Travel

What to Do After Dark in Nashville

See a different side of the city with these fun nighttime activities in Nashville.

Rosemary & Beauty Queen
Rosemary & Beauty Queen
Rosemary & Beauty Queen

Whodini told us that “the freaks come out at night,” but that’s not necessarily so. There are plenty of things to do around Nashville after most bars and restaurants have shuttered for the evening that anyone of any temperament can enjoy. However, if you do want to get just a little bit wild, those opportunities are there for you, too. We’ve put together a list of some of the best ways to embrace the night in Nashville, whether you’re looking to watch a movie, get a little exercise, listen to music or grab some grub without plunging into the massive crowds of Lower Broadway’s neon canyon of excess.

Pins Mechanical Co.
Pins Mechanical Co.
Pins Mechanical Co.

Knock down some drinks and some pins

Various
Back in the day, bowling and drinking were two activities that were discouraged from doing together. Draconian alley owners made bowlers keep all their beers far from the lanes, or limited drinking to their dark seedy bars that smelled like rental shoes. Thank goodness for establishments that have realized that bowlers can safely enjoy a cocktail or three while slinging some balls down the alley. At Pins Mechanical Co., take advantage of a full bar while you have fun duckpin bowling, a less-intense version of the game that uses smaller balls and pins, and doesn’t even require special shoes. There are also rooms full of vintage video games to play into the wee hours. Pinewood Social is an all-day destination with a coffee shop, full-service restaurant, craft cocktail bar and six vintage lanes restored from a Bowl-a-Rama in Indiana. They even serve large format cocktails that your entire bowling party can share.

Have some late-night yuks at a comedy club

Various
Most comedy clubs offer at least two sets a night on weekends with the benefit that the later shows usually get a little more ribald and funnier. At Nashville’s long-time king of comedy clubs, Zanies, national touring acts headline the weekends with local comics often opening for the stars. You can also find standup at Third Coast Comedy Club, but the emphasis is more on sketch comedy and improv. Monday night “Roast the Host” open mics are always a hoot.

Robert's Western World
Robert’s Western World
Robert’s Western World

Go honky tonkin’ like the locals do

Downtown
It’s hard to find bad music even in the cheesiest of Lower Broad bars, but those in the know flock to Robert’s Western World for the most authentic honky tonk experience in town. Long-time performers like Brazilbilly and the Don Kelley Band feature some of the hottest pickers in town playing country from when country wasn’t cool, as Barbara Mandrell would say. In fact, the bands sometimes get so into it, drummers have been known to fall out of the front window. Head to the back of the long, skinny room, order up a longneck and their famous fried bologna sandwich, and then fight your way back as far forward as your claustrophobia will allow.

Pump up the jams with the party people

Various
Nashville is blessed with several LGBTQ+ bars that are both a whole lotta fun and also quite welcoming to anyone who wants to enjoy a good time. At Play Dance Bar, the sound system and light shows set the mood for the frenetic dance floor with the bonus of some of the city’s best drag shows at various times of the evening until late, late night. Five Points Diner & Bar is a pretty conventional restaurant and cocktail lounge during the day and early evening, but as the sun goes down, the volume goes up for a more energetic scene. The bar is open late with a special menu of party fuel from the kitchen. It’s decidedly mellower at Lipstick Lounge, one of the oldest lesbian bars in the country, but everyone is welcome in the lounge or the classy cigar bar upstairs. Karaoke nights are definitely a highlight of the weekly schedule.

The Basement East
The Basement East
The Basement East

Catch an up-and-coming star at a rock bar

Various
Being Music City and all, you know that Nashville has some amazing performance venues. Among the most beloved is the Exit/In, an Elliston Place institution where legends like Jimmy Buffett, REM, The Police, Billy Joel, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon, and many others graced the small stage before reaching stardom. Be aware of the concept of “Exit/In Standard Time” if you go to see a show. If the poster says that the show starts at 9:00, the headliner’s bus probably won’t even show up at the venue before midnight. Plan and drink accordingly. Across the river, The Basement East (affectionately known as “The Beast”) exudes a similar vibe to the Exit/In. It’s a neighbourhood hang that happens to feature great bands on a stage with excellent sightlines for viewing, even if you’re seated behind the crowd. A spacious outdoor deck is a fine place to catch a little fresh air and a nice view of downtown across the river between sets.

Sing along with Santa

Fairgrounds
Speaking of karaoke, Santa’s Pub has been a late-night destination for more than a decade. Once you get over the cognitive dissonance of a bar that is basically a double wide trailer with the halls decked for Christmas all year round and that the proprietor does indeed look like St. Nick, you can get around to having a lowdown dirty good time. Well, not a “dirty” time, because Santa doesn’t allow any cussin’, smoking, or beer on his stage when you’re howling along to your favourite hits. As opposed to some downtown singalong clubs where the performers sound like they are trying out for a record deal, at Santa’s it’s all about the fun of being a little silly among friends. It’s canned beer and cash-only, so bring your ATM card.

Rosemary & Beauty Queen
Rosemary & Beauty Queen
Rosemary & Beauty Queen

Put on your knee pads for a Five Points bar crawl

East Nashville
If, as is often lazily asserted, East Nashville is our Brooklyn, the Five Points neighbourhood is Nashville’s Williamsburg. Although the confluence of streets from all directions can make navigation a little confusing, you’re never far from a bar to ask for directions and a drink. Beyond the Edge is a sports bar stalwart that has only recently gone smoke-free indoors, so you’ll be able to watch games on their 25 screens without looking through a haze. 3 Crow Bar is a watering hole that stays open as late as the law will allow, serving from a long menu of beers and spirits plus their dangerously boozy frozen Bushwacker. Red Door Saloon is another casual choice for cheap drinks and simple food like steamed sandwiches and hot dogs. Attracting a diverse crowd inside and on the covered porch, it’s a nice cross-section of the neighbourhood. Noble’s is a newer addition to the Five Points area, but it has quickly made itself at home thanks to a menu of comfort food, craft beer, and cocktails. The main bar closes earlier, but the Break Room upstairs welcomes night owls until a 2:30 last call. A night out at Rosemary & Beauty Queen often feels like a house party, since the cocktail bar is indeed located in a historic home that blends in with the rest of the neighbourhood. However, they won’t kick you out until 2 am, and how many party hosts will do that? After you’re done crawling and you’re looking for your “fourth meal,” check out nearby Dino’s or The Treehouse for burgers and late-night snacks.

Rivergate Skate Center
Rivergate Skate Center
Rivergate Skate Center

Skate late

Various
If you’re feeling the need for speed plus a little nostalgia, you can’t beat skating on wheels or blades. Rivergate Skate Center caters to adults with a Sunday Night late skate from 8 pm until 11:30 pm for the 21+ crowd, and Brentwood Skate Center also features the occasional adult rink session later in the evening. For skateboarders, rollerbladers, and BMXers Two Rivers Skate Park stays open until 11 am for your outdoor shredding pleasure. If you think ice is nice, the Ford Ice Centers sometimes feature skate rentals and rink time later in the evening, especially for adult beer hockey leagues.

Refuel at a downtown diner

Downtown
Now that the venerable Hermitage Cafe has closed and Athens Family Restaurant doesn’t serve 24 hours anymore, late-night greasy spoon options have become a little more limited. Fortunately, The Diner offers both casual and slightly more upscale fare in its six floors of dining space towering over SoBro. Each floor serves something a little different from breakfast and pastries on the ground floor to sports bar fare on the second level and a sushi/raw bar experience on the top floor. It’s open until 2:30 am, so you’ll have plenty of time to make your choices. At Sun Diner, the menu is a little more straight ahead diner food-focused, and the decor is a throwback to the days when Elvis ruled the airwaves. Best of all, they serve until 3 in the morning.

Skull's Rainbow Room Printers Alley
Skull’s Rainbow Room Printers Alley
Skull’s Rainbow Room Printers Alley

Watch the tassels twirl at Skull’s

Downtown
Unlike a lot of downtown clubs, Skull’s Rainbow Room isn’t an homage to anything. It’s the real damned thing with a history stretching back to when original owner David “Skull” Schulman first opened his lounge in 1948 and watched it become the entertainment anchor of Printers Alley in its heyday. The modern-day incarnation of Skull’s maintains the old school vibe with a beautiful ornate bar pumping out cocktails and a kitchen preparing a classic chop house menu. But the real highlights are the PG13-rated burlesque shows Friday and Saturday nights starting at 11 pm. Accompanied by a live band, these lovely dancers have mastered the art of the tease, gracefully moving to the music and working the room without revealing too much.

Discover Nashville’s spooky past

Various
The aforementioned Skull Schulman was the victim of a brutal murder in his club in 1998, and that’s one of the stories you can hear as a part of Nashville Ghost Tours, a ghoulish walk through history. The tour starts outside of Skull’s and meanders around downtown while knowledgeable guides share details of the city’s haunted history. Don’t worry, if you get too scared, you’re never more than a few steps away from a bar for some liquid courage.

Belcourt Theatre
Belcourt Theatre
Belcourt Theatre

Catch a midnight flick at the Belcourt

Hillsboro Village
As the city’s favorite cinema, you’d expect the Belcourt to screen arthouse fare and the latest first-run highbrow films, and they do that for sure. But at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, they’re not afraid to get weird with late shows. The two movies are usually thematically related, but it’s absolutely fine if you only want to see the musical slasher “Stagefright” the first night and give “Slumber Party Massacre II” a miss on Saturday. Any midnight showing at the Belcourt is worth staying up late for.

Experience Nashville’s most decadent late-night bites

Various
It’s not like you’re probably hankering for kale at 11 pm, so it’s a good thing that Nashville bars and restaurants are there to ease your craving for a quick edible nightcap. The Big Bar at Bastion serves fantastic drinks, but there’s only one thing on the food menu: quite possibly the best nachos in town. Actually, you could say two things since they are available in a vegetarian version, but the original with smoked pork, multiple cheeses, tomatillo salsa veggies, and sour cream is absolutely transcendent. Mother’s Ruin in Germantown isn’t the sort of place you’d want to tweet about if your doctor follows you on Twitter (like mine does). The menu isn’t exactly healthy, but damned if it isn’t delicious and available until long after midnight. Get the Old Bay waffle fries with spicy ketchup and caramelized onion dip, but don’t tell my doc I sent you. At Black Rabbit, you can enjoy live music, strong drinks and great food in a historic building that was once home to Jimmy Hoffa’s lawyer. Almost everything they cook gets at least a kiss of live fire, and an order of their rabbit rolls made with a rabbit/pork bologna served with swiss, dijon and onion on a Hawaiian roll is the perfect boost to help you hop home after a late night out.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of Nashville, where he has lived his entire life — except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene, Nashville Lifestyles, Local Palate, Edible, FoodRepublic.com, and Conde Nast Traveler. He likes beer, bourbon, and bacon but isn’t fanatical about any of them.

Travel

Hollywood's Favorite Mountain Town Isn't Where You'd Think It Is

It's all hot springs and Hemmingway lore here.

Michael Godek/Moment/Getty Images
Michael Godek/Moment/Getty Images
Michael Godek/Moment/Getty Images

“Idaho is like the new Colorado, and Sun Valley is like the new Aspen,” a woman leaned over and said as we began our descent into Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, Idaho. “Everyone’s coming here now.”

Similar to Aspen-which has seen an unprecedented influx of transplants from around the country since the pandemic began-Sun Valley has served as Idaho’s venerable ski town ever since it was established as the country’s first designated ski resort in 1936. But those same snow-covered mountains people swish down all winter look awfully pretty come summertime, surrounded by the nearby Sawtooth Mountain range and set within the sweeping Wood River Valley.

Peter Jacobson/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Peter Jacobson/500Px Plus/Getty Images
Peter Jacobson/500Px Plus/Getty Images

Celebrities, artists, and fiercely passionate locals have long been a part of the fabric of this town ever since Ernest Hemingway was invited to live and write in the Sun Valley Lodge in 1939.

“Many celebrities were invited to come for free.” actress and Sun Valley resident Ali Larter told me at The Sun Valley Film Festival (SVFF) in April. “Hemingway was one of the first famous people to come and help build up what this mountain town was, and it’s become a part of what makes this valley the creative hub that it continues to be even today.”

Sun Valley’s cach√© remains alive and well, with its contingent of laid-back locals, cool bars, restaurants, and always-sunny Sun Valley vibes. While the secret about this idyllic mountain town may be out, Aspen, I can assure you, it is not. From spending some time soaking in the local hot springs to visiting a few of Hemingway’s favourite haunts, here are all the ways to enjoy Hollywood’s favourite mountain town, no matter the season.

Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images
Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images
Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images

Walk in Hemingway’s footprints or drink amid the flowers

With 50 peaks, 300 lakes and rivers, and 250-miles of trails, wherever you are in Sun Valley, adventure isn’t far behind.

A good place to get your bearings is the White Cloud Trail. One of the most popular hiking loops at a leisurely 2.5 miles, it’s a short walk or bike ride from the Sun Valley resort area. As you make your way along the trail, plan to stop by the Hemingway Memorial, which is a fantastic place to soak in some views.

About four miles down the Wood River Trail is the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, which makes for a lovely bike-ride destination. The garden is a beautiful place to spend a few hours, especially in the summer when numerous events take place, like tours, wine tastings, and cocktail evenings.

Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images
Cavan Images/Cavan/Getty Images

Spend the morning soaking in local hot springs or angling for rainbows

Just 10 miles west of downtown Ketchum on Warm Springs Road, Frenchman’s Bend is the best place to soak in local hot springs. This shallow spring has long been a local Sun Valley hot spot, though it’s very much not clothing optional, so skinny dippers beware.

But getting hot and pruny isn’t the only way to enjoy the water here. Stretching 137-miles long and running directly through Sun Valley, Big Wood River is a great spot to go white water rafting in nearby Stanley or try your hand at fly fishing.

If you’re angling to get out and catch those elusive rainbows, try a guided fishing trip or even a women’s intro to fly fishing clinic with Sun Valley Outfitters. Big Wood is known for wild trout, though Silver Creek Preserve is another excellent spot (and a Hemingway favourite).

Warfield Distillery & Brewery
Warfield Distillery & Brewery
Warfield Distillery & Brewery

Eat homey dishes in cozy settings

Sun Valley’s food scene rivals that of any big city, starting with coffee and a ham and cheese croissant at Konditorei. Otherwise head straight for The Kneadery for a country frittata and ultimate Belgian waffles topped with whipped cream in downtown Ketchum.

Walk it all off before heading to Warfield Distillery & Brewery, which serves up some of the best elevated pub food. The beautiful rooftop is perfect for drinking in the views over downtown Ketchum and Baldy mountain. Don’t miss the signature Warfield Burger and Bacon Blue Ridge Salad and save some room for the carrot cake if you can.

Set on a side street in downtown Ketchum, The Covey‘s hearth style, seasonally inspired menu more than delivers when it comes to homemade pastas and some of the best locally caught trout you’ve ever had. It’s also got a killer wine list and a gorgeous new outdoor garden to enjoy it all in. If push comes to shove, don’t be afraid to post up at the bar, where you can chat with some of Sun Valley’s coolest team of locals and longtime friends who own and operate this awesome spot.

Rickshaw
Rickshaw
Rickshaw

Rickshaw is the cozy [read: tiny] neighbourhood joint to satisfy all your Asian- fusion cravings. The Korean Fried Chicken (KFC), Chiang Mai Curry Noodles, and Green Papaya Salad are cooked to chef-kiss perfection. Just note that this place packs up quick and reservations can be tough to come by, so if you can’t get a spot, grab your food to go and post up for a picnic in any of the nearby parks.

One absolute can’t miss when you’re in Ketchum is the chance to guzzle down schooners at Grumpy’s, a true Sun Valley legend. You can sit out front and enjoy the chilli fries and beers, but you’ll be missing out on the indoor ambience of this time-capsule-of-a-ski-town dive.

Come nighttime, head to Pioneer Saloon for margaritas, pints at The Cellar Pub, a tipple and some of Tom’s Mom’s Meatloaf at the Sawtooth Club, before an obligatory lap at Casino.

The Gold Mine Thrift Store
The Gold Mine Thrift Store
The Gold Mine Thrift Store

Strike gold at the local thrift

There’s no shortage of high-end boutiques in and around the Sun Valley Resort and downtown Ketchum, but for a real taste of local goodness, Gold Mine Thrift Store is considered the ultimate choice for all your thrifting needs. There’re always gems to be found here and it’s an added bonus that all of the proceeds go towards The Community Library next door.

For all your gear and outdoor needs, head to the Elephant’s Perch; or for some great local reads, look no further than Chapter One Bookstore on a side street off the Main drag. Finally, The Farmer’s Daughter is the perfect place to pick up some cool, local home d√©cor and Idaho knick knacks.

Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley Resort
Sun Valley Resort

Sleep like a star at Sun Valley’s best hotels

The Sun Valley Lodge is the go-to spot for a five-star stay in Sun Valley. Dating back to 1936, it’s also the former residence of Ernest Hemingway, whose room here is said to still house his typewriter.

The hotel’s pool area and bowling alley are always buzzing with activity, but if you’re in the mood for some bonafide “me time,” head straight to The Spa at Sun Valley, where a spin inside one of their “Experience Showers” in the locker room is enough to make you a believer in the power of one really good shower.

Right across the courtyard from The Lodge, the Sun Valley Inn is a bit more rustic than its glamorous counterpart-but recently remodelled and offering access to all of the same amenities as the Lodge at a fraction of the cost, the Inn is a more economical way to stay in the resort area.

Just off Main Street in Ketchum, Limelight Hotel is the perfect, pet-friendly place to stay if you want to be in the heart of the action. Word to the wise, snag a room with balcony views over Baldy, and don’t miss a chance to wind down with a dip in the pool and hot tubs.

Get the latest from Thrillist Australia delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe here.

Michelle Gross is a travel, food and lifestyle writer who loves a small-town vibe. An alum of the University of Colorado Boulder, she spends a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors. This summer you’ll most likely find her on a paddleboard or on her porch in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Related

Our Best Stories, Delivered Daily
The best decision you'll make all day.