Travel Lifestyle & Culture

The Ultimate Travel Nurse's Guide to Nashville

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN
August 9, 2023
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Welcome to Nashville, the heart of Tennessee! As a travel nurse or allied health professional considering a new assignment, this vibrant city is more than just the home of country music—it’s a haven of culinary delights, robust history, unique culture, and nature's wonders, offering countless adventures for you to explore.

Nashville combines Southern charm with the energy of a big city, making it the perfect place for new experiences and rewarding work. Whether you're a food lover eager to tantalize your taste buds, a coffee aficionado in search of your next caffeine fix, or an outdoors enthusiast ready to embrace the beauty of the region, there's something for everyone.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll navigate through Nashville's cost of living, highlight the state of nursing education and expected salary, and delve into the city's top-notch attractions, food and drink locales, cultural experiences, and outdoor opportunities. There's so much waiting for you here, beyond the music and work.

So, get ready to strum the strings of this exciting city and find your rhythm in Nashville. Here’s what we’ll cover: 

Cost of Living: Navigating Nashville's Expenses

As you consider Nashville for your next travel assignment, you'll find that the city is relatively affordable! The overall cost of living in Nashville is 2% lower than the national average. It's true that it's 9% higher than the state average, but remember, you're settling into the city's heartbeat - and trust us, the beat of this city is something to experience!

Nashville's housing costs are slightly higher, with the cost of housing being 6% more than the national average and 32% more than the state average. A cozy one-bedroom apartment near downtown, a place where music, culture, and southern charm converge, can be rented for approximately $2,077 per month. Don’t forget that your Trusted travel contract comes with competitive pay and housing stipends to help off-set these costs so that you can live wherever you’d like! 

Now, let's talk about getting around. Most residents in Nashville drive their own cars, with transportation costs like gas and bus fares coming in 9% lower than the national average. You'll find gas prices are reasonable at around $3.10 per gallon. But if you're a fan of a good walk or a bike ride, Downtown Nashville, East End, and Historic Edgefield are the neighborhoods for you, as they have the best walkability and bike routes.

Balancing the practicalities of everyday living in Nashville becomes almost like a gentle two-step, leaving you free to focus on what matters most – thriving in your new assignment and enjoying everything this city has to offer. From live music and mouth-watering food, to historic sites and outdoor adventures, Nashville is a city that will never stop playing your favorite song.

Now that we've tuned into Nashville's cost of living, let's move to the next chord: what to expect in terms of nursing education and salary in the Music City.

Nursing in Nashville: Education and Salary Expectations

If you're considering furthering your education in nursing, Nashville houses several universities with a reputation for graduating top-notch nurses. Belmont University, for instance, has an 84% NCLEX pass rate and a legacy of shaping highly competent healthcare professionals for nearly five decades. This private, Christian institution offers nursing programs from bachelor's to doctoral levels, focusing on FNP degrees, and prides itself on innovation and a supportive 13:1 student-to-faculty ratio across its traditional, accelerated, and bridge programs.

Then there's Lipscomb University. With an impressive NCLEX pass rate of over 90% and high job placement rates, Lipscomb stands tall not only in Tennessee, but across the nation. It offers a traditional Bachelor of Science in Nursing and an RN-to-BSN program. Lipscomb has refined its approach to education, admitting fewer students to ensure a more personalized learning experience.

Vanderbilt University takes it a notch higher with a focus on postgraduate nursing education, offering master's degrees for both nurses and non-nurses, fourteen post-master's advanced practice nursing specialties (APRNs), a Doctor of Nursing Practice, a PhD in Nursing Science, post-master certificates, and a two-year postdoctoral program. No matter where you are in your nursing journey, Nashville's academic landscape has something to offer.

Post-graduation, nurses in Nashville earn competitive salaries and with around 60,840 nurses employed across the state, the opportunities are abundant.. While the mean salary for nurses across Tennessee is $72,480 with an average hourly rate of $34.85, Nashville nurses are earning an average of $37.13 per hour, translating to $77,240 annually. As for travel nurses choosing Nashville for their assignments, they're earning a stellar average of about $2,327 per week! To stay up to date on salary trends, be sure to use our Nurse Salary Explorer.

Choosing Nashville for your nursing career is like picking the perfect harmony in a country ballad – its vibrant, enriching, and fulfilling. Given the city's robust healthcare scene and its dynamic community that truly values healthcare professionals, Nashville is more than a destination – it's a stage for your success story.

Now that we've covered the practicalities, it's time to let loose and explore Nashville's scene. Let's begin by exploring the top restaurants that make Nashville a true food lover's paradise!

Top Restaurants in Nashville: A Food Lover's Guide

Audrey: Nestled in East Nashville's McFerrin Park, Audrey, paired with its upstairs counterpart June, forms a hub of culinary innovation under the direction of Chef Sean Brock. The moment you step inside, you're enveloped by the sounds of an Appalachian landscape, amidst an intricate design complete with Brock's folk art collection and an open kitchen where culinary art takes center stage. Audrey is a magnet for the city's elite, yet it manages to exude a laid-back, relaxed vibe. Let their adept sommelier guide you through an extensive wine list or explore their unique zero-proof options. As for the food, the meticulous attention to detail and fusion of Appalachian and Japanese influences results in an exciting dining experience.

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack: Serving up legendary heat in the heart of Nashville, Prince's Hot Chicken is known as the birthplace of the city's signature hot chicken. Born from a tale of culinary revenge, the irresistibly spicy chicken at Prince's is known for its crispy crust, dusted with a unique blend of spices that can range from simply savory to intensely hot. This is not a place for the faint of heart! Prepare to feel the heat - make sure to accompany your meal with a cooling sweet tea and a side of creamy mac and cheese to soothe your taste buds. Patience is key at Prince's as each meal is meticulously crafted to order. Don't be surprised by the wait, instead soak up the laid-back atmosphere. 

Bastion: More than just a dining destination, Bastion presents a culinary spectacle set against an unconventional backdrop in Nashville's Wedgewood-Houston district. Imagine the thrill of selecting from 15 enigmatic dishes, like 'lamb and chilies', served by the artists behind the creations - the chefs themselves. Orchestrated by Chef Josh Habiger, Bastion effortlessly combines intimacy and surprise, promising an immersive gastronomic journey without overwhelming your senses. But the experience doesn't stop there. Venture into the side bar, aptly described as the party in the back, where the atmosphere lightens up, the vinyl records spin, and delectable nachos are the star. Whether you're there for an introspective dining experience or a laid-back Happy Hour with friends, Bastion proves to be a one-of-a-kind establishment that celebrates the best of Nashville's culinary scene.

Pelican & Pig:  Nestled in the heart of East Nashville,  Pelican & Pig is a cozy, dinner-exclusive spot that uses a wood-burning hearth as the heart and soul of its cooking. Imbued with an irresistible smoky allure, every dish on the seasonally changing menu is a testament to the magic of fire-cooked cuisine. Particularly notable is their Nashville Hot Cheese and anything produced with their venerable sourdough starter. Enjoy a bottle of chilled red to counterbalance the smoke-tinged dishes or opt for a spiced rye cocktail to accentuate the unique flavors.

Five Points Pizza: Serving as the perfect pitstop after a long night on the town, Five Points Pizza caters to the late night crowd. While Broadway might be famed for its music, Five Points triumphs in the pizza department, offering inventive toppings like their fiery Habanero Cream Sauce pie. For those torn between choices, the "half and half" option is a godsend. In a city that never sleeps, this pizzeria is a late-night haven for quality eats.

The Continental: A time capsule of elegance and fine dining, The Continental, housed within the Grand Hyatt, delivers an updated nod to classic haute cuisine. With Broadway as the backdrop, this eatery offers an escape into an era where hotel restaurants were the epitome of culinary refinement. Its plush interiors, accentuated by groovy wallpaper and the soft hum of conversation, create an atmosphere that calls for indulgence in martinis, oysters, and succulent prime rib served from a tableside cart. Whether you're sinking into a tufted leather booth or a velvet banquette, The Continental invites you to linger over your meal, savoring good company, intricate cocktails, and their show-stopping Baked Alaska dessert. Their decadent weekend brunch, famed for its pastry cart brimming with cinnamon rolls, cruffins, and doughnuts, has become a beloved ritual among the locals. A visit to The Continental is not just a meal, it's an experience - a leisurely journey through a different, more glamorous era.

Lou: A charming and cozy Parisian-style café nestled in Riverside Village, Lou is the brainchild of globetrotting Chef Mailea Weger. Weger's culinary creativity has given birth to memorable dishes like mussels in tomato-chorizo broth, fennel bacon, and roasted or jerk chicken. And of course, there are always freshly baked breads and cakes, a testament to the team's formidable baking prowess. Whether you're seeking a delightful brunch, a leisurely lunch, or a relaxed dinner, Lou offers an all-day dining experience that invites you to sit back, relax, and savor every bite and sip. 

Maíz de la Vida: Tucked away in East Nashville, Maíz de la Vida offers a unique taco experience from its food truck, which now permanently lives outside Chopper Tiki bar. The brainchild of Julio Hernandez, the food truck introduced Nashville to the traditional Mexican art of nixtamalization, a process where the heirloom corn is prepared and milled in-house, resulting in tortillas with unrivaled flavor and structural integrity. The menu stars the must-try quesabirria tacos and finishes with a side of crisp, sweet churros. What makes Maiz de la Vida stand out is the authenticity and dedication to traditional Mexican cooking, making every bite a delightful journey into the heart of Mexico's culinary heritage. 

Best Nashville Coffee Shops: Where to Fuel Up

8th & Roast: Born from childhood friends Ed and Q, 8th & roast came from a shared vision to create a home away from home for the Nashville community. What started as casual meetings at a little coffee shop quickly transformed into an opportunity to provide the best craft coffee experience imaginable. The Charlotte Avenue branch presents a spacious, modern setup that still exudes the warmth of a cozy coffee shop. On the other hand, their original outlet on 8th Avenue South offers a more intimate setting, complete with community tables and a soothing ambiance. 

Frothy Monkey: Part of Nashville's cafe culture since 2004, Frothy Monkey creates a fusion of community warmth, culinary creativity, and quality in every cup of coffee. From sunup to sundown, they offer everything from locally-roasted coffees, available both hot and cold, to a wide-ranging menu including breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner options - all infused with seasonal flavors and created with thoughtfully-sourced ingredients from local farmers and producers. Beyond serving up delicious coffeehouse classics, Frothy Monkey also offers craft beers, wines, and cocktails, so there’s something for everyone, any time! 

Crema: Rooted in downtown Nashville, Crema Coffee Roasters stands as a zero-waste cafe and roaster, celebrated for its exceptional coffee, all crafted from beans sourced directly from passionate farmers around the world. Beyond its award-winning brews, Crema serves as a hub for coffee education, offering classes for serious enthusiasts. With every cup, Crema seeks to share not just a great coffee experience, but a human one, making each visit a blend of quality, hospitality, and genuine connection.

Bongo Java: A landmark in the Nashville coffee scene, Bongo Java is celebrated as the city's oldest coffee company. They’ve set a high standard for their organic, Fair Trade coffee. With its original, artsy shop nestled on Belmont Blvd and its unique board game café, Game Point, in East Nashville, each visit to a Bongo Java location promises a unique experience. In addition, Bongo Java extends its presence inside the Omni Hotel, ensuring that a taste of Nashville's coffee heritage is never too far away. It's not just about the coffee, but the community, as Bongo Java offers patrons a charming space, complete with a spacious porch, making every visit feel like home. 

Drinks in Nashville: Top Spots for Happy Hour and Beyond

White Limozeen: If you're looking for a playful escape with a dash of Southern charm, White Limozeen in Nashville is the spot to be! This is a Dolly Parton-themed bar and pool perched atop the Graduate Hotel that's a real feast for the senses. It's totally decked out in pink and as flamboyant as Dolly herself, plus the views of the city are incredible! Just remember to book ahead because it gets pretty busy. The cocktails here, like the Queen of the Rodeo or the Space Cowboy, are a delight - they're crafted with love and are pretty enough to make your Instagram feed pop. So come on down, get comfy, and let White Limozeen show you a good ol' Nashville time!

Southern Grist Brewing: Nestled in Nashville, Southern Grist Brewery blends Southern charm with craft brewing. With its lively locations in East Nashville and The Nations, you're in for a cozy and unique experience. The East Nashville spot, now at 754 Douglas, features relaxing patios, a welcoming bar, and 25 exceptional beers on tap. Don't miss their new restaurant, Lauter, where Executive Chef Andrew Coins serves a worldly, seasonal menu perfectly paired with Southern Grist's beers. Even non-drinkers can enjoy their tasty non-alcoholic options. So, swing by Southern Grist Brewery for great food, amazing beers, and a dose of Southern hospitality!

Fable Lounge: Located close to Centennial Park in the West End, Fable Lounge presents a seductive mix of velvet and leather accents, instantly whisks you away to an era defined by refined elegance. From a relaxing cigar bar and a cozy outdoor patio with fire features, to a captivating piano lounge, Fable has all the elements for a memorable night out. Each floor houses a bar, and a full-service kitchen delights with scrumptious dinner, snack, and dessert offerings. But the real star here is their classic cocktail list; the old-fashioned, negroni, or sazerac prepared with a masterful touch, are just the tonic for a sophisticated evening out.

The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club: Situated in East Nashville, The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club is a must-visit locale radiating with the allure of an Art Deco-inspired interior and a warm, convivial ambiance. The brainchild of seasoned barman Will Benedetto, this bar offers an array of cocktails ranging from light and refreshing to potent and rich, with prices hovering between $12 to $15. A standout is the monthly old-fashioned, beloved by regulars. On the culinary front, The Fox Bar serves a variety of snacks such as vegan charcuterie, hot chicken hummus, and Old Bay-seasoned popcorn. Whether you are seeking a relaxed environment, an exquisitely designed menu, or a memorable chat with the bartender, The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club provides an experience that might just make you a regular.

Santa’s Pub: A legendary dive bar like no other, Santa's Pub in Nashville offers one of the most unforgettable nights in the city of music. Cash-only and housed in an actual trailer, Santa's is known for karaoke every night of the week, where inhibitions are thrown to the wind. Embracing a unique Christmas theme, this gem draws everyone from locals and tourists to celebrities (yes, even the likes of Justin Bieber and Kid Rock). Don't come expecting fancy trappings, though. Here, it's all about a laid-back vibe with mismatched furniture and no cocktail or liquor offerings. But with beer prices that hardly make a dent in your wallet - at just $3 a pop - you'll have just the right amount of 'liquid courage' to join the party and belt out those tunes like a rockstar!

Nashville Attractions: The City's Unmissable Highlights 

Broadway Honky Tonks: In the heart of Nashville, you’ll find “Honky Tonk Highway”, or Lower Broadway. This piece of the main strip is host to countless live music venues where you can find music any day, any time. No cover charge means you can freely hop from one place to another, each offering its own unique vibe and performer on stage. From the nostalgic, record-adorned walls of Legends Corner, to the iconic lavender facade of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, to the multileveled Honky Tonk Central, you have a veritable smorgasbord of music, culture, and fun that encapsulates the heartbeat of Nashville in one buzzing street.

The Bluebird Cafe: Tucked in an unassuming strip mall, Nashville's Bluebird Cafe is an iconic 90-seat haven for songwriters and a birthplace of dreams. Despite its modest size and exterior, this is where stars like Garth Brooks got their break, and it continues to host two shows each night, enveloping audiences in the raw magic of music. While you may not always recognize the performer's name, there's a high chance you'll be swept away by their melodies. Secure your tickets well in advance for this gem of Music City, as they are quickly snatched up, and prepare for a memorable night of exceptional tunes.

The Parthenon: Standing prominently in Centennial Park, Nashville's Parthenon stands as an homage to the city's moniker, the "Athens of the South". An astonishing full-scale replica of the iconic Athenian original, this structure was intended as a temporary fixture for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897, but it has since claimed its place as a cherished landmark. Though there's an entrance fee for a full tour, you can marvel at the building's exterior and the peaceful park setting free of charge.

Station Inn: Nestled amidst the modernity of the Gulch, The Station Inn remains a resilient symbol of Nashville's rich musical history. Though unassuming in its cinder-block facade, this intimate venue is arguably America's premier bluegrass club. Inside, its retro ambiance is reminiscent of a 1970s basement, setting the stage for authentic bluegrass nights. From seasoned pros to multigenerational jam sessions, every performance is a testament to the venue's legacy. Its communal seating fosters camaraderie among patrons, while its commitment to genuine bluegrass in an ever-evolving musical landscape makes it a must-visit for anyone seeking the heart and soul of Nashville.

Ryman Auditorium: Nashville's Ryman Auditorium is a historical, intimate downtown venue, famous for its rich musical heritage and remarkable acoustics. Once home to the Grand Ole Opry, it now hosts a range of contemporary acts from country stars to comedians. Visitors can explore its illustrious past through engaging exhibits, a behind-the-scenes tour, or the immersive "Soul of Nashville" screening, showcasing its significant role in music history. Enthusiasts may even have the opportunity to test their vocal abilities at the recording studio. However, many agree that the best way to appreciate the Ryman is by attending a live performance, an experience elevated by the auditorium's unique, intimate ambiance. 

Nashville Culture: Discover Art, History, and More

Grand Ole Opry: Known as the show that made country music famous, the Grand Ole Opry is an iconic Nashville institution that began as a radio show back in 1925 effectively christening Nashville as the "Country Music Capital of the World". The Opry has graced various venues, including the historic Ryman Auditorium, and has showcased country legends from Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn to contemporary favorites like Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood. Visitors can explore its rich heritage with daytime or post-show backstage tours, offering glimpses into the dressing rooms, the venerated Studio A, and iconic stage. Experiencing a live performance at the Grand Ole Opry, set in a venue steeped in musical history, is widely regarded as an unforgettable Nashville highlight.

Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum: Located centrally in downtown Nashville, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a treasure trove for music enthusiasts and history buffs alike. It houses a rich collection of exhibits, artifacts, and plaques commemorating the legends of country music—from Patsy Cline, to Reba McEntire, to Alan Jackson. Visitors can marvel at memorabilia such as Johnny Cash's guitar and Elvis Presley's "solid gold" Cadillac limo, explore the roots and evolution of country music through the "Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music" exhibit, or gain insights into the songwriting process during Songwriter Sessions in the Ford Theater. Additionally, it offers access to the Historic RCA Studio B, the cradle of over 35,000 legendary songs. Whether you're a devoted country music fan or simply intrigued by its history, the museum provides a unique and immersive experience you can’t miss.

National Museum of African American Music: Opened in 2021, the National Museum of African American Music serves as a testament to the influence of African American artists on over 50 genres of popular music, including jazz, gospel, and hip-hop. Spanning across a 56,000-square-foot space on Broadway, the museum guides visitors through time, each gallery illuminating a distinct era of African American music. From the spiritual call-and-response hymns of the 1600s in "Wade in the Water," through the jazz era in "A Love Supreme," to the evolution of hip-hop in "The Message," the museum combines educational displays with interactive elements and musical artifacts, providing a journey through the rich tapestry of African American musical heritage.

Frist Art Museum: Housed in an elegant Art Deco building that once served as Nashville's main post office, Frist Art Museum has been a beacon for art enthusiasts since its inception in 2001. As an answer to the city's craving for a prominent art space, the Frist offers a rotating array of exhibits ranging from vintage cars to international art collections. Visitors—be they local art aficionados or families seeking an enriching experience—appreciate the bright, welcoming gallery spaces and the interactive Martin ArtQuest Gallery, which immerses kids in creative exploration. 

Rudy’s Jazz Room: In the heart of the Gulch, Rudy's Jazz Room stands as a true testament to Nashville's rich musical tapestry. Offering a vibrant blend of New York City and New Orleans ambiances, this authentic jazz haven boasts impeccable acoustics, a Steinway Model B grand piano, and the culinary touch of New Orleans-born Chef Michael Braden. Established in 2017 by Adam Charney and Michael Braden to fill the city's jazz void, Rudy's has quickly become an indispensable part of Nashville's night scene. Dive into a world of soul-stirring jazz, exquisite drinks, and authentic Creole cuisine, all under the dim, intimate lighting of Rudy's.

Exploring the Outdoors: Nashville's Natural Wonders

Radnor Lake State Park: The impressive 1,368-acre Radnor Lake State Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts and is designated as a Class II Natural Area. With its 7.75 miles of trails strictly dedicated to hiking, wildlife observation, and photography, it offers visitors a unique opportunity to encounter diverse wildlife, from owls, herons, and waterfowl to amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. The park, home to hundreds of wildflower, moss, fungi, fern, and tree species, is known for its vibrant ecological diversity. In addition to its day-use trails and wildlife, the park offers ranger-led programs throughout the year, including astronomy night hikes, wildflower walks, and bird of prey sessions, further enhancing its appeal to nature lovers.

Riverfront Park: Running alongside the Cumberland River, Nashville's Riverfront Park is a lively blend of history and modern entertainment. Just a stone's throw from the bustling Broadway, this urban oasis hosts electrifying open-air concerts, showcases mesmerizing river views, and pays tribute to the city's heritage with the Fort Nashborough replica. Amidst the greenery, you'll find striking public art pieces, including the captivating Ghost Ballet sculpture that gleams brilliantly at night. A must-visit for a touch of nature amidst the city's rhythm!

Cummins Falls: A tranquil jewel located just 86 miles away from downtown Nashville, Cummins Falls offers a cool retreat from city life. Come here to watch the emerald-colored water cascading beautifully down the rocks and forming a refreshing swimming hole - jump in and take a dip! Exploring this Tennessee State Park requires a gorge access permit and a sense of adventure. Be prepared for a moderately challenging 2-mile hike. The downhill trek to the falls is only half the journey - remember, the return hike uphill, especially after a fun day at the falls, might be a surprising challenge. So, gear up with suitable footwear and make the most of this awe-inspiring natural wonder!

Cheekwood Estate & Gardens:  Spanning 55 acres,  Cheekwood Estate and Gardens provides a serene escape from the city’s hustle and bustle with its vibrant botanical garden, with diverse sections dedicated to boxwoods, dogwoods, roses, and herbs. The Japanese garden and the literary garden, featuring a small amphitheater for events, are particular highlights. Inside the Georgian-style mansion, originally the Cheek family home, art lovers will appreciate the museum's rich collection of 19th- and 20th-century American paintings, antique furniture, photographs, sculptures, and global artifacts. The picturesque trails, carefully groomed gardens, and historical house tour come highly recommended by visitors, with a special mention for the train display in the Turner Seasons Garden.

Enjoy Nash-Vegas with Trusted

Once you hang up your stethoscope for the week, you'll be eager to  swap hospital hallways for the city’s lively streets, teeming with Southern charm and the strum of country music. Nashville’s food scene, happy hour haunts, cultural attractions, and foot-tapping music venues are waiting to make your adventure an unforgettable one.

Sign up for a profile with Trusted today to get matched with a job in Nashville! 

*Special thanks to our very own Trusted Care Team, Ryann D, a Nurse Advocate, and Nina W, a Care Coordinator, for contributing so many of these awesome Nashville recommendations!* 

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN

Audrey McCollough, RN, BSN, is a pediatric critical care nurse who traded her scrubs for a laptop to come work internally at Trusted two years ago. With eight years of critical care experience and four years of travel nursing under her belt, Audrey now uses her experience and expertise to support others in the healthcare industry, particularly her fellow nurses. When she's not at work, Audrey loves to explore the great outdoors! Hiking, skiing, or just soaking up nature's beauty - Audrey is all about it.

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