Best Bookstore: Fallen Leaf Books
I know what you’re saying, ‘Jad, you always put bookstores on your highlights, seriously, is that all you do?’ And the answer is no, it’s not all I do, but it’s what I always wish I were doing –important distinction. My favorite place in Nashville requires me to get lost and retrace my steps about 50 times before I can actually find it, but once I do, the little shop never disappoints. There are shelves highlighting local authors, local history, political stories, sci-fi, kids’ books, fiction, horror: you name it, there’s probably a shelf or two dedicated to it here. Last time I went, I bought a collection of travel essays covering everything from modern tales to stories from the Roman Empire.
Best Ice Cream: Miller’s Ice Cream House
I wish I could put my favorite smoothie place on here, the Muddy Boots Cafe, but sadly that has been permanently closed for a few years now. Instead I’ll do ice cream because, along with books, ice cream is an important part of my life. Nestled next to candy shops, Miller’s has 23 flavors of ice cream (and sorbet) that occasionally change out, and can be consumed in a cone, a cup, a sundae, a banana split, what have you. While you eat your ice cream, be sure to pop around the front of the building to the terrifying animatronic miner guy sitting in front of the neighboring Candy Dish, Inc. It’s a sight that
will haunt your dreams makes for a great photo op.
Best Artisanal (that’s a word? that’s a word.) Shop: The Wild Olive
Olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette tasting –stay with me. This place features 40 flavors of those two condiments, as well as a few salsas, which line the walls and, by way of little dixie cups, allow you to have a taste of what you buy before you commit to a whole bottle. It’s a great place to go on an empty stomach, just to peruse and say ‘hey, I’ve never been to a place that lets me do this before,’ but they are a little pricey so keep your budget in mind while visiting. The flavors are pretty exceptional, though.
A Slice of Life
Walking the trails of the Brown County State Park is like walking through a fairy tale –occasionally full of spider webs and mud, but a fairy tale nonetheless. There’s something undoubtedly magical about the way the sunlight filters between the trees, bounces off the leaves, shimmers across the ground.
Even when you pass others on the trail, if you go at the right time it can feel like you’ve got the entire place to yourself. It’s a place for quiet discovery. My companion and I were near-silent the entire time –it felt almost rude to break the silence with your voice.
Leaving the park, the city of Nashville (affectionately called ‘Little Nashville’ by us Indiana folks) is just as enchanting. It’s a sleepy little haven whose population spikes during tourist season. The streets crawl with people, likely to the chagrin of the townies who don’t run restaurants or tourist shops. They’re polite, regardless of their feelings, this is the Midwest, after all.
The buildings are an odd hodge-podge of styles, from quaint wooden cabins to modern-looking brick structures. It’s easy to get lost downtown, even while keeping an eye on the helpful signs scattered around –the streets all feel the same, even if the buildings look different. You can be heading down a street, duck into a shop, and come back out completely disoriented as to which way you came.
If you love knick-knacks and antiques and have some money to burn, Nashville is your kind of town. The prices can get steep on certain items, more than others –for example, I bought a clock for $15 and a book for $7 (from different stores). Most of the stores require more than one visit, especially considering they switch out their merchandise from time to time.
If you’re lucky enough to find a decent (and cheap) parking spot, it’s worth spending the day walking around and spotting possible purchases, sitting down for a meal while you mull it over, then going back to purchase your items. That saves you from carrying them around the whole day (if you’re a klutz like me, risking dropping and breaking them), and allows you to reconsider if you want to spend $20 on a cool wooden crate to sit in the corner of your apartment after you’ve just paid the same amount for a pulled pork sandwich.
It’s not a cheap place to visit, it certainly has its purpose and its target audience –but it is worth a visit. There are ways around paying extravagant prices:
- Carpool and google ahead of time to find the cheapest lot (street parking is a gift if you can snag it, otherwise there’s a lot by the Convention Center that’s pretty reasonable);
- Don’t immediately buy something when you see it (most stores sell similar merchandise, it’s worth scouring for the cheapest prices before committing to a purchase);
- And don’t be married to eating a full meal (if you have dietary or health restrictions, please prioritize food and budget accordingly. Otherwise, if you have the benefit of just being a stingy old codger like me, there are plenty of places to peck and buy a side here, a side there, to avoid paying full meal prices. Or just eat ice cream for your meals.)
Also, helpful tip: when you see a free public restroom, go. They’re few and far between.
Music of the Town
Everywhere I go, I listen to music. And that music gets associated with wherever I happen to be, both physically and emotionally, at that moment.
Here’s Nashville’s music: