Great Escape: Nashville

Long a hotspot for libation-fueled weekend getaways spent in noisy honky-tonk bars, Nashville is showing a more finer side of Southern hospitality with new luxury hotels, high-end dining options, and lavish experiences elevating what’s affectionately been called “NashVegas.”

Words by Marc Graser
Photos by Gabriel Tovar

Despite an influx of new residents demanding more modern and upscale experiences, Music City’s grungy live music scene and hot chicken sandwiches are hallmarks that’ll never go away. From budget-friendly accommodations to discounted attractions, it’s still possible to explore the city without breaking the bank.

But you’ll likely stay in a nicer place when you visit: Within blocks of Broadway’s neon signs, bars and nightclubs, there’s a W Hotel, Four Seasons, Virgin Hotel, 1 Hotel, Thompson, Dream, and Conrad. The nearby Joseph and historic Union Station Nashville Yards, part of Marriott’s Luxury and Autograph Collections, respectively, are worth splurging on. The Moxy is a great alternative for lower budgets, while updated boutiques like The Hutton Hotel and The Gallatin embrace the local scene with style.

Nashville boasts a long history of LGBTQ activism, with the Stonewall Uprising sparking significant progress in the city. Today, a diverse and inclusive community thrives, evident in the numerous LGBTQ-owned businesses and welcoming locals, making it a must-visit for any queer traveler seeking Southern charm with a progressive twist. Rainbow flags flutter proudly, and acceptance is woven into the city’s fabric.

There’s nightlife for every taste. The Wildhorse Saloon hosts an iconic Drag Brunch, experience burlesque and live music at The Lipstick Lounge, or dance the night away at Tribe, the largest LGBTQ+ dance club. For a more intimate vibe, unwind at The End.

Country icons Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn performed at Tootsies Orchid Lounge, a local landmark. Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa is a Tex-Mex-inspired bar with live music that attracts a younger crowd. Try the Recession Special at Robert’s Western World: a fried bologna sandwich with chips and a Moon Pie.

Nashville’s culinary scene caters to every palate. Indulge in upscale Southern fare at The Catbird Seat, grab a vegan burger at The Pharmacy, or savor authentic Mexican flavors at Taqueria del Sol.

Immerse yourself in Nashville’s history through an LGBTQ+ lens. Join the Tennessee Equality Project’s guided tours or explore the powerful exhibits at the National Museum of African American Music. Embrace art at the Frist Art Museum or OZ Arts Nashville.

Use Nashville as your springboard to discover the South. Delve into Civil War history in Chattanooga, and explore antique shops, savor farm-to-table delights, and soak in the small-town atmosphere with a day trip to Franklin. Drive through the majestic Great Smoky Mountains, or lose yourself in the charm of Savannah, Georgia. Who doesn’t love a good road trip?

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