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Things We’re Looking Forward to in Nashville in 2021

Thrillist logo Thrillist 1/4/2021 Chris Chamberlain

a group of people on a field © Ascend Amphitheater After one year, the 2020s already feel like the longest decade of our lives, but the good news is we’re still moving forward. In 2021, there’s a lot to look forward to in Nashville as we hopefully emerge from our COVID-19 cocoons and look around to see that Music City is still growing and that there are a lot of positive developments happening around these parts. Here are some of the things we’re most looking forward to in Nashville in 2021. a bunch of food sitting on a table © The Optimist Nashville

Trying out new restaurants

Atlanta-based chef/restaurateur and his team at Rocket Farm Restaurants finally managed to open the Nashville outpost of The Optimist, a seafood-centric spot in Germantown that has received rave reviews since welcoming guests for the first time last summer.

In the same bundling complex, Fry has built out two other venues, which are raring to go as soon as business conditions are more favorable, and we can’t wait. Le Loup will be a high-end cocktail lounge with crafty drinks and small plates of snacks based around a similar oceanic menu as The Optimist. Star Rover Sound will be the more casual leg of the stool at 1400 Adams Street, Fry’s vision of the ultimate honky tonk tucked away from the neon canyon of Lower Broad. The menu will skew toward Tex-Mex with a menu of tacos, seafood, queso dips, cold beer and cocktails that sounds a lot like what we’ve been craving for months now.

In East Nashville, renowned chef Sean Brock has been hard at work developing his shrine to the Appalachian cuisine of his youth. Named after his grandmother, Audrey will include a more casual restaurant on the main floor where Brock’s team will create elevated mountain food using seasonal ingredients, some almost lost to history but now revived by forward-thinking farmers from saved seeds. There will also be small meals at a chef’s table upstairs, where Brock will experiment with the future of Southern food in an R&D kitchen laboratory. a living room filled with furniture and a large window © The Joseph

Enjoying staycations in fantastic new hotels

Even when the rest of the economy seemed to shut down last spring, construction efforts plunged ahead, demonstrating a bold resolve by developers aiming to capitalize on Nashville’s eventual rebound. While tourism numbers were, of course, depressed, that didn’t stop the operators of new hotels like Virgin Hotels Nashville, The Joseph Nashville, and the new Grand Hyatt from welcoming the first guests into their striking new properties. This trio will be joined by some other impressive newcomers in the next year, including a W Hotel, Hyatt Centric, Conrad Nashville, and a new Embassy Suites adjacent to the Music City Center.

Getting back to a renovated BNA

The major renovations at the Nashville International Airport continue with a new parking garage already opened and the terminals split in two to allow construction of a huge improved security area. An on-site hotel managed by Hilton is under construction, and travelers will soon benefit from an expanded baggage claim area and ticketing lobby, a new international arrivals terminal, and the addition of many local restaurant operators. Among the new food spots are favorites such as Peg Leg Porker, Tennessee Brew Works, Tootsie’s Fat Bottom Brewing, Prince’s Hot Chicken, Swett’s, and many others. We will always miss the old carpeting though. It was ugly, but it was ours! a person standing in a room © Frist Art Museum

Seeing Picasso work up close at the Frist

To commemorate 20 years since its opening, The Frist Art Museum downtown will showcase an incredible exhibition of works by Pablo Picasso on loan from the acclaimed Musée Picasso-Paris. Featuring close to 75 paintings, works on paper, and sculptures by Picasso, Figures will make its only appearance in the United States in Nashville at the Frist’s Ingram Gallery from February 5 through May 2.

Visiting the new National Museum of African American Music

Lots of cities could claim to be the most logical spot to finally build the National Museum of African American Music: Memphis, St. Louis, and New York City come to mind. But you know what? Nashville did it first, and the new facility at the corner of Fifth and Broadway is a stunner. Dedicated to presenting and preserving the impact of African Americans on many genres of music, the NMAAM will feature more than 55,000 square feet of exhibit space and interactive technology to educate the public on the important influences that African Americans have had on the soundtrack of this country. a close up of food on a table © Hattie B's Hot Chicken

Spending some cash at the new Fifth + Broadway complex

Constructed on the site of the former convention center, Fifth + Broadway promises to be a destination for locals and tourists alike, with shopping opportunities from both Nashville and national brands, live music venues, a massive food hall featuring smaller outposts of some of your favorite local spots plus larger restaurants like Hattie B’s, Slim & Husky’s, Cava, Shake Shack, Boqueria, and Eddie V’s. If you lease one of the luxury apartments in the tower above Fifth + Broadway, you may never have to leave home again. a vase of flowers on a table © Ascend Amphitheater

Seeing live music again!

Of all the things we missed in the annus horribilis of 2020, the dearth of live music was probably the thing that struck closest to the heart of Nashville. Plans are already in motion for the return of some of your favorite musical acts to local stages, including a spring and summer calendar in the works for the Ascend Amphitheater where announced concerts will feature Jimmy Buffett, The Black Crowes, Phish, and Goo Goo Dolls. CMA Fest will bring the country party to town June 8-13, and we’re all anxiously waiting to hear the lineup announcement for next year’s Bonnaroo, currently scheduled to run September 2-5. © Nashville Predators

Cheering on our local teams

While the Titans can be frustrating to watch, they’ve been on quite a successful run through the NFL of late. They will soon be joined by the return of the Nashville Predators, who look to improve on last year’s one-and-done appearance in the NHL bubble playoffs. Nashville SC had a very successful inaugural campaign, making the MLS playoffs and actually winning their first two games of the tournament, falling one match short of actually hosting the Eastern Championship game at Nissan Stadium. Hopefully the Nashville Sounds AAA will be able to get back to the ballpark sometime this spring and summer so we can all enjoy some pleasant nights watching baseball and root, root, rooting for the home team. a row of parked motorcycles sitting on the side of a road © Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway

Taking in IndyCar and NASCAR races

In addition to the short track series of races at the ancient Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, which is a pretty low tier of racing, the big boys are returning to Middle Tennessee with major racing events at two venues. The Music City Grand Prix will bring the IndyCar Series to town August 6-8. Instead of their traditional “drive fast and turn left” oval track racing, these cars will actually have to turn in both directions as they compete over a road course set up in the parking lots around Nissan Stadium, which includes a dramatic leg across the Cumberland River and back along the Korean Veterans Bridge. NASCAR will bring three different races to the Nashville Superspeedway outside of Lebanon over Father’s Day Weekend, June 18-20. The competitors of the Camping World Truck Series have the run of the track on Friday, followed by the Xfinity Series on Saturday before the stars of the Cup Series take over for the big race on Sunday. It should be a banner weekend for racing fan dads everywhere.Sign up here for our daily Nashville email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun the Music City has to offer.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee

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