What do you think of Nashville?
August 6, 2013 8:11 AM   Subscribe

There is a possibility I may be getting a job that would require a relocation to Nashville, Tennessee. With a few exceptions, I've grown up and lived almost my entire life in the Chicago area. Can you help recommend a community or neighborhood? Details inside.

(First off, please no recommendations about telecommuting or working remotely. This is a senior role and the job would require me to be on-site in Nashville. Thanks!)


We've been living the last few years in the western suburbs of Chicago. Specifically, Downers Grove, and we've absolutely loved it. In fact, the recommendation for Downers Grove came from folks here on the Green. Neither of us know much about Nashville, though, so I'm hoping the Green came through again.

If I get hired, where should we be looking in Nashville for a place to live? Here's what we're looking for:
  • Communities and neighborhoods where the houses don't all look exactly the same.
  • Good schools (our son is 5 months old, so we're looking ahead)
  • Neighborhoods with walkable "mini-downtowns" that function as a community hub where you can walk around, get an ice cream, enjoy a nice summer night out and about.
  • Family-friendly activities.
  • Culture (art, theatre, music, museums). We like live music, but do not go to bars or clubs to hear it.
  • Small shops and independents.
  • Communities and neighborhoods where every restaurant or business is not a big box retailer or national chain.
  • Public transportation.
Tall order? I hope not. :)

So what do you think of Nashville? Thoughts? Ideas?

p.s. I don't like modern country music. I love Willie, Johnny, Hank Sr., Waylon and more older, outlaw country. Are you required to like Clint Black, Tim McGraw, or Blake Shelton to live there? (Yes yes, I'm kidding.)
posted by zooropa to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I believe you are currently required to like Jack White ;)
posted by like_a_friend at 8:13 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Nashville for 6 years and 10 months and I like it a lot. I've always lived pretty centrally in the city so I'm sort of biased against and ignorant about the suburbs, so let that color my feedback.

To answer your questions:

Communities and neighborhoods where the houses don't all look exactly the same.
IMO only the older neighborhoods are visually interesting, but I really love the housing in those areas. Examples: Belmont-Hillsboro, 12 South, Sylvan Park, Lockland Springs, Inglewood, Germantown. Unfortunately those are also some of the most expensive parts of town.

Good schools (our son is 5 months old, so we're looking ahead)
I don't have children so I don't feel qualified to comment on this

Neighborhoods with walkable "mini-downtowns" that function as a community hub where you can walk around, get an ice cream, enjoy a nice summer night out and about.
Again, old neighborhoods: Sylvan Park, Hillsboro Village, 12 South, Belmont, 5-Points in East Nashville, Eastland Ave in East Nashville (there's an amazing ice cream shop), Germantown. U

Family-friendly activities.
Nashville has a zoo and a pretty cool Children's museum. Local cultural events also seem to do a pretty good job of having kid-friendly stuff (the Tomato Art Festival, for example).

Culture (art, theatre, music, museums). We like live music, but do not go to bars or clubs to hear it.
There is a lot of live music in Nashville, including outside of bars. For example, Dragon Music Sundays, Musician's Corner., Live on the Green, and Dancin in the District

There's also the Frist art museum and the Tennessee State Museum (free!) and the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and art gallery. The Country Music Hall of Fame is pretty cool too, even for people who aren't fans of mainstream country.

Small shops and independents.

Most of the stores in the "mini-downtown" areas that I mentioned below are independent.

Communities and neighborhoods where every restaurant or business is not a big box retailer or national chain.
See above.

Public transportation.

This is definitely a weak spot for Nashville. The current bus system is pretty bad at the best of times and really bad if you're trying to go somewhere out of the way, or go somewhere quickly. There's a planned Bus Rapid Transit line but it's still years away.
posted by ghharr at 8:44 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are lots of areas of Nashville that have some or even most of your criteria (my favorite being the 12-South 'hood), but there are two things on your list that almost everyone in Nashville will agree are tall orders: the schools, and the public transport.

The public schools in Nashville are, by almost all accounts, abysmally bad. I'm sure there are some outliers, but we have several friends with young children, and they are saving NOW to enroll them in private school.

The public transportation (MTA) in Nashville is, by almost all accounts, abysmally bad. There are buses, but they are not often running on a convenient or reliable schedule. Nashville is a city where you need a car, full stop.
posted by juniperesque at 8:44 AM on August 6, 2013

We lived in Nashville for about 1.5 years. A bit too much of a small town for me. We lived in the area known as Brentioch. A portmanteu of Brentwood and Antioch. We were more in the country, but close enough to the Mall Maddness of Antioch.

Brentwood is south of Nashville and it's where the mansions are. Dolly Parton's picture on the wall at the post office and what not.

Green Hills is an older, stately area, with nice homes.

Here's more of an idea of the in-town neighborhoods.

The downtown has taken a while to develop, get grocery stores and what not.

I worked at BellSouth in the Batman building downtown.

Check out AAA Baseball at the Sounds Stadium. Tickets are cheap and it's a nice activity with the family.

Have a wonderful meal at Monells. Friday is Fried Chicken day!

Schools...more than likely you'll want private schools. Here's a list.

We found folks in Nashville to be universally nice. But don't be surprised if the first question people ask you is: "Where do you go to church?"
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:53 AM on August 6, 2013

To expand on the MTA: The bus system is based around a downtown hub, so most bus lines end downtown. If you're going downtown, say for a commute, it's not so bad, but if you're trying to go crosstown you will have to go downtown first, and then probably transfer.
posted by ghharr at 8:55 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Public schools in Williamson County (the burbs) are supposed to be very good. But you then lose the walkable neighborhoods (and I assume public transit access is worse, though I've never ridden public transit in or around Nashville). I personally think that Williamson County is gorgeous, and would much rather live there than in the in-city neighborhoods, but obviously to each his own. You may need to prioritize...
posted by primethyme at 9:10 AM on August 6, 2013

Transplanted from Atlanta to Nashville about 6 years ago. We actually live near Murfreesboro, which is about 40 minutes south and east of metro Nashville. My work most often takes me to Cool Springs, Franklin and the West End sides of town. Were I to do it all over again, I would have probably looked in the Franklin area for our first house here.

Agreed with the assessments re: schools. The ones in Rutherford County aren't too bad. Williamson generally gets pretty high marks. Wilson County, so-so. We homeschool most of the kids; our oldest girl is starting at a Catholic high school this fall. Also agreed w/r/t the transit situation. Though I will say that Murfreesboro has a decent little local bus system called the Rover.

The 'Boro has almost everything we happen to need, though I wish were closer to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's (both of which can be found in the Green Hills/Hillsboro area). There are 2 Costcos in the area - one on the west side of Nashville, the other on the east (Mt. Juliet, I think).

The restaurant scene here is improving, but it's nothing like it was in Atlanta, where you could find decent high-end or ethnic places inside or outside the Perimeter. Plenty of live music - there are local festivals all over the place, from Dave Macon Days here in Murfreesboro, Bonnaroo, Fiddler's Jamboree in Smithville, and so on. Once in a blue moon we'll tune in the Opry while we're in the kitchen. Nashville has the Discovery Center (mentioned above), there's a decent system of greenway trails and TN has one of the best state park systems around if you enjoy camping - use this book if you want the rundown.

We thoroughly love it here and are unlikely to ever leave. If you have any questions about the corporate (or IT-related) scene here, mefi-mail me.
posted by jquinby at 9:42 AM on August 6, 2013

I don't live in Nashville, but my uncle and his family do. They live in the Bellevue area, which is pretty nice but doesn't have the walkable feel you're looking for. They've taken us to nearby Franklin a few times and I really liked the vibe there, so it may be worth investigating. They disliked the public school system there so much that they withdrew their youngest son after junior high and are now homeschooling him. However, there's AWESOME music education for kids there, as you might imagine. And you're not required to like country - my uncle's entire family is in the music business, including the youngest kid, and most of them make their living playing and/or producing rock, and there are lots of live rock shows around town.
posted by bedhead at 10:25 AM on August 6, 2013

I recently visited some friends in Nashville and really liked their neighborhood... East Nashville. I don't know about the schools around there, but it seemed to meet all of your criteria.
posted by mrrisotto at 11:02 AM on August 6, 2013

Visited academic friends and stayed in East Nashville, had a great time, and met a lot of "transplants" - very friendly people who loved the music & warm culture but were originally from (or had worked in) NY or LA and were there for the music biz.

People did speak of the area as a "blue dot in a red state", and it wasn't all that blue from my perspective (very religious, basically). East Nashville seemed to be where the slightly more alternative stuff was happening.
posted by mdn at 11:30 AM on August 6, 2013

I lived in Murfreesboro for 18 years and I loved it. It's a college town alternative to Nashville and not that bad of a commute. Things will be a little different from Chicago but overall Nasvhille and the surrounding areas are pretty nice. Public transportation is pretty much a no-go, you can't buy booze in the grocery store or at all on Sundays, and during the fall you'll have to contend with Football taking over the world between high school games on Friday, college games on Saturday, and the Titans on Sunday, it will seem like it's non-stop football.

I don't know how old your kids are, but if they are near college age, the Hope Scholarship is awesome. All you need to do is be a Tennessee resident and 3.0 GPA and decent ACT/SAT test scores and you get a mostly free ride to Tennessee colleges.

One thing, if you do move there, go on down to Murfreesboro one afternoon and go to Jeff's Family Restaurant. Their fried chicken will make you cry from happiness and the ribs are some of the most beautiful things I've ever eaten.

It's pretty much the only thing I miss about life down south after moving to St. Louis.
posted by teleri025 at 1:59 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

East Nashville is what you want. Five Points is pretty much exactly what you're looking for. The neighborhood is full of artists, musicians, "counter culture" types. As someone else above mentioned, the Eastland area--I lived there for years. Also, that commenter is correct about the ice cream shop. I don't know if you're into being outside, but Cumberland Park is in the neighborhood. One benefit of East Nashville is that it's close to downtown where the museums are.

Some problems with Nashville in general for you: like others have mentioned there is basically no public transit (this is the case in most of the South) and the K-12 public schools are super crap. Something else you might have to adjust to is that almost all music venues serve alcohol, so you're going to be limited to the Ryman (the seats are so horrible) or concerts in churches (people byob--or usually bring their own whiskey) even to outdoor park events.

The Farmer's Market is also really easy to get to from East Nashville.

I don't know if you're a foodie, but there's also a really famous Hot Chicken place right up the street from Eastland (also a bbq hut that will make all the other bad things about the city worth it).
posted by syncope at 2:46 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've lived in Nashville most of my life, but spent 6 years in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The neighborhoods you will like best are East Nashville, Inglewood, and Belmont/12South. These all tend to be expensive in walking distance of the commercial areas but are quite affordable on the margins. I live in Inglewood and love it--not quite walking distance to restaurants but the neighborhood is beautiful with lots of old trees and only 15-20 minutes to downtown/midtown in moderate traffic. Nice 3-4br houses go for about 250 but can range from 170-350+, and there seem to be a lot available now that the market is reviving.

Brentioch, Brentwood, Donelson, Bellevue, and Hermitage are also possible, although a bit charmless.

As for schools, these are all in Davidson County, so you will probably have to pin your hopes on a public magnet lottery or shell out for private school. The private schools are good, and some are secular, if that matters.

Culture, etc, was well and accurately addressed by above commenters.

Happy to answer questions in Memail.
posted by elizeh at 8:28 PM on August 6, 2013

And you will absolutely need a car. Good biking on the green ways, but the streets aren't safe for it unless you are very fast and experienced. The bus system is the pits but improving somewhat.
posted by elizeh at 8:34 PM on August 6, 2013

« Older Need better whiteboard, or cleaner, or paint, or.....   |   Mac user seeks Windows laptop for grad school. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.