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East! Hipsters, artists, families coexist across the river

On the other side of the river, away from downtown, is a historic and eclectic part of the city, East Nashville.

This area has embraced its history. There are still painted signs on buildings from the mid-20th century, bungalow-style houses, and old buildings like the Fluffo factory. Even the high school – where Oprah Winfrey attended – is in a well-preserved (exterior, at least) building from its creation in the ‘30s. And the 90-year-old Auto Diesel College is still operational.

The area survived a fire in 1916 and a tornado in 1933, and now thrives as a hipster hangout, local foodie dream and almost posh region.

“Budget Travel” magazine called it “Nashville’s version of New York’s East Village.”

East Nashville also has several annual events like the Tomato Art Festival, a unique celebration of the fruit (or vegetable?) complete with costume contests, Bloody Mary competition and more, and the East Nashville Beer Festival, featuring many breweries from local to international.

Even without a specific destination, a walk or a drive during the day could lead to treasures. (There’s even an Elvira Drive, which must be named for the Oak Ridge Boys’ famous hit. Or for The Mistress of the Dark. Or for somebody’s grandmother.)

The neighborhoods of East Nashville were hit hard by a 1998 tornado, but “in hindsight, the disaster also brought opportunity,” Eric Been wrote in a New York Times article in February. “After an influx of insurance money, creative types began flocking to the area thanks to cheap rents; young entrepreneurs followed, slowly transforming it into a hub for Nashville’s culturally savvy.”

The transformation continues, and one of the vibrant hubs is Five Points.

This area where five streets meet features eclectic stops for foodies and art and music lovers. They include the Idea Hatchery (comprised of several small businesses), the Alley Gallery and The Turnip Truck, a grocery store with an emphasis on healthy, natural and organic ingredients. Here are some must visit spots in this hot neighborhood.

114 South 11th Street, 615-227-4114

Named the best ice cream in Nashville by the Nashville Scene in 2010 and in Toast of Music City in 2011, this house-made ice cream is well-known by local sweet lovers. While 12 of their flavors are there every day, like Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Oatmeal Raisin in the Sun and Trailer Trash, another 12 change, including Some Day My Mints Will Come, Applelicious and more. Trailer Trash, a vanilla ice cream with practically every candy imaginable, and Chocolate and Peanut Butter are local favorites.

113 South 11th Street, 615-226-2622

A small van with an attached roof on a grassy lot, this hot dog specialty shop features unique takes on the hot dogs. Some options they’ve provided include a Big Fat Greek Weenie, Pizza Salsa Weenie and more.

1024 Woodland Street, 615-262-3345

The smell of beer surrounds this corner bar, making it hard to miss with its blue neon sign. The bar is great for enjoying the weather on the patio, watching a game, and for its late night snacks. They also serve burgers with local, free-range meat.

1108 Woodland Street, 615-227-8566

Tucked into The Idea Hatchery composed of several different shops, this boutique sells clothes, jewelry, bathroom products and more. The store also features custom leather belts, shoes, guitar straps and accessories.

1896 Eastland Ave., 615-262-2717

Contrary to its name, you won’t find meat at this restaurant. It serves vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free foods. And they like their tofu too. You’ll find dishes like quinoa tacos, a philly sandwich with seitan and a reuben with tempeh or tofu.

1004 Gallatin Ave., 615-385-1800

As you head down Gallatin Avenue, it’s hard to miss the white-and-black spotted building, like a Dalmatian’s coat. It’s a doggy daycare, keeping pets while the owners are on vacation. It also has grooming and training services.

1313 Woodland Street, 615-226-1617

This restaurant, bar and music venue provides an intimate environment for a show. They serve brunch, lunch, dinner and late night foods through 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Head upstairs for nightly live music in a cool, relaxed atmosphere.

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