With over 150 live music venues hosting artists and bands of all music genres, The Music City, as it's affectionately called, has been a longstanding top travel destination among music fans of all ages. The hometown of Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey - Nashville, Tennessee has produced top talent and continues to do so.
When you can't wait to get back on the road, head to Nashville to enjoy some fantastic music and fun. Just make sure to use this insider's guide to plan the perfect visit!
What to do in Nashville: Top Activities to Enjoy in the Music City
1. Visit the Grand Ole Opry
You can’t say you’ve been to Nashville if you havn't visited the Grand Ole Opry. Located in Music Valley, it is the world’s longest running live radio show. At the Opry, you can catch beloved country artists like Carrie Underwood, Reba McEntire, Brad Paisley and Florida Georgia Line.
2. Take a Ride on the General Jackson Showboat
Just behind the Opry, you have the General Jackson Showboat, a cruise of the Cumberland River that includes southern-style dining and music entertainment.
3. Enjoy Downtown Broadway
For a truly authentic country music experience, look no further than Downtown Broadway. The street is lined with bars and clubs, whose music you can enjoy by simply taking a stroll right down Broadway. Top spots to check out include:
- Honky Tonk Central: One of the most prominent of these is Honky Tonk Central, a three-story pub with balconies overlooking the city.
- Ryman Auditorium: Not too far from Broadway sits the Ryman Auditorium on 5th Avenue. It is a performance venue but is in fact the former Grand Ole Opry House. Today it hosts concerts, stand-up comedy, and television and film productions and is beloved for its quality acoustics.
- CMA Music Festival: Every summer, the downtown area hosts of the CMA Music Festival, a four-day event featuring concerts, meet-and-greets, and other fun activities.
- The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: If you’re interested in the history of country music and the different figures who have helped shape the genre, head to The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, also located downtown.
- Bluebird Café: Of course, let’s not forget the famous Bluebird Café, a music club located in Hillsboro where well-known artists, like Taylor Swift, and new talent perform. It was even featured in the hit TV show Nashville.
4. Visit Nashville's Many Great History Museums
- The Hermitage Museum: Not a huge country fan? Not to worry, as a city full of rich history, Nashville has other attractions in store for you. A popular museum choice is The Hermitage, a plantation owned by President Andrew Jackson. The two-story mansion is prime for any history geek, filled with Jackson’s possessions and complete with slave cabins, field quarters, the cotton fields, a cotton gin house, and lots more to see.
- Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum: Similarly, Travellers Rest Plantation and Museum is a perfect stop if you’re interested in learning about the Battle of Nashville and the Civil War, and a tour of Belle Meade Plantation gives you access to lots of historic buildings, as well as interesting artifacts.
- Tennessee State Museum: For a detailed account of the history of Tennessee beginning with prehistoric cultures and early settlers going through to the industrial revolution, visit the Tennessee State Museum downtown.
5. Tour Nashville's Unique Art Museums
- Frist Center for the Visual Arts: One of Nashville's most popular art museums is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts located downtown. Its exhibits are constantly changing and feature art from around Nashville, the U.S. and the world. The Frist even has an interactive section for children that allows them to learn while creating their own art.
- Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art: This beautiful spot is another family-friendly art destination. Its most unique exhibit is The Carrell Woodland Sculpture Trail, a one-mile trail which consists of outdoor art and sculptures along the way. The 55-acre botanical gardens are full of beautiful flowers and display different garden styles, while also educating on the many plants that can be found throughout Middle Tennessee.
6. Enjoy Nashville's Parks: These parks standout among the Music City's 99 parks.
- Centennial Park has lots of grassy field areas, a walking trail, an exercise trail, a flower garden, and a lot more. The park hosts a number of festivals throughout the year. It is also home of the Parthenon, an art museum and the world’s only exact replica of the Parthenon in Greece. Inside the museum is a 42-foot statue of the goddess Athena, also a copy of the original.
- Percy Priest Lake: Just east of town, Percy Priest Lake is an ideal site for camping, hiking, picnicking, swimming, sailing, boating, fishing, water skiing, and much more.
- Nashville Shores: Also right on the lake is Nashville Shores, a waterpark and lakeside resort. For a more relaxing activity, try walking on one of Nashville’s many greenways, parks and trails that run through the city and connect various neighborhoods.
- Pizzereal: This family-owned business serves delicious Boston-style pizza. They also serve kebobs, chicken, and salads. Everything is homemade with fresh ingredients.
- Bongo Java: A comfy organic coffee shop that also serves sandwiches and breakfast items.
- Pied Piper Creamery: A family-owned ice cream shop that serves their own homemade ice cream.
- Savannah’s Candy Kitchen: An old-fashioned style, charming candy shop. A little toy train set filled with candy runs through the store, which sells handmade candy, flavored fudge, taffy, toffee, and “nostalgic candy,” which includes caramel, licorice, rock candy, gumballs, and Swedish fish to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Mike’s Ice Cream: Satisfy your sweet tooth with homemade ice cream at this local chain.
- Bobbie’s Dairy Dip: A fast food restaurant set up like a classic diner that serves burgers, fries, shakes, and soft-serve ice cream cones. If you want to be let in on one of downtown’s best-kept secrets, the cafeteria in the U.S. General Services Administration building has some quality burgers.
- The Arcade: If you want a variety of food choices, look no further than the Arcade, an alleyway in between Fourth and Fifth Avenue that began as Nashville’s first shopping center in 1902 and now houses a number of different restaurants on the first floor, and art galleries on the second.
- The Hip Zipper A vintage clothing shop that sells clothes and accessories from the 1930s-1980s.
- The Idea Hatchery: Located on Woodland Street, this gift shop sells fun trinkets.
- Shoppes on Fatherland: Shopeprs will find over 20 small businesses and boutiques that sell gifts, jewelry, antiques, clothes, home décor, tea, sweets, and much more.
Visitor Tips From a Nashville Local
Tour East Nashville: Any visitor is sure to fall in love with the trendy neighborhood of East Nashville. The people are friendly, and support for local artists and musicians is abundant. What’s more, there are so many good food options and businesses are lively with family-friendly atmospheres.
Experience The Tomato Arts Festival. Every August, the streets of Five Points are shut down, and East Nashvillians dress in red or their best tomato costumes, ready to enjoy the tomato-themed activities for those of all ages that the festival has to offer, including games, contests, street vendors, and food. The event is run by the Art & Invention Gallery, which displays tomato art during the two-day festival.
This article was written Alexandra Koumanelis.