Now that we officially know that the 2019 NFL Draft will be hosted in Nashville, it’s time for fans of the Titans that live outside Music City and other NFL fans to begin making travel plans. This post is for you.
I was born and raised in Nashville and have lived here for 28 of my 33 years on this earth. I’m extremely proud of the city that has grown up with me and look forward to sharing it with the NFL world next April. Here in Nashville, we pride ourselves on hospitality, so I wanted to share some tips and information about the city to help make your trip the best possible Nashville experience.
Where to stay
Lower Broadway: While the location of the draft stage and specifics have not yet been announced, we do know for certain that the area we know as “Lower Broadway” will be the central hub for everything NFL-related that weekend. If you’re the type that wants to be in on the action non-stop, and doesn’t mind paying a little extra for it, that’s going to be the place that you want to stay.
Nashville is a very walk-able downtown so if you’re staying in the area located between 8th Avenue (Rosa Parks Boulevard) and 1st Avenue to the west and east and Korean Veterans Boulevard and Charlotte Avenue to the south and north, you will be able to hit all the NFL Draft activities by foot as well as access to the famous honky tonks on Broadway and Bridgestone Arena for a possible Nashville Predators playoff game (more on that in a minute). This area also has rickshaws, carriages, and other non-motorized forms of transportation available to help you get around if needed.
The only downside to this option is that the hotels will likely be expensive, but when you consider the trade off of virtually no transportation expenses, it may be worth the money.
This area is also filled with really nice new hotels along with some more affordable (but still nice options). There is a recently built, beautiful Omni that is in a great location, as well as a brand new J.W. Marriott and Westin hotels that are very nice. On the more affordable end, you have a Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn in the SoBro District that are in perfect locations. Nashville has been building hotels like crazy in recent years to keep up with the continuing growth of it’s popularity as a tourist destination, so many of these hotels are new, state-of-the-art facilities. You really can’t go wrong with any of the options in the Lower Broadway area.
Midtown/Vanderbilt: This is another area of downtown that could be a good option. It should be less expensive in general than the Lower Broadway hotels, but the trade off is that you probably won’t want to walk to the draft events in Lower Broadway from here. This is more in the range of a 5 minute, cheap ride in a taxi or Uber/Lyft to the site of the draft events.
Midtown does have it’s own bar scene that is a little different from the honky tonks on Broadway. It’s a little less touristy and is far more bar than honky tonk if that’s your style. Vanderbilt University is in this area as well as Music Row where most of Nashville’s recording artists go to work.
Opryland: The Opryland area is a big hub for tourists who visit Nashville. The home of the famous Grand Ole Opry is located 20 minutes east of Lower Broadway so you will need to plan on transportation to and from the draft events. In addition to the Opry, this area also has the Opryland Hotel — a massive, beautiful hotel owned by Gaylord Resorts — and the city’s largest shopping mall in Opry Mills.
This area doesn’t really have a bar scene to speak of, so it’s more on the family friendly side.
Suburbs: There are plenty of hotels and airbnb options in outlying areas around the city that should also be more affordable than some of the more centrally located options. Brentwood/Cool Springs/Franklin to the south is probably the nicest area with the most food and activities around it, but Mt. Juliet to the east is also a good option.
What to eat
Everything. Seriously. Nashville’s food scene is outstanding and has something for everyone. The two things you have to try while you’re here are the hot chicken and the barbecue.
Hot Chicken: This has become the food dish most synonymous with Nashville in recent years and it’s really incredibly good. My favorite in town is Party Fowl. They have multiple locations, but the original is convenient to downtown on 8th Avenue South. Other good options include Hattie B’s (probably the most famous), Prince’s (the original), and Bolton’s.
Barbecue: Nashville has long been known as a good barbecue spot. My favorites here are Martin’s and Edley’s. Martins has a location on 4th Avenue which is conveniently on the edge of the Lower Broadway area. You have to try the Alabama white sauce on whatever you get there. Edley’s has two locations that are near downtown — one in East Nashville and one in the 12 South neighborhood — both are great areas to go bar-hopping afterwards. Edley’s brisket is amazing.
Everything Else: Like I said, it’s hard to go wrong eating in Nashville right now. Downtown I would highly recommend trying The Southern. Whether you’re in Lower Broadway or Midtown, you can easily get to the restaurants in the Gulch, which has some really good options — Virago (sushi), Whiskey Kitchen (southern cooking), Saint Anejo (Mexican), Moto (Italian), and Kayne Prime (steakhouse) are all outstanding.
Great breakfast spots include Pancake Pantry near Vanderbilt and Loveless Cafe (a bit of a haul, but worth it).
What to do
There is plenty to do in Nashville year-round, but April is a particularly good time to visit. The weather is usually very mild with the average high temperature right at 72 degrees. While its known for music, Nashville also features plenty of options for sports, sightseeing, and shopping in and around the downtown area.
Go to a Nashville Predators game: Nashville’s hockey team is one of the best in the NHL right now. If they make it to the 2nd round of the NHL playoffs next season, they will likely have a home game some time around the weekend of the draft. Even if you’re not a hockey fan, I would highly recommend trying to get tickets (they will be hard to come by) and experiencing Smashville. It’s one of the best sports atmospheres you’ll find anywhere.
Go to a Nashville Sounds game: The Sounds are Nashville’s minor league baseball team — the triple-A team for the Oakland A’s — and while they lack starpower, they make up for it with a beautiful, new stadium and an excellent gameday experience. April is the perfect time to attend a game from a weather standpoint and the stadium is conveniently located downtown. Tickets are very affordable and they have entertainment options in the stadium beyond the game as well — putt putt golf, cornhole, a bar complete with TVs showing NBA or NHL playoff games at this time of year — it’s always a good time.
Go to a Nashville SC game: Nashville was recently selected to become the 24th city to host an MLS team, but that team likely won’t start play until 2020. In the meantime, if you like a side of soccer to go with your football, you could check out the USL’s Nashville SC if they are in town.
Go honky tonking: This is the quintessential Nashville tourist experience. The heart of the city runs down Broadway between 1st Avenue and 5th Avenue and it’s filled with various bars featuring live music.
If you haven’t been to Nashville in the last couple years, a few of the new additions to Broadway include most bars opening rooftop areas that are a great way to take in the city while grabbing a drink with friends. The other recent change is the influx of country music stars opening their own bars on Broadway — the list includes Florida Georgia Line, Alan Jackson, Blake Shelton, and Dierks Bentley.
My favorite honky tonk has always been The Stage. Live music is a staple here and it remains one of the most popular spots on Broadway. I also enjoy Paradise Park and Nashville Underground. Broadway Brewhouse is a great place for those that prefer the bar environment (and really good food).
Go to a concert: Nashville is sure to pull out all the stops when it comes to entertainment during this weekend, likely including a bunch of free concerts from some major stars downtown. If the NFL doesn’t end up using the famous Ryman Auditorium as part of the draft complex, I would highly recommend going to see a concert at the “Mother Church of Country Music” while here. The Ryman is the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and one of the coolest music venues in the country. They also do tours of the facility during the day that are great for music fans.
Check out a museum: In addition to the Ryman tours, you can also visit some music museums like the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum, and the Patsy Cline Museum. Prefer art? You can head over to the Frist Center.
Ride a pedal tavern or party bus: Are you and your friends planning guys or girls trip for the draft and want to have obnoxious fun? These are for you. While usually filled with bachelorette parties most of the year, pedal taverns and party buses can be a fun way to bar hop and see the city at the same time. For the price of admission they usually feature drink specials at the bars they stop at along the way.
Run a marathon: I hate running, but you might not. If you love running and want to support a good cause, the St. Jude Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Series will be returning to Nashville during the weekend of the draft and will give you the chance to sweat out all the delicious hot chicken you’ve been feasting on the rest of the trip.
What not to do
There is a ton of fun stuff to do here. I’m sure others will add more ideas in the comments under this article so please do check those out as well, but there are also some things that I would urge you not to do while you’re here.
Driving: Don’t plan on driving, especially if you plan on drinking. The second part should go without saying, but I really would recommend avoiding driving at all while you’re here. Parking downtown is limited and expensive on normal weekends. This event will amplify that issue. The prevalence of ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft in addition to local taxis make getting around downtown much easier without having to park. Even if you drive in to town rather than flying, it’s often cheaper and much easier to get a ride in to town rather than driving and parking yourself.
Wait to book your hotel: If you think you want to go, go ahead and start planning now. Nashville is a fun city and it’s easy to get to for much of the NFL footprint. The city is pretty well packed with tourists on regular weekends between the months of April and October. Adding the NFL Draft, the marathon, and a possible Stanley Cup playoff game all on the same weekend will make this the busiest weekend in the history of Nashville. You’ll want to plan this trip as soon as possible to have the most options available to you.
That should pretty much cover it. For more in-depth descriptions of things to do and places to eat, check out visitmusiccity.com which is a great resource. If you want more information or recommendations feel free to jump in the comments below this article or reach out to me on Twitter (@MikeMiracles). Hopefully I’ll get a chance to meet some of you next April!