Fall in Love...with Nashville

The following is a guest post from good friend, colleague, and mentor Kristin Luna, of the award-winning blog, Camels & Chocolate, and who I consider one of the most prolific travel writers I know. My friendship with Kristin Luna began like many of my magical relationships: online; no, not like online dating online - c'mon, she's married - but rather through blogging. We've since become good friends (and are basically family, since ya know, we're both from the south), and I was honored when she asked me to speak at the inaugural KEEN Digital Summit in Nashville, where she is the co-founder. So today I'm having Kristin tell you a little bit more about the exciting things that are happening in Nashville, as well as give you a little bit more info about the KEEN Digital Summit, and....AND give away a ticket to one reader (Tickets for KEEN are currently $299, but there's just a couple more weeks of the early bird pricing). So grab some popcorn and sit down for a spell.

How Do I Love Nashville? Let Me Count the Ways…I was the last person who thought I would end up back in Tennessee. Me—the eternal nomad who had visited more than 100 countries before the age of 30 (many solo). The same girl who moved to NYC the day she graduated collage for a career in magazines. The very one who never wanted to be “a Tennessean in Tennessee” but rather enjoyed being an outsider in “the big city” (first Manhattan and later San Francisco).

And then sometime in the late 20s, that all changed. I got married to a San Franciscan, got a dog, got a job working for Semester at Sea—and my husband proposed we move back to Tennessee when we returned. Sometime in all those years I was gone, Nashville had become an attractive spot for DINKs like ourselves, and I didn’t realize it until he popped the question—“would you consider moving back to the South?” that is—that I really wanted to be back in the midst of all the action.

And now we’ve been living just outside of Nashville for the past 20 months and loving every second of the eclectic, vibrant and sometimes raucous city. Never been? Let me see if I can change your mind…

5 Reasons to Come to Nashville this Fall

1. Southern Ground Music & Food Festival. Zac Brown can do no wrong, and yet another thing he does right is throw the duel-city music shebang Southern Ground in Nashville and Charleston, showcasing some of the music scene’s best talent, like Kenny Chesney, Grace Potter, Willie Nelson, Kacey Musgraves, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and many, many more.

View photos of the festival here.

2. Music City Eats. This city has been my Achilles’ heel when it comes to weight gain; there is just too much good food to devour. And the best of it will all be up for grabs at this first-year, September festival for the senses put on by none other than locals Caleb and Nathan Followil (of Kings of Leon prominence). Music City Eats may not be cheap ($275 for a two-day pass!) but, no doubt, it will be tasty.

3. The Light exhibit at Cheekwood. Cheekwood Botanical Garden—which once was the estate of the Maxwell family (yes, of the coffee fame)—is one of my favorite Nashville attractions, and now through Nov. 10, there’s even more a reason to visit thanks to the iridescent landscape, Light, that Bruce Munro has created featuring four installations never before seen in the United States and using an inventive array of materials and hundreds of miles of glowing optical fiber.

View photos here.

4. Music, music and more music. The Grand Ole Opry. The iconic Ryman Auditorium. Jack White’s Third Man Records. Singer-songwriter shows at the Listening Room Café and the Bluebird. ‘Nuff said.

5. The inauguralKEEN Digital Summit. Oh, I forgot to mention I moved back and also founded a major digital media conference in conjunction with the city of Nashville and Omni Hotels? Right. About that. KEEN Digital Summit aims to be an innovative kind of event that focuses more of the business behind the brand instead of the personalities and swag. (i.e. Your business model is to eat, sleep and exist off of press trips? We’re not the place for you. We want to facilitate meetings between the big consumer brands who want to find people just like yourself to pay to partner with on bigger projects and campaigns. It’s win-win for both sides involved.)

There will be content, panels, Q&As, breakout sessions, a state-of-the-art expo and more. Though I have a long and deep love affair with the travel industry, KEEN won’t just be for those with wanderlust. There are four targeted tracks: Food & Spirits, Family & Entertainment, Technology and, yes, Travel. That way, if you’re a mommyblogger who loves to Instagram what she eats and also blogs about her family vacations, you’ll be able to explore multiple interests all under the same conference umbrella.

And being that it is Nashville, there will be tons of cool after-hours parties and nightlife opportunities (all rife in networking potential, natch).

And because I love giveaways—and because Spence is one of KEEN’s speakers (and a good friend of mine)—I want to give away a pass to one of you lovely readers to join us in Nashville this fall. For those people who don't win a ticket, you still have a couple more weeks of the $299 early bird pricing. Get 'em while they're hot!

The Giveaway (CLOSED)

Congratulations to Daniel Wahlig for winning the ticket to KEEN Digital Summit!

The giveaway is open to residents of the United States, beginning at 12 am PST, Wednesday, August 7, and ending at 11:59 pm on Tuesday, August 13, for one ticket to the KEEN Digital Summit in Nashville from October 24-27 (valued at $299). All entrants must be 18 years of age or older. The giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with Twitter, or any other social media website. By leaving a comment with your email address, you agree for me to contact you if you are chosen as the winner, but your email will not be used for newsletters, commercially, or for any other means. A winner will randomly be chosen from all entries and contacted via email or Twitter, at which time the winner has 48 hours to respond before a new winner is chosen. To enter:

  • Leave a comment below about what interests you about Nashville (or the south).
  • For 1 additional entry, tweet the following: "In finding out what's new in Nashville, I just entered @spencerspellman's giveaway to win a ticket for @KEENsummit http://bit.ly/13iUbNy"

All Nashville photos courtesy of the Nashville CVC.