5 Things to Do in Nashville That Don’t Involve Country Music

Let me preface this post by saying, I’ve experienced the country music side of Nashville. I was fortunate enough to visit Nashville on a family vacation when I was about 10. I loved it! I went to the Grand Ole Oprey, did line dancing on Broadway, bought cowgirl boots, saw the Country Music Hall of Fame and even had a celebrity sighting of Vince Gill at Pancake Pantry*.

This time around I was there to visit a close friend and to uncover why so many twenty-somethings were moving to this Southern city.

boots sign in nashville, tn

1. Pancake Pantry

Ok, I know, I know. I am putting Pancake Pantry up there at #1? I have no shame. These pancakes were the best pancakes I ever consumed and every single person in the establishment was sweeter than their cinnamon cream syrup. *When I called my mom to recap my trip to Nashville, she reminded me that we saw Vince Gill at Pancake Pantry back in the ’90s. So this was apparently not my first experience with The Pancakes. Clearly, my 10-year-old self didn’t know the value of great pancakes because I did not recall my first encounter, aside from the country music star sighting.

On my revisit to Pancake Pantry, 16 years later, my friend and I attempted a Saturday morning breakfast, which you should avoid because there is no waitlist. The waitlist is literally waiting in a line to get in the door (Vince Gill even had to wait in line!). If you go on a weekday morning you should have no problem grabbing a seat. I got their Sweet Potato Pancakes and loved every delicious morsel.

2. Keep On Movin’ Mondays at The 5 Spot

After pancakes comes music & dancing. Nashville has plenty of music and dance options, an overwhelming array of choices, really. Since I was staying with a local I got to see one of the coolest dive bars I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few including my favorite- Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA.

The 5 Spot plays ’50s & ’60s rock n roll, soul, doo wop and motown every Monday and charges only $2 for a heavily loaded vodka soda (your dancing juice). Don’t worry if you can’t dance, there are plenty of real dancers more than ready to take you for a spin.

I wish I could go to The 5 Spot every Monday and dance my blues away.

3. Radnor lake

Nashville is a real city with tall buildings, traffic, fine dining and culture but only 20 minutes outside the city is a the beautiful Radnor Lake nature preserve. Over 1,200 acres of wildlife (think, TONS of deer), miles of trails with varying degree of difficulty and a peaceful lake to ponder your busy city life.

My friend is fortunate enough to bop over to this preserve a few mornings a week to get her heart pumping before work. Meanwhile I hop over trash and used needles while running the streets of Philly… but anywayyyyy check it out if you are in town.

radnor lake nashville, tn

radnor lake nashville, tn

4. Boutique shopping

Thankfully I live in a neighborhood in Philly that is starting to have a little local shopping scene but there aren’t many other neighborhoods like that in Philly. Nashville has really creative boutiques in the West End area of the city.

My favorite was Pangaea, a boho-chic boutique full of women’s apparel, accessories, jewelry, home decor, stationary and gifts. Beautiful shop and great selection. There was also a fun used book store (you don’t see those much anymore!), a record shop, and a few other women’s boutiques on that strip. Worth a stroll after you stuff your face with pancakes.

5. Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge

A definite must-do when visiting Nashville. Park on the East Nashville side and walk over into Nashville (pausing for for photo ops  mid-bridge, obviously). Best views of the city! My local guide also said that the park that is at the Nashville banks of the bridge is perfect for an early evening walk near the riverfront.

nashville public park


Drinking from Napa to Petaluma to San Fran

Day 2 of my Bay Area Trip: Colleen and I woke up early for a hike through the South Bay hills and then instead of kicking back at the pool we booked it up to Napa Valley to catch the tail-end of the Menage a Trois Food Truck & Wine Festival.

I got interested in wine while at college in the Finger Lakes region of NY. The catering company I worked for in Ithaca served a red mix called Menage a Trois…which was always fun to serve to older men at Cornell faculty functions: “Sir, would you like to try the Menage a Trois?” Smirks, all around. Yeaaaaah awkward. Anyway, the wine was popular– not just for the name– it’s easy to drink but doesn’t have that bland juice taste like most red mixes.

Visiting the winery made my trip list because with a name like THAT you KNOW the winery has to be pretty laid-back. I’m not a wine snob by any means, I’m a twenty-something wine drinker..aka a step above Franzia.

It took a while to get up to Napa but Menage a Trois is one of the first wineries on the strip, on the left side (the side of the road heading out of Napa, which means by afternoon there were plenty of drunks hitting up their last stop in the Valley). Col and I got our tastings, I gave their Chardonnay a whirl, and headed out to the lawn which was full of people lounging around in the soft afternoon sunshine with picnics, listening to the live band. Some people were dancing, swerving around and laughing, obviously they had been enjoying Menage a Trois all day. The vineyards surrounded the lawn creating a private space to admire the landscape and appreciate the process of wine creation– vine to glass.

Menage a Trois vineyards


Acacia playing at the winery. Click photo to go to their Facebook page and hear some of their music!

After a few more tastings– I got to enjoy Colleen’s since she graciously offered to be designated driver– things started to wind down at the winery. Napa closes early! Between 4-6pm. Since the easiest way to get back ‘home’ was to head towards the coast and towards San Francisco we decided we would include a stop in Petaluma to visit the Lagunitas Brewery. So off we went through the dry brush farmland towards the massive green hills that surround Napa Valley.

View of farmland in Napa ValleyOn Petaluma’s western side are the massive hills that block the Pacific Ocean from the Sonoma (and Napa) Valley and to the south is San Pablo Bay. This landscape creates a cool, foggy atmosphere in what looked to me as a very sleepy town. I’m guessing Petaluma has seen a surge of interest due to the growing craft brew industry — which was evident once we got to the totally packed brew pub. Not an empty seat in sight. Colleen and I stalked down a couple that looked ready to leave and ordered just before Lagunitas’ last call (also very early! 8pm, on a Saturday). I tried a flight of some of their strongest beer. Hey! I had already tried all the lightweight stuff that gets distributed out to the East Coast.

Flight of beer tasters at Lagunitas

1240344_10100299622106829_1133205490_nThings got a little fuzzy towards the end of our time at Lagunitas but Colleen decided she would take my giggling, tipsy self down into San Fran…since it was on the way home. The fog was rolling in and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees since we started the morning hiking in Cupertino. We headed straight into the fog. Arriving in San Francisco the first things I noticed was that it was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday night and that it smelled of marijuana everywhere (we were only driving through the city and I could STILL smell it!). We parked in an industrial looking district in front of a warehouse with a bouncer out outfront.

The gigantic warehouse was actually a brewery, restaurant and bar– Southern Pacific Brewing. SORRY for anyone who was hoping for a story about raging warehouse rave.

I love a place that you don’t have to stand around for a seat and since Southern Pacific Brewing place was gigantic there was plenty of seating, even though it was also bumping with drinkers and diners. It’s the kind of place that serves mac n cheese with pork belly, steaming hot cups of chili, coconut fried chicken wings, chocolate bread pudding…yummy, delicious, gourmet bar food. We ordered our last round of beers (of many, for me) , settled on a pesto-tomato pizza and people watched. A perfect ending to an action packed day in Northern California.

What to wear when drinking from Napa to Petaluma to San Fran:

Napa Valley OutfitDress- Free People Hat- Rag and Bone Bracelet- House of Harlow  Necklace- House of Harlow Ring- House of Harlow

It gets cold once the sun drops and as you get closer to the coast so also bring:

Urban Outfitters Cardigan

Sweater- Urban Outfitters

Next up: I Could Totally Live in Santa Cruz

Slowing down in the Keys

Although I had intended to do a complete two-week tech detox, yes that is an actual thing nowadays, I cheated and only used my phone which probably does just as much as my laptop. Anyway I did try to curb technology use and slow down my pace to the Keys. People walk slower, are hardly on time and if it doesn’t happen today, oh well. Coming from a northeast city it can be a bit of a culture shock.

By eliminating checking my cell phone every few minutes or being logged onto my laptop I was able to free up my mind, create some space for new ideas and absorb what was going on around me– beautiful sunsets, vibrant flowers and pesky animals (geckos, iguanas, roosters and cats, oh my!).

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Christmas day at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

monarch butterfly in key west

Not sure what type of butterfly this is…any ideas?

sunset on the first day of 2013

First sunset on 2013 on a boat right off Key West, not a bad way to start the year!

sunset with sailboat in key west

underwater mural


pool cat

frangipani in key west

For my ‘local’ expertise on Key West check out my post on must-go and see spots on the island.


Holiday lights in Key West

2 weeks in sunshine and I’m back!

I was fortune to spend the holidays in Key West, Florida with my family. Key West loves any excuse for a party. The houses all over the island were decorated with lights, even bikes (a local’s main mode of transportation) were wrapped in lights and garland. On Christmas Eve my family walked around the island looking at all the houses. Lots of other people had the same idea and there was even a bike parade going down our street.

decorated house in key west

This little house looks magical with the lights. The photos below are of the second place winner of Key West Holiday Lights Contest. Who won first place?! I never found the house but I’m very curious. Just look at the 2nd place winner. Can you imagine what 1st place must look like?

Christmas lights down the street crazy christmas lights in key west

huge christmas lights display in key west christmas lights in key west only 2nd place

Another holiday decorated house in key west

My dad spotted this house on one of his walks. The creative decorator used Skol vodka bottles to adorn his bungalow with some holiday cheer. How many bottles do you think he used?

house decorated with vodka bottleschristmas lights of vodka bottlesChristmas tree of vodka bottles

Palms decorated with lightsPalm with christmas lights

Haley ladies on Christmas Eve.
Haley Ladies on Christmas Evedecorated christmas bike

I hope everyone had wonderful holidays, got some time to rest and rejuvenate! I’ll try not to bombard you with too many Key West posts but I do have a lot of gorgeous photos from my trip. Happy Monday! (ugh)

Holiday in the sun

Whew! After a whirlwind week finishing up the quarter and year I am off to one of my most favorite places, Key West, FL to spend the holidays with my family! I wish had more time to post this week because I’ve decided to do a tech detox while on vacation next week. If I’m going to an island I want to be off the grid. Just my camera, family, friends, books, and a bikini.

Have a Merry Christmas and BeachyBrunette will be back in 2013!

blue water and sailboatmangrove leavesdriftwood artlizardkey west catsidewalk in key westlouie's backyardcuban coffee queen

Five Friday (mostly) Holiday Faves

I hope I sparked some gift ideas with my guides this week! I have another style holiday guide planned for next week and then I want to focus on the real reason of the holidays—love and togetherness.

Here are five favorites from around the Web this past week:

1. Pretty Pieces instagram photos of her trip to SoCal. Love the orange sky in these gorgeous sunset shots. I don’t want to spoil them, check them out here–>http://ourprettypieces.blogspot.com/2012/12/instagrams-of-week.html

roxy gingerbread house 1

Roxy gingerbread house 22. Roxy Blog’s Gingerbread House How-to- My co-worker and I were just talking about having a gingerbread house contest. I love the ice cream cones with pink sparkle!

lilly pultizer holiday party setting

lilly pulizter holiday settings 23. Lilly Pulitzer’s holiday settings- I love color, Key West and fun prints so yep, I’m a total LP fan. Their party settings are so lively and fun! Looks like a Key West Christmas setting to me 😉

herb wreath4. Made By Girl’s DIY Herb Wreath- Love this gift idea so much I may just make it for someone. Not only does this look simple and elegant but it will smell amazing!

12-Days-Selects_Candy-Cane-Cooler-closeup_s4x3_lg5. Bostonista’s Candy Cane Cooler Recipe- Looks like a delicious recipe to whip up for a holiday party.

Enjoy your weekend,and let’s keep our thoughts and hearts with those who are suffering in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. So, so sad.

Getting into the Holiday Spirit

Last night I went to Boston Common’s Tree Lighting event with a few friends. Despite the freezing temperatures we were determined to see the damn tree ablaze with Christmas glory. There were some performances but mostly we just gossiped and caught up, and also hopped around trying to stay warm. At 8 the tree lit up and fireworks went off. Then we practically ran to the North End for pasta and red wine to thaw once the ceremony was over. What a fun way to kick off the season!

Christmas Tree in the Boston Common

From @BostonTweet and doctored up by moi on Instagram

Christmas Decorations in downtown Boston

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Boston

Via djenkins10 instagram

However, the only white stuff on the ground that I will see on my Christmas is sand. This year I am spending the holidays with family in Key West. It’s been a few years since we’ve been down there around Christmas and I cannot wait. I prefer palm trees wrapped in lights to twinkling Douglas-firs any Christmas.

Over the weekend I plan to get some gifts ready to be shipped to friends and family far away, send out my cards and possibly decorate my apartment. Oh, and I’m also running the Yulefest 5k as a reindeer on Sunday. Yep, I am ready for the holidays!

Where will you spend the holidays? What gets you into the holiday spirit?

Key West House decorated for Christmas

Old Town Key West House decorated with lights
Via lindyloos instagram

Santa in Key West

Southernmost Beach in Key West with Santa
Via houhoulis503 instagram