All-Star Weekend: First-timer’s guide to fun in Nashville

George Stroumboulopoulos makes his way through Nashville, pointing out the sights and sounds of Music City as they prepare for the NHL All-Star festivities.

SMASHVILLE — You’ve crammed into your cowboy boots and you’re off to NHL All-Star Weekend.

But you’re new to Nashville and are wondering what to do, where to eat, and how many bottles of barbecue sauce can fit in your suitcase.

Of course, Saturday’s Skills Competition and Sunday’s 3-on-3 tournament are the main attractions. Exploring the NHL Fan Fair, which opens Thursday and runs through Sunday at Music City Center, should be a given.

Same goes for All-Star Friday Night and checking out a free outdoor show at Winter Park near the Bridgestone Arena. But what else is worth your time?

We harassed a few Sportsnet colleagues for tips and tapped Nashville sports radio producer Ryan Porth (102.5 The Game and 94.9 Game 2) for local knowledge so your All-Star visit will be as golden as a Predator helmet.

Let’s start with the obvious:


The colourful and lively main strip of honkytonks is a must, and the crowds flow directly out of Bridgestone Arena and onto party central: bars, barbecue, live music, friendly faces. This is arguably the best arena neighbourhood in the NHL. It’s as if a hockey nut designed the zoning on napkin and it came to life.

“Don’t go there and you’re a loser,” says Elliotte Friedman. “You can quote me on that.”

Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge (everyone raves about this one), Rippy’s, Bailey’s, Honky Tonk Central, Acme Feed & Seed, Broadway Brewhouse, The Stage, Tin Roof… hit up more than one, so the guy who writes 30 Thoughts doesn’t think you’re a loser.

While you’re out, treat yourself to a local brew from Yazoo or Hap & Harry’s. You deserve it.

Good BBQ?

BBQ-hunting tourists wandering Broadway find themselves at Jack’s, which is fine but not transcendent. If you want better, visit Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint and/or Edley’s Bar-B-Que, both are a few miles drive from downtown.

(Oh, and for anyone who watched Aziz Ansari gorge on Tickler’s barbecue and its relationship-testing white sauce in the “Nashville” episode of Master of None: Sorry, turns out that was fiction. Sadly, there is no Tickler’s.)

Like your bird spicy? Make sure to dive into some Hattie B’s Hot Chicken. But call your order ahead unless you don’t mind waiting in a lineup that stretches out the door.

Puckett’s Grocery and Southern Steak & Oyster are solid dining bets in the arena district. The younger crowd should hit up the low-key Back Alley Diner and East Nashville’s The Pharmacy for good burgers. If you’re near Music City Center, pop into Tavern 96.

“All of the places listed above are great places to visit in downtown to get that ‘Nashville’ feel,” says Porth.

Where to party

Want clubs? Head to the revitalized Demonbreun Street. “In a town where development is booming, no street has seen growth as diverse or as rapid as Demonbreun,” according to The Tennessean.

Looking for a college bar scene? Point toward Midtown, near Vanderbilt.

Day-time activities

During the day, check out the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and the Johnny Cash Museum—all downtown. For something more modern, visit Jack White’s Third Man Records on 7th Avenue.

And if you binge-watched ABC’s Nashville, you’ll feel obligated to check out the Bluebird Café on Hillsboro Pike. The popular haunt of singer-songwriters is the spot to hear intimate acoustic music.

No Music City visit is complete without a stop by the Grand Ole Opry and Opryland Hotel, where you can get lost for hours.

“It seems crazy to go see a hotel, but this thing is massive,” says Friedman. “Just have to see it to believe it.”

History buffs will be keen to visit the Home of Andrew Jackson, the full-scale Parthenon replica, and Belle Meade Plantation.

Oh, and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame is located inside Bridgestone Arena if you feel the urge to stretch your legs when John Scott enters the Shooting Accuracy contest.

Hope this helps my fellow Smashville first-timers. If all these recommendations feel overwhelming, just take those boots down Broadway.

You’ll be a winner in Elliotte’s book. Who knows? You might end up having as much fun as Radulov and Kostitsyn.

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