It’s an apocalyptic scene—bleak midwinter in Nashville, Tennessee. Temperatures have been below freezing for days, and the forecast calls for snow. How much snow? Nobody knows, but it could be as devastating as a few inches. School children hang on the local weather woman's every word, and grownups prepare to deice their cars in the morning. Across the city faucets drip.
Once a year, the entire metro Nashville region comes to a standstill as snowfall blankets the landscape and treacherous, icy roadways bring commerce and education to a screeching halt. The Nashville snow day is a precious and semi-absurd phenomenon that almost defies explanation.
When the fateful day arrives, usually in January or February, grocery store isles are wiped out across the county. Milk and bread are at a premium, and hardware stores sell sleds like hot cakes. It only comes but once a year.
Portrait of a Snow Day
Many theorists assert that winter weather conditions are typically so mild in the region that it’s cheaper for the city to lose a day than for the local government to invest in plows and salt, but the experience feels more magical than that.
The fact is that the city can be crippled by just a few inches of snow, and it really doesn’t matter why. Nashville drivers are already notoriously careless, and this leaves winter driving expertise at 0% among the general population. What few sidewalks the city does have ice over and become impassable for school children. It’s the same story every year—the perfect storm.
As a Nashville native I can boast snow day experience from the first grade all the way up until one particularly special year when my college, Belmont University, cancelled classes due to snow. I’ve seen a thing or two in my time, and you can take the following tips to the bank—the snow bank that is.
Best Neighborhoods for Sledding
If Nashville is known for anything it is most certainly not the city’s winter sports culture, but you wouldn’t know that to see these Tennessee hillsides on a snow day.
While this neighborhood is largely urban, there is one famous greenspace that is crawling with sledders and snowmen once a year. The field outside of West End Middle School is usually home to soccer players and LARPers, but when it snows, the hilly green becomes a bunny slope for the whole neighborhood.
Pro Tip: Despite what Peanuts cartoons might have you believe, a cardboard box will not work as a sled. Nashville snow is wet, and many novice sledders have learned the hard way when their sled disintegrates below them as they race down a hillside or icy street.
The Belle Meade trailhead of Percy Warner Park is home to iconic stone gates that mark the most picturesque entrance to the massive metropolitan park. Beyond the gates, a massive stone staircase bounds up the hillside into the woods. When it snows, this staircase becomes a ski lift for locals who spend all day climbing up and sliding down the snowy slopes.
Nearby Steeplechase provides an even more advanced route for resident thrill seekers. In past years, locals have gathered at the top of the hills to tailgate the impromptu event, so pack a thermos.
Pro Tip: There are secret slopes within the park that exceed any hills in the city, but you’ll have to explore the grounds for yourself to find them. Four wheel drive doesn’t hurt.
Best Neighborhoods on Foot
With roads closed across the city and few cars to be seen at all, the benefits of Nashville’s walkable neighborhoods are made manifest. When all else fails, locals pull on their boots and rough it through the blizzard to gather survival essentials like beer and pizza.
Few can say why, but while the whole city lies in repose, there is always a bar willing to serve as a refuge for weary snow day survivors. While the theme of Embers on 12 South mystifies locals in every other season of the year, this “ski lodge” is the perfect place to warm one’s feet by the fire and enjoy a drink amidst be-mittened, beanie-wearing peers.
The neighborhood is notorious for its busy foot traffic, retail, and food scene, so locals jump at the chance to roam the streets once tourists have abandoned the area.
As usual, East Nashville has it all, and this neighborhood is excellent for both hilly sledding adventures and walkable cabin fever getaways. The Five Points neighborhood is perfect for locals in need of a hot meal or a pint with bars and restaurants on every corner. The family friendly nature of many establishments also makes it perfect for a midday pit stop for winter warriors.
So there you have it—the essential guide to a Nashville snow day. While I stand behind every one of these suggestions, the beauty of snow day chaos lies in the discovery of new local spots and tactics for packing more fun into 24 hours than you did last year. So get out there and chart some new territory