Nashville may be best known as the home of country music, but this dynamic city contains multitudes – you can catch up-and-coming talent on intimate stages, eat at some of the South’s best restaurants or hike through gorgeous wetlands bursting with wildlife.
Here’s our guide to the best things to do in Nashville.
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1. Make a pilgrimage to the Mother Church of Country Music
The Ryman Auditorium is Nashville’s premier music venue – this historic stage was the original home of the Grand Ole’ Opry and where superstars like Dolly Parton, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash jump-started their careers. Today it continues to welcome an impressive roster of country royalty, indie artists and internationally renowned speakers to its hallowed halls.
2. Discover Nashville rock ‘n’ roll at Basement East
Nashville may be known for its country scene, but Music City rocks hard. If you’re more into electric guitars than banjos, head to the Basement East. This local venue survived an encounter with a 2020 tornado and continues to churn out high-energy shows ranging from national touring acts to local cover bands. And if you’re lucky, one of Nashville’s rock elite just may make a surprise guest appearance.
3. Explore the artsy neighborhood of Wedgewood-Houston
This former industrial area is experiencing a major boom, but luckily it’s managed to hold on to some of the quirkiness that originally made it a haven for Nashville’s local art scene.
Edgy galleries like Zeitgeist and the Packing Plant commingle with unique bars – Diskin Cider, Flamingo Cocktail Club and Never Never, to name a few – and a growing number of delicious restaurants. Stop by on the first Saturday of every month for the neighborhood’s buzzy art crawl.
Detour: Just because Nashville loves its down-home cooking doesn’t mean it doesn’t appreciate inventive high-end food, and the kitchen at Bastion delivers one of the best chef-curated tasting menus in the city.
4. Catch an MLS game at the new Geodis Park
Nashville’s newly minted Major League Soccer team has shown that this southern city embraces all versions of football. Locals show up en masse to cheer on the Coyotes at the sparkling new Geodis Park; come decked out in team colors and revel in a spirited night of soccer alongside a raucous crowd.
The National Museum of African American Music is a monument to Black musical innovation © Courtesy of NMAAM / 353 Media Group
5. Learn about music history at the National Museum of African American Music
Black music has been – and continues to be – the driving force behind the American music scene at large, and this expertly curated museum takes you through the history of these contributions, from jazz and blues to today’s rock and hip-hop scenes. Expect a hands-on approach – you can record yourself singing with a gospel choir, compose your own blues ballad or even participate in a virtual dance battle.
6. Go for a float on the Harpeth River
Nashville is a river city crisscrossed by large water thoroughfares and a circulatory system of smaller rivers and creeks. You can find some relief from the southern heat by paddling your way down the Harpeth River, an easygoing waterway perfect for lazy floats in the sun. If you’ve got your own boat, you can access the river at several different locations in and around Harpeth River State Park; if you need to rent a vessel, try booking with Foggy Bottom Canoe or Canoe Music City.
Planning tip: Always check the forecast for the day before your outing – heavy rains can make the water levels rise to dangerous levels. Follow Foggy Bottom or Canoe Music City on social media for updates on weather-related closures.
The Bluebird’s storied status makes it a hot ticket – always book ahead © Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Getty Images
7. Listen to the next big thing at the Bluebird’s famous songwriter rounds
Even before the show Nashville made it a household name, the Bluebird Cafe has been a legendary locale for singer-songwriter rounds featuring the best of the best – Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban all graced this stage before they hit it big. It’s all about the listening experience at this bar-restaurant, which puts audiences up close with both rising and established talent.
Planning tip: The Bluebird’s storied status makes it a hot ticket – always book ahead.
Nashville is a place that values its green spaces © Cavan Images / Getty Images
8. Take a hike at one of Nashville’s green spaces
Nashville may be an urban metropolis, but it’s also a place that values its green spaces. Head to Percy and Edwin Warner Parks to clock some miles on trails that feel far more remote than you’d think, or walk the extensive greenway at Shelby Bottoms, alongside East Nashville families. If you’re a wildlife fan, don’t skip Radnor Lake State Park, a striking nature reserve home to critters like barred owls, bald eagles, beavers, turtles and wild turkeys.
Planning tip: Outdoor Nashville is so much fun to explore, but be careful during the hot months of July and August – temperatures and humidity levels soar and can be dangerous. Always bring water with you.
9. Learn to salsa dance at Plaza Mariachi
Managed by the Hispanic Family Foundation, this cultural center/music venue/food hall hosts everything from mariachi concerts to ballet folkórico performances to thumping DJ sets, but our favorite is the Bailamos party. Come early to learn salsa, bachata and merengue, and then test out your new skills on the dance floor the rest of the night.
Detour: Nashville is home to the country’s largest Kurdish community, and just across the street from Plaza Mariachi you’ll find Edessa Restaurant serving Kurdish and Turkish cuisine. Order the kabob festival for an indulgent culinary journey you won’t soon forget.
10. Admire exhibitions at Nashville’s art deco treasure, the Frist Art Museum
At the center of Nashville’s thriving art scene sits the Frist Art Museum, a stunning space featuring rotating art exhibitions that range from exuberant contemporary installations to mid-century Italian concept cars to illustrated medieval textbooks. Housed in an art deco–era post office, this museum also hosts art workshops, live music events, lectures series and more.
11. Support local at Honeytree Meadery
Local businesses are Nashville’s beating heart, and the network of friendly folks working at and with Honeytree Meadery exemplify the camaraderie that can be found among business owners here. Their perfectly balanced mead is made with honey from East Nashville beekeepers; a favorite is the Flower Garden, a floral take on the old classic made with tea from local herbal experts High Garden, who lost their building across the street during the 2020 tornado.
If you’re hungry, snag a delectable creation from Alebrije truck parked out front, specializing in Mexico-City-style tacos made with heirloom corn tortillas.
12. Test your taste buds at Prince’s Hot Chicken
Nashville hot chicken is an institution, and it all started with Prince’s, the city’s original hot-chicken shop. Still run by the great-niece of the founder, Prince’s brings the heat. Go easy with mild spice or give it all you’ve got with XXX hot – either way, you’ll be indulging in a quintessentially Nashville experience.
13. Join a dance party at the Blue Room
Part of Third Man Records’ headquarters – owned by Nashville’s most eccentric frontman, Jack White of the White Stripes and the Raconteurs – the Blue Room is a surreal art space/bar that hosts poetry readings, theater performances, film screenings and curated dance parties. It also features a cool “infinity wall,” a giant (fake) elephant head and a lush outdoor space, making an atmospheric setting for a night out.
Detour: Just around the corner from Third Man and the Blue Room is Tennessee Brew Works, one of the few local breweries that has truly nailed the art of having both excellent beer and excellent food. Open mics and live music also hit the small stage throughout the week – we love Bluegrass Wednesdays.
14. Watch the sunset from a downtown rooftop
Nashville’s ever-growing skyline is home to a number of spectacular rooftop bars delivering 360-degree views of Music City, each one with its own distinct personality. Channel your inner rockstar at the Bobby Hotel rooftop lounge, check out the latest themed pop-up at the Fairlane or swim in the infinity pool of the L27 Rooftop Lounge.
Detour: Nashville has bars in the sky – and bars down below. Seek out the Noelle’s Hidden Bar for a magical treat.
15. Tour the famous RCA Studio B
Now a branch of the Country Music Hall of Fame, RCA Studio B is a must-see for anyone interested in Nashville’s music history – you can tour the birthplace of what became known as the Nashville Sound, a particular recording style that highlighted background vocals and string instruments. Industry titans like Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley recorded some of their biggest hits here.