Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, is home to country music and is packed with music venues, both big and small. Take in a show at the Grand Ole Opry or the Ryman Auditorium, or head to one of the Honky Tonk bars on Broadway to enjoy a drink while listening to up-and-coming country singers. However, there is more to Nashville than just country music. Things to do in Nashville include visiting museums, gardens and parks, distilleries, wineries and boat trips. One thing for sure is that you won’t be bored.
Nashville has a thriving regional food scene, with hot chicken being one of the favourites, as well as fried chicken, meat and three, barbecued meat, biscuits, grits, and collard greens. Brunch is a big thing and can range from Southern comfort food to high-end dining. However, Nashville is a big city, and there are international restaurants to be found if you want a change, and vegetarians and vegans are catered to.
The climate in Nashville is temperate, with four seasons. Summers are humid and hot, while winters are cold. Spring and autumn are good times to visit if you want to escape the extreme temperatures. So, you have decided to visit but are not sure how to make the best use of your time, here are the best things to do in Nashville.
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- 20 Things To Do In Nashville
- 1- Catch A Show At The Grand Ole Opry
- 2- Visit The Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum
- 3- See Nashville On The Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus
- 4- Enjoy The View From A Rooftop Bar
- 5- Watch A Show At The Bluebird Cafe
- 6- Tour The Ryman Auditorium
- 7- Explore The National Museum Of African American Music
- 8- Spend The Day At Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
- 9- Bar Hop On Broadway
- 10- Find Out About Nashville’s Recording History At RCA Studio B
- 11- Stroll Around Centennial Park
- 12- Have A Tasting At Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
- 13- Visit The Johnny Cash Museum
- 14- Explore The Adventure Science Centre
- 15- Spend The Day At Soundwaves, At Gaylord Opryland
- 16- Admire The Art At Frist Art Museum
- 17- Spend The Evening At Robert’s Western World
- 18- Experience The Sounds At Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
- 19- Taste Wine At Arrington Vineyards
- 20- Take A Dinner Cruise On The Cumberland River
20 Things To Do In Nashville
1- Catch A Show At The Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry began as a radio show in 1925, and the live show you see today is still broadcast on the radio.
The Grand Ole Opry has been housed in many different locations, including the Ryman Auditorium, but it is now on Opryland Drive.
Country music legends – such as Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn – have performed at the Grand Ole Opry as well as contemporary artists like Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.
A memorable experience is to watch country legends and rising stars perform in the two-hour extravaganza of country music held a few nights a week.
Book tickets for the show in advance, as they sell out quickly.
You can also take a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry either during the day or after the show to hear stories about the artists and get a chance to see some of the dressing rooms.
The dressing rooms have different themes, and you will find out which artists like which dressing rooms.
If you are a country music fan, you will love this tour.
2- Visit The Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum
The Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum is dedicated to the preservation of country music and is a must-see for country music fans.
It houses some amazing artefacts, such as Elvis Presley’s solid gold Cadillac and his gold piano, Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes, and Johnny Cash’s guitar.
There are a total of 2.5 million artefacts, including musical instruments and stage wear, so you can easily spend half a day in the museum.
The museum’s central exhibition is ‘Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music’.
Through photographs, videos, sound, and touchscreens, you will learn about the history of country music going as far back as the 1920s.
In addition, temporary exhibitions are held focusing on different artists and the museum holds songwriter sessions with established country artists that will give you an insight into how songwriters write their songs.
3- See Nashville On The Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus
If you want to get to know Nashville before you decide where you want to spend more time, or if you only have a short time in the city, the hop-on-hop-off bus is the answer.
Your ticket lasts two days, and you can get off the bus as many times as you wish to see the sights and then catch another bus to carry on with your journey.
The bus stops at 13 different attractions, including the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Parthenon.
Spend as much or as little time as you want at any of the stops.
It’s totally up to you.
Alternatively, you may just want to stay on the bus and listen to the trolley conductor tell you all about Nashville and its attractions.
The conductors make the trip fun and interesting, as they will give you inside stories and tips about the city.
Buy your tickets:
4- Enjoy The View From A Rooftop Bar
One of the nicest things to do on a warm summer evening is to have a cold drink with a spectacular view.
Nashville has plenty of rooftop bars where you can do just this.
Grand Hotel Nashville
One of the highest rooftop bars is in the Grand Hotel Nashville, which is 25 floors up and has great views of the Nashville skyline, live music, good food and exciting cocktails.
The L27 Rooftop Lounge at the Westin Nashville is another rooftop bar that is high up, this one on the 27th floor, hence the name.
The décor is plush, and it offers both speciality and classic cocktails as well as sharing plates of food.
On top of the Noelle, a new hotel, is Rare Bird, which gives magnificent views of the Cumberland River, the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, and the Nissan Stadium, one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
Rare Bird has a warm and welcoming vibe with comfy sofas and fireplaces.
5- Watch A Show At The Bluebird Cafe
In contrast to the Grand Ole Opry, which has a capacity of 4,400 people, the Bluebird Cafe seats just 90.
It puts on two shows each evening every night of the week, and, because of its size, it is best to book in advance.
The only day you can’t book is Monday, when it’s first come, first served.
The Bluebird Cafe also has an open mic night, so if you’ve always fancied yourself as a country singer, why not take a chance?
The country singer Garth Brooks sang here at an open mic night before he became famous.
Many notable singers have graced the stage at the Bluebird Café, including Kris Kristofferson, Keith Urban, Faith Hill, and even Taylor Swift.
It’s also quite the place for songwriters to hang out.
The Bluebird Cafe is a great place for couples as it has an intimate atmosphere, great music, and good food.
6- Tour The Ryman Auditorium
No longer the home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium still hosts country music artists such as Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins.
In addition, other genres of music can be enjoyed here, as well as comedy acts.
You can book tickets to see a show, but you can also take a tour of the Auditorium which will give you an insight into the history of country music.
There are several tours on offer, and you can choose a self-guided tour or one with a guide.
I recommend the guided tour as you will hear lots of interesting stories about the stars and the shows.
The tours involve watching a screening of past performers, seeing exhibitions, and, on the VIP tour, getting a chance to record yourself in the recording studio.
Ryman Auditorium now hosts an exciting new exhibition, Stop At Rock Hall, which houses memorabilia from rock artists such as Elvis Presley and the Foo Fighters.
7- Explore The National Museum Of African American Music
Nashville isn’t just about country music; other genres are evident throughout the city, not least African American music.
At the National Museum of African American Music, you will discover how it influenced many different genres, including pop, jazz, gospel, and hip-hop.
The museum is divided into galleries, each covering a different period in time: ‘A Love Supreme Gallery’ recounts the emergence of jazz in the early 1900s while the ‘Crossroads Gallery’ shows how the Blues came about in the 1920s.
The ‘One Nation Under a Groove Gallery’ covers the development of R&B in the 1940s, and ‘The Message Gallery’ looks at hip-hop and rap from the early days in the 1970s.
8- Spend The Day At Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
If you feel like a break from the hustle and bustle of city life, head to the 55-acre Cheekwood Estate & Gardens for a stroll in peace and quiet.
The property has 12 distinct gardens, each showing a unique display, such as the Japanese garden, the rose garden, and the herb garden.
There is also a woodland walk of about 1.6 km (1 mile), which takes you by some beautiful sculptures, and there are a series of greenhouses.
The original house, which belonged to the Cheek family, is 2,787 square metres (30,000 square feet) in size and now houses an art museum with 7,000 works on display including 19th and 20th-century paintings by American artists, sculptures, and prints.
Also on display is antique furniture from the time that the Cheek family lived in the house.
If you are in Nashville in December, it is a beautiful place to be, as the house is draped in Christmas lights.
9- Bar Hop On Broadway
Nashville has its own Broadway where you can go on a honky tonk bar crawl.
In fact, downtown Broadway is called the Honky Tonk Highway because it is packed with bars hosting live country music.
The great thing is that most bars don’t have cover charges, so if you don’t like the music played in one bar, you can just get up and go to another bar.
Try laid-back Layla’s, which is decorated with car licence plates.
Here, you can hear any type of country music, including early country and western, bluegrass, western swing, alternative country, rockabilly and country folk.
You might even get to hear Americana, which is a mix of musical genres.
Casa Rosa is another exciting bar that is owned by singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert.
It’s on four levels, has five bars, and two stages, and here you can watch both celebrities and up-and-coming talent.
Occasionally, you might even hear Miranda herself sing.
She loves Tex-Mex food and that’s what you get on the menu and yes, it’s good food too.
Recommended tour: Nashville: Music City Pub Crawl
10- Find Out About Nashville’s Recording History At RCA Studio B
RCA Studio B, built in 1957, is part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and was once a recording studio for iconic stars such as Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers.
It became known as the birthplace of the ‘Nashville Sound’ which is characterised by background vocals and strings.
The studio recorded over 47,000 songs before it closed in 1977.
Today, you can take a tour of the studio and see where the stars recorded their hits.
It is possible to take a full day trip visiting both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and RCA Studio B.
11- Stroll Around Centennial Park
Centennial Park is another open space where you can go to get away from the crowds.
It covers a massive 132 acres and is built on the site where the Tennessee Centennial Exposition was held in 1897 to celebrate Tennessee’s 100th anniversary of being in the Union.
There is plenty to do within the park.
You can take a stroll along the walking trail, have a picnic by the lake, or go to the Centennial Sportsplex, where you can swim, play tennis, or ice skate.
In the spring and autumn, various festivals are held in the park, and there are free concerts on Saturdays.
Centennial Park is home to one of the big attractions in Nashville: a full-size replica of the Parthenon, the original of which is in Athens, Greece.
The centrepiece inside the building is a 42-foot-tall statue of the goddess Athena, covered in gold leaf.
It also houses 19th and 20th-century paintings by American artists as well as temporary exhibitions.
The best time to see the Parthenon is when it is dark and it is illuminated.
12- Have A Tasting At Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
If you are a connoisseur of Tennessee whisky or bourbon, you won’t go far wrong visiting Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery.
It was established in the late 1800s by Charles Nelson, an immigrant from Germany, and although it was closed when Prohibition took hold, his great-great-great grandsons revived the business about 100 years after Charles had started it.
You can take a tour of the distillery and taste the whisky at the weekend.
There is a shop, so you can buy a bottle or two of your favourites.
They are known for their award-winning Belle Meade Bourbon and for Tennessee White Whisky which is still made to the original recipe.
Recently, they released a new line of whiskeys called Nelson Brothers, after the owners.
13- Visit The Johnny Cash Museum
This museum is dedicated to the life of country music legend Johnny Cash.
It is quite small and expensive to get in but for his fans, it is well worth the entry fee.
You will be able to listen to his music and see memorabilia such as Cash’s costumes, musical instruments, and photos.
There are also items from the film ‘Walk the Line’, which is about the life of Johnny Cash.
An unusual item on display is a piece of the wall from his house.
Next door to the museum is Johnny Cash’s Bar and BBQ.
You won’t be surprised to hear that there is a stage on each of the two floors for live music.
14- Explore The Adventure Science Centre
If you are travelling with children, the Adventure Science Centre is the place to take them.
They will enjoy the experience and learn at the same time.
The centre is home to more than 175 interactive exhibits that cover different science themes such as space, biology, physics, earth science, and visual perception.
Your children can learn how to be a beekeeper or an astronaut, as well as see their bones through a reality mirror.
The Adventure Science Centre also houses the Sudekum Planetarium, which puts on shows and concerts as well as live science experiments throughout the day.
15- Spend The Day At Soundwaves, At Gaylord Opryland
If you are staying at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which is a massive complex with 2,800 rooms and 15 restaurants and bars as well as shops, you can make use of Soundwaves, a massive water park.
There are a total of 11 slides and wave pools, lazy rivers, waterfalls, and a surfing simulator.
Small children can use the splash pad and activity pool, while there are two pools just for adults.
There are both indoor and outdoor attractions, so you can choose depending on the weather.
16- Admire The Art At Frist Art Museum
The Frist Art Museum was opened in the historic Art Deco US postal building, which is registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum is unusual in that it doesn’t have a permanent exhibition, but exhibitions are all temporary, making it a museum that you could go to again and again and never see the same artwork.
Exhibitions showcase local artists, US artists, and even international artists, and they cover all types of artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and photography.
The museum also houses the Martin ArtQuest Gallery, where you can take part in hands-on art activities relating to art.
17- Spend The Evening At Robert’s Western World
If you enjoy classic and traditional country music, Robert’s Western World is the place to go.
It is on Broadway and has a laid-back atmosphere.
There is a tiny dance floor where you can, if there is space, dance to covers of songs by greats such as Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, and Patsy Cline.
Live bands play here day and night, but it’s not so loud that you can’t hear each other speak.
There is no cover charge, but a tip jar goes around so remember to bring some cash.
The beer is cheap, and the food is basic but good.
Try the house speciality, a fried bologna sandwich.
Recommended: Nashville: Line Dancing Class with Keepsake Video
18- Experience The Sounds At Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge
Tootsie’s is the most famous honky tonk in downtown Broadway.
It has hosted many country legends like Charlie Pride and Patsy Cline and introduced new talent to the world.
There are pictures of country music stars that have performed here covering the walls, which is aptly named Tootsie’s Hall of Fame.
It is a must-see during your visit to Nashville but get there early as it gets packed.
There are three floors, with live music played on each floor.
It is open from 11 am, so if you want to avoid the crowds, a daytime visit is recommended.
It is right behind the Ryman Auditorium so pop into Tootsie’s after a tour or show.
It does great food as well.
19- Taste Wine At Arrington Vineyards
If you enjoy a glass or two of wine, take a tour of Arrington Vineyards, which is owned by Kip Summers and country music singer Kix Brookes.
They produce red blends, white wines, and sparkling wine, and you can try their seasonal frose, which is a frozen blended rose wine.
In total, they produce and bottle 22 varieties of wine.
The farmhouse hosts wine tastings in five rooms, and there is a shop where you can buy your favourite wines.
Tastings take place daily, and there is live music every weekend from April until November and a food truck on Fridays from May to October.
Recommended: Nashville: Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Grounds Pass
20- Take A Dinner Cruise On The Cumberland River
What can be nicer than travelling along the river and looking at Nashville illuminated at night?
It can make for a romantic evening, but even if romance isn’t on your mind, it is still a great evening out.
You travel on the General Jackson paddlewheel showboat for around four hours.
A delicious southern-style dinner comes first, and then you can enjoy a live musical extravaganza of country music with a little bit of soul and gospel. Recommended cruises:
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