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Travel Lust: Nashville

Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She lives with her two Shorkie-Tzus, Scarlette and Max, and a display of pink polka-dot-themed home decor -- not to mention a selection of flavored vodka. Check out he...

A lot more than a honky tonk town

With last week's premiere of ABC's Nashville, there's a whole lot of attention being paid to music's favorite city. But there's a lot more to love about Nashville than the Opry and honky tonk bars -- in fact, it just may go down as our favorite Travel Lust feature to research... ever.

Nashville skyline

Places to stay

Hutton Hotel: Entering Nashville craving a bit more Southern hospitality and a little less Music City flair? The Hutton Hotel is the place for you. This property is only a few years old yet has a very contemporary feel with uber-luxe amenities at a not-so-ouchy price tag. Try out their hybrid car, available to shuttle guests all around town (for free!), or their fabulous -- also free -- wine hour every weekday afternoon at 5 p.m. in the lobby. For those of you who ate one too many biscuits at dinner, several of the suites are equipped with in-room cardio equipment! Sorry. Now you have no excuse not to hit the gym.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center: Steps away from the famous Grand Ole Opry and the also fabulous Opry Mills outlet mall, this resort is a must-visit -- you'll feel like you left Nashville and entered Disney, but yet cooler. You can spend a week on this property and never get bored -- there are dozens and dozens of places and activities to keep you entertained, including a 27,000-foot European-inspired spa. If you visit, don't miss the amazing nine-acre botanical gardens with a four-story waterfall and 1/4 mile-long river, right inside the resort!

Union Station: This place left us speechless -- an infrequent occasion. This destination will take you back to the era of horse and carriage. Union Station was built in 1900 and was once a railroad terminal -- in fact, it's the one Al Capone rode when he was on his way to prison! How cool is that? It's no longer a railroad, but now a luxe hotel right in the center of Nashville, complete with 65-foot ceilings and 100-year-old stained glass windows. Amazing.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Honky tonk bar in Nashville

Places to eat

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack: Nashville is a curious place -- upon telling ANYONE you are going, if they've ever been there, they will shoot a half-dozen locations off the top of their head that you must visit, at all costs. And at the top of everyone's list is Prince's, the quintessential spot for a regional favorite, hot chicken. Not to be confused with Buffalo wings, this amazing cut of bird is marinated in buttermilk, breaded and then sauced using a super-secret paste spiced with cayenne peppers to bring the heat. It's then pan fried in a cast-iron skillet. And, yes, it's worth the hype.

Loveless Cafe: If you don't have a car at your disposal, you may not make it to Loveless Café -- it's a bit of a trek from the downtown area, but it's completely worth the journey. If you are a biscuit lover -- we're obsessed! -- you'll cross any barrier to get there. This is the South you've dreamed of.

Capitol Grille: Set in the lower level of the century-old Hermitage Hotel, I fell in love with this place as soon as I tried their amazing mac-and-cheese. While you are there, check out their men's room -- it's not what you would expect, and is so fabulous, it's been used for countless music videos and photo shoots. This is one of the more exclusive restaurants in the city, so you will need reservations -- and your credit cards.

San Antonio Taco Co.: I stumbled upon this spot while exploring the neighborhood and fell in love. It's super casual, cheap and has good food served fast and hot. We sampled their homemade queso and bucket of beers and were already chatting about returning later that same day.

Bound'ry: We'll be honest -- we didn't expect to experience the best oysters of our lives in Tennessee. Slightly off the beaten path, your adventurous side will gasp when you experience the specials at this spot -- we tried antelope for the first time, and it was amazing!

Schermerhorn Symphony Center

Places to play

We know that Nashville is known for their music -- but when you arrive, you'll be shocked at just how much music is available. Country, sure -- but a whole lot more than that. We visited the legendary Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and it was a fun (crowded, overwhelming, but awesome!) time. There's a whole lot else out there though.

We were obsessed with Bluebird Café -- in fact, you may just recognize it from its appearance in ABC's new Nashville series -- but also check out Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville's Grammy-winning venue and recording space. The building's rectangular shape and high-quality acoustics make for an evening of exquisite music listening.

If you are looking to avoid the tourist spots and have a truly unique time, stop by Santa's Pub -- this is a double-wide trailer with floor-to-ceiling airbrushed murals of reindeer, candy canes and Santa on a Harley, complete with nightly karaoke and cheap beer and wine coolers. Ambiance? Heck, yeah. Just may not the kind you were expecting to be going for. We had a blast!

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Photos courtesy of The Nashville Conventions & Visitors Bureau
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