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The 5 Best Nashville Neighborhoods to Explore on Vacation
Venture outside downtown and really get to know Music City.
If you love to shop, the 12 South neighborhood should be on your list of things to do in Music City.(Courtesy of Andrew White)
Nashville is a curious mix of new and old – stubbornly traditional and proud of its past, yet welcoming to new ideas and influences. It's a town that certainly has its share of guitar-pickers, country music legends and loud honky-tonks, but that's only one flavor of Music City.
If you're planning a trip to Nashville, be sure to venture outside downtown. You'll get a better perspective of this vibrant city as a whole when you spend time in some of its diverse and thriving neighborhoods.
"For me, the neighborhoods capture the unique character and quality of Nashville," says Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. "Yes, downtown is the drawing card, but it's the neighborhoods that make Nashville, Nashville. They just bring it to life in an authentic manner."
For recommendations on the neighborhoods you can't miss during a visit to Music City, U.S. News interviewed several local experts. Here's what they had to say.
East Nashville(Courtesy of Dave Krugman)
East Nashville has a curious riches-to-rags-to-riches backstory. Edgefield, a subset of the neighborhood, originally flourished as the most exclusive part of Nashville. It was here where the city's most affluent families constructed opulent Italianate and Renaissance Revival brick homes in the late 19th century.
[Read: The Best Hotels in Nashville.]
"It's a beautiful neighborhood to walk around with all of the historic homes that have been lovingly preserved," says Dawn Kote, concierge at the Hilton Nashville Downtown.
Over the years, the area gradually fell on hard times, but today it's thriving once again.
Brett Withers, a Nashville Metro Council member whose district covers a portion of East Nashville, says, "If you've never been here before, you have to spend a day in East Nashville. It's one of the oldest areas of town [and] the most progressive. A lot of musicians, artists and entrepreneurs live here, which gives the neighborhood a really friendly and creative vibe. And, it's walkable. You can park your car near 11th and Woodland, and walk around the Five Points area. There are a lot of really great restaurants, bars and boutiques all right there."
Ryan Mailley, guest services ambassador at the Omni Nashville Hotel, agrees visitors could spend a whole day exploring East Nashville. "It's just a very eccentric neighborhood," he says.
Hillsboro Village(Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.)
If you're looking for somewhere to spend a leisurely afternoon during your stay, check out Hillsboro Village just south of the downtown area. You can find a cluster of clothing boutiques, restaurants and the historic Belcourt Theatre near the intersection of Wedgewood Avenue and 21st Avenue South. And you're within walking distance of Vanderbilt and Belmont universities.
[Read: The Best Nashville Tours.]
"Hillsboro Village is great," Spyridon says. "It's close to Vandy, and it has some good retail shops and some good restaurants. It just has great offerings and you get a sense of the campus life."
Germantown(Courtesy of Andrew Thomas Lee)
Trendy Germantown is situated directly north of downtown Nashville and is where many young professionals call home. It's a mixture of historic homes, towering condo buildings, clothing boutiques and restaurants in the upper echelon of Nashville's food scene.
"I think Germantown is really great, it's a food mecca," says Laura Cunningham, head concierge at the Hutton Hotel.
12 South(Courtesy of Andrew White)
Shannon Gray, lead concierge at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, says, "I definitely think that people need to check out 12 South because it has a true neighborhood vibe. You can park your car and walk along the street. They have multiple fabulous restaurants. And, if you walk around a little bit and you want a nice sweet treat, they have Jeni's [Splendid Ice Creams] and Las Paletas."
If you love to shop, the 12 South neighborhood should be on your list of things to do in Music City. Its "half-mile strip of boutiques and coffee shops" makes 12 South stand out even in a city as unique as Nashville, says Andrew Atkins III, lead navigator and concierge at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel.
[Read: 5 Great Nashville Shopping Spots.]
The main strip of this part of town is extremely pedestrian-friendly. A good place to start is around the intersection of 12th Avenue South and Kirkwood Avenue, near Sevier Park.
The Gulch(Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp.)
One of Nashville's newest neighborhoods, the Gulch has an upscale, trendy vibe and boasts an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and boutiques. Its sheer number of high-rise apartment buildings make it easy to spot elsewhere in the city.
Atkins notes that the chic neighborhood has a number of great restaurants. "One of my new favorites over there is Fin & Pearl, Nashville's local seafood restaurant. And, I am so, so happy that it is locally owned," he says.
To experience more of what Nashville has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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