RetailNOW 2021: A Native’s Guide to Nashville

There are no shortage of guides to Nashville, but the vast majority of them are written for tourists or recent transplants — not business travelers. As such, this guide to Nashville is written through the lens of someone attending RetailNOW 2021.
RetailNOW2021 Nashville Places Guide

Attending #RetailNOW2021 in Nashville?

Welcome to Nashville, y’all!

As Nashville rolls out the red carpet for RetailNOW 2021, that phrase will be heard quite a bit. In the peculiar dialect of the southern U.S., “y’all” is an abbreviation for “you all”. That it fits so well into modern sensibilities surrounding gender, diversity, and inclusivity is a happy accident, but expect to hear it everywhere — coffee shops, fine dining restaurants, dive bars, and all points in-between.

There are no shortage of guides to Nashville, but the vast majority of them are written for tourists or recent transplants — not business travelers.

As such, this guide to Nashville is written through the lens of someone attending RetailNOW 2021. Since the convention is at the Gaylord Opryland, one of the most beautiful hotel/convention centers in the world, it seems natural to begin there.

*NOTE* Since COVID-19 is still a concern, it is worth mentioning that state and local government requirements for masks were lifted in May, but some establishments have their own policy. That information will be included here for each business.

RetailNOW2021 Gaylord Opryland Hotel Guide
Photo Credit: Prayitno Photography (Creative Commons 2.0)

About Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Located at 2800 Opryland Drive,  the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is about a 15 minute drive north from the Nashville International Airport, and roughly the same travel time southwest to downtown.

Parking at Gaylord Opryland is $32/night (self-park) or $40/night (valet), so don’t forget to factor in those costs if driving to the conference or getting a rental car. Lyft/Uber and taxis have a strong presence around the airport, hotel, and the city as a whole, so unless it’s necessary to leave the venue multiple times each day, save money by just using a rideshare or taxi.

Masks are not currently required for guests or visitors to the venue; that said, Gaylord’s Commitment to Clean is quite serious. Most of the cleanliness focus is behind-the-scenes, but be aware bellhop and housekeeping service is currently ‘by request only’, so make sure to request those services as desired.

Check-in at Gaylord Opryland begins at 4:00PM, and check-out is at 11:00AM.

The hotel’s $20(plus tax) resort fees cover the following:

  • High Speed In-Room Wireless Internet Access (Login: Last Name/Password: Room #)
  • Unlimited local and long distance calling
  • Daily scheduled shuttle service to and from:
    • Grand Ole Opry House
    • Opry Mills Mall
    • General Jackson Showboat
    • The Inn at Opryland
    • Gaylord Springs Golf Links
  • Bottled Water (2 per day, replenished daily by housekeeping)
  • $10 credit for dry-cleaning per day (does not accumulate)
  • Practice range access and 1 bucket of balls at Gaylord Springs Golf Links
  • Wildhorse Saloon cover charge (up to 4 guests)
  • Opry Mills Savings Passport

The sprawling complex has expanded several times over the years and underwent a major renovation following the 1,000-year flood in May 2010.

As seen in the video, the convention center and hotel are quite large; it is easy to get lost inside. As such, make sure to bookmark or download this handy map of the facility.

On to the lists!

6 Places for a Coffee Meeting

RetailNOW 2021 Coffee Meeting

Some of the best networking at conferences happens over a cup of coffee. It’s a low-pressure (and economical) way to get to know someone better and explore professional opportunities. While it’s not necessary to leave the convention center to grab coffee, taking someone off-site to a nice local coffee shop or café can allow both parties to relax and helps foster a deeper discussion away from the eyes of competitors and rivals.

The list below is organized by distance from the conference center;  touch the name to visit each shop’s website, and touch the address to get easy directions in Google Maps.

  1. Nashville Coffees is the closest off-site coffee shop on our list. Located at 2416 Music Valley Drive #143, Nashville, TN 37214, it’s technically walking distance from the conference venue, but be careful crossing McGavock Pike on foot — Nashville drivers will turn the short journey into a live action version of Frogger. The shop serves Nashville Roast coffee, so while they aren’t roasting their own beans like some other places on this list, it’s still extremely fresh and high quality — plus patronizing the shop supports two local businesses. They also offer an assortment of pastries and sandwiches. Masks are not required. 
  2. Caliber Coffee is just a few exits down Briley Parkway (the expressway connecting Opryland with the airport) in the Nashville suburb of Donelson. Located at 2513 Lebanon Pike, Nashville, TN 37214, Caliber has a wide variety of signature hot and cold coffee drinks, boba, smoothies, and an assortment of sandwiches, salads, and all-day breakfast. They also offer several ‘Aussie Pies’– a hand-sized pie traditionally filled with meat, gravy, and vegetables — which are highly recommended. Masks are not currently required. 
  3. Dose is another nearby favorite, located just across the river from Opryland at 1400 McGavock Pk, Nashville, TN 37216. In the hip neighborhood of Inglewood, Dose serves a rotating selection from Counter Culture Coffee and other artisanal roasters as part of their ‘Featured Roaster’ program. They were Nashville’s first multi-roaster coffee shop; they focus on the origin, terroir, and presentation of their coffees in an approachable way, pleasing to both the coffee aficionado and the casual drinker. They also offer an assortment of baked goods with good options for both gluten-free and vegan customers. Masks are optional, but encouraged.
  4. East Park Donuts & Coffee is located in East Nashville, at 700 Main St, Nashville, TN 37206. The coffee is great, but the doughnuts are the show-stealer here. The traditional cake and brioche-style donuts are phenomenal (try the Strawberry Old-Fashioned or the Brown Butter with Maldon Sea Salt), but they also have vegan, gluten-free, keto, and paleo diet-friendly options which have the taste and texture of a real doughnut — not chalk or sand. Go early, or just order a dozen for delivery via Postmates — no one will judge. They do not require masks for guests, but they don’t discourage them either. 
  5. Frothy Monkey is a wonderful local chain with several locations around town, the closest of which is in East Nashville at 1701 Fatherland St, Nashville, TN 37206, but if you find yourself conducting business downtown, the location at 235 Rep. John Lewis Way North (or 5th Avenue North to locals) is a good spot to not only get a great cup of house-roasted coffee (try the flagship 12South Blend), but also a quick breakfast or lunch. Fully vaccinated individuals aren’t asked to wear a mask indoors. 
  6. Crema is another local shop with multiple locations, but the SoBro/Rutledge Hill location near downtown at 15 Hermitage Ave, Nashville, TN 37204 is the best spot for a coffee meeting. They are a carbon-neutral, zero-waste coffee roaster that takes their sustainability as seriously as their craft. Their standard coffee is delectable, but the Crema Coffee Soda made in-house daily is not to be missed. They also offer a coffee subscription, which will be convenient once the conference is over — the coffee is addictive. Masks aren’t required at this time, but they are still recommended for unvaccinated individuals.

7 Places to Grab a Drink

RetailNow 2021 Nashville Places to Grab a Drink

While there’s no shortage of places to grab an adult beverage at the Opryland Hotel, folks tend to be a bit more guarded while imbibing in such close proximity to their co-workers and competitors. Nashville’s unofficial tagline is ‘a drinking town with a music problem’, so one would be remiss to not visit a honky-tonk, dive bar, brewery, or swanky cocktail bar while visiting.

Pro tip: In accordance with local regulations, restaurants and bars must stop serving alcohol at 3:00AM, liquor stores can’t sell spirits after 11:00PM, and retailers can’t sell beer/wine after 3:00AM. Most bars are still closing earlier due to pandemic-related staffing and other issues, so make sure to check the hours

Again, the list below is organized by distance from the conference venue; touch the name to visit each spot’s website, and touch the address to get easy directions in Google Maps. — cheers!

  1. Bavarian Bierhaus, located at 121 Opry Mills Drive Suite 315 Nashville, TN 37214 (part of Opry Mills Mall), is a classic, Oktoberfest-themed beer hall. While reminiscent of the Hofbräuhaus franchises around the U.S., they aren’t one, so they can serve a wider variety of beer. While they offer the huge community-style tables one would expect in a biergarten, they do have a bar and private tables available as well. The house-made sausages are the star of the scratch-made kitchen. There are currently no mask requirements in place for guests. 
  2. Village Pub & Beer Garden, located at 1308 McGavock Pike Nashville TN  37216 is a neighborhood pub that’s not quite a dive, but is comfortable, has a welcoming atmosphere, and very reasonable prices. They have a local and regional-focused beer menu, a decent selection of wines and house cocktails, but their many variations on classic mule cocktails are perhaps what they do best. Even better, Mondays are ‘Mule Monday’ — each mule is just $3.25 until 10:00PM. Also, the stuffed pretzel sandwiches are awesome. They currently have no mask requirements for guests, but they do offer covered patio seating if desired. 
  3. The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club located at 2905B Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216 is trendy, cocktail-focused bar with small plates, including non-alcoholic, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly options. The ‘Old-Fashioned’ cocktail takes center stage, with four variations regularly available (try the Fox No.6 or the Brass Tacks), but they offer other signature cocktails, plus beer and wine. To make a more memorable event, try their Private Cocktail Experience one afternoon; included in the price are three cocktails for each person, and the discussion of method, history, and professional tips/tricks will allow attendees to learn how to recreate the experience at home. There are currently no mask requirements for guests.
  4. The Lipstick Lounge located at 1400 Woodland Street East Nashville, 37206 is a “lesbian bar” — one of only a handful left in the U.S.. More than that, they’re a friendly, neighborhood dive great for dancing, karaoke, darts, and live music — all are welcome, whether gay, straight, or all points between. They’re truly a Nashville icon, and the type of place everyone should visit at least once. There are no mask requirements for guests currently, but they do offer outdoor seating. 
  5. Southern Grist is one of Nashville’s best breweries; their fruited IPAs and pastry stouts have become sought after all over the country. They have a couple of taprooms, but the one at 1201 Porter Road Nashville, TN 37206 is both the original and closest to Opryland Hotel. There’s a comfortable lounge area with TVs where the brew equipment used to live before the second, larger location was opened on the west side of town at 5012 Centennial Boulevard Nashville, TN 37209. Any beer geeks — or those with beer geek friends at home — should try to make the trip, as the beer isn’t widely distributed outside Tennessee in significant amounts. There are currently no mask requirements for guests.
  6. Robert’s Western World, located at 416 Broadway B, Nashville, TN 37203, is the only honky-tonk on this list because this is a native’s guide to Nashville — it’s the only honky-tonk most native Nashvillians are willing to set foot inside. There’s no cover charge, there’s always live music, and they stay open until 3:00AM. They have relatively decent prices for beer and wine on Broadway, and good late night food. Try the ‘Recession Special’ — a fried bologna sandwich with a bag of chips, a Moon Pie, and a can of PBR for just $6.00. There are no masks required for guests. 
  7. Fable Lounge, located at 114 28th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203 is a bit further from the venue than most places on this list, but it’s worth the drive. While they require reservations for dining, bar and lounge guests can walk-in. It feels like a private club, but is open to the public. With a cocktail-centric bar experience and a selection of cigars available for purchase and consumption on their covered balcony, it’s a classy spot to take someone for a late-night drink and discussion. They do not require masks for guests.  

5 Places to Close a Deal

While the main goal of attending RetailNOW 2021 should be to network, attend the various panels and speaking sessions, or demo new software or equipment on the floor of the expo hall, it’s also understood that many deals are closed at trade shows. Taking a prospective client out for a nice meal and private discussion is a great way to win business; it’s also a good way to maintain a relationship with existing clients, especially as food and beverage expenses are 100% deductible as a business expense through the end of 2022.

Pro tip: Reservations are highly recommended for any of the places on this list and required by most — don’t wait until the last minute! Also, make sure to pack business casual attire at the very least; while most places aren’t going to deny service for wearing jeans, short sleeves, etc., casual attire will definitely be out of place.

As before, the list below is organized by distance from the conference venue; touch the name to visit each spot’s website, and touch the address to get easy directions in Google Maps.

  1. Etch, located at 303 Demonbreun Street Nashville, TN 37201, is led by Deb Paquette — award-winning chef and an icon of the Nashville culinary scene. No one is more inventive; Etch excels at working local ingredients into dishes with global flair and beautiful presentation. With an exceptional wine list, two private dining rooms, and a spacious main dining area, it’s a fitting setting for any business meal. Try the roasted cauliflower appetizer, which has been a mainstay since their opening. There are currently no mask requirements for guests. 
  2. Monell’s is a Nashville institution. The original location in Germantown at 1235 6th Ave. North Nashville, TN 37208 was built in 1905 and has been operating as a restaurant since 1995. They also have a location in an old manor house nearer to the airport and the conference venue at 1400 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37217. Serving Southern comfort food family-style like an old boarding house, it’s the only spot on this subsection of the guide that’s not a fine dining restaurant. The fried chicken is life-changing. While they’re open for lunch each day of the conference, they’re closed for dinner on Sunday and Monday. Masks are not currently required for guests. 
  3. 5th & Taylor, located at 1411 5th Ave. N, Nashville, TN 37208, is inside a renovated warehouse and taking center stage is a life-size sculpture of General Francis Nash, from whom the city of Nashville gets its name. Featuring a wood-fired grill for their steaks and burgers, the restaurant’s menu is in the ‘new American’ style, and their bar serves a nicely curated list of wine, beers, and craft cocktails. They have two private dining areas, and can accommodate private groups up to 165 people without necessitating a full buyout of the restaurant.   
  4. Kayne Prime, located at 1103 McGavock St, Nashville, TN 37203, is one of the city’s best steakhouses. They consistently make every ‘best of’ list in town, whether for food, wine, or service. They have five private dining rooms, one of the best and biggest wine programs in the city, a wide variety of rare spirits, and well-trained staff who are attentive and experienced with serving groups of businesspeople. Many deals have been closed over prime beef and fine wine at Kayne Prime. Try the house-made bacon with maple cotton candy or the canoes of beef as appetizers. Masks are not currently required for guests. 
  5. The 404 Kitchen, led by acclaimed chef Matt Bolus, is located in the Gulch district of Nashville, at 507 12th Avenue S, Nashville, TN. The first floor is Gertie’s Whiskey Bar, which boasts one of the best selections of fine and rare spirits in the country. The main restaurant is on the second floor, and they also have a loft area available for semi-private dining. Their menu is best described as ‘elevated’ Southern fare; don’t miss the pimento cheese appetizer or cornbread. They’re hosting a 4-course whiskey pairing dinner for $95 per person on Tuesday the 27th at 7:00pm with Smoke Wagon bourbons, so the main private dining room will likely be booked that night. There are no current mask requirements for guests. 

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Any trip to Nashville — for business or otherwise — can be tough. Between all of the entertainment, dining, and business to be seen, had, or done, there’s never enough time to take in the city and all it has to offer.

Above all else, Nashvillians are the welcoming sort, and the RetailNOW2021 conference is the city’s first real convention since the great shutdown of 2020, so we truly mean it when we say we’re so pleased you’ll be here.

We hope that you enjoy your time in our city, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!