When it comes to vibrant cities with a rich history and a thriving music scene, Nashville, Tennessee is at the top of the list. Known as the Music City, Nashville offers visitors a unique blend of live music, Southern charm, and a plethora of attractions to explore. Whether you’re a country music fan, a history buff, or simply looking to soak up the lively atmosphere, there’s something for everyone in Nashville.
Home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville is the birthplace of country music and a pilgrimage site for music lovers from around the world. But the city offers so much more than just country music. It boasts a vibrant downtown area with live music pouring out of every honky-tonk on Broadway, as well as stunning parks, historic landmarks, and charming neighborhoods to discover.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the 10 best things to do in Nashville, offering you a comprehensive guide to make the most out of your visit to this eclectic city. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a frequent traveler to Nashville, these attractions will surely leave you with unforgettable memories and a deeper appreciation for the city’s rich cultural heritage.
So, get ready to delve into the heart and soul of Nashville as we explore the top highlights and hidden gems that make this city a must-visit destination in North America. From iconic music venues to historic landmarks and natural beauty, Nashville has an array of experiences waiting to be discovered.
Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
A visit to Nashville wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself in the rich history and heritage of country music at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Located in downtown Nashville, this iconic institution is a must-see attraction for music enthusiasts of all ages.
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is home to an extensive collection of artifacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that celebrate the genre’s most influential artists and celebrate the evolution of country music. From the early pioneers to modern-day superstars, you’ll get an in-depth look at the legends and the stories behind their iconic songs.
As you wander through the museum, you’ll find yourself surrounded by memorabilia from country music’s biggest stars, including costumes, instruments, handwritten lyrics, and personal artifacts. The exhibits showcase the diverse styles and influences that have shaped the genre over the years, providing visitors with a comprehensive understanding of the roots and evolution of country music.
One of the highlights of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is the famous Rotunda, where you can view plaques honoring each member of the Hall of Fame. Walking through the Rotunda is like taking a journey through the history of country music, paying tribute to the individuals who have made significant contributions to the genre.
In addition to the exhibits, the museum also hosts live performances, film screenings, and educational programs that allow visitors to experience the music firsthand. You may have the opportunity to catch a live performance by up-and-coming artists or attend a lecture on the history of country music.
Before you leave, make sure to visit the museum store, where you can find a wide range of country music merchandise, from CDs and vinyl records to books and memorabilia. It’s the perfect place to pick up a souvenir to remember your visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Overall, a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a journey into the heart of country music and an experience that truly captures the essence of Nashville. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or simply curious about the genre, this iconic museum offers a fascinating and immersive experience that is not to be missed.
Explore the Historic Ryman Auditorium
Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, the Historic Ryman Auditorium is a legendary music venue that has played a crucial role in shaping the city’s musical legacy. Known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman Auditorium holds a special place in the history of Nashville and is a must-visit destination for music lovers.
Originally built in 1892 as a place of worship, the Ryman Auditorium was later transformed into a concert hall and became synonymous with the growth of country music. It served as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, hosting legendary performers such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline. The venue’s exceptional acoustics and intimate setting create an unforgettable experience for both performers and audiences.
Today, the Ryman Auditorium stands as a living testament to the rich musical heritage of Nashville. Guided tours of the historic venue take you behind the scenes to discover the fascinating stories and experiences of the artists who have graced its stage. You’ll get a chance to walk in the footsteps of music icons as you stand on the legendary Ryman stage and soak in the atmosphere of this hallowed ground.
During the tour, you’ll explore the dressing rooms where stars have prepared for their performances and see the iconic gooseneck microphone used by countless artists over the years. The tour also includes a visit to the “Soul of Nashville” exhibit, which delves into the history and evolution of the Ryman Auditorium and its impact on the music industry.
In addition to guided tours, the Ryman Auditorium continues to host live music events, showcasing a diverse range of musical genres. Attending a concert at the Ryman is a truly magical experience, as the historic venue comes alive with the sounds of talented musicians from around the world.
Before or after your tour, be sure to visit the Ryman Museum, located on the first floor of the auditorium. The museum features exhibits that highlight the cultural significance of the Ryman and its role in shaping the music industry. You’ll find memorabilia, photographs, and interactive displays that provide a deeper understanding of the venue’s storied past.
Whether you’re a fan of country music or simply appreciate the historical significance of iconic music venues, a visit to the Historic Ryman Auditorium is a must during your time in Nashville. The combination of history, artistry, and soulful performances make this venue an indispensable part of the city’s vibrant music scene.
Enjoy Live Music on Broadway
When it comes to experiencing the lively and vibrant music scene of Nashville, there’s no better place than Broadway. Stretching for several blocks in downtown Nashville, Broadway is lined with honky-tonks, live music venues, restaurants, and shops, making it the epicenter of Nashville’s entertainment district.
Step onto Broadway, and you’ll be immersed in the sounds of live music pouring out from every establishment. From traditional country to rock, blues, and everything in between, you’ll find a wide variety of genres being performed by talented musicians at any given time of day.
One of the great features of Broadway is that you can enjoy live music for free. Most of the bars and honky-tonks offer live performances throughout the day and well into the night, with multiple bands rotating on different stages. You can simply hop from one venue to another, soaking up the energetic atmosphere and discovering new sounds.
While the live music scene on Broadway primarily revolves around country music, you’ll also find venues catering to other genres, such as rock, jazz, and bluegrass. Whether you’re a fan of contemporary hits or prefer the nostalgic tunes of the past, you’re sure to find something that suits your musical taste.
While exploring Broadway, don’t miss the chance to visit iconic honky-tonks like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, and The Stage. These venues have witnessed the rise of many country music legends and continue to attract both aspiring artists and enthusiastic audiences. Grab a drink, find a spot near the stage, and get ready to sing along to your favorite tunes.
In addition to the live music, Broadway offers a lively atmosphere with street performers, souvenir shops, and an array of restaurants serving Southern cuisine. Take a stroll along the street, savoring the sights and sounds of Nashville’s energetic heart.
If you’re interested in a more intimate live music experience, several venues on Broadway also offer ticketed shows with renowned artists. These shows often feature a more curated lineup and provide a chance to enjoy a concert in a more controlled and intimate setting.
Visiting Broadway is a quintessential Nashville experience and a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant music scene. Whether you’re a music lover, a dancing enthusiast, or simply looking to soak in the lively atmosphere, Broadway is the place to be.
So, grab your cowboy boots, embrace the spirit of Nashville, and get ready to enjoy some incredible live music on the legendary Broadway.
Take a Stroll Through Centennial Park and See the Parthenon
Escape the hustle and bustle of downtown Nashville and immerse yourself in the tranquility of Centennial Park. Located just west of the city center, Centennial Park is a picturesque urban green space that offers a peaceful retreat and a host of recreational activities.
One of the highlights of Centennial Park is the stunning replica of the Parthenon, a remarkable structure that pays homage to the architectural wonder in Athens, Greece. The Parthenon in Nashville is a full-scale replica, complete with intricately carved statues and a majestic Athena Parthenos sculpture that stands at an impressive 42 feet tall.
The Parthenon serves as the centerpiece of the park and houses the Nashville Art Museum. Step inside to explore a collection of art and artifacts, including American paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. The museum also provides insight into the history of the Parthenon and its importance as a symbol of Nashville’s artistic and cultural heritage.
After appreciating the beauty of the Parthenon, take a leisurely stroll through the park’s expansive green spaces. Centennial Park offers walking trails, open fields for picnics and recreational activities, and serene ponds where you can relax and take in the natural surroundings.
One of the park’s notable features is the beautiful sunken garden, adorned with colorful flowers and well-maintained landscaping. This tranquil oasis is a popular spot for wedding photography and a peaceful spot to sit and reflect.
Centennial Park also hosts various events throughout the year, from concerts and festivals to art exhibits and cultural celebrations. Be sure to check the park’s calendar to see if there are any special events happening during your visit.
In addition to its natural beauty and cultural attractions, Centennial Park offers amenities like playgrounds, sports fields, and an outdoor fitness center, making it an ideal place for families and fitness enthusiasts.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or simply looking for a peaceful escape from the city, a visit to Centennial Park and the Parthenon is a must. The combination of architectural splendor, green spaces, and cultural offerings make it an enjoyable and enriching experience for visitors of all ages.
So, pack a picnic, grab a blanket, and spend a day in the serenity of Centennial Park, where art, history, and nature intertwine to create a truly unforgettable experience.
Explore the Vibrant Neighborhoods of East Nashville and The Gulch
When you visit Nashville, don’t limit yourself to just the downtown area. Venture out and explore the vibrant neighborhoods that contribute to the city’s diverse and eclectic culture. Two neighborhoods worth exploring are East Nashville and The Gulch, each offering its own unique atmosphere and attractions.
Located on the east side of the Cumberland River, East Nashville has transformed into a hip and trendy neighborhood known for its artistic flair, independent boutiques, and thriving food and drink scene. Take a stroll down Eastland Avenue or Gallatin Pike, and you’ll find a mix of charming vintage stores, local art galleries, and eclectic eateries.
Music is deeply ingrained in the fabric of East Nashville, with live music venues scattered throughout the neighborhood. Catch a show at The 5 Spot, a local favorite known for hosting a variety of musical genres, or head to The Basement East for an intimate concert experience.
In addition to its vibrant music scene, East Nashville boasts an impressive culinary landscape. From farm-to-table restaurants to food trucks serving up international cuisine, you’ll find a diverse range of dining options to satisfy your taste buds. Be sure to try some of the neighborhood’s renowned hot chicken, a Nashville specialty.
A short distance from East Nashville is The Gulch, a former industrial area that has been transformed into a trendy urban district. This neighborhood is characterized by its modern architecture, upscale boutiques, and a thriving nightlife scene.
The Gulch is a prime destination for food enthusiasts, offering an array of critically acclaimed restaurants and trendy eateries. Whether you’re craving sushi, Mediterranean cuisine, or a classic steak, you’re sure to find a restaurant that suits your palate. The Gulch is also home to a number of stylish rooftop bars, providing breathtaking views of the Nashville skyline.
In addition to shopping and dining, The Gulch is known for its unique art installations and trendy boutiques. Explore its streets and discover local galleries showcasing contemporary art or shop for fashionable clothing and accessories at a range of independent shops.
Both East Nashville and The Gulch host various festivals and events throughout the year, showcasing the neighborhood’s vibrant culture and community spirit. From food festivals and art markets to live music performances, there’s always something happening in these lively neighborhoods.
Whether you’re seeking artistic inspiration, a gastronomic adventure, or a vibrant nightlife scene, exploring the neighborhoods of East Nashville and The Gulch will undoubtedly offer a unique and memorable experience. So, venture off the beaten path and discover the hidden gems that contribute to the vibrant tapestry of Nashville’s neighborhoods.
Experience the Beauty of the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
If you’re in search of natural beauty and a peaceful escape from the city, a visit to the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens is a must. Situated on 55 acres of stunning landscape, Cheekwood is a historic estate that boasts magnificent gardens, an art museum, and breathtaking views of the surrounding Tennessee hills.
The estate was originally built as a private residence in 1929 and later transformed into a cultural center that celebrates art and nature. Today, visitors can explore the meticulously landscaped gardens that feature a diverse array of flora, including colorful seasonal blooms and tranquil water features.
As you stroll through the gardens, you’ll encounter various themed areas, such as the Japanese Garden, the Perennial Garden, and the Reflecting Pool. Each section offers a unique blend of botanical wonders, providing a serene and enchanting experience for nature enthusiasts and garden lovers.
In addition to its natural splendor, Cheekwood also houses an impressive art museum that showcases a wide collection of American and European art. The museum hosts rotating exhibitions throughout the year, featuring works by renowned artists from different periods and styles.
During your visit, be sure to check the event calendar as Cheekwood often hosts outdoor concerts, art installations, and family-friendly festivals. The estate truly comes alive during these events, offering visitors a chance to celebrate music, art, and the beauty of the surroundings.
For those interested in learning more about the history and legacy of Cheekwood, guided tours are available that provide insight into the estate’s past and its significance as a cultural landmark in Tennessee. You’ll learn about the Cheek family, the original owners, and the transformation of the estate into a beloved community space.
Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the gift shop, which offers a unique selection of art-inspired merchandise, plants, and locally made crafts. It’s the perfect place to find a memento of your visit or a gift for a loved one.
Whether you’re a nature lover, an art enthusiast, or simply seeking a tranquil escape, the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens provides a delightful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life. Immerse yourself in the beauty of its gardens, explore the world-class art, and experience the serenity that can only be found in this breathtaking oasis.
Discover the History at the Belle Meade Plantation
Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history of the South at the Belle Meade Plantation. Located just outside of Nashville, this historic estate provides a glimpse into the grandeur and opulence of the antebellum era.
Originally established in 1807 as a farm and thoroughbred horse breeding facility, the Belle Meade Plantation grew to become one of the largest and most renowned estates in the region. Today, it stands as a living museum, preserving the stories and heritage of the people who lived and worked on the plantation.
During your visit, take a guided tour of the Greek Revival mansion, where you’ll learn about the Harding and Jackson families who owned and managed the plantation. Marvel at the impressive architecture, elegant furnishings, and exquisite period details that tell the story of the Belle Meade’s glory days.
As you explore the grounds, you’ll also get a glimpse into the daily lives of enslaved African Americans who played a crucial role in the success of the plantation. The Slave Cabin and the Interpretive Center provide valuable insights into the experiences and struggles of those who were enslaved at Belle Meade.
For history buffs, the Belle Meade Plantation offers a unique look into the thoroughbred racing industry, which was a significant part of the estate’s legacy. Discover the stories of champion horses like Bonnie Scotland and Iroquois, who achieved remarkable success on the racetrack and brought prestige to the plantation.
In addition to the mansion and the grounds, the Belle Meade Plantation hosts various educational programs and events that delve deeper into the history and traditions of the South. From cooking demonstrations and whiskey tastings to holiday celebrations and workshops, there’s always something happening at Belle Meade.
Before you leave, be sure to stop by the gift shop, where you can find a selection of Southern-inspired souvenirs, books, and locally made crafts. It’s the perfect place to find a unique memento of your visit to the Belle Meade Plantation.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a horse racing fan, or simply curious about the antebellum era, a visit to the Belle Meade Plantation offers a captivating and educational experience. Walk in the footsteps of the plantation’s former residents, learn about the complex history of the South, and gain a deeper understanding of the legacy left behind by this historic estate.
Visit the Johnny Cash Museum and Café
No visit to Nashville is complete without a trip to the Johnny Cash Museum and Café, dedicated to the legendary “Man in Black” himself. Located in downtown Nashville, this museum offers an in-depth look into the life and career of one of the most influential figures in American music history.
The Johnny Cash Museum is a treasure trove of memorabilia, showcasing an extensive collection of personal artifacts, stage costumes, handwritten lyrics, and rare photographs spanning Cash’s illustrious career. As you wander through the exhibits, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the man behind the music, his incredible journey, and the impact he had on the world of music.
One of the highlights of the museum is the Walk the Line Mezzanine, where you can follow the timeline of Johnny Cash’s life through a series of exhibits and interactive displays. From his humble beginnings in Arkansas to his iconic performances at Folsom Prison and San Quentin, you’ll be transported through the significant milestones of his life.
The museum also pays tribute to the influence Cash had on many other music genres, from rockabilly and folk to rock and country. You’ll discover how his music transcended boundaries and connected with audiences from all walks of life, making him a true icon and a cultural legend.
After immersing yourself in the world of Johnny Cash, head to the museum’s café, where you can enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee surrounded by the memorabilia and the soulful ambiance that pays homage to Cash’s legacy. The café offers a menu inspired by classic Southern comfort food, providing a fitting culinary experience to complement your visit.
Whether you’re a lifelong fan of Johnny Cash or simply intrigued by his impact on music history, a visit to the Johnny Cash Museum and Café is a must. Prepare to be moved by the personal stories, the iconic memorabilia, and the indelible mark that Johnny Cash left on the world of music.
Explore the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
If you’re looking for a fun and family-friendly attraction in Nashville, look no further than the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. Located just minutes away from downtown, this expansive zoo offers a delightful experience for animal lovers of all ages.
The Nashville Zoo spans over 188 acres and is home to a wide variety of animals from around the world. As you explore the zoo, you’ll have the opportunity to observe and learn about over 2,800 animals representing more than 365 species. From lions and giraffes to red pandas and flamingos, there’s a fascinating array of creatures to discover.
One of the highlights of the Nashville Zoo is the Kangaroo Kickabout, an interactive exhibit where you can walk among the kangaroos and even have the chance to pet and feed them. It’s a truly unique experience that allows you to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures.
The zoo also features a variety of other immersive exhibits, such as the African Savannah, where you can see elephants, giraffes, and rhinos roaming in a naturalistic habitat. The Expedition Peru exhibit transports you to the highlands of the Andes Mountains, where you can encounter Andean bears and impressive condors.
For a tropical adventure, visit the Flamingo Lagoon, which is home to a colorful flock of flamingos, or venture into the Jungle Gym, an expansive play area where kids can climb, slide, and explore while learning about animal habitats and conservation.
In addition to the animal exhibits, the zoo offers educational programs, animal shows, and interactive experiences throughout the day. From animal feedings and keeper talks to behind-the-scenes tours and animal encounters, there are plenty of opportunities to deepen your understanding of the animal kingdom and conservation efforts.
When you need a break, the zoo provides various dining options where you can grab a bite to eat and refuel before continuing your exploration. Souvenir shops are also available, offering a range of animal-themed merchandise to commemorate your visit.
Whether you’re visiting with family or simply have a love for wildlife, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere offers a captivating and educational experience. Interact with exotic animals, learn about conservation efforts, and create lasting memories. It’s a must-visit destination for animal enthusiasts and a welcome escape into the natural world.
Take a Scenic Drive Along the Natchez Trace Parkway
If you’re seeking a scenic and leisurely drive through beautiful landscapes and historic sites, look no further than the Natchez Trace Parkway. Stretching for 444 miles through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee, this historic roadway offers a captivating journey through stunning natural beauty and significant cultural landmarks.
The Natchez Trace Parkway follows the historic path that Native Americans, explorers, and settlers once traveled, and today it serves as a peaceful and picturesque route for travelers. The road meanders through lush forests, rolling hills, and open meadows, providing breathtaking views at every turn.
As you travel along the parkway, take the time to stop at various points of interest. One notable stop is the Meriwether Lewis Monument and Gravesite, which honors Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Explore the museum, learn about Lewis’s journey, and pay your respects at his final resting place.
Another must-visit stop is the Mount Locust Inn and Plantation, a restored 18th-century inn that provides a glimpse into the lives of early travelers along the Natchez Trace. Take a guided tour and learn about the history and significance of this historic landmark.
For nature enthusiasts, there are numerous hiking trails and scenic overlooks throughout the parkway. Stretch your legs and explore the hidden gems of the area, from cascading waterfalls to serene picnic spots with panoramic vistas.
As you drive, keep an eye out for wildlife. The Natchez Trace Parkway is home to a variety of animals, including deer, wild turkeys, and a plethora of bird species. Wildlife viewing opportunities are abundant, so have your camera ready to capture these memorable encounters.
One of the unique features of the Natchez Trace Parkway is its quiet and peaceful atmosphere. Commercial traffic is limited, and the speed limit is enforced to maintain a tranquil and enjoyable driving experience. It’s a chance to slow down, relax, and appreciate the natural and historical wonders that surround you.
Whether you embark on a short scenic drive or choose to explore a longer stretch of the parkway, the Natchez Trace Parkway offers a journey that is both visually stunning and historically significant. Travel back in time, marvel at the natural beauty, and enjoy the serenity of this iconic roadway.
Nashville, Tennessee is a city that truly offers something for everyone. From its rich musical heritage to its historic landmarks, diverse neighborhoods, and natural beauty, Nashville captivates visitors with its vibrant energy and Southern charm.
During your visit, be sure to explore the iconic attractions that make Nashville a renowned destination. From immersing yourself in the history of country music at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to enjoying live performances on Broadway, every corner of this city is alive with the sounds of music.
Venture beyond the music scene and discover the other facets of Nashville’s culture. Take a stroll through Centennial Park and marvel at the Parthenon replica, or explore the trendy neighborhoods of East Nashville and The Gulch, where creativity and innovation thrive.
Experience the beauty of nature at the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, or delve into the fascinating history of the Belle Meade Plantation. Pay homage to Johnny Cash at his dedicated museum and café, and make memories with your family at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.
Finally, take a scenic drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway, where you can unwind and immerse yourself in the natural wonders and historic landmarks along the way.
Whether you’re a music enthusiast, history buff, nature lover, or simply seeking a memorable getaway, Nashville offers endless possibilities for exploration and enjoyment.
So, pack your bags, put on your dancing shoes, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the sights, sounds, and stories of Nashville, the Music City!