How to Drink and Party Your Way Through Nashville
By Daniel Reynolds
Nashville has a plethora of bars that will appeal to music fans, with many featuring live entertainment that ranges from stars of country western super stars to some of the best karaoke singers in the country. For friends in both high and low places, LGBT or otherwise, check out some of the best of Nashville's whiskey oases.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Nashville without a trip to downtown Broadway, where the Music City’s world-renowned honky tonks line the strip. Robert’s Western World (416 Broadway, 615-244-9552, robertswesternworld.com), Legends Corner (428 Broadway, 615-248-6334, legendscorner.com), Wildhorse Saloon (120 Second Avenue North, 615-902-8200, wildhoursesaloon.com), Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway, 615-726-0463, tootsies.net), and more feature nightly live performances from newcomers and country stars alike, some of whom drop for a surprise song or two. Grab a drink and a dance partner, and strike up a conversation with the many colorful characters that frequent this scene.
The Bluebird Café
For a truly unique Nashville experience, make sure to stop by The Bluebird Café (4104 Hillsboro Pike, 615-383-1461, bluebirdcafe.com). Tucked away in an unassuming strip mall just a few minutes from downtown, this small venue is packed with patrons seeking to hear roundtable music performances from some of the best songwriters and performers in country music. Reservations are hard to come by, so make sure and book this must-see experience well in advance.
The majority of Nashville’s gay bars are located along Church Street, a fitting location for queer nightlife, as the many of the city’s churches are actually on Gay Street. Many LGBT Nashvillians begin their evenings at Tribe (1517 Church Street, 615-329-2912, tribenashville.com), a relaxed neighborhood lounge and video bar. But there’s a flavor for any taste. Just down the street, Canvas Lounge (1707 Church Street, (615) 420-8376, canvaslounge.net), with its walls full of art from local artists, caters to a cultured crowd, while those seeking cheap drinks, karaoke, or a game of pool flock to Blue Genes (1715 Church Street, facebook.com/BlueGenes37203), a bar that allows indoor smoking. The catch-all, however, is Play (1519 Church Street, 615-322-9627, playdancebar.com), the largest gay club in Nashville that also features nightly drag shows, a sizable dance floor, and a large backyard patio for those looking to strike up a conversation outdoors.
In recent years, East Nashville has gained a reputation as a Williamsburg-like neighborhood of the city, boasting an enviable array of coffee shops, boutiques, and artistic enclaves. It offers a great selection of bars as well, including No. 308 (407 Gallatin Avenue, bar308.com), a hip lounge that serves some of the city’s best cocktails, including its own creatively titled creations like “town bicycle” and “blackbird’s beard,” a mix of black tea vodka and pomegranate soda. Seeking LGBT nightlife? Ladies will love the Lipstick Lounge (1400 Woodland Street, 615-2266343, lipsticklounge.com), a neighborhood institution and Nashville’s only lesbian bar that features karaoke, live music, trivia nights, and dancing. And just down the street, Mad Donna’s (1313 Woodland Street, 615-226-1617, maddonnas.com) serves up great drag shows to complement its late-night grub, but make sure to stop by the next morning for its popular burgers, brunches, and Bloody Marys.
Outside of Church Street and East Nashville, there are a number of colorful gay bars that are worth a drink or two. Trax (1501 2nd Avenue South, 615-742-8856), a bar that is often hard to find in the downtown industrial neighborhood, attracts an older crowd that lounges on the deck in warmer months or gathers inside to watch sports games and play darts. Across town, Stirrup (529 Fourth Avenue South, 615-782-0043, stirrupnashville.com), with a popular beer bust and its own spacious patio, draws an eclectic crowd that is sure to include at least a few cowboys and leather aficionados. And for a place truly off the beaten path, try Purple Heys (1401 Fourth Avenue South, 615-244-4433, facebook.com/pages/Purple-Heys), a little-known dive bar that features dirt-cheap drink specials and some of the best underground drag shows in Tennessee.
Click here for a map of all the real-life Nashville attractions featured in Nashville, the critically-acclaimed ABC soap about life in Music City.
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