As Nashville’s infrastructure and lodging have gotten a recent facelift, so has its shopping scene. In many neighborhoods, you’ll find everything from designer goods and thrift scores to locally made treats and unique souvenirs. And if, for some reason, cowboy boots are on your agenda, you’ll find some of those, too (though I do feel it’s my duty to tell you that you’re not officially required to buy a pair while you’re here, no matter what the Boot Barn says).
As in most Southern cities, the shopping scene in Nashville is spread out. Downtown is packed with souvenir shops that mostly all peddle the same thing: boots, buckles, cowboy hats, shot glasses, T-shirts, and Nashville-style memorabilia. (Notice I say “Nashville-style” as many of these guitar picks and keychains are made overseas.) If you’re looking for national retailers or department stores, you’ll find those in the suburbs. If you want to get a sense of the culture and grab a few souvenirs, you’ll find locally owned shops in neighborhoods all over town: East Nashville, 12South, Edgehill, Hillsboro Village, the Gulch. Store hours vary, but most businesses in Nashville are open daily from 9 or 10am to 6 or 7pm, with some exceptions on Sunday. Check for hours online before heading out. If your goal is to spend a whole day shopping in one place, there are plenty of new (or newly updated) shopping centers on offer, as well as a few key streets for retail therapy.
She Was an American Girl (Doll)
The biggest draw of the Cool Springs Galleria for parents of young girls will be the American Girl Store and Bistro, which is the only location in Tennessee. While childless people will mock the prices and the concept—$15 for a doll facial?!—kids will go nuts for the salon, store, and special events, which include private parties, crafting classes, and seasonal visits from Santa. Be sure to book events early because they often sell out (yes, seriously).
For the best antiques, just start driving away from downtown on 8th Ave. S. and take your pick. Right away you’ll find Downtown Antique Mall (612 8th Ave. S.; tel, 615/256-6616), a haggler’s paradise with century-old furniture, décor, and trinkets. Down the road a little ways in Berry Hill you’ll find the slightly more upscale GasLamp Antiques (100 Powell Place, #200; tel. 615/297-2224) and GasLamp Too (128 Powell Place; tel. 615/292-2250), both of which are packed with treasures including vintage jewelry, light fixtures, art, books, and even stuffed animals—the taxidermied kind, not the Care Bear kind. Antique Archaeology (1300 Clinton St., #130; tel. 615/810-9906) bears mentioning, if only as a cautionary tale: The store is full of excellent finds, but thanks to the popularity of History Channel’s “American Pickers,” the line often stretches around the block on weekends, so try to hit it on a weekday. There are also several smaller antiques shops in West Nashville off Charlotte Avenue including Cool Stuff Weird Things (4900 Charlotte Pike; tel. 615/460-1112), which stocks odd things as advertised, but also carries the ubiquitous lighted name signs emblazoned “Nashville” (or neighborhood names) if you’re looking for a souvenir with heft.
Many local business are opting to supplement brick-and-mortar stores with robust online outlets, so you can get a little Nashville before you ever set foot here (or score a souvenir you forgot afterwards). Check out Vinnie Louise for stylish, affordable clothing, jewelry, and accessories; Native + Nomad for locally, ethically, sustainably made gifts, apparel, and home furnishings; and Shop Goodwin, a clothing and accessory store that manufactures every piece in limited quantities so you can be sure you won’t see their elegant, timeless designs on anyone else.
Dillard’s: One of the nation’s leading department stores, Dillard’s at the Mall at Green Hills, 2126 Abbott Martin Rd. (tel. 615/297-0971), recently got an update, so visit that one if given the option. Other locations include RiverGate Mall, 1000 RiverGate Pkwy., Goodlettsville (tel. 615/859-2811), and Cool Springs Galleria, 1800 Galleria Blvd. (tel. 615/771-7101).
Macy’s: This well-known national chain anchoring many shopping malls in Nashville, including Cool Springs Galleria, 1800 Galleria Blvd., in Franklin (tel. 615/771-2100); Mall at Green Hills, 2126 Abbott Martin Rd. (tel. 615/383-3300); and RiverGate Mall, 1000 RiverGate Pkwy., Goodlettsville (tel. 615/859-5251).
Nordstrom: This high-end national retailer located at the Mall at Green Hills, 2126 Abbott Martin Rd. (tel. 615/850-6700), offers clothing for men, women, and children, as well as cosmetics, fragrances, shoes, and other merchandise. Whenever you go, it will be impossible to find a parking spot, so go ahead and take a tip for the valet.
Food & Kitchenware
Butcher Shops: For true foodies, no trip to Nashville is complete without stopping by one of our two excellent butcher shops. East Nashville’s Porter Road Butcher (501 Gallatin Ave.; tel. 855/877-8202) has been a favorite since they opened in 2010. They work with local farms, process all their meat in their own facility, and hand-cut every piece in their shop, which is also stocked with local cheeses, jams, sauces, and more. If you like, they’ll make you a full charcuterie board to-go (return the board at your convenience), and you can pick up some of the city’s best barbecue at their in-house (well, technically it’s in the parking lot in a trailer) spot The Gambling Stick. If you find yourself craving PRB’s product once you return home, don’t fear: They have an online operation offering hand-trimmed cuts of beef, pork, chicken, and lamb delivered fresh without being frozen. Shipping will run you just $5, and the meat will arrive at your doorstep in 3 days or less. In West Nashville’s The Nations neighborhood, a few PRB veterans opened up Bare Bones (906 51st Ave. N; tel. 615/730-9808), a shop that’s as good a place to hang out as it is to buy meat. Owners cut the meat to order, and the shop also offers a small but mighty selection of sandwiches. Pair one with a draft beer and eat at the cozy bar with the garage doors open. On your first trip, you are required to get the burger because it’s arguably the best in town: two griddled patties, squishy bun, gooey American cheese, tart pickles, zingy onions, mustard, and mayo. On your way out, grab a bottle of Añejo Verde Pepper Sauce, a locally made green hot sauce with a rich, smoky flavor that’s flat-out addictive.
One of the original do-gooders in Nashville, Project 615 is a philanthropic T-shirt company that donates much of its profits to men recovering from homelessness and addiction. Their shirts are fun and modern, and they often whip up timely T-shirts for events such as the Nashville Predators playoff run.
If you’re looking for affordable, music-centric souvenirs, you’ll find more than anyone’s fair share on Broadway, 2nd Avenue, or near Opryland. The downtown souvenir stores at the George Jones or Johnny Cash museums offer more upscale memorabilia, but even those feel pretty cheap considering no one but Willie is even alive to sign off on selling this stuff.
At Opryland, gift shops such as Cooter’s Place and the Willie Nelson and Friends Museum & General Store at 2613 McGavock Pike offer lackluster museums that may run you up to $10 to enter, while the main goal is really to get you to buy what my mother would simply refer to as “crap.” However, if you are a fan of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” you might enjoy a stop by Cooter’s Place, which is owned by actor Ben Jones, who starred in the late 1970s TV show. Entry is free, though calling this a “museum” is a bit of a stretch. It’s the kind of place you can buy a novelty T-shirt, a Confederate flag (please don’t), or have your picture taken in front of the General Lee, the famous bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger. Next door at Willie’s place, you’ll find something similar, except that it will cost you $10 to enter the dusty exhibits in the big back room, so it’s for Willie completists only. There are a few of his guitars, movie posters, and his pool table back there, as well as small areas dedicated to fellow Outlaws Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson, though you can typically find more detailed explorations of the latter at the Johnny Cash Museum or the Country Music Hall of Fame. To get to the museum, you’ll have to brave racks of shot glasses, swizzle sticks, and dolphin figurines, so for my money, the best thing to do here is spend $1 and get your fortune read by the Willie Zoltar machine; then go next door to Nashville Palace and have a beer while you contemplate your newly revealed future.
Downtown Betty Boots caters only to the ladies (321 Broadway; tel. 615/736-7698) while Boot Country sells everything from work boots to python-skin stunners (304 Broadway; tel. 615/259-1691). Nashville Cowboy offers a staggering collection of boots, belts, hats, and buckles as well as fringed suede varieties (132 2nd Ave. N; tel. 615/259-8922). There is also Boot Barn, Boot Country, and Big Time Boots, and several more. For thorough shoppers who wish to pour over shelves of shoes and scour every store, here’s my advice: Start at the corner of 5th Ave. N. and walk toward the river. Near Opryland, there is Trail West, which is not the draw it once was due to steeper prices than their competitors, but they do carry the Brooks & Dunn Collection for those who simply must boot-scoot-boogie with legitimacy (2416 Music Valley Dr.; tel. 615/883-5933). There’s also Boot Barn, a major Grand Ole Opry sponsor, and you know they wouldn’t steer you wrong (405 Opry Mills Dr.; tel. 615/316-2209).
The Man of Western Couture
For those with upscale tastes and fat wallets, there is Manuel, a shop at 800 Broadway where Nashville’s clothier to the stars designs custom western couture. Born in Mexico, Manuel was the fifth of 11 children. He learned to sew at age 7 and worked his way up the fashion ladder in the prestigious tutelage of Nudie Cohn, for whom “Nudie suits”—flamboyant, rhinestone-encrusted cowboy outfits—were named. Manuel’s works of art can be found in museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and locally in Nashville at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Manuel's close friend, Marty Stuart, is rumored to have more than 3,000 pieces of cowboy couture from Manuel, Nudie, and the like. And you can have one of your own—if you have $7,000 to spare.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.