Belle Meade Plantation’s glimpse of the past
Courtesy Belle Meade Plantation

Known as both the “Athens of the South” and “Music City,” Nashville offers incredible culture, shopping, restaurants, and, of course, there’s the music. Whether your trip is for business or pleasure, add these hot spots to your itinerary.

The historic Union Station Hotel

Southern hospitality meets Southern sophistication at the four-star Hutton Hotel, one of Nashville’s hottest addresses. The eco-friendly hotel (there is even a hybrid courtesy car available) is just minutes from the downtown music scene, famed Music Row, local art galleries, universities, and cultural attractions. Upon arrival, sculptor Malcolm Susman’s life-size, 6-foot-high horse statue named Hut greets you in the lobby of the pet-loving hotel (no need to leave Fido at home) and sets the stage for a wonderful experience. Book one of their contemporary-style rooms for the Country Music Awards or the CMA Music Festival and expect to see a celebrity or two in the sleek and inviting lobby.

If formal and grand is more to your liking, check out the Hermitage Hotel, a Nashville five-star luxury property located in the heart of the city’s business district and just a short walk to the city’s state capitol and the famed Ryman Auditorium. Travelers from six American presidents to Al Capone and Greta Garbo have enjoyed the hotel’s Old-World Southern charm since 1910. Be sure to experience the Southern-fusion cuisine downstairs at the Capitol Grille.

Housed in a former 1900s railway station, Union Station Hotel in downtown Nashville is one of the most majestic buildings of the Nashville skyline. Blending history with contemporary surroundings, the National Historic Landmark and hotel is an architectural wonder, boasting a 65-foot, barrel-vaulted lobby ceiling with gold-leaf medallions and 100-year-old prism stained glass. Guests can dine on organic vegetables and hormone-free meats at the hotel’s Prime 108 restaurant.

The New American cuisine at 1808

The Hutton Hotel’s 1808 Grille is one of the most popular restaurants in town. It’s serene and elegant with a hip vibe, and dining at 1808 is a pleasure for both the eyes and palate as the “organic color palette” is simpatico with the New American cuisine fused with a global twist. The bar is hopping after work, filled with locals and country music executives brokering the next big deal (aspiring singers take note). Executive chef Charles Phillips creates memorable dishes using sustainable seafood and farm-fresh produce from local growers. A favorite of the celebrated chef (who showcased his talents this past spring at the James Beard House in Manhattan) is the pan-seared escolar with purple sweet-potato puree, roasted corn, and heirloom tomato salad.

Located in Nashville’s Germantown urban district, the aptly named Germantown Café is a popular spot among locals and tourists alike. Offering fresh creative cuisine and an incredible city skyline view, the restaurant’s ambience is modern and the prices reasonable.

Be sure to order the fried green tomato sandwich for lunch and their signature plum pork marinated in mustard and served with a plum sauce for dinner. Call ahead for their popular Sunday brunch (shrimp and grits is a crowd favorite and the rolls are divine).

For more casual Southern fare, stop in at Rippy’s Smokin’ Bar & Grill for barbecue and smoked ribs, cornbread, and pecan pie. Located on Nashville’s Broadway (filled with honky-tonks, gift shops, and live music venues), Rippy’s is a popular spot for locals, tourists, and sports fans that love to dine on the open-air rooftop patio. After dinner, walk across the street to famed Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge. Voted No. 1 Honky-Tonk in the World, you can’t miss the purple building which hosts live talent each night. Country music luminaries such as Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings have played on the lounge’s cozy stage. Don’t miss the photographs and memorabilia on Tootsies’ Wall of Fame.