Updated: Nov 20
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I always try to look up what a place is known for before I visit, to get a sense of what histories and developments I should know about. For Nashville, my searches returned over and over again to hot chicken, the city's nickname "music city" (especially related to country music), and of course to whiskey.
What I learned upon further research is this: Nashville is Black as f*ck
With a population of about 700,000 people - a third of whom identify as Black or African American - it's not in the least bit surprising that so much of what Nashville is known for (including hot chicken, music, and whiskey) is deeply rooted in Black history and culture. What is (and maybe shouldn't be) surprising, though, is how little we see of Nashville's indelible Blackness in mainstream travel guides and reviews. The exception to this for me and an amazing resource I found when planning my trip to Nashville was Urbaanite, a curated cultural guide to the city!
Nashville is a lot of things. But whether you're visiting to see live music, get a taste of Southern hospitality, go out drinking with friends, or get a local meal, you'll probably be intersecting with some aspect of Black history.
That's why I am sharing this three-day itinerary, perfect for a weekend trip, of things to do to explore Black Nashville at its best - from Black businesses, museums, music, art, and more - with a bit of Black history *sprinkled* in.
Getting To And Around In Nashville
There are direct flights to Nashville International Airport (BNA) from a host of locations including London, Washington DC, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and more. Once in Nashville, you could easily navigate the city using taxis or Ubers for a weekend trip. However, for this itinerary specifically, I recommend renting a car or at least arranging transport to the Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville. About an hour outside of Nashville, the distillery is the highlight of this itinerary and a must, especially for whiskey lovers!
Things To Do In Nashville: A Weekend Of Black-Owned Businesses & Experiences
Day One: Arrival
Relax and get settled in for a long weekend of fun! Then kick it off with dinner at a Black-owned spot in a historic building.
Located in the historic 1942 Melrose Theatre building, Sinema Restaurant & Bar is a Black-owned restaurant that offers a contemporary approach to American cuisine. We went to Sinema for dinner on our first night in Nashville after a long day of traveling, and it was exquisite! This is a great spot for a fancier dinner and they also offer what I've heard is an amazing bottomless brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am - 2 pm for $36 per person, plus a 20% service charge. Reservations, especially for brunch, are recommended here.
Day Two: Chicken & Whiskey
All People Coffee is an inviting Black-owned coffee shop and beverage hall in East Nashville serving specialty coffee, small bites, and craft beer on tap. Founded by Corey Alexander and Bradley Bruce, the name is inspired by the founders’ goal: to create a space where all people are welcome to sit, eat, work, chat and be themselves. There is an outdoor patio as well as ample indoor seating with power outlets.
About an hour's drive outside of Nashville, Uncle Nearest's Nearest Green Distillery honors the legacy of Nathan Green - known by his nickname Uncle Nearest. Green, the oftentimes overlooked godfather of Tennessee whiskey, was a formerly enslaved master distiller who taught the founder of Jack Daniel's how to make whiskey!
Green's legacy is integral to the development of Tennessee Whiskey and this stop, though outside of Nashville, is a must-visit! The distillery offers 1.5-hour walking tours throughout the property with a whiskey tasting for $35 per person. While you can visit the distillery without a tour, I highly recommend taking it. The storytelling alone on the tour is worth it. The distillery also often offers special bottles for sale on-site that you can't find elsewhere! Click to learn more about Uncle Nearest and the distillery!
While you're making your way back from the distillery, you have to stop for hot chicken at Prince's, the Black-owned business said to have originated hot chicken! According to the story, Nashville’s famous hot chicken was invented by a scorned lover of Thornton Prince who tried to seek revenge on him by serving him fried chicken loaded with fiery spices. To her dismay, Prince loved the new recipe and perfected it to open up the OG Hot Chicken joint in Nashville, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. More than 100 years later, the establishment is still going strong, with Prince’s great-niece Andre Prince Jeffries at the helm. Note, you can choose your heat level at Prince's and their spicy is truly HOT. I recommend ordering medium spice or below if you're not a fan of spicy foods.
For dinner and drinks, check out EG&MC, a Black-owned speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar located on Nashville’s historic Jefferson Street. The menu includes innovative takes on traditional southern food served tapas-style. The interior is intimate and beautifully decorated, and there's an outdoor patio as well! Note that they do not take reservations for parties under 9 people and all guests must be 21+.
Day Three: Music City!
Touting “food so good you’ll slap yo
mamma!”, Big Al’s Deli & Catering serves up Southern comfort food and is known for its diner-style breakfasts and lunches.
At Big Al's you'll find friendly service, generous portions, and great food. On weekends there may be a bit of a wait.
The only museum dedicated to preserving and celebrating the diversity of Black music in the U.S., the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) is a must-see on any trip to Nashville. Did you know that Nashville’s reputation as a hub for music originated with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a Black choir from a local HBCU founded just one year after the abolition of slavery? The NMAAM will not only remind you of the many contributions of Black folks to contemporary culture but also allow you to dance, sing and rap along with your faves in interactive exhibits. I had a blast!
Just around the corner, the Fifth & Broadway location of Slim & Husky's - a Black-owned pizzeria and beer hall - is a great stop after the museum. Founded by three friends and Tennessee State University grads rooted in a shared love for hip hop culture, Slim & Husky’s offers a "fast-gourmet" pizza experience with locally sourced ingredients, local craft brews, and decadent cinnamon rolls. Founders maintain their mission to “have a footprint” in the community through community events supporting local artists and causes. There is a small patio for outdoor seating as well.
Nashville has so much to explore and this guide is just a starting point to an incredible weekend exploring Black-owned businesses, history, and culture! If you have any questions drop them in the comments below.
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