Things to Do in Nashville
As the capital of Tennessee, Nashville has big cowboy boots to fill. From southern food and sweet tea to world-famous country music (well, all music, really), it’s no wonder Nashville is one of the fastest growing travel destinations in the United States—even Taylor Swift couldn’t resist purchasing a penthouse downtown. Live music fans flock to venues such as Ryman Auditorium and Bluebird Cafe to watch rising singer-songwriters, and country devotees pay homage to the genre’s legends at both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Grand Ole Opry. But Music City has more to offer than just its tunes, and Nashville’s appeal is as diverse as its top draws. Visit the good ole honky tonks in SoBro or renowned restaurants like Hattie B’s for hot chicken; admire some Greek-inspired architecture at the Parthenon in West End’s Centennial Park; or head to Germantown, the city’s oldest neighborhood, for a relaxed stroll through the Farmer’s Market. Outside of Nashville, you can discover a quieter side of life along the Cumberland River, a perfect long weekend less than two hours away by car.
- Language: English
- Currency: $
- Time Zone: UTC (-06:00)
- Country Code: +1
- Best Time to Visit: Spring, Summer
When to Visit: After cold, snowy winters, locals and visitors alike look forward to warmer weather. Spring, particularly April, is packed full of festivals, including the Cherry Blossom Festival, Wild West Comedy Festival, and Nashville Film Festival. While summer brings higher temperatures and a bit of humidity, it’s still a great time to get in on the outdoor music scene, especially at Ascend Amphitheater or Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater.
Getting Around: Nashville’s MTA bus system can get you around, but it’s slow, so renting a car makes the most sense for quickly traveling around the car-friendly city. Bike rentals and walking are another alternative, and ride-sharing apps are essential if you forgo a rental. Also, check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service to or from the airport before shelling out the cash for a taxi.
Tipping: Nashville newbies take note: When you go to a restaurant, bar, or nightclub, it’s customary to tip the service staff or bartender anywhere from 15–20%. If you take a cab, stick to 15%. For hotel staff, give about $1 (or more if you’re feeling generous) for services such as luggage delivery or valet parking.
You Might Not Know… The Johnny Cash Museum is about a three-minute walk from Paradise Park Trailer Resort, a trailer park–themed bar where a Doublewide Cheeseburger gets you two 1/3-pound beef patties on a bun with a side of tater tots or sweet potato fries. If you’re more of a daredevil, try Nashville’s original hot chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack at one of the two locations: 123 Ewing Drive or 5814 Nolensville Road.
Known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” Ryman Auditorium helped transform Nashville into a legendary music destination. Since 1892, the venue has hosted notable stars such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, and Minnie Pearl. Today, visitors can tour the 2,362-seat auditorium, visit the museum, or catch a live show.
Music City’s lively downtown doesn’t disappoint. Nashville’s entertainment hub is home to a who’s who of restaurants, hotels, and cultural hot spots, including the Frist Art Museum, Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. After dark, live music takes over the bars of Honky Tonk Highway.
From Elvis Presley to Dolly Parton, Nashville's stars have earned the place its title as “Music City,” and you can dive into that history and culture at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Learn about the best of this classic American music genre with historic video clips, recorded music, and a menu of live performances and public programs.
Nashville’s Riverfront Park was built in the early 1980s on the site where the area’s first settlers founded the city back in 1780. Today the sprawling green enclave on the banks of the Cumberland River is home to several attractions, including Fort Nashborough, Bicentennial Park, and the Ascend Amphitheater.
Lavish cream and green marble floors and wall paneling, high ceilings with and cast iron doors surround guests with the art deco charm of the Nashville’s original post office completed in 1934. The historically significant building kept its original charm through a public/private partnership-driven revamp into the non-profit Frist Art Museum in 2001. The space now holds art exhibitions, interactive art workshops as well as a gift shop and café.
The Frist is a different kind of museum that does not have permanent collections. Instead, it sources a host of themed exhibits that roll through every six to eight weeks. Traveling national and international shows including classical pieces by Michelangelo and Monet have hung on Frist walls, as have collections of American folk art, modern photography, European classical works from the age of exploration and even an exhibit deconstructing Italian sports car design. The building’s 24,000 square feet of gallery space includes 30 interactive stations on the upper level for kids and families to get creative and make their own stop motion animation, printmaking, watercolor painting, etching, sculpture creation and more—some of these stations also rotate to match visiting exhibits. In the summer, Frist Fridays bring bands—also often tied to exhibit themes—to jam at the museum, and live music features year-round on Thursdays and Fridays in the Grand Lobby or café. Be sure to check what’s on before stopping by—it’s a new experience every time.
No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to Music Row. This is the home of the country music industry, with a slew of record labels, radio stations, and recording studios working side-by-side. There are also live venues on or near Music Row, to check out established artists as well as up-and-comers looking to break through.
From radio broadcast to world-renowned stage show, the Grand Ole Opry showcases genres from country and bluegrass to folk, comedy, and gospel both live and on the radio. Unlike a typical concert, the Grand Ole Opry presents six or more artists during each show, giving the audience a variety of great music at each event. Superstars who have performed here include Patsy Cline, Blake Shelton, Willie Nelson, and Carrie Underwood.
Like New York’s Central Park and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the lush green landscape of Nashville’s Centennial Park provides welcome refuge from congestion, crowds, and bustling city life. The most notable, and possibly most out-of-place, feature of Centennial Park is its impressive Parthenon replica.
The Tennessee State Capitol stands tall on Nashville’s highest hill as a symbol of its time, virtually unchanged since its construction in 1859. The structure is the masterpiece of notable architect William Strickland, who passed away during construction and was laid to rest in the building. The National Historic Landmark was built in Greek Revival style and is one of few state capitols without a dome. It was modeled after an Ionic Greek temple. Though classic in design, at the time it was considered innovative in construction.
The capitol building is beautiful to see and historic to visit, with statues of many important political figures as well as the graves of President James K. Polk and his wife. Its walls are lined with beautiful murals, frescoes, and paintings, while its halls are lit by ornate chandeliers. It is still in use by the Tennessee state government today. It is the oldest operating state capitol in the country.
Nashville is known for its eclectic music scene, live entertainment, and commitment to country. Nowhere is this more evident than at the world-famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. This Nashville institution has been a part of this dynamic city since the 1960s and boasts three stages that host live music performances.
More Things to Do in Nashville
Despite its small size, the Johnny Cash Museum manages to hold one of the world’s largest collections of Johnny Cash artifacts. Bill Miller, one of Cash’s closest friends, gathered and cataloged the country music superstar’s memorabilia for decades, resulting in this popular Nashville attraction and Cash-fan pilgrimage site.
Belmont Mansion offers Nashville visitors the chance to experience an antebellum-era home, complete with antique furnishings and period details. Uncover Belmont’s history and learn about its owner, Adelicia Acklen—one of the wealthiest and most successful women in 19th-century Tennessee.
Located in Nashville, the Patsy Cline Museum celebrates the life and career of the country music legend. The museum holds the largest collection of items related to the singer and includes hundreds of never-before-seen artifacts, personal belongings, costumes, furniture, and memorabilia, along with rare video footage.
At Belle Meade Historic Site & Winery, you can experience a sanctuary of Southern hospitality. Located just west of downtown Nashville, Tennessee, this historic site now functions as a museum and is a popular food and wine destination.
First occupied in 1807 and continually expanded throughout the 19th century, Belle Meade became world renowned as a first-rate thoroughbred horse-breeding establishment. Though a variety of tours and experiences are offered, the history of Belle Meade is covered in two tours: The Mansion Tour tells a century of Belle Meade’s history through the eyes of the Harding and Jackson families as well as the women, men, and children who labored here and contributed to the preeminence of this site. The Journey to Jubilee Tour, invites discussion and focuses on the enslaved individuals, telling their story both before and after emancipation. Book your tour online to guarantee entry.
Go behind the distilling scenes at the oldest registered distillery in the United States: Jack Daniel’s, founded in 1863 in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Learn the history behind the distillery that’s emblematic of Southern culture and find out how the legendary old No. 7 whiskey is made at the source.
Take in views of the spectacular Nashville skyline while rollin’ down the Cumberland River aboard the General Jackson Showboat. This Victorian-style riverboat includes a 2-story theater hosting a range of dinner shows, such as Taste of Tennessee and Music City Nights, as well as a Southern Sunday brunch.
Since 2006 the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville has been honoring musical super stars of all genres with displays, galleries and exhibitions highlighting one of the city’s main attractions: Live music. And while this destination has been a hot ticket since its inception, the museum relocated in 2010 to an even more impressive spot—the historic Nashville Municipal Auditorium—part exhibition hall, part convention center and part major music museum.
Visitors can spend several hours combing through interactive displays that showcase the best of music. An impressive Grammy exhibit pays homage to some of the world’s top performers, and an excellent audio tour offers passionate travelers an even deeper look into the collection at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum.
Travelers can check out the museum on its own, or combine it with an evening catching live music on the city’s main strip. A tour of the museum can also be included as part of a larger exploration of Nashville’s scene, including the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
When Nashville turned 200 it decided to throw a party—and to open a park. Since June, 1996, the 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park has given locals and visitors a calm and scenic place to rest. The park boasts numerous features, like an impressive view of the Capitol building, erupting geyser fountains, an informative Civil War exhibit and a Greek amphitheater for live concerts.
Visitors can take an easy walk along the .9-mile paved Bicentennial Mall Trail, or stop at the nearby Nashville Farmers’ Market before picnicking on the well-kept lawns. The 200-fee wide granite map on the park’s southern end gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the state and at the park’s northern end, travelers can wander the short Path of Volunteers and the flora-lined Walkway of Counties.
Nashville may be the country music capital of America, but the Schermerhorn Symphony Center brings a touch of class to a bustling downtown area that’s filled with gritty bars and live music venues.
Since 2006, the Center’s Laura Turner Concert Hall has been home to the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony. Its natural lighting, 30 soundproof windows and custom-built organ make for a unique concert experience. The smaller Mike Curb Family Music Education Hall hosts performances for children, schools and families as part of the Center’s Music Education City initiative.
While the symphony is one of the hottest tickets in Nashville, visitors say even if you can’t catch a performance, it’s still worth touring the grand space and wandering through the beautiful public Martha Rivers Ingram Garden Courtyard on a trip to Nashville.
Nashville is regarded as one of the best music cities in the United States, so it comes as no surprise there is a Hard Rock Café in town. Opened in 1994, the Hard Rock Café Nashville has become a beloved part of the city. It’s conveniently located downtown, near a number of other music related spots like the Johnny Cash Museum, George Jones Museum, and Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
The café underwent a renovation in 2009 that preserved the legacy of the original location, but made needed technological upgrades and enhancements. Today, the Hard Rock Café Nashville has nearly 13,000 square feet of space that includes a 378-seat restaurant, open-air terrace, the signature Hard Rock Shop, and an impressive state-of-the-art concert venue.
Like other Hard Rock Cafes around the world, the Hard Rock Café Nashville features music memorabilia on the walls. Be sure to tour the restaurant and see various guitars, platinum records, and more.
The historic RCA Studio B is where Nashville’s legendary music scene began. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this Tennessee studio is credited as being the epicenter of Music City and the place where the Nashville Sound originated. RCA Studio B has recorded more than 35,000 songs—many of them platinum hits.
Situated in Nashville’s Riverfront Park, Fort Nashborough was where James Robertson and his band of settlers founded the city back in 1780. While the original fort—built to defend the first families from Native American attacks—is gone, the site currently has a smaller replica of what the original might have looked like.
With a history dating back to 1879, Hatch Show Print is one of the oldest continually working letterpress print shops in the country. A Nashville icon, Hatch Show Print is known for its distinctive use of bold colors, hand-carved type, and eye-catching imagery, and has produced show and concert posters for performers of all types.
Oddities and artifacts abound in the permanent collections of the free-to-the-public Tennessee State Museum, together they tell the story of this particular swath of the American South from 12,000 years ago to the early 1900s. The main exhibit space consumes the ground floor of the massive office tower at the James K. Polk Cultural Center, and is divided into six eras such as the “First Tennesseans,” “Civil War and Reconstruction,” and the “New South.” The Military Branch Museum, a vestige of the museum’s former nearby location in the War Memorial Building prior to its 1981 move, is run separately and offers an in depth look into major battles from the Spanish American War to World War II featuring weapons, uniforms, flags and personal items from Tennessee soldiers.
Among the more unusual finds in the main space are a 3,600-year-old mummy brought by Tennessean merchant marine to the state during the prosperous antebellum period, a Frontier-era log cabin showing colonial life, mastodon bones, a huge collection of quits, a hand-drawn Confederate battle field map, a covered wagon, a horse-drawn fire engine with brass water pump, Daniel Boone’s cutlery set and pocket knife, an early model of a flying machine, a moonshine sill, a model of a white wooden riverboat, Andrew Jackson’s personal items and a leather jacket once worn by former President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his role as a WWII General. Rotating exhibitions keep things fresh and have included artwork from Japanese museums, the original Emancipation Proclamation, photographs of Elvis and a collaborative exhibit with the adjacent Tennessee Performing Arts Center on Tennessee’s African American musical heritage. Though captivating for school children and adults, there is little interactive here to entertain families with very young children. Plans for a shiny new State Museum, proposed for a location along Bicentennial Mall a few blocks away, are in the works.
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