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Nashville emerges as a hot summer U.S. travel destination for Canadians

What's so appealing about Tennessee for Canadians?

Broadway is major thoroughfare in Nashville, Tennessee. It includes Lower Broadway, a renowned entertainment district for country music.
Broadway is major thoroughfare in Nashville, Tennessee. It includes Lower Broadway, a renowned entertainment district for country music.

While Canadians travelling to U.S. destinations like Florida and New York is consistently common, Tennessee (Nashville in particular) has been popular for Canadians over the summer months.

Even though travel to Tennessee was discouraged by some following the introduction of an anti-drag bill (which a U.S. judge ruled as "unconstitutionally vague and and substantially overbroad") and a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, many have called Nashville a "liberal oasis" in the Republican state.

According to travel data from Expedia, Nashville has been among the top U.S. destinations for Canadian travellers for both July and August. Additionally, Travel + Leisure named Nashville among the top 10 best cities in the world.

So what's so appealing about Nashville for Canadians?

Well it seemingly starts right when you arrive and finishes when you leave, with Nashville's airport being among the best for airport wait times in North America, according to traveller reviews analyzed by the site Casago. To compare, Toronto's Pearson International Airport is among the worst in North America — a fact that is unlikely shocking to locals.

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 24: Honoree, Shania Twain and Kelsea Ballerini attend the 15th Annual Academy of Country Music Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 24, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for ACM)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - AUGUST 24: Honoree, Shania Twain and Kelsea Ballerini attend the 15th Annual Academy of Country Music Honors at Ryman Auditorium on August 24, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for ACM)

Nashville is the country music capital of the world and music truly does run this town.

The big attraction in the city is Broadway and Honky Tonk Highway, a street full of bars with live music, many impressively featuring multiple floors with different live performers on each floor. It's loud. It's noisy. It's chaotic. But not seeing this area is similar to going to Las Vegas and not seeing The Strip at all.

Jumping on a 2023 travel trend, where many travellers are looking to TV and movies to inspire their travel, the city is the setting for the popular Nashville series, which came to an end in 2018 and starred Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere and Charles Esten. In fact, you can go to places like The Bluebird Cafe, the Ryman Auditorium and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge today, all featured on the show.

The city was also the setting of the Gwyneth Paltrow film Country Strong, also starring Tim McGraw, Garrett Hedlund and Leighton Meester, and the Nashville skyline can be seen in the The Matrix.

Hattie B's Hot Chicken in Nashville, Tenn.
Hattie B's Hot Chicken in Nashville, Tenn.

Of course, there's always the popular Nashville hot chicken to eat, with Hattie B's being a particular favourite.

For a more elevated dining experience, but very unique and not very far away from Broadway, Yolan at The Joseph Nashville is a sort of "calm in the chaos" spot, both for a luxurious hotel stay and restaurant option.

Yolan at The Joseph Nashville
Yolan at The Joseph Nashville

Michelin-starred chef Tony Mantuano and chef de cuisine Joey Fecci make sure no detail is overlooked, from appetizers to desserts, blending sophistication and experimentation with classic Italian dishes.

A particular claim to fame is pastry chef Noelle Marchetti's focaccia, which started with her sourdough starter named "Margo," which travelled all the way from the Cayman Islands.

The Memphis alternative to Nashville

With another travel tend for 2023 being visiting cities outside of the main travel hubs for Canadians, Memphis is your best alternative to Nashville for Tennessee travel.

From some of the tastiest barbecue food (like Central BBQ), to historic spots like the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis is a real gem in the state.

Something that's key about Memphis is that everything has a great story. Of course, it's the home of Graceland, which is complete eye candy for any Elvis fans or popular culture lovers, but sometimes it's the smaller stories that really hit home.

Founded in 1919, The Arcade Restaurant is Memphis' oldest restaurant. Scenes from Mystery Train, Great Balls of Fire, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, Walk the Line, to name a few, have been filmed in the restaurant.
Founded in 1919, The Arcade Restaurant is Memphis' oldest restaurant. Scenes from Mystery Train, Great Balls of Fire, The Client, The Firm, 21 Grams, Walk the Line, to name a few, have been filmed in the restaurant.

For example The Arcade Restaurant, across from The Central Station Memphis, Curio Collection by Hilton, is the oldest cafe in the city with a fascinating backstory. It was founded by a greek immigrant Speros Zepatos in 1919 and is now run by the fourth generation of the family.

This was a 24-hour diner in the 1960s when the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., occurred close by. As Kelcie Zepatos explained to Yahoo Canada, that required the restaurant to be closed for one night and the next morning the head lieutenant asked the diner to open, because there was nowhere for people to eat, from cops to rioters.

The diner is still going strong to this day, after going through an expansion in 2019, and there's even a piano that was used for a Kelsea Ballerini photoshoot and was played by Justin Timberlake.

Most importantly, the breakfast is still a hit. You can order the Elvis special, a banana and peanut butter sandwich, but the sweet potato pancakes are a highlight for many.

Memphis is also home to the famous Beale Street. For a pro tip, if you want to go to B.B. King's Blues Club, with a notoriously long line, grab dinner at Itta Bena restaurant upstairs and you can just walk down a set of stairs into the bar.

What's impressive about Memphis is the variety of experiences the city has to offer, from casual establishments to places like the highly stylish Tiger and Peacock rooftop bar at the The Memphian Hotel, there's a little something for every Canadian looking to take a trip to Tennessee.