June has had a great start so far! After a very fun and successful half marathon at San Diego Rock n’ Roll on June 1st, Mike and I spent three days back in reality before switching our work and training brains totally off and spending 5 days in Nashville, Tennessee. Mike bought us tickets to this year’s CMA Festival for my 30th birthday (which was in December) and one of my good friends Shahara and her husband Steve decided to join us. It’s now Monday and we’re now heading home to San Diego, our brains saturated with country music tunes and our bellies full of delicious food.
After a long flight including a 3 hour layover in Kansas City (trying to find vegetarian food in the airport was interesting – I had a pretzel with cheese for lunch!), we made it to Nashville on Thursday just in time to check into our cute little B&B 3 miles outside of the city center (located in a trendy little neighborhood called 12 South) and make it to the stadium to see Luke Bryan on stage. The first night was so incredible – Luke was followed by other artists, including Brantley Gilbert and Tim McGraw. It was really cool to see all the artists play back to back since so many of them have different styles – the older generation, the new generation, the cross-over artists, the ones who wear baseball caps and the ones who wear cowboy hats. Unlike what many make think, they don’t all sing about trucks, back roads and beer (although they do sing about those things a lot).
The CMA Festival’s main event is the multi-artist concerts each night held in Nashville’s football stadium, LP Field. All of the main acts are well known and even more well-loved country artists. Six performers entertain each evening starting around 8 p.m. and ending close to midnight. For me the best performers were The Band Perry, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Little Big Town, Luke Bryan, and Darius Rucker.
What I didn’t quite expect was how much entertainment there was available during the day! Many of Downtown Nashville’s streets were shut off during the day and stages, big and small, popped up around town. On Friday alone we watched artists on 6 different stages! Some were names we recognized (Kellie Pickler, Clay Walker) and others were up and coming artists and/or local Nashville artists who have been singing for years but just haven’t had that big single yet. Just like any other festival, the streets were lined with food vendors selling tasty concoctions and libations as well as anything country they could get you to buy.
A lot of big companies were represented and had booths and/or events with free giveaways – from Advil to ice cream to koozies. Budweiser brought 12 of their massive Clydesdales for show. Jack Daniels had a truck you could tour which gave you a mini distillery tour (corn really does make whiskey!). Chevy was doing test rides of corvettes. ABC had a meet and greet with stars from various shows like the Bachelorette, Nashville (we missed it but Avery was there) and General Hospital. There was no lack of entertainment!
Inside the city’s new convention center, next to the Country Music Hall of Fame and down the street from the famous Rhyman Auditorium was CMA Fest Fan Fair X. The lay out very eerily resembled the Rock n’ Roll Marathon expo actually – lots and lots of booths with vendors pulling out all the stops. There were several meet and greets with artists, an indoor bowling league where at times you could bowl against country artists, three stages with live music, and unlimited cowboy hats and boots for purchase.
One of the highlights of the trip outside of the nighttime shows was a Q&A and performance by Chip Esten who plays Deacon on the show Nashville which was held at the “Up Close Stage” inside Fan Fair X. We are big fans of the show and particularly Deacon (Team Deacon!) and it was great to hear him talk and get to know him and the show a little better! Although I’m pretty sure he was cast more on his acting and looks than he was on his singing, we were happy to hear he is a great singer live! He even played an original song he wrong in addition to some hits from the show.
The food in Nashville was great! We were glad to be staying in the neighborhood of 12 South because there were some great restaurants which didn’t feel like the tourist traps that some of the ones downtown did. Food highlights was a really incredible breakfast (free soft biscuits and some of the best hash browns I’ve ever had), a great soy white hazelnut mocha at the Frothy Monkey, yummy queso dip, tater tots, gouda mac & cheese, and Jeni’s locally famous ice cream (where they encourage you to sample as many of their unique flavors as you want). We indulged and ate to our heart’s content! Even better, Nashville has a pretty good craft beer scene and right down the street from our B&B was a filling station. We got a growler as a souvenir and of course we had to fill it up with some local beer!
We found outside of the BBQ restaurants, it was pretty easy to eat vegetarian. Because I was on vacation I didn’t go out of my way to eat a ton of vegetables and ate a lot of yummy things like mac & cheese, but had I really wanted veggies, they were fairly easy to find. One morning after we met a friend for breakfast, she pointed out a stand selling Georgia peaches and we bought a whole bag -they were amazing!
Although I made Mike pack his running shoes and I stuffed three workout outfits in my suitcase, we didn’t end up getting in any exercise outside of the miles and miles and miles of walking we did each day. I am totally fine with our lack of exercise – we deserve a break! Unfortunately, I came down with a mild cold which started on the plane ride to Nashville (lots and lots of sneezing – sorry everyone around me). I rarely get sick and I definitely have noticed a trend – it always seems to be after a big event, when travel is involved and/or when I’ve been eating a lot of junk food! The San Diego Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon was definitely taxing on my body and I didn’t pay much attention to recovery or healthy eating after the race. I think it came back to bite me!
Despite being a bit under the weather, we had an incredible time in Nashville. Luckily the cold was really mild and it didn’t stop us from taking full advantage of everything the Country Music Association put together for us with our 4 day passes. The food was great, the beer tasty, the music was incredible, the locals were so welcoming and the porches were just right for relaxing. The city has so much to offer – we seriously considered moving to Nashville for a split second we loved it so much!
With less than 3 weeks to go until my Olympic distance triathlon, it’s now time to seriously switch gears and get back into training – specifically for the bike and the swim. Let’s do this ya’ll!
Have you ever been to Nashville? Do you like country music?