As I write this, I’m on a plane aching to get home to my little guy, so take this travelogue with a grain (or several) of salt.
It will be a rare thing for me to write about traveling, because we don’t take vacations very often. And when it comes to business trips, my new normal is to get in and get out as quickly as possible (for said reason above).
Either way, I find the best moments while traveling occur when we seek out local experiences without overplanning ahead of time.
When it comes to vacation, my main pre-planning involves accommodations that are as close to “home” as possible (or a step up with points!) and reducing the stress of getting there. Other than that, the best laid plans are no plans until we arrive.
In Nashville, we lucked out staying at an AirBnB that reminded me so much of the early 1900s home that we had renovated in Midtown. The owners easily could have passed for our Nashville body doubles.
Even if we go the hotel route, neighborhoods are a great place to start. I like to stay in a walkable neighborhood whenever possible. So we can grab coffee or dinner without making reservations – especially helpful when we first get to town.
The first day for us typically involves relaxing, attempting to unplug, and walking around to get our footing. After a day or two of doing very little, then we start making plans.
I also like exploring other neighborhoods where we’re not necessarily staying, by foot, as well. We found the downtown Nashville area to be too touristy, so we explored other neighborhoods like Germantown, Music Row and towns like Franklin and found them to be just what the doctor ordered.
I had a blissful moment in this adorable Germantown coffee and chocolate shop, Tempered, waiting for my almond milk latte while we scouted out brunch spots nearby.
Finding great local restaurants is another activity best held until we arrive in town. Between Yelp, Instagram, recommendations from Lyft drivers and hotel/AirBnB hosts, we can usually get a sense of what the most popular spots are with the locals.
From there, we only make reservations for the can’t-miss dinners. Otherwise it will depend on what neighborhood we end up in and what we’re hungry for.
In Nashville, the stars aligned with the following spots:
Pharmacy Burger had the most amazing farm burger with an egg on it, and local craft beer garden. We were able to avoid waiting in line because a Lyft driver told us about the No Wait app, where you essentially reserve a place in line.
After a sweaty ride on an on-off bus, we developed a craving for oysters. Through a combination of Google Maps, Open Table and Yelp, we found a quirky spot, South Street, near Music Row. Their giant Gulf oysters and bottomless fountain drinks hit the spot!
Somehow we mustered the appetite for dinner that evening, and thank goodness we did because Butcher and Bee turned out the be our favorite meal in Nashville.
No trip to the South (or any part of the globe, in my book) would be complete without mac & cheese. Our day trip to Franklin gave us an opportunity to try Puckett Grocery, which we had heard was the place to get an authentic Nashville experience.
Franklin was also home to the most adorable shop full of American made products, White’s Mercantile, perhaps named after the gorgeous white brick storefronts that lined its streets. I could have spent hours in there!
The last clandestine meal was the result of searching Google Maps for a coffee shop we could swing by on the way back from returning our rental car. Yeast Bakery came through big time, both for great coffee and amazing savory pastries, including their famous Czech kolaches.
This formula has worked for all kinds of destinations, from big cities to beaches. It also helped me stay in the moment and enjoy much-needed vacation, since homesickness crept up much more this time around.
The good news is after writing this, I’m now two hours closer to touching down!
What are some ways you find the best local spots while traveling?