If $400-plus per night isn’t in the budget, there are good hotels in decent parts of town that are running just under $200 per night. My recommendations for areas would be Brentwood, Franklin, Mt. Juliet, or Lebanon. These are nice suburbs around Nashville that are within about a 30 to 45 minute drive to downtown (all bets are off on drive times during rush hour, just stay in your hotel until about 10:00 AM and you should be good). Mt. Juliet and Lebanon are particularly good options because of the Music City Star. The Star is a commuter train that runs through those areas and drops off right in the middle of downtown. I would assume that they will be running some sort of special event schedule for the weekend of the draft, but nothing has been announced as of now. Information about the Music City Star can be found here.
The easiest way to get around downtown besides walking will be ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft. I would highly recommend downloading both apps before you get here if you don’t already have them. Watch out for surge pricing rates with these apps though, especially in the downtown area when people start to disburse after the draft. I once got tagged with a $500 ride from downtown to a nearby suburb (about a 35 minute trip) shortly after midnight on New Years Eve because of surge pricing. To avoid this, I would recommend walking to a bar or restaurant outside of the busiest parts of downtown to request the ride to avoid the jacked up prices and confusion about where to meet your driver. Prices for rides change based on the supply and demand in your immediate area. If you are seeing surge pricing where you are, moving to another area can drastically change the price of a ride.
You will also probably notice a bunch of motorized scooters strewn about downtown that say “Bird” or “Lime” or “Lyft” on them. Those are all rentable app-based scooters that give users the ability to hop on and hop off as needed. I would recommend avoiding these unless absolutely necessary. If you must use one, please be sure you understand the rules about how and where you can use them — most importantly, they are to be on the road and not the sidewalks — and just know that all the locals will hate you. These things are slow and the riders are sometimes erratic so if you happen to be driving and come across a scooter, give it plenty of space.
Speaking of driving, if you are renting a car or if you are driving to the draft in your own vehicle you should know that parking downtown is going to be difficult and expensive. On a normal Nashville weekend prime lots in the Lower Broadway area usually charge somewhere around $30 to $40 to park for the night. Many of those lots will likely be blocked off for the draft footprint and the ones that aren’t are going to be charging a massive special event rate. Unless you are planning on doing a lot of trips to areas that are outside of the city, I wouldn’t plan on using a car while you’re here. Parking is tough in every neighborhood I’m going to recommend below on an average weekend. It’s going to be nearly impossible during draft weekend.
Nashville’s average temperatures for late April are near perfection. Lows are typically in the mid-50’s with highs in the low-70’s. Whether or not the rain cooperates is another question. Nashville averages 11 days with precipitation in April so chances are there will be at least one quick shower during the draft weekend (hopefully nothing more than that since this will mostly be an outside event). It would be a good idea to bring some rain gear just in case.
Food and Drink by Neighborhood
Now let’s get to the fun stuff. Where are the good places to eat and drink while you’re in town? There are really six primary entertainment areas in Nashville. I have labeled them on the map below for reference. Ground zero for both the NFL Draft and most tourists will be Lower Broadway, but Germantown, The Gulch, Five Points, Midtown, and 12 South are worth checking out as well if you’re interested in seeing more of what Nashville has to offer. Here is a map showing where those neighborhoods are relative to downtown.
I’ll touch on each neighborhood in detail below.
Lower Broadway is the heart of downtown Nashville and will be the central location for all of the NFL Draft activities. It’s famous for the honky tonks that line Broadway from 1st Avenue to 5th Avenue, but offers several other entertainment options as well.
The honky tonks are rooted on Broadway, but also spill over into the feeder streets and wrap around the corner up 2nd Avenue. You won’t have a hard time finding live music and cold beer in this area. Virtually every bar will have them. The most famous spots — Tootsie’s and Legend’s — will also be some of the hardest to get into and in my opinion they aren’t worth the waits and the crowds. My recommendations if you want live music and the honky tonk vibe are Robert’s Western World, Tin Roof, and The Stage (though The Stage will also feature a long line and a crowded atmosphere inside). If you’d prefer to do the singing, WannaB’s karaoke bar is always entertaining and there are other bars that will offer karaoke on certain nights.
If you’d prefer a bar where you can talk to people (rather than screaming over live music), Broadway Brewhouse is my go to spot. It’s got really good — and reasonably priced — food, a wide selection of drinks, including really good Bushwackers (kind of a spiked milkshake type drink), and more of a laid back, conversational atmosphere. It’s where I find myself most often when I head downtown for a Predators game or concert. Other options for more of a sports bar vibe include Buffalo Billiards on 2nd Avenue and Bailey’s on Broadway though the food at Broadway Brewhouse is far superior to those place in my opinion.
A couple blocks north of the honky tonks on Broadway is an area called Printer’s Alley that has an eclectic mix of bars from the dive-y Ms. Kelli’s karaoke bar to a fun Bourbon Street Blues Bar to Skull’s Rainbow Room (an underrated restaurant that turns into a classy bar with a burlesque show at night). Skull’s is one of my favorite “off the beaten path” spots in Nashville.
If you’re looking for more of a fine dining experience, Nashville has some truly world-class restaurants downtown. My favorite spot is The Southern which is a steak and oyster restaurant on the corner of Demonbreun Street and 3rd Avenue, just off the main drag downtown. Everything I’ve ever tried on their menu has been outstanding. Merchant’s, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, and Etch are also going to very nice, very high end food options in this area. Reservations are recommended for all of these spots.
The Lower Broadway area is also home to several museums if that’s something you are interested in. The Frist Center on Broadway is Nashville’s premier art gallery and you can also find plenty of country music themed museums like the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum, The George Jones (which also doubles as a restaurant and bar), and the Patsy Cline Museum. If you really want a cool country music experience though, I would recommend taking a tour of the Ryman Auditorium. Often referred to as the “Mother Church of Country Music”, the Ryman still serves as one of Nashville’s premier music venues and was the home of the Grand Ole Opry before it moved to it’s current location (which is way out of the way). There are a couple concerts scheduled at the Ryman during the week of the draft as well if you want to catch a show there.
One thing you won’t find down here is Nashville hot chicken. You’ll have to venture out of Lower Broadway to find Nashville’s signature food dish and I would highly recommend that you do (more on that later). However, there is a good barbecue option in Lower Broadway. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is a short walk away from the center of downtown at the corner of 4th Avenue and Korean Veterans Boulevard, but it’s the best barbecue in downtown in my opinion and this location offers a nice beer garden in the back as well to hang out in.
If you want to venture out from Lower Broadway — and I would highly recommend that you do — there are a few nearby neighborhoods that would be good options. Germantown is the closest of those options, located just over a mile north of Broadway.
Germantown has been a hot spot for development in recent years and offers a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the bright lights and loud music of Broadway. Some really good dinner spots like Germantown Cafe, Rolf & Daughters, 5th & Taylor, and Henrietta Red can be found here. The bar scene here features some really fun places like Von Elrod’s (a German style beer garden), Jack Brown’s (beer and great burgers), and Neighbors Germantown (a sports bar owned by former Titans guard Zach Piller).
The Gulch is another recently developed pocket of downtown that’s roughly a mile and a half west of Lower Broadway. It’s walkable if you don’t mind a little exercise.
The Gulch is filled with good restaurants, including several of my personal favorites like Virago (upscale sushi), Saint Anejo (good Mexican food and brunch), Adele’s (farm to table dining by night with the best brunch buffet you’ll ever have on Sundays), Whiskey Kitchen (tasty American style food with a lengthy selection of whiskeys available), Kayne Prime (a high end steakhouse), Arnold’s (one of Nashville’s best old fashioned “meat and three’s”), Biscuit Love (a very popular breakfast destination), and Party Fowl (my personal favorite Nashville hot chicken place).
There are a few cool bars here as well. L.A. Jackson is a rooftop bar at the top of the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch with a phenomenal view of the downtown skyline. Bar Louie is a classic sports bar and The Pub is an old English style pub that sit across from each other and offer plenty of TVs. If you wanted to get away from the madness around the draft but still be able to keep up with the picks, this would be a good spot to do it.
Just about two and a half miles south of the Gulch on 8th Avenue (you’ll probably want to get a ride) are a couple other fun spots that I’d recommend if you want to get outside the madness of downtown. Sinema is an old movie theater that was converted into an upscale restaurant. They still run old movies on the wall while you eat and have a cozy upstairs cocktail lounge as well. Next door is The Sutler which is really three bars in one. They have a dive-y billiards room, a downstairs cocktail lounge, and a main level that features live music and surprisingly excellent southern pub food. Across the street from both of those is M.L. Rose (a craft beer and burger bar). Those are the only things to do in this specific area though, so if you want to check out Sinema, The Sutler, or M.L. Rose, you really need to make a dedicated trip.
Five Points (East Nashville)
Five Points is a small area about two miles east of Lower Broadway. It’s technically walkable, but I wouldn’t advise it (the area between Nissan Stadium and Five Points isn’t the nicest part of town). Five Points is known around Nashville as kind of a hipster part of town.
The food scene here offers some really good options as well. Five Points Pizza is one of the best pizza places in town. Edley’s Bar-B-Que, Butcher & Bee, Bolton’s (Nashville hot chicken and really good hot fish too) and The Pharmacy (creative burgers) are some other good food options. Five Points is one of the very few areas where smoking is often allowed in bars. Some of the most popular bars are Beyond the Edge, 3 Crow Bar, and Noble’s.
Midtown is located about 2 miles west of Lower Broadway near the campus of Vanderbilt University. This is much more of a college age/young adult scene at night.
Food options include Hattie B’s (Nashville hot chicken with a long, long line), San Antonio Taco Company (a laid back, but delicious casual taco spot with a great patio), Amerigo’s (nice Italian food), and Tavern (one of my personal favorites). I personally think Hattie B’s is a little overrated, but if you want to check it out I would suggest driving just a little further to go to the location on Charlotte Avenue. The lines there are much shorter than the one in Midtown.
The bar scene here is more college-y than most of the other areas around town. Rebar, Winner’s, Loser’s, and Red Door Saloon are some of the staples that are always filled up on the weekend. Patterson House is a really upscale craft cocktail bar that has a speakeasy vibe. Upstairs from the Patterson House is a restaurant called The Catbird Seat that features a u-shaped open kitchen so you can watch the food being prepared. It’s great food and a cool experience if you want something a little different.
This is my personal favorite area of town to hang out in. It’s more accessible than the other neighborhoods from a parking standpoint and it’s just a really relaxed vibe. It’s easy to walk up and down 12th Avenue checking out different restaurants and bars for a day.
Food options here are Edley’s Bar-B-Que (this is the original Edley’s), bartaco (a street style taco-based menu), Urban Grub (eclectic menu with lots of good options), and Flip Side (a retro diner vibe with a menu featuring fried chicken). All these places offer a bar as well as sit down dining so it’s really a good area to sample some small bites as you explore. My favorite place to hang out in Nashville is here as well. MAFIAoZA’s is an italian mob themed pizza/italian food restaurant that also offers and inside/outside bar. The pizza and food is really good, but the real attraction for me is the bar here. The bartenders and patrons are really friendly and it’s a fun, communal atmosphere there. Next door to MAFIAoZA’s is Ember’s Ski Lodge which offers an extensive selection of whiskeys, creative cocktails, and the opportunity for you and your friends to take a “shotski”.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is another spot here that is well worth checking out if you have a sweet tooth. They specialize in unique ice cream flavors.
Things To Do
As I mentioned up top, there is a ton to do here. I’ve already given you more food options than you could possibly eat (and I’ll give you a few more here), but eating great food is just part of the Nashville experience. Here are some of the top things to do while you’re in town and not participating in draft festivities.
- Go honky tonking. I’ve covered some of the best spots above, but this is the quintessential Nashville tourist activity. It’s something that Nashville does better than any city on earth. Make sure you spend some time checking out a few of these places.
- Go to a Predators playoff game or watch party. Nashville’s hockey team is likely to make the NHL playoffs for the 12th time in the last 15 seasons and if they advance to the second round they will be playing a home playoff game sometime around the weekend of the draft. Obviously, we won’t know whether they’ll be in the second round or the dates of the home games until right before the draft so going would require getting a last minute ticket. Tickets will be expensive and hard to come by, but Predators home playoff games are legitimately elite sporting experiences. Even if you aren’t a hockey fan or a Preds fan, you’ll have an amazing time if you go.
- Go to a Sounds baseball game. Nashville’s triple-A minor league baseball team doesn’t have home games during the weekend of the draft (for obvious reasons), but if you’re sticking around in town for a few days afterwards the Sounds have home games for the entire week after the draft starting on Monday. The tickets are pretty inexpensive and the stadium is gorgeous. I’m not even a big baseball fan these days and I absolutely love going to Sounds games. The Band Box in right field is a great place to hang out with a bar, cozy seating, a mini golf course, and cornhole boards.
- Go ax throwing. Yes, ax throwing. This is a relatively recent arrival in Nashville, but it’s a really good time if you want to grab a few drinks and try something different for a couple hours. It’s a lot like bowling, except instead of rolling a ball at pins, you’re throwing an ax at targets. Don’t worry, it’s safer and easier than it sounds. Instructors stay with you the entire time and give pointers so you aren’t a danger to yourself or others. I recently went for the first time with a large group of newbies and everyone successfully hit the target. BATL in East Nashville is the closest location to downtown and it was a great experience for me. Plan on being there for a couple hours. (NOTE: There is a possibility that the Downtown Sporting Club — the establishment that is replacing Paradise Park on Broadway — will be open before the draft. If so, they promise to have ax throwing as an option in addition to a restaurant, sports bar, and rooftop bar right in the middle of downtown.)
- Tour a brewery. Like a lot of growing U.S. cities, Nashville has a booming local craft beer scene. Yazoo is my personal favorite. They offer tours for $8 which includes tastings of all their various brews (you’ll get plenty of beer for your money). Yazoo makes my favorite beer on earth, an amber ale named “Gerst” which is a throwback to the original Nashville brewery of the same name. Dos Perros is a Mexican style lager that is another one of my very favorites. You’ll find Yazoo beers at most local bars and I would highly recommend giving them a try. Other local breweries include Fat Bottom, Jackalope, Black Abbey, Little Harpeth, Tennessee Brew Works, Czann’s, and Tailgate (try their peanut butter stout).
- Take a road trip to Lynchburg and go on a Jack Daniels tour. Tennessee is famous worldwide for Jack Daniels whiskey and if you’re a big fan JD, going on a tour is a pretty cool experience. They have several different tour options to choose from depending on how much time you have and what you want to do. Lynchburg is a haul to get to though, located about an hour and a half southeast of downtown Nashville so be prepared to make it a day trip if you go.
- Tour Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. If you want to go on a whiskey tour, but don’t want to drive all the way to Lynchburg, you can stay in town and tour Nelson’s instead. They’re less famous than Jack Daniels, but the benefit of being just a short Uber/Lyft away may be worth it.
- Go to Centennial Park and tour the Parthenon. Nashville is known as “the Athens of the South” because of it’s history as the leader in higher education among southern cities in America. The first public school system in the southern United States was established here and universities like Vanderbilt, Belmont, and Fisk were some of the earliest founded in the region. Centennial Park and the full scale replica of Greece’s Parthenon were built in 1897 to celebrate Tennessee’s 100th year as a state. Tours of the Parthenon cost $6.50 and are well worth it to see the art exhibits and full scale statues of Greek gods inside.
- Go to a concert or tour at Ryman Auditorium. I mentioned the Ryman above, but I’ll reiterate here. This is my favorite music venue in the world and if you can catch a show here while you’re in town you’ll have a great time. Snow Patrol has a show here the Tuesday before the draft while Lany performs on the Sunday after the draft.
- Go for a hike around Radnor Lake. If you want to get a little taste of the outdoors, Radnor Lake is a beautiful area located just about 10 miles south of downtown.
- Go to a museum. I’m not a huge museum person, but if you are there are a bunch of options in Nashville. There are the music museums — Country Music Hall of Fame, George Jones, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, etc — but the Frist Art Center, Lane Motor Museum, and the Gallery of Iconic Guitars are also pretty cool.
- Go see Jimmy Buffett at Bridgestone Arena. There are going to be a ton of free concerts downtown connected to the draft so you won’t have to pay to see some really good acts if you don’t want to, but if you’re a huge Jimmy Buffett fan (and I know these exist), he will be in town performing at Bridgestone Arena on Saturday night the weekend of the draft. It should make for an interesting mix of people downtown after the final day of the draft.
- Go to TopGolf. TopGolf is a growing business that can be found in a lot of major cities. It’s kind of like a combination of the driving range and bowling. You rent a lane and take turns hitting balls at targets down range with all sorts of different games and competition styles that you can choose from. TopGolf supplies your clubs so you don’t have to worry about bringing your own and it’s got a great bar and full restaurant to enjoy while you wait on your lane. Nashville’s TopGolf location is just on the other side of the river from Germantown on the north side of downtown.
- Play a round of golf. If you are a golf traditionalist and would prefer to play 9 or 18 holes on a course, Nashville has plenty of options for that as well. Ted Rhodes is probably the closest public course to downtown and offers really reasonable greens fees. If you want a nicer course and don’t mind leaving the immediate area a little bit, Hermitage Golf Course is excellent and located just 25 minutes northeast of downtown.
- Take a tour of Nashville. There are a ton of creative options for touring the city. Some are traditional tours, others are basically mobile parties. Among the popular options for the mobile party variety are Pedal Taverns (you and your friends pedaling a tavern around downtown while drinking), Party Buses, Party Wagons, Party Tractors, and Party Barges. I’m sure these will be very popular during draft weekend so make sure to make these arrangements in advance if it’s something that you want to do.
- Go to Santa’s Pub. If you want a truly strange and unique experience off the beaten path, you can check out Santa’s Pub just south of downtown. It is nothing more than a trailer that is decorated for Christmas year round and is owned and operated by a guy that looks like… you guessed it… Santa. They have karaoke every night and the beer is extremely cheap. If you want to venture down here make sure you have cash though. They do not accept credit cards.
- Go to Pinewood Social. Another pretty unique place in Nashville is located within walking distance of the downtown/NFL Draft area. Pinewood is a cocktail bar/restaurant/bowling alley/pool all rolled into one.
- Go to a comedy show at Zanies. Zanies is Nashville’s premier comedy club located just south of downtown. Nikki Glaser is the headliner during draft weekend.
Family Friendly Things To Do
Some of the activities above could fit this category as well, but I wanted to add a few more in addition to the NFL Draft Experience.
- Go to the Adventure Science Center. This is a great place to spend time with the family. The Adventure Science Center offers all kinds of different interactive exhibits, learning opportunities, and a state of the art planetarium. It’s really fun for adults too actually.
- Go to the Nashville Zoo. The Nashville Zoo is about 6 miles south of downtown and is a great place to spend a few hours walking around, especially when the weather is nice. While the zoo is nice, I have to note that the area of the city around the zoo is not. You’ll probably want to get food back closer to downtown if you’re planning on eating before or after.
- Go shopping at Opry Mills. Opry Mills is a giant mall located about 20 minutes east of downtown. The current location of the Grand Ole Opry and the beautiful Opryland Hotel are located right next door to the mall so you can check those places out while you’re in the area. There is really nothing else out there though so
- Visit the Hermitage. If you want to get a little taste of history you can visit the home of Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States.
- Visit Cheekwood. Cheekwood Estates & Gardens is in the historic Belle Meade area about 10 miles southwest of downtown Nashville. It’s a meticulously maintained mansion with beautiful gardens and collections of art.
Everything you need to know about Nashville Hot Chicken
Nashville hot chicken has become the city’s signature dish and you should absolutely try it while you’re here. You may have seen it on menus at national chain restaurants in other cities, but I can assure you that is nothing like what you’ll get here (especially whatever that is that KFC calls “Nashville hot chicken”).
The first thing you need to know about hot chicken is that your typical rules about medium-hot that you think you know from experiences with wing places does NOT apply. Hot chicken restaurants pretty much all have at least three levels of heat, but medium is pretty much always my go to choice and I like spicy food. The level above medium (called different things at different places) is pretty much always eyes watering, nose running, lips burning type of heat. If you dare to go to the hottest level at any of these places, be prepared for a long afternoon. Don’t try to be a hero.
There are several options for finding hot chicken and they’re all pretty good. The differences really come down to personal preference.
- Prince’s – This is the OG hot chicken spot if you want to try the place that started it all. Prince’s lives up to the hype and has frequently been featured on various Food Network shows. The downside to Prince’s is that it’s out of the way. It’s just about 10 minutes north of Nashville, but there is nothing else to do around it and it’s in a not-so-great part of town.
- Party Fowl – This is my personal favorite and it’s one of the most convenient to downtown, just on the south end of the Gulch. While most other hot chicken places have you order at the counter, secure your own table, and get your own drinks, Party Fowl is a full service restaurant. The chicken is outstanding and the sides are among the best in this category. They feature a ton of local beers on tap as well as some boozie slushies that give you a fully immersive Nashville experience. The Hot Chicken B & B combines hot chicken with bourbon glazed beignets and it is one of my very favorite dishes in Nashville.
- Bolton’s – Bolton’s is another really good option and they offer something that the others don’t: hot fish. It’s located in East Nashville which is convenient to downtown as well.
- 400 Degrees – Like Prince’s they’re a little out of the way for those that are staying downtown and there is nothing else to do around it.
- Hattie B’s – Hattie’s is possibly the best branded hot chicken place in Nashville. The closest location to downtown is in Midtown, but they almost always have a long line running outside the building and down the sidewalk. There are two cheat codes if you want to beat the line here. The first is to simply go to the other location a few miles further west on Charlotte Avenue. They tend to have much shorter lines there. The second is to call in and order your food to go. If you do that you can walk right past the line and pick it up from the to go counter. My personal opinion is that Hattie’s is highly overrated. The chicken is good, but the sides aren’t and it’s just not worth the hassle compared to Party Fowl, Prince’s, or Bolton’s.
You really can’t go wrong with any of these options, but my first two choices for those in town for the draft would be Party Fowl and Bolton’s because of their proximity to downtown and the fact that you can walk to other entertainment destinations after you eat.
Odds and Ends
A few random notes that don’t really fit anywhere, but could be helpful for a visitor coming in town.
- Most bars downtown close around 2:00 or 3:00 AM. If you somehow still want to keep drinking (or want to find some late food), you can head over to The Diner which is a six story restaurant and bar on the corner of Demonbreun Street and 3rd Avenue.
- Speaking of Demonbreun Street. Most locals will pronounce this street as “duh-mun-BREE-uhn”. It probably wasn’t originally pronounced that way when it’s namesake Timothy Demonbreun moved here from Canada, but that’s what has stuck.
- The dirty little secret of Nashville honky tonks is that pretty much all of them are the same. They’re all going to have a talented group of musicians playing roughly the same set list. You’re going to hear “Wagon Wheel”, “Chicken Fried”, and “Fishin in the Dark” everywhere along with covers of more current hits. They’re all going to be good. Most of the people performing at these honky tonks are young artists that are trying to make it big. Going to see the band at Tootsie’s isn’t going to be that much different than the band at Honky Tonk Central or The Stage or any other spot along Broadway.
- There generally aren’t cover charges for most places on Broadway, but that may change for the draft given the number of people that will be trying to get into these bars.
- The Nashville Marathon just happens to fall on the same weekend of the draft so expect some extra road closures on Saturday as the course winds around the downtown area.
- Traffic on Thursday and Friday is going to be a disaster during rush hour both in the morning and afternoon. Nashville has traffic issues on a normal weekday. Now we’re talking about adding hundreds of thousands of people to the area. Try to stay off the road during these times if at all possible. It will save both you and the locals a lot of headaches if you do.
- If you love music, but not necessarily country music, there are options for you as well. Mercy Lounge, The Basement, and Marathon Music Works all regularly feature non-country music acts and are great venues to catch a show.
- The musical acts that are going to be put on as a part of the NFL Draft event have not been announced yet, but they are expected to be a mix of country and non-country artists. All of the official draft events will be free to the public, including the concerts.
- The Football and Other F Words podcast crew will be hosting a meetup of some sort during the draft and there have been discussions of a MCM meetup as well. Details to be announced at a later date on both of those.
Most importantly, have fun while you’re here. Nashville is a great town with a ton to do. You won’t be able to get everything in during one trip, especially if you’re going to be spending a lot of your time downtown taking in the NFL Draft. Find a few things that you think you’d like and make the most of them.