nashville, filled with country music, Tennessee nature, ridiculously good food, cowboy boot shopping and – best of all, Southern hospitality.
We stayed at the family home of our dear friends Daniel and Suzanne Madamba. It was situated on ten acres of forest on the far outskirts of town. The base enabled us to do all the “bright lights/big city” attractions and then come home to nature walks, collecting rocks and observing bugs. The kids were in heaven – and so was I.
The town of Nashville is so different from our home in LA – the culture is different, the landscape is different, the people are different and the language is different. In California, we are always in a hurry. In Tennessee, people move slower. They’re less into their technology and more into their manners; they mow their lawns, sweep their stoops and relax on their porches. The folks we met were sincerely sweet, kind and Southern. Jeesh, how many times do you come home from vacation with new Facebook friends you met while boot shopping or dining out?
I can see why they call it “Nash Vegas:” It’s got Las Vegas fun and excitement with small-town friendliness. It is a big city but not as big as Vegas where crossing the street means walking over a bridge.
The ROAM Report:
- Travelers: Mom and 13-year-old daughter
- Dates: August 2017
- Itinerary: 6 nights in Carthage, TN, with day trips to Nashville
- Budget: We saved by staying with friends. Days and nights out cost about what we would pay in Los Angeles.
The Good Stuff
Trolley Tour The narrated trolley tour of old town Nashville was one of the highlights of our trip. This tour allowed for different stops, at which you could disembark and explore, and get back on at a later time. It was narrated by the driver which allowed for a special and personal insight into the city. It was open-air, so we could take selfies and pictures at will. We returned knowing more about Nashville than our friends that grew up there! Another bonus was that we could purchase discount tickets to some of the other attractions at a discounted price.
Country Music Hall of Fame We spent half a day here and thoroughly enjoyed the interactive displays. Mackenzie got to record a “demo,” create an album cover and design her stage costume – especially fun after seeing all of the outfits worn by country stars during their most famous performances. Because she is a singer, she may have appreciated the CMHF more than other kids, but it appeared that all of the adults and children in the place were completely captivated.
Countryside We stayed with the Madambas in Carthage, about an hour from Nashville. It was great to stay outside of town because we got to have a look at the natural sights and sounds outside the urban center. Tennessee is a nature photographer’s dream in that there is so much natural beauty in the surrounding countryside. My daughter, who is an amateur photographer was in heaven. There are fascinating and picturesque cemeteries, as well as trees, creeks, and bridges to shoot.
County Fair The Smith County Country Fair was going on at the time – and it did not disappoint! There were carnival rides, game booths and even tractor pulling competitions. I even got to try fried green tomatoes! The fair did not have the awesome size of the Los Angeles County Fair, but seeing a county fair is a must-do if there is one when you are in town.
Boot Buying If buying cowboy boots is something that you are interested in, Nashville is the place to do it! On Broadway, there are boot stores that have deals like buy one pair of boots and get two free! I opted for a less “busy” Boot Barn outside of Nashville in Lebanon, Tennessee, on a rainy weekday where I was nearly the only person in the store. I felt like a celebrity and was treated like country music royalty by a great salesman, Trent White – who is now our Facebook friend and is ready to write music with Mackenzie when she is ready 😉 After hours of breathing in the amazing scent of leather and trying on every boot in our sizes, my daughter came out with a discounted pair of pink fringe boots, and I bought two gorgeous pairs of designer boots. The stop left a hole in my pocket but no regrets because I will always have the boots and they will always remind me of my summer trip to Nashville!
Food, Food & Food If you ain’t comin’ to the South hoping to have some down-home food, I don’t know if we can be friends. Seriously, every classic dish can be found in Nashville: biscuits, BBQ, hush puppies, grits, catfish – it is all here and it is all delicious. Here are a few of the restaurants Mackenzie and I loved:
- Acme Feed & Seed This restaurant marked the beginning of a fun Saturday night. This is an upscale restaurant and bar that is on the north side of Broadway Street. Have some sushi and then head up to the rooftop bar. It offers a spectacular view of the city, the river and the stadium. If you are into nightlife, take in some of the local honky-tonks to drink in the atmosphere and listen to some really great bands. I managed to get in three in one night – including Nudie’s.
- IdleHour Tavern Here’s the spot on Broadway where you can get the cheapest and coldest beer in town, and play your original songs on guitar or sing them. We’re gonna visit next time…
- Timberloft We spent one night feasting at this famous Gordonsville restaurant for real southern BBQ – ribs brisket and “Nashville hot chicken.”
- Loveless Cafe This historical landmark serves up mouthwatering Southern standards. I had fried catfish, hush puppies, biscuits and homemade jelly. Others in our party had fried chicken and waffles, fried chicken livers, and smothered pork chops. Of course, we all had to taste each others’ dishes, and each one was delicious!
- Florida Georgia Line’s Restaurant FGL House is huge and has an amazing rooftop bar that overlooks the city. The food was to-die-for and the service was impeccable. The waitress was so nice that we took photos together and are now Facebook friends as well! We started with a dip trio appetizer that had hummus, salsa and guacamole. The girls loved the kid’s plate of grilled chicken, asparagus and mashed potatoes. I loved the Southern shrimp and cheesy grits which was a must do again next visit! I will absolutely have again the next time I’m in town.
The Not So Good
Darn Hot! August weather in Tennessee is usually very hot and humid. We had intermittent rain/showers during the week which put a damper on some of our sightseeing walks. We also got bit by mosquitoes, despite our efforts to buy and then wear every bug repellent carried by CVS.
Good to Know
Hotels & Cars We stayed at a friend’s place in Carthage but if we were picking a spot in town, there’s no question that a spot on or near Broadway would have been best. If you stayed in town, you could surely taxi/Uber/Lyft and do without a rental but I am from LA so I always like to have my own car 😉
Nightlife It might be better to wait on your “Nash Vegas” visit until your kids are old enough to stay on their own in the hotel room or you are comfortable with a local babysitter. So much of the city is taking in the music and nightlife and most of these spots are 21 and over. They don’t call it “Nash Vegas” for nothin’.
By Renee Siegel, December 2018
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