Downtown Nashville tends to conjure images of honky-tonks and high-rises. But it wasn’t always that way. The downtown area — which stretches from Jefferson Street to I-40, 12th Avenue to the Cumberland River — has been molded by an ever-evolving history.
And no area is steeped in more history than Printer’s Alley. A hidden pathway filled with historic buildings and new watering holes, Printer’s Alley has had several reinventions through the years. The alley first housed Andrew Jackson’s stablehouse and office, where he practiced his brand of rough-and-tumble frontier law. Then came the printing boom of the late 1800s, when a slew of national printers and newspapers set up shop in and gave name to Printer’s Alley. And then, after clubs and speakeasies quenched the thirsts of locals during Prohibition, gritty nightclubs emerged, setting a stage for music legends like Chet Atkins, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Sr.
In recent years, the neighborhood has experienced something of a renaissance, and now offers some of the finest grub and art throughout the downtown. And you’ll get a taste of both worlds — the storied history and new-age style — at Hotel Indigo Nashville Downtown. Housed in a former bank, the hotel still has hints of the city’s heritage, like the original travertine floors and a printer-themed lobby with its own library and speakeasy-inspired lounge featuring local artists and songwriters seven nights a week.
It’s fitting for this neighborhood, this effortless mix of old and new. Peel back the layers of history inside and outside of the hotel as you stroll the alley and its surrounding streets; feel the pulse of creative energy that has always characterized this corner of Nashville as you listen to the city’s newest tunes and taste its newest dishes (priority number-one: an education in hot chicken). Drink it in as you sample the unique brews that characterize Nashville’s growing craft-beer scene.
And for a sampler of what makes this revamped 19th-century neighborhood the ideal place to stay, plan one perfectly crafted day with this easy itinerary:
8:00 a.m.: Get your morning jolt from Frothy Monkey, a locally owned coffee and breakfast joint on 5th Avenue of the Arts. Frothy Monkey serves up locally roasted coffee drinks as well as a full breakfast menu that includes gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options. For a real treat, grab a Bloody Mary with your order.
10:00 a.m.: You’ll need to work off your meal after a couple of hours at Frothy Monkey. Walk a few blocks to the historic Ryman Auditorium and spring for a $30 backstage tour. You’ll learn about the rich history of this famous venue, which was established as a church in 1892 and was home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The backstage tour not only guides you through the building’s entire history, it also gives you an opportunity to stand on the hallowed Ryman stage. Tours run daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
12:00 p.m.: You can grab lunch on site at The Ryman’s brand-new restaurant, Cafe Lula. The menu is small, but Cafe Lula has the best sandwiches you can get downtown (and they rival other neighborhood hot spots, too). Spring for the pork sandwich (pork, heirloom carrots, house-made mustard, strawberry habanero hot sauce) and a local beer.
2:00 p.m.: Catch an unparalleled view of the downtown skyline with a quick walk across the pedestrian bridge. This bridge connects downtown with Cumberland Park and Nissan Stadium where the Tennessee Titans play. Without any pesky traffic in your way, you can pause for some photos and enjoy the view. If you make it to the other side of the bridge, take a time out and enjoy the fountains at Cumberland Park.
3:30 p.m.: Next, you can check out what’s happening in Nashville’s visual arts scene at the 5th Avenue of the Arts district. This one-block area has several art galleries, including The Arts Company, The Rymer Gallery and Tinney Contemporary. These are the three largest galleries in the arts district, and all of them focus on curating engaging, cutting-edge shows for the community to experience. If you only have time for a few stops, put these three at the top of your list
5:00 p.m.: Yazoo Brewery and Tap Room has been serving up local beer in Nashville since 2003, making it one of the city’s first craft breweries. Hop on a B-Cycle (the city’s bike rental system) and ride a few miles to the outskirts of downtown to try a flight (or catch a tour if you’re there on Saturday). Yazoo’s flagship beers include the Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, SUE, Sly Rye Porter, Dos Perros, Onward Stout, Gerst and Hop Project. Don’t miss your chance to try a few of them.
7:30 p.m.: After a couple of beers, play it safe and walk a few blocks to Virago, Nashville’s premier sushi restaurant. The entire menu is filled with fresh, inventive rolls, as well as Asian-inspired entrees. If sushi is your thing, consider the $64 “Trust the Chef” tour of the best sushi in Nashville. Passing on sushi? Try the brisket.
9:00 p.m.: You can’t hang out downtown without at least stopping by a honky-tonk bar. Robert’s Western World and Tootsie’s are two of the most popular joints for getting the Nashville experience. Make time for a beer at Robert’s Western World, where you can watch the two-steppers do their thing to the sounds of a classic country band. If you’re a country music history fan, stop in Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Since the 1960s, Tootsie’s has welcomed famous country artists from Kris Kristofferson to Patsy Cline, and legend has it that a few famous tunes were written right there in the bar.
11:00 p.m.: It’s still a little early for last call, but you can grab a nightcap on the rooftop of ACME Feed & Seed. This historic 1890s building has an open-air bar on the roof, which offers sweeping views of the city. Cap off your perfect day with a cocktail and enjoy the scenery.