An 11-year-old Taylor Alison Swift begged her parents to move to Nashville so she could pursue her dreams in country music. Ultimately, they conceded, relocating the family from West Reading, Pennsylvania, to the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville in 2003, and the rest is history.
Taylor Swift’s list of accomplishments is nearly as long as her discography, which she’s currently revisiting on the long-awaited Eras Tour, including a three-night stint at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium on May 5, 6, and 7, 2023. Each show starts at 8 p.m. and lasts a whopping three hours, during which Swift belts her biggest hits from across each of her 10 albums.
While the excitement surrounding the tour may have broken Ticketmaster, the lucky ones who snagged tickets are taking it one step further by adopting albums like personality traits. Whether you’re the Nashville-ready debut Taylor Swift with ringlet curls and cowboy boots or the brooding and seductive Reputation Swift, here’s a rundown of bars and restaurants for setting the appropriate mood for each era before and after the shows, as well as what to eat and drink during the show at Nissan Stadium, an easy walk from downtown Nashville.
Swift’s debut is the Nashville country album wrapped up with a curly bow. She belts her experience as a teenager and budding artist with a charming twang that fades as she grows. Leaning into the debut era is particularly easy in Nashville since the city itself shaped Swift’s persona in those early years. Don your best Western getup and wipe the teardrops from your guitar before heading to these Taylor Swift-inspired spots.
To kick off the Eras Tour, it only feels right to visit the place that kicked off Swift’s career: the Bluebird Cafe, a famed destination just south of downtown in Green Hills where songwriters and celebrities perform during intimate storytelling rounds. Swift credits the venue with her discovery; when she was just 14 years old, she performed here in front of Scott Borchetta, who signed Swift as the first artist on his new record label before eventually becoming one of the villains in her story when he sold Big Machine Records — and with it, the masters to Swift’s first six albums — to Scooter Braun, another Swift antagonist.
Music City’s rowdy party strip, known to some as the Honky-Tonk Highway, is just across the Cumberland River from Nissan Stadium, connected by a footbridge. Before or after showtime, lean into the country Swift at one of Lower Broadway’s many honky-tonks, which resound with country music from morning until late night. One of the best is rustic Robert’s Western World, where you’re most likely to spot a local amid a sea of tourists. If you can squeeze into the small bar, order a cold beer and a fried bologna sandwich, then settle in to hear renditions of those old country songs that inspired Swift’s musical career.
Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
Do you miss screaming and crying and kissing in the rain? This era is for you. The first of Swift’s early albums she re-released to regain ownership of them, Fearless is whimsical and lovestruck, driven by sparkles, fairy tales, and teenage love ballads. The album ushered in the iconic glittering wardrobe and hopeless romanticism that’s guided almost every Swift album since.
The Fearless era is nostalgia, it’s driving with the windows down and a new crush sitting beside you, and it’s easy to imagine Swift drawing inspiration from cruises along winding Tennessee backroads. Journey out of the city in any direction to find stunning scenery and soulful food like at the Loveless Cafe, Bellevue’s beloved roadside diner. Tuck into all-day breakfast including famous biscuits or Southern supper favorites like country-fried steak and a chicken salad plate, then dance it all off right there in the middle of the parking lot.
Fearless is daydreaming, imagination, and pining after an elusive lover. Chase the enchantment with dinner or a post-show cocktail at East Nashville’s Treehouse, which looks like someone’s home on the outside but a childlike fortress on its outdoor deck. Spark your own love story (baby, just say yes) surrounded by colorful wood and nostalgic decor while sharing creative cocktails and mains like hangar steak and braised beef.
This may be the hardest era to pin down, with tracks ranging from regretful confessions to classic love songs. Notably, Speak Now was the first album Swift penned all on her own, so pay homage to the songstress herself and all of her favorite things in Nashville before she eventually expands her sound beyond country.
In 2012, Swift named Hillsboro Village’s Fido as her favorite coffee shop; this organic coffee bar connected to local roaster Bongo Java has been a mainstay since the mid-1990s. Kick off your show day with Swift’s go-to coffee order (a caramel nonfat latte) then have breakfast at the longstanding Pancake Pantry just a block away. Any stack of flapjacks here is better than revenge, but Swift particularly loves the sweet potato pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
Swift is also an avowed fan of the nearby 12 South neighborhood, so make preshow dinner reservations at Josephine. Like Swift, chef Andy Little has roots in Pennsylvania, which he combines with local influences for dishes like Nashville hot scrapple wraps and smoked beef cheek with whole-grain mustard spaetzle. From the delicious food to the signature cocktails to the elegant surroundings, the whole experience will leave you enchanted.
Red (Taylor’s Version)
Swift’s first deviation from country music and second re-release is one we know all too well. An Eras outfit inspired by Red is one of the easiest to pull off (a red scarf should do the trick), and with the album leaning heavily into color imagery, here’s a collection of red-based spots in Nashville that will have you remembering why we are never ever getting back together (like, ever).
Keeping on theme, country artist Blake Shelton’s Ole Red is a Broadway hotspot with live music all day. Fuel up with a Nash Burger — two patties topped with bacon, tots, beer onions, queso, fried pickles, and Comeback sauce — then walk it off across the pedestrian bridge that leads you straight to the show.
After Swift’s final bow, head downtown to begin again. Finding the Hidden Bar in downtown’s Noelle Hotel is almost as hard as decoding messages in a Swift song, but the reward is perfect for a Red post-game. As part of the bar’s red light series, the current interior is entirely red, draped with velvet curtains and brimming with sensual flourishes like an “amour” neon sign glowing crimson. Sip a Boulevardier, then stay stay stay for a cocktail inspired by a future Swift song, the Lavender Haze, from the lobby bar.
We’re not in Nashville anymore, and we have an entire album to prove it. 1989, named for Swift’s birth year, is an homage to change. The first track, “Welcome to New York,” declares this theme most directly, though Swift fully embraces her departure from country and entry into pop throughout the entire album. Don’t worry, the Nashville Swifties did shake it off, because the album gave us some of her most iconic bangers, and for that, we’re grateful.
If you’re looking for a preshow place where you can hide, start at East Nashville’s Attaboy, an exclusive speakeasy-style cocktail lounge with a New York City counterpart. Plan to arrive early to be sure you’re in and out before showtime, as the bar opens at 5 p.m. and fills up quickly. There’s no menu here, only expert mixologists ready to make something that speaks just to you (which is exactly how Swift’s music feels).
Downtown, visit the dazzling Drusie & Darr, inside the Hermitage Hotel, from renowned celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Drusie & Darr will never go out of style: It’s feminine, dainty, and dazzling, just like the album. Located only a few steps from the Broadway honky-tonks, the restaurant, like the album, transports you elsewhere without taking you too far from Nashville’s roots.
...Are you ready for it? Reputation is here. Angsty, sexy, vengeful, Swift’s Rep era is all about doing something bad, but why’s it feel so good? Don the sauciest black-and-gold outfit you have (a dress, perhaps?) and head out for a vengeful pregame on the town, including a reservation at iconic jazz lounge Skull’s Rainbow Room in Printers Alley, where you can toast to your real friends.
Skull’s haunting basement bar will let you rise up from the dead — you do it all the time — with live music, fine dining favorites like a red wine demi-braised short rib and a New York strip, and some of the best craft cocktails in town — you’ll know it from the first Old Fashioned, you were cursed. Return after the show for an alluring burlesque performance.
You could also see and be seen at the high-end Gulch restaurant Virago; Swift loves to get sushi from here. Virago’s hushed, sultry interior lends itself perfectly to any patron with a big reputation, and the menu is packed with nigiri, maki, and sashimi that, if you squint, can resemble a snake (look what you made me do).
The Lover album could not be a bigger shift from Reputation, almost as if she forgot that it existed. Lover returns to Swift’s roots of flowery ballads built for screaming at the top of your lungs, but balanced by a maturity that only comes with age. It’s bright, airy, colorful, and, of course, sparkly. At every table, we’ll save you a seat at these Lover spots.
In “I Think He Knows,” Swift recalls skipping down 16th Avenue, which is a nod to Nashville landmark Music Row. While there aren’t any restaurants along the strip, Lover calls for a carefree saunter down this street on your way into town.
Take your group and all their sequins to the Hampton Social, a multistory bar and restaurant with photo ops galore near Broadway. Order a sparkling seafood tower or a dozen oysters from the coastal menu, then do a round of shots (that aren’t Patrón) served inside a pink guitar. Babe, don’t threaten me with a good time.
Head to Broadway after the show for a visit to the equally picturesque Layer Cake, with its pink lighting, dozens of shimmering chandeliers, and cliche neon signs — and that’s just in the Wonder Room. After your photoshoot, order a collection of flatbreads for the table and the strawberry and rosé cocktail called 11/10, which is exactly what we rate this era.
Folklore and Evermore
We’re back in the land of whimsy (fueled by pandemic isolation) through sibling albums Folklore and Evermore. While the topics and sounds may differ, the vibes are largely the same, so secure your French braid and grab your woodsiest flannel to celebrate Swift’s detour into indie folk.
Folklore track “Invisible String” includes one of Swift’s most pointed musical references to Nashville, as she remembers the color of the grass where she used to read at Centennial Park (it was green). As luck would have it, one of the most fitting spots can be found right at the park’s entrance: Fable Lounge is a cocktail bar plucked straight out of a storybook, with a patio overlooking the very green grass that Swift recalls. The drink menu alone has more than 120 options, from wines to craft cocktails, local brews, coffee, and tea. Cardigans required.
If “Champagne problems” has become your mantra, Germantown’s Geist has an outdoor Champagne garden ready to serve as the perfect preshow backdrop. Plus, your group can share small plates like beef tartare and whipped feta, with Champagne panna cotta for dessert.
If “’Tis the damn season” resonates more, head to Wedgewood-Houston dive bar Santa’s Pub after the show. This unique bar could also work for the earlier Lovers era, as Santa’s Pub doesn’t just leave the Christmas lights up ’til January — here, the holidays hang around year-round, complete with cold beer and cringey karaoke.
Draw the cat eyes sharp enough to kill a man, Swifties: It’s time to meet me at Midnights. Swift’s latest album tells the story of sleepless nights marked by navy blue, insomnia, and candlelight. This era brings us back to the pop genre, with a tracklist sparking cocktail names around the world — it seems every other menu has an Empress 1908 gin-based Lavender Haze cocktail or a stout Anti-Hero shot.
To celebrate Midnights, make your way to Broadway’s Twelve Thirty Club, co-owned by Justin Timberlake and named for the traditional half-past-midnight closing time for 19th-century pubs and restaurants. Have a swanky preshow steak with sauces and accompaniments and a glass of wine so scarlet it was maroon, and be sure to stop by the first-floor honky-tonk as a callback to Swift’s debut roots.
For an excellent off-Broadway option on one of your non-show days, try Germantown’s Tailor, a South Asian American prix fixe restaurant with seatings Thursday through Sunday at 6 and 8 p.m. Beyond the obvious name connection, the restaurant earns a spot on the Midnights list due to an enormous chandelier at the center of the dining room that makes the whole place shimmer.
After the show, party on Broadway long past midnight. Get a dose of lavender haze at Nashville’s famed purple honky-tonk, Tootsies Orchid Lounge. For decades, this downtown icon has welcomed both budding and legendary country music stars to its stage, including Swift herself once upon a time.
Where to eat and drink inside Nissan Stadium
You can still eat and drink well once you get inside Nissan Stadium since the venue houses several local gems. Swift loves Tennessee whiskey, so grab a drink from Jack Daniel’s on the lowest floor; you can also order a pint from Yee-Haw Brewing Co. or a frozen cocktail from Party Fowl. For dinner, build your own pizza at Slim & Husky’s, a recent James Beard Award semifinalist available on all floors.
Correction: April 12, 2023, 5:32 p.m.: This article was updated to reflect that Taylor Swift’s image no longer appears in a mural of country legends on Legends Corner.