A version of this article previously appeared on Ecocult.
I knew something was up when I got on the small plane at JFK, looked around, and realized I was surrounded by about 25 giddy, giggling women.
No, they weren’t all together. They were part of several bachelorette parties. And I was also going to meet up with a bachelorette party in Music City U.S.A. Turns out Nashville is the bachelorette capital of the world. Why? I think it’s because it’s a less skeezy version of Las Vegas, with hot men crooning from the stage in intimate, unintimidating venues.
Don’t get me wrong, my two nights and days dancing to country music and drinking beer were an absolute blast. But I’m so glad I stayed two extra days to break away from the honky tonks of Broadway and explore. Nashville has plenty to offer the conscious consumer: locavore restaurants, great shopping, and good cocktails, all with a down-home vibe. I’m pretty sure Brooklyn hipsters stole their style from the non-cowboy side of Nashville–mason jars, beards, flannel–yup, there’s a lot to love.
And I should give a shout out to the ethical, Nashville-based shoe brand Nisolo, who sent over a long list of on-point Nashville recommendations before my visit, and was so sweet to give me a tour of their show room and offices. I couldn’t have done this guide without their help!
Hutton Hotel* – Midtown
Nashville’s most sustainable, this sleek and modern hotel has bamboo flooring and furnishings, guest room lights that turn off when you leave and take your key card with you, a recycling program for paper and plastics, dual flush commodes, reclaimed wood furnishing in the restaurant, dispensed soap, shampoo, and conditioner instead of mini bottles, a Tesla courtesy vehicle and electric car charging stations, plus energy efficient construction that includes highest rated exterior glass, elevators, a roofing system, and a laundry water recycling process. I loved my room, which was modern without being cheesy, and comfortable, and the service was excellent. I definitely recommend it!
Hermitage Hotel* – Downtown
This gorgeous, restored historic hotel is heavy on the romance and luxury. My room made me feel like I was staying in a rich southern aunt’s master bedroom, complete with heavy wood furniture, floral fabrics, and an enormous bathroom with a deep tub finished in marble. If you want to get a sense for authentic, old Nashville and its history–this is the hotel where presidents and Al Capone stayed–then this is the place to hang your hat. On top of that, Hermitage donates a few dollars from each stay to local land conservation and owns a nearby farm.
*These two hotels gave me an editorial discount.
Walk – Nashville residents aren’t so into walking, so you might find yourself walking by yourself down an empty sidewalk once you leave downtown. Carry on–there’s nothing to be afraid of. While Nashville neighborhoods are spread out, once you get into one, everything is walkable.
B-Cycle – Nashville has a bike share program, though it isn’t extensive. It’s best for when you are traveling across the downtown area. Download the app so you can find the nearest station.
Uber – Sad to say this is mostly how I got from neighborhood to neighborhood while I was in Nashville. Honestly, I don’t know how visitors operated before Uber. Taxis are overpriced here, and the neighborhoods are far away from each other.
Rolf & Daughters – Germantown
Everyone agrees that this restaurant is the place to go for an upscale, seasonal meal. A large group of us shared an abundance of delicious plates and sipped haute cocktails amongst locals and a rustic-meets-industrial interior.
Wild Cow – East Nashville
A stereotypical crunchy-hippie vegetarian restaurant, with huge nourishing salads and some excellent nachos that won’t weigh you down. My friend (for whom sustainability is not a priority) enjoyed her lunch with me. In other words, not just for hippies!
Capitol Grille – Hermitage Hotel, downtown
This white-tablecloth restaurant may seem like it hasn’t changed since the days when it was a men’s only club when it comes to decor, but the ingredient sourcing is unabashedly progressive. The vegetables are sourced from their own HH Farms. Here is your opportunity to try Southern style food that has been a bit elevated.
Nashville Farmers Market – Germantown
If you have ever been at the farmer’s market and thought, I wish I could get a meal right now, instead of just ingredients, then you’ll love this place. The farmer’s market is outside, and inside is a large local version of a food court, with offerings from local food start-ups, including tacos, cupcakes, bibimbap, pizza, and a lot more.
Thistle Stop Cafe – The Nations
This café serves up tea, sandwiches, and economic empowerment. Thistle Stop, as well as the other social enterprise branches under the Thistle Farms umbrella, employs graduates of Magdalene, a residential program that helps women survivors of trafficking, addiction, and prostitution. It’s farther out from downtown than the other restaurants and cafés I feature here, but well worth the visit!
City House – Germantown
This locavore restaurant serves Italian cooking with a Southern flair.
Husk – Downtown
The menu changes daily at this restaurant, which sources regionally.
Avo – Midtown
This vegan restaurant takes a modern, haute approach to their plates, which are free of dairy and eggs. Their bar offerings are organic, biodynamic, gluten-free, and/or additive-free, unless otherwise noted. They work with sustainable businesses and local farms, and offer house-made kombucha and juices.
The Farm House – Downtown
This restaurant uses from-scratch ingredients for its traditionally southern fare, and support local or family-owned businesses. Order freely at the bar, which only buys from distillers and brewers operating in the contiguous 48 states.
Graze – East Nashville
This vegetarian restaurant really knows its way around seitan and tempeh.
Steadfast Coffee – Germantown
Along with good coffee, this hipster-y café has full kitchen for a hot breakfast.
CREMA – Downtown
Serves coffee sourced from “farmers we trust.”
Read more about Nashville shopping, cocktails, and more on Ecocult.
Have you traveled to Nashville? What are your favorite eco-conscious spots?
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Photo: Alden Wicker