Summer of Funk

12 Eclectic Experiences You Can Only Have in Nashville

There’s more to Nashville than country music (which we also love).

Photo by Monica Murray

At first glance, the phrase “Funky Nashville” sounds like an unreleased Tony Joe White record. Sure, Nashville is the undisputed home of traditional country music and a bastion of western wear. But the rapid influx of new residents continues to diversify an already eclectic community. Don’t get me wrong: There is PLENTY of amazing country music to go around (see: The Farmer & Adele at Station Inn). But check out these slightly more offbeat Nashville #1 hits that won’t be on your travel agent’s playlist.

Spend an extremely vibey night at Creature Camp 

Ashland City

Early morning fog is rolling across 5 acres of Tennessee forests. You wake to bird song in a refurbed 1963 Shasta camper (with orange accents), and lean over to click on 650 AM, WSM, “The Most Famed Country Music Station in the World.” You rise to make coffee in the French press—way better than coffee at work. You’re not going to your 9-5 today; this beautiful morning is brought to you by Creature Camp, an art environment built by Nashville-based artists Bret Hunter & Rebecca Blevins. 

Outside the camper you’ll find the wild and woolly creatures of Creature Camp—a brightly colored menagerie of otherworldly sculptures. Maybe you want to chill in the camper and watch VHS tapes on the VCR. Or maybe you’d like to request a pottery lesson from Blevins (lessons available for one to two people). Guests can even purchase duck eggs produced on site by the plucky ducks of Creature Camp, or request a replica of their favorite creature from Hunter. Whatever you decide to do, Creature Camp’s got all the fixins to be the vibey-ist hang of your life.

Photo courtesy of River Queen Voyages

Get a new view of downtown with River Queen Voyages 

East Nashville

Did you know you can explore downtown Nashville without your feet ever touching the hot, southern asphalt? Yes, friends, at River Queen Voyages, you can catch the scenic views of downtown Nashville from the WATER. 

Named after a Jenny Lewis record, River Queen Voyages is the brainchild of entrepreneur Annie Klaver. RQV offers kayak tours on the Cumberland River, as well as—get this—the only PEDAL PONTOON PARTY BOAT downtown. Snack & sip with friends as the breeze blows through your hair, carrying the faint sound of the honky tonks in the distance. If you’re looking to do more than just cruise, guests can request a group scavenger hunt (in kayaks). 

Whether you’re needing some alone time (single kayak) or whole family time (kids over 7 are welcome), RQV has good times dialed in—with stylish, one-of-a-kind merch for friends at home (from t-shirts to fanny packs, plus all routes include a complimentary RQV sticker).

Practice goat yoga like the stars do 

Brentwood

Nashville is rife with celebrity sightings. Thousands of people can say, “I saw a big country star at the Ryman,” but only a select few can boast that, “Moo Moo, the goat that stood on that big country star, also stood on me.” If you’re looking for close encounters of a very cute kind, Goat Yoga Nashville is for you and your crew. 

Potential goat yogis can view the barnyard crew on the company’s website, with a photo gallery of which celebrities these four-legged friends have rested on. Classes start at $25 and are available most weekends (and select weekdays). If you decide to make goat yoga a part of your regular practice or a one-time experience, reservations are easy to make (see website) but hard to forget. 

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Dust off your hoop skills at Hula Hoop Nashville 

Woodbine

Remember that beautiful hula hooper you saw at your last music festival? You know, the one with the mesmerizing moves and the matching hoop/outfit? At Hula Hoop Nashville, that hooper can be you. HHN offers a variety of nontraditional classes to make your hoop dreams come true, and visitors can even commission their own custom hoops (with the aesthetic guidance of the HHN team). In addition to hula hooping (hoop fitness, doubles hoop, parent/child hoop) and hoop yoga, HHN offers vinyasa yoga, meditation, silk fans, and tech fans (aka flow fans). Trip got postponed? Don’t worry—many classes are available online.

Photo courtesy of Live True Vintage

Give your wardrobe a refresh at Live True Vintage 

Old Hickory

I made my first vintage purchase at the tender age of 12 (an orange skirt with blue cherries and lacy trim). By now, at the ripe old age of (cough), I am choosy. So when I say Live True Vintage is the ever-loving greatest, believe me.  

First, the proprietress, Tammy Pope, has amazing hair and talking to her is like a shot of liquid sunshine. Second, the prices and selection are insane. If you usually buy vintage in NYC or LA, you will lose your mind. There is a wide variety of spotless silk lingerie, muumuus, kimonos, work wear, and denim. There is a jersey section. Graphic tees are grouped by color. Almost everything is under $50, and the selection is HUGE (two rooms full). Do I even need to say it? LTV is magic.

Photo courtesy of The Good Fill

Kickstart a new sustainability habit at The Good Fill 

Five Points 

A few years before she moved to Nashville, stylist Megan Gill was teaching cosmetology in Costa Rica. Her relationships there opened her eyes to ways in which other countries shoulder the burden of supplying cheap goods to the U.S. Considering how the products she consumed affected the global community became part of her family’s ethos—and The Good Fill was born.

The Good Fill has everything you need to keep your body and your conscience feeling good: High quality sustainable beauty products in a modern setting. Actually cute reusable bags, containers, and accessories. Shampoo bars that make you forget bottled shampoo ever existed.  Whether you’re a Nashville local looking to invest in a more sustainable lifestyle or you’re looking for unique items to take home to friends and family, a trip to TGF does not disappoint.

Photo courtesy of Parnassus Books

Get lost in the stacks at Parnassus Books 

Green Hills

Independent bookstores have always been a cornerstone in eclectic urban subcultures, and Parnassus Books is no exception. The brainchild of author Ann Patchett & publishing vet Karen Hayes, Parnassus is a community center for Nashville’s literary scene, which continues to rise to prominence through the work of writers such as Patchett, Mary Laura Philpott, Tiana Clark, and Margaret Renkl. 

But Parnassus Books is not just for the literati. A tiny door (strung with twinkle lights) transports young readers to the children’s section, which is full of kid lit classics and new favorites. Even the family philistine will enjoy a trip to the store given its section of quirky gifts and unusual treats in addition to coveted titles.  

Eat a fat sandwich inside an old auto shop at Phat Bites 

Donelson

Nashville’s PHAT Bites (Pretty Hot And Tasty) got the thumbs up from Food Network’s Guy Fieri and locals know why. Serving up both healthy & tasty food in a renovated auto shop (adorned with graffiti art, costumed manikins, and one-of-a-kind sculptures) has made this joint legendary. 

In the words of owner Julie Buhler, Phat Bites serves “fat sandwiches and skinny salads.”  What’s a fat sandwich? Find out for yourself when you try the Hot and Cold Sweats (sliced sirloin, ghost pepper cheese, caramelized onions, bacon mayo, lettuce, and tomato on a ciabatta hoagie). As for the skinny salad, try the Ninja Star (Chinese chicken salad, granola, sunflower seeds, and shredded carrots served on a bed of iceberg and topped with raspberry dressing).   

Photo courtesy of 400 Degrees

Choose your own hot chicken adventure at 400 Degrees 

Bordeaux & Nashville Airport

This restaurant is a remix of Nashville hot chicken past and present. Owner and Nashville native Aqui Hines credits the famous Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack with influencing her taste buds growing up, but specifies that her version is deep fried with a thicker crust.  

At 400 Degrees, guests can choose their fighter: 100° for mild, 200° for medium (classic hot chicken), and 400° for those who dare to dance close to the flame (but without the impossible-to-shake burn of more punishing takes on hot chicken). Also, their Instagram is FUN—it features daily regulars, tourists, and dancing. The restaurant even has their own mural outside for photo ops (angel wings that look like chicken wings). Catch 400 Degrees at their Bordeaux location or their new Nashville airport spot.

Photo courtesy of Guerilla Bizkits

Sample a punk-influenced vegan biscuit at Guerilla Bizkits 

Served at Dose Coffee; storefront coming soon

Guerilla Bizkits, launched on April 20, 2020, is a joint creation of “historian-turned baker” Ali Humbrecht and creative director Zach Halfhill. Nashville’s vegan biscuit authority, GB started distributing “bizkits” during the pandemic when customers placed orders on their ’90s hardcore-inspired website. 

With a cheeky aesthetic and a well-defined company ethos, GB’s fame spread quicker than their Bad Brains-inspired jelly, Berry Brains. In their own words, “[The biscuits’] flavor sits somewhere between golden clouds during an autumn sunset and the feeling you get when you see your mom for the first time in a while.” Deliveries are on pause as the business raises money for their own storefront, but don’t worry; bizkit lovers can still cop one at Dose Café and Dram Bar’s Riverside location. 

Photo courtesy of NMAMM

Peruse P-Funk costumes at the National Museum of African American Music 

Downtown

It doesn’t get much funkier than the costumes of Parliament-Funkadelic. Guests can see those and much more at the recently opened National Museum of African American Music in downtown Nashville. Trace the history of Black music in America from the 1600s to the present, in a setting where guests are encouraged to touch and not just look. Visitors can take turns producing a record, recording their own voices, and playing games that reinforce the narratives in each section. Every inch of the gallery space is collaged with story, ephemera, records, and costumes — enough variety to strike a chord with each member of your crew.

Go analog at Ernest Tubb’s Midnite Jamboree

Broadway

For the past 26 years, visitors have filed into the Texas Troubadour Theatre off Music Valley Drive to see the second longest radio show in history. Listeners would arrive a little before 10pm to see which musical guests were standing behind the red velvet curtain to play live on WSM’s Saturday night broadcast. Though the show is moving back to its original home at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway (don’t worry, the beautiful sign is going to a new home in Texas), the show's spirit will remain the same, transporting listeners back to a time when people sat around “listening at the radio” for a wild Saturday night.

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