Before the 15th century, the city of Nishinomiya was a gathering place for puppet handlers (傀儡師 kugutsu shi). A Shinto shrine in the centre of the city was the focus of their settlements. This shrine, located to the west of Kyoto, is the origin for the name Nishinomiya, whose meaning is the most commonly accepted "a west shrine". The Ebisu deity, who was thought to be a fisherman and to make people's commercial activities successful, was enshrined in the shrine of Nishinomiya.
In the 18th century, a water spring was discovered near this shrine. Because of the suitableness of this spring's natural water for Japanese sake producing, Nishinomiya became one of the leading communities in it.
During WWII, this city was suffered from the raids by US military bombers, and most of the city's core business and housing area was devastated. The community immediately began rebuilding. The tragedy served to strengthen, not weaken, the community and by 1980, the city boasted a population of over 400,000, proving that a new city had indeed been born. The city is the setting for much of the Studio Ghibli film, Grave of the Fireflies.
There was heavy damage throughout the city from the Great Hanshin Earthquake on 17 January 1995.
This city is also the setting for the anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. Remember that while taking pictures of Nishinomiya-Kita High School (where much of the anime is set) from the outside is perfectly legal, entering the gates to take pictures inside is NOT. Hankyu Imazu line is the setting for Hankyu Railway movie, where stations from Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi Station to Takarazuka Station appear in the movie.
Nishinomiya has access to three airports: Kobe Airport (UKB), Kansai International Airport (KIX), and Osaka International Airport (ITM) (for domestic flights only despite its name!).
From UKB, the Portliner will take you to Sannomiya station. At Sannomiya, you can change train to JR, Hankyu or Hanshin lines for Osaka. There is a coach service to and from KIX or ITM. From KIX, a coach service to JR Nishinomiya, Hankyu Nishinomiya-kitaguchi, and Hanshin Nishinomiya stations  is available for ¥1700 (or ¥3000 round trip). From ITM, there is also a coach service to Hanshin Koshien Station and Hankyu Nishinomiya-kitaguchi Station  for ¥700.
The Shinkansen(新幹線) is another option when traveling from other parts of Japan. Nishinomiya can be reached from either Shin-Kobe or Shin-Osaka stations. A one-way reserved ticket on the Nozomi from Tokyo to Osaka costs ¥14,050. A one-way reserved ticket on the Hikari Railstar from Hiroshima to Kobe costs ¥9740. Visitors can then take the subway or train to get to the city. To get from Shin-Kobe to Nishinomiya, take the ¥200 subway to Sannomiya and then either JR, Hanshin, or Hankyu train lines into Nishinomiya. Depending on the train stop, the ticket will only cost a couple hundred yen.
There are three main train lines running through Nishinomiya: JR, Hanshin (阪神), and Hankyu (阪急). They run parallel to each other and go from east to west, with the Hanshin and Hankyu lines connected by the small Imazu line between Hanshin Imazu station and Nishinomiya-kitaguchi (西宮北口). Hanshin and Hankyu buses also run throughout the city, though it can be difficult to travel from north to south.
Hanshin Tigers (阪神タイガース).  Go to Koshien Stadium to see one of Japan's oldest baseball teams. Fans of the Tigers are known to be the most fanatical and dedicated. The stadium itself is the oldest in Japan and is famous for having a grass field, dirt infield, and being visited by Babe Ruth. The summer high school baseball tournament is held here every year.
Hyogo Performing Arts Center.  The venue offers a variety of performances such as orchestra concerts, ballets, plays, and operas. Some performances include a Japanese puppet show (tickets start at ¥2000) or a traditional Nutcracker ballet (tickets from ¥4000 - ¥12000). The center is closest to Hankyu Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi Station. It's about a 2 minute walk and is connected to the station by a walkway.
Manchidani Park (満池谷公園) Not so much a park, but part of a series of reservoirs called Nitekoike. This place is particularly beautiful during cherry blossom season and is a famous scene from the novel Grave of the Fireflies by Akiyuki Nosaka. To get to the reservoir take the train to Hankyu Kurakuen-guchi station and walk about 10 minutes to the east.
Nishinomiya Shrine (西宮神社). It is a Shinto Shrine located near Hanshin Nishinomiya Station. The Ebisu festival is held here every year in January.
Hanami. Go to Shukugawa Park (夙川公園) end of March/early April for Nishinomiya's most popular hanami location. There are over 2300 cherry blossom trees along the Shukugawa River that stretches all the way from Hanshin Koroen Station to Hankyu Kurakuen-guchi station. Get off at either of these train stations or Hankyu Shukugawa Station to enjoy the festival.
Kidzania.  In this roleplaying theme park children can act out different occupations, earn money, and learn about the adult world. Located next to Lalaport.
Mukogawa Cycling Road. This is a 7.1 kilometer long cycling road along the Mukogawa River from the JR line to Hanshin line. It's a nice place to enjoy cycling free of cars. Bikes can be rented for the day at hotels in the area.
National High School Baseball Championship (全国高等学校野球選手権大会). Ever summer in August, Japan's national high school baseball tournament is held at Koshien Stadium. Games are free so it's an excellent opportunity to participate in this popular national event!
ACTA Nishinomiya. Near Nishinomiya Gardens, this shopping area is made up of two buildings and is just north of the train station. The shopping center has a branch Junkudo (ジュンク堂) where you can find a good selection of English language books and Japanese learning materials.
Lalaport Koshien.  A small mall with stores, restaurants, arcade, and the Ito Yokado supermarket. This is a nice place to shop with the family. The mall is a short walk from Koshien Stadium.
Nishinomiya Gardens (西宮ガーデンズ).  This new mall at Nishinomiya-Kitaguchi Station on the Hankyu line features over 400 specialty shops, restaurants, and a movie theater.
http://www.nishi.or.jp/homepage/foreign/index-e.html Nishinomiya City Website (English)
http://www.nishi.or.jp/ Nishinomiya City Website (Japanese)