Who would have imagined that five minutes from Nashville’s modern airport, there would be a hotel with stunning design and artwork, live music and a dance floor in the lounge, a fitness center and swimming pool big enough to swim laps?
The Hotel Preston, literally just outside the perimeter, is a five-minute drive, but a world away from the airport. But its location (and free parking) it is THE place to be if your visit to Nashville is enhanced by mobility – giving you wheels, if not wings, to really get around.
The hotel offers a free shuttle from the airport, but rent a car so you can explore the Nashville environs like a local, taking in its live music venues (Blue Bird Cafe, the Station Inn) and trendy restaurants that are tucked into neighborhoods like East Nashville, the Gulch and Germantown outside the downtown.
Have the freedom to get on the Civil War Heritage Trail (the town of Franklin, just outside Nashville, should be a first stop), or follow the famous Natchez Trace that dates back to Indian days. Unravel the enigma of President Andrew Jackson at his fascinating home, The Hermitage; explore Belle Meade plantation where just about every champion race horse can trace its progenitor; tour Belmont Mansion (now Belmont College) to learn about one of the most fascinating women in American history, Adelica Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham (a real-life Scarlett O’Hara); visit Cheekwood, originally the estate of the Cheeks of Maxwell Coffee wealth, and now a fabulous art museum and formal gardens.
Take in the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, a game at Titans Stadium, hike around Radnor Lake, visit the Adventure Zone science museum and planetarium (see: Nashville for Families). And of course, no visit to Nashville would be complete without visiting the Grand Ole Opry, which is located outside the downtown. There is really so much to do but to take full advantage, you need wheels.
The Hotel Preston provides an excellent base to really get out and explore, and when you want to experience downtown – the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Ryman Auditorium, the honky tonks (I actually prefer to visit during the day to really enjoy the music) – it is just a quick 15-20 minute hop down the highway.
A Happening Place
The Preston is an airport hotel with panache, that could just as easily fit in among the downtown boutique hotels, so so stylish, luxurious, offering excellent personal service and a distinctive charm that can only be described as “personality.”
I was struck by the stunning photography of Slick Lawson, featuring music greats like Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash (it is fun to wander around the halls just to look at the photographs), that certainly set the stage for being in Music City USA.
For such a compact place, it’s remarkable how much is going on here. You don’t even have to go out to have a night on the town: dine at Café Isabella, a very pleasant dining room that serves up a sumptuous blend of what is fondly referred to as “Italian comfort food with southern roots.”
Then slip into the Pink Slip, a stylish Nashville Hotel bar, where there is live entertainment (we’re talking Nashville, so the entertainment is incredible), Wednesdays through Saturdays (8 pm to midnight).
This is a “hip, happening hotel” that exudes attitude, with luxurious boutique style accommodations (196 rooms and four suites),WiFi, flatscreen TV, plush bedding. Each room has a You Want It, You Got It button that caters to guests’ needs or whimsical desires; CD players; high-speed wireless Internet access; Aveda bath products; Pillow Menu and Spiritual Menu.
Every room in Hotel Preston houses an eclectic collection of art, serving up eye candy one piece at a time. Each piece utilizes a colorful palate presented by both blossoming and veteran artists, including: Jon Langford (Chicago), Ray Stephenson (Nashville), Chris Dean (Detroit), Sean Stucky (Chicago), Julia Martin (Nashville), Kevin Dresser (New York), Carl Linstrum (Atlanta), Mat Mikula (Nashville), Jim McGuire (Nashville), Slick Lawson (now deceased – Houston), Rick Lobdell (Nashville), April Street (East Tennessee) and Jeff Stamper (Nashville).
I love a place that smacks of creativity and cleverness and beauty without sacrificing ergonomics – there was Sweat (the fitness center); Gather (the ballroom); Think (boardroom). Instead of the mundane Women and Men to indicate gender on the bathrooms, there was Sit and Stand.
There is also an outdoor, lap-size swimming pool, and a fitness room.
The Hotel Preston is in the airport hotel district, but most of these are chain hotels that are geared to business travelers making a quick trip (a wonderful exception is the Embassy Suites, which is like a resort-style hotel ideal for families). The Preston stands out for its charm, style, personal service, wonderfully comfortable for a longer stay.
The Hotel Preston would also be an alternative to staying downtown. Nashville has really seen a hotel building boom that has resulted in several stylish boutique hotels downtown (The Hutton is one we have enjoyed), but the Preston has the added advantage of value, particularly for families coming for Vanderbilt University events (especially Parents Weekend in October, Commencement in May) when rates at downtown hotels can be very high.
And it is a huge advantage how well situated the Hotel Preston is to get out and about.
This trip, we were able to sample some of the new restaurants that are forging a new reputation for Nashville in sophisticated dining, with an emphasis on flavorful and fresh, local ingredients (The Hermitage Hotel, a Historic Hotels of America member, even has its own farm cultivated by Chef Tyler Brown, himself).
Eastland Cafe is a vibrant neighborhood restaurant that is both comfortable and casually elegant. The open dining room has an inclusive, inviting feel, with dark mahogany wood panels and warmly lit tables, and an outdoor dining area. There is a relaxed energy that is immensely appealing to neighborhood regulars, couples out for a romantic evening, family gettogethers and business diners. The menu is creative with a masterful use of intriguing combinations of fresh ingredients that yield delectable flavors: pecan crusted Coleman Farms chicken; crawfish tails, andouille sausage, tasso ham, red potato, leek, tomato, arugula, zucchini, cajun butter sauce; Maple Leaf Farms duck breast with 5-spice honey glaze served with coconut rice, carrot and snow pea saute and lime marmalade (97 Chapel Avenue, Nashville 37206, 615-627-1088, www.eastlandcafe.com).
Another restaurant that contradicts the notion of Nashville as obsessed with BBQ and fried chicken, is Marché Artisan Foods, a bustling European style café and marketplace located near “Five Points” in Historic East Nashville. A favorite for Sunday brunch, the market-style eatery also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner focusing on simple, seasonal cuisine that just astonishes the palette with flavor. You’ll also find a vast selection of house made pastries and a full coffee and espresso bar as well as fresh fish, meats, cheeses and a selection of gourmet grocery items for the adventurous home cook. The cafe is the vision of Margot McCormack and Jay Frein – the minds behind the nearby Margot Café & Bar. Located in the Walnut Exchange, a former telephone switching building, Marché offers a delightful ambience: its sunny windows and terrazzo floors make you feel transported to a sidewalk café in Italy. Marble top tables and wicker chairs provide comfortable and cozy dining spaces, giving a casual air, but the service is as elegant as a five-star. Rustic farm tables on the top floor serve larger parties and community-style dining. Most popular for brunch, but the supper here was absolutely special, and unexpected, like the Omlette du jour – what gets you is the absolute freshness, and the distinctiveness of the component flavors. Each item is paired with a recommended wine. The bread that is served is out of this world ( 1000 Main Street, Nashville, 37206, 615-262-1111, www.marcheartisanfoods.com).
The Hotel Preston is owned by Provenance Hotels, the same company that built the Hotel deLuxe in Portland, Oregon, which I also enjoyed immensely and which similarly manifested the stunning modern design and luxurious accoutrements.
Provenance Hotels has quite a touch with boutique hotels. The company explains its approach:
“Today’s traveler is looking for something different. Something interesting. Something enticing, And yet, something with that specialized service we’ve all come to expect from a luxury hotel. Provenance Hotels does just that, treating every guest to a unique cultural story that inextricably links each individual property to our core brand. And yes, catering to their every need. The identities we create at each of our hotels, allow guests to form personal connections with the local community, the featured art and the hotel staff. Whether it’s Murano’s international glass collection or the deLuxe’s tribute to the Golden Era of Film, our contemporary hotels provide far more than just an inviting place to lay your head. We create savvy, branded experiences that highlight the culture of the city in which each hotel is located.”
Provenance Hotels has a proven track record of turning around underperforming assets, resulting in substantial increases in revenue. The company now has five owned and operated properties, totaling almost 1,000 rooms and a market value in excess of $370 million.
We first were introduced to the quality and style at the deLuxe Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon, which was opened in 2006, and were blown away by the respect for a historic structure, with modern sensibilities. and a stunning sense of design. The Hotel deLuxe is a contemporary tribute to the Golden Era of Hollywood filmmaking that tastefully balances art deco and art moderne styles for a mix of timeless sophistication and serene comfort. The deLuxe is close to the Pearl District and Nob Hill shopping and restaurants, and just steps away from the Max rail line for easy access to other popular Portland neighborhoods (you just hop on board to go to International Rose Test Garden and The Oregon Zoo). During our visit, we saw firsthand how popular the hotel is as a wedding destination.
Provenance also has the Hotel Lucia, in Portland, where the amazing black-and-white photography of photojournalist David Hume Kennedy (Anwar Sadat, Ronald Reagan) add style and interest. (400 SW Broadway, Portland, Oregon, 97205, 866-986-8086, 503-225-1717, www.hotellucia.com.)
The Hotel Max, in the heart of downtown Seattle, Washington, prides itself as providing a platform for both emerging and established Seattle artists and photographers. There are more than 350 original paintings and photographs found throughout our Seattle hotel in the lobby, guest rooms and corridors. Don’t forget about the bountiful attractions within walking distance of our Seattle hotel, or the great shopping available, and the hotel is a great place to stay when you are cruising out of Seattle. (620 Stewart Street, Seattle, WA 98101, 866-986-8087, 206-728-6299, www.hotelmaxseattle.com).
The Hotel Murano,in Tacoma Washington, is distinguished by the world-class collection of Murano glass on view. Centrally located in downtown Tacoma, Hotel Murano is just blocks from the best Tacoma restaurants, Tacoma shopping and Tacoma sightseeing. amenities include wireless high-speed Internet (access fee), 24-hour fitness center, 24-hour business center, Spiritual Menu(1320 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, WA 98402, 866-986-8083, 253-238-8000, www.hotelmuranotacoma.com).
The Hotel Preston in Nashville is Provenance Hotels’ first foray outside of the Northwest (and for that matter, the first airport hotel), but here, too, the artistic quality (magnificent photographs) and sense of style creates a pleasing ambiance that is, well, comforting for a traveler, whether to explore Nashville’s attractions, visit Vanderbilt University, or coming for business, meeting or a special event. And pets are welcome, too.
Check the special offers on Hotel Preston’s website:
A Golfer’s Delight features a golf outing at Ravenwood Country Club in Nashville. The package includes an overnight stay, hot breakfast, a to-go lunch, 18 holes of golf and two drink tickets to unwind in the Pink Slip Lounge after your challenging game.
Stay Two Nights Receive the Third Free. The summer deal provides two nights at the best available rate and your third night is free.
Another convenience: a gas station with a convenience store just across the road, open late to pick up a snack or drink, and to refill the gas tank before returning the rental car.
Hotel Preston, 733 Envious Lane, off of Briley Parkway, just south of I-40, Nashville, Tennessee, 37217, 866-986-8089, 615-361-5900, www.hotelpreston.com.
A handy Music City Vacation Guide is available from the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, One Nashville Place, 150 Fourth Avenue N Suite G-250 Nashville, TN 37219, 615-259-4700 , 800-657-6910 or www.visitmusiccity.com.
–Karen Rubin, National Eclectic Travel Examiner
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