I don’t mind country music, far from it, but I’m also certainly not an aficionado of the genre. Sure, I’ve seen Dolly Parton twice in concert, but it’s Dolly! She’s so much more than a country music star, she’s an entity unto herself. That being said, attending high school in Southwest Virginia where our prom theme song was Garth Brooks, it’s a style of music I have known well for a very long time. That’s one of many reasons why I was so excited to spend CMA Week in Nashville, visiting the brand new JW Marriott and learning how to live the country music star lifestyle in my own unique way.
The JW Marriott is Nashville’s newest entrant to the luxury hotel community and, after spending a few days at this incredibly well-located hotel I have to believe that it’s the city’s newest star. Country music fan or not, there are some not to miss spots around town if you want to embrace your inner star.
These boots were made for…
To be a true country music legend you have to look the part, and that starts with the boots. Cowboy boots and big hats are synonymous with the Nashville look and in Nashville there’s no better place to get outfitted than at Lucchese Boot Company. The country’s preeminent boot maker since the 19th century, Lucchese boots are handcrafted and each are a work of art. And thanks to a special partnership between the JW Marriott and Lucchese, the hotel’s VIP guests can enjoy their own boot fitting experience. The “Boots & Bourbon” package includes a VIP boot-fitting at the famed Lucchese Bootmaker retail store in Nashville as well as a credit for a pair of custom-made Lucchese boots and an F&B credit to Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak.
Walking into the shop in Nashville’s trendy Gulch neighborhood, my senses were at once overwhelmed by the comforting scent of leather, the bright colors of the shop and the hundreds of gorgeous boots lining the walls. With the help of the shop’s expert staff members, I went through the process of trying on my first cowboy boots, finding my size and, ultimately, walking out with my own pair of perfectly handcrafted boots. I was at first intimidated by the process, since I’d never worn cowboy boots before, but everyone at Lucchese was kind and extremely generous with their time, answering even my most ridiculous questions. It was also the ideal first step into embracing the country music star inside of me.
Like most cities around the country, Nashville is enjoying a rebirth of the food scene in and around the downtown neighborhoods. That doesn’t mean the old classics are gone, far from it, not only are Nashville’s most famous dishes thriving but they’re also being reimagined by creative young chefs. Hot chicken, that spicy meal for which Nashville is so famous, should be on everyone’s must-do lists, as should visits to small eateries serving “meat plus 3” (meat and 3 sides) and my personal favorite, BBQ. Walking around town I stumbled across a nondescript spot not far from the JW Marriott, Peg Leg Porker. There are few things I love more than great BBQ, and here they serve it up with near perfection. Meats are smoked fresh daily and served alongside those homey sides I know and love, there’s nothing better. Well, almost nothing, because that same evening I enjoyed a remarkable dinner that I know I won’t soon forget.
There are many reasons to love the new JW Marriott Nashville, but one of the most important is their showcase restaurant, Bourbon Steak by Chef Michael Mina. With the best views of the city as the backdrop, this impressive restaurant is everything a modern steakhouse should be. Featuring classics that I know and love, but served up with modern and creative twists, the menu is a showcase of Mina’s best culinary work. Add in an expansive wine and cocktail menu, and this will soon be THE place to be in Nashville, if it isn’t already.
The JW Treatment
I love a great luxury hotel but whenever I visit a JW Marriott, I know that I’m in for a special treat. I’ve long said that luxury isn’t only about the things you can see. Sure, soft linens and fancy lobbies are nice, but ultimately they don’t define the luxury travel experience. No, instead it all hinges on service and how a guest is made to feel, which JW calls the JW Treatment. I don’t want to sound like a marketing pamphlet, but it’s a concept that really does work and I felt it immediately upon arriving to the brand new JW Marriott Nashville. Checking in I was made to feel like a valued guest, which is honestly a hard feat for any large hotel to manage. It also set the tone for the rest of the service experiences I enjoyed whether it was in-room or down in the hotel’s central restaurant.
Although luxury hinges on great service, it’s an element that also must work in coordination with everything else that normally defines a luxury travel experience. Thankfully, this is an area in which the JW Marriott also excels. My room was well designed both in terms of form and function, and it’s been a long time since I’ve slept so well on a short trip. The hotel prides itself on a residential feel, accentuated in-room by floor-to-ceiling windows, modern design and subtle nods to the Music City everywhere you look. The spa and gym services are amongst the best I’ve experienced and are staffed by some of the nicest people I’ve ever met – honestly. Everything here just works, and it works well. It was hard for me to believe that it’s a new hotel, the staff and services work in better harmony than some of the world’s most well-established properties.
I quickly realized that Nashville takes the Country Music Awards very, very seriously. Throughout the week there were events going on all around town, each one highlighting the awards event and country music in general. Since the JW Marriott is just a block or so from the awards site, and just a few blocks from the Country Music Hall of Fame, it isn’t only the ideal home base for the CMAs, but many events also took place at the hotel itself. To prepare for my first CMA experience, I strolled down the street to spend some time at the incredibly well-curated Country Hall of Fame. There are a few different options for guests visiting, including learning how the famous Hatch artwork is produced, but since I was tight on time I opted just to explore the Hall of Fame museum itself. I quickly realized though that even a couple of hours wasn’t enough time for this immersive museum experience. What I appreciated was learning more about the history of country music, from its earliest roots up through to the modern era. The museum also has a rotating collection of temporary exhibits that add to the overall experience and which certainly helped further my own crash course into everything country. It was a lot of fun and I’d love to return and enjoy some of the optional activities the Hall of Fame offers.
If managed properly, a great luxury hotel isn’t just a nice feature of a trip, it should be an active participant that heightens one’s appreciation for a city. The destination and the property must work together seamlessly to fashion an experience that isn’t just nice, it’s memorable. Think about it for a second and I think that you’ll agree with me that this is rare and a difficult accomplishment to achieve but I can honestly share that the JW Marriott Nashville has managed this with ease, just a few months into serving the city.