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Nashville, nicknamed Music City, is one of the most fun U.S. cities to visit on holiday. Not only is the Tennessee capital home to country music legends and lively honky-tonks, but it also boasts incredible nature, interesting museums, and unique attractions.
Whether you plan to spend a weekend or a whole week there, you’ll want to know the best things to do in Nashville. That’s where we here at Road Affair come in! We’ve carefully curated a list of the best places to visit in Nashville so that you can plan your trip confidently. Now let’s dust off those cowboy hats and get this show on the road!
Catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry House
Naturally, a Grand Ole Opry show is a must-see in Nashville, given how many country music legends have played for this legendary radio broadcast since it began in 1925. It’s had various venues over the years, most notably the historic Ryman Auditorium, but the Grand Ole Opry House has been the show’s official home since 1974.
Catch a Saturday night or weekday recording of the show, which features up-and-coming country artists along with familiar names like Dolly Parton and Carrie Underwood. You can purchase a standard ticket for the Grand Ole Opry here or one with a backstage tour here.
Hit the Bars on the Honky Tonk Highway
When sightseeing in Nashville, you can’t miss out on an outing along Broadway and Second Avenue N. The Honky Tonk Highway is easily one of the city’s biggest attractions, with loads of locals and tourists hitting its famed live music bars on a nightly basis. Enjoy a night out at some of the legendary honky-tonks – such as Coyote Ugly, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Wildhorse Saloon, and Robert’s Western World – along with the newer celebrity-owned bars, including Ole Red (owned by Blake Shelton), FGL House (owned by Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley), and Luke’s 32 Bridge (owned by Luke Bryan).
You could also do a pub crawl and meet other travelers who are new to the honky-tonk scene. We recommend this all-inclusive two-hour pub crawl that hits Broadway and some bars off the beaten path.
Take a Guided Tour of the City
A fun thing to do in Nashville that helps you see and learn more about the area is to take a city tour! With several fantastic tour options, you’re bound to find one that suits your interests.
If you want to learn more about the city’s famous attractions and history, check out this one-hour double-decker bus tour or this five-star Segway tour. If you’d rather see celebrity homes (and maybe even one of the resident stars), you can’t go wrong with this 1.5-hour guided tour of the stars’ homes. If you’re more interested in morbid history and the supernatural, try this adults-only ghost and murders walking tour.
Visit Cheekwood Estate
A visit to an old Southern mansion is an absolute must in Nashville. The most popular option is Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, which is only a 20-minute drive from downtown and open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
This stunning 1930s manor captures the Country Place Era style and offers 55 acres to explore, including eight distinct gardens. The mansion itself hosts a gallery of various artworks, such as sculptures by William Edmondson and portraits by Andy Warhol. Plan to spend a few hours exploring the house and gardens, perhaps taking a guided tour or renting an audio guide.
Tour the Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA Studio B
Can you really visit Nashville as a country music fan if you don’t go to the Country Music Hall of Fame and RCA Studio B? Both of these attractions are famous for being where country music history was made!
At the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, you’ll see artifacts that belonged to Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and even Taylor Swift, along with interesting facts and photos that show the history and evolution of country music. The museum also features a sound studio!
Speaking of studios, you have to tour the iconic RCA Studio B on Music Row. This famed recording studio took off in the 1960s, producing 60% of the top Billboard country hits for two decades and hosting legends such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton.
If you plan to hit both attractions, we highly recommend this combo ticket to RCA Studio B and the Country Music Hall of Fame. It includes entry to both sites, transportation between them, and a guided tour of RCA Studio B.
See the Parthenon at Centennial Park
One of the quirkier tourist attractions in Nashville is the replica of the famous Parthenon, an ancient temple in Athens, Greece. While this seems like a strangely random sight for Nashville, the story behind it is quite interesting. The city used to be known as “the Athens of the South” for its focus on education, and it celebrated this reputation by reconstructing the Parthenon in Centennial Park for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition.
You can explore the outside of the Parthenon for free or pay $10 to enter. If you do go inside, you’ll see an impressive collection of artworks and a large statue of the Greek goddess Athena.
Visit a Distillery or Brewery
Tennessee whiskey is so iconic that it’s even inspired several country songs (here’s looking at you, Chris Stapleton), so why not see where this liquid gold is made and taste it yourself? There are several fantastic distilleries in Nashville, but if you only have time for one, check out Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. This 19th-century distiller offers guided tours, which include whiskey samples as well as extensive facts about Tennessee whiskey and the generations of Nelsons who have perfected the drink.
If whiskey isn’t your drink of choice, consider checking out the local craft beer scene. Nashville has no shortage of excellent breweries, but we recommend visiting Tennessee Brew Works. You can sample several great beers here and even enjoy a delicious lunch on its patio, featuring classics like Nashville hot chicken!
Eat and Shop at the Nashville Farmers’ Market
The Nashville Farmers’ Market is a great place to grab a bite and browse souvenirs or local artwork. You’ll find plenty of food options among its stalls, including Mexican, Jamaican, and classic American barbecue. The market is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Try a Local Favorite at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack South
If you’re a foodie or spice lover, you’ve probably heard of Nashville hot chicken. This local dish consists of a zesty mix of spices and hot sauce on deep-fried chicken and is usually served on a piece of bread. You can usually order it at your preferred spice level, so don’t miss out even if you can’t handle the heat!
The best place to try this local cuisine is right where it originated – Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack South. Since it opened in 1945, this restaurant has set the gold standard for Nashville hot chicken.
Take a Line Dancing Class
They say the best tourists immerse themselves in the local culture, and in the South, that means line dancing! In this style of dance, participants line up in rows and follow choreographed steps, typically to country music. This is a great activity in Nashville if you want to boogie down like a cowboy (or cowgirl!).
Easily the best free thing to do in Nashville is a 30-minute line dancing lesson at the Wildhorse Saloon. If you think your two-step needs a bit more work, though, consider booking this one-hour line dancing lesson. The lesson takes place on Lower Broadway and includes a souvenir video!
Board a Pontoon Party Cruise
If you’re wondering what to do in Nashville on a fun weekend with friends or even by yourself to meet other travelers, consider booking this two-hour party pontoon cruise. The party boat sails down the Cumberland River, showing you the city from a different point of view. You can bring your own alcohol aboard and enjoy free mixers and water while the DJ blasts lively music, making a great outing for partygoers!
Enjoy Live Music at the Bluebird Cafe
If you’ve watched the Nashville TV series, you probably know about the Bluebird Cafe, a local hotspot for up-and-coming musicians. Various superstars performed at this quaint venue before they made it big, such as Garth Brooks and Dierks Bentley. With any luck, you might see the next Taylor Swift perform!
A visit to the Bluebird Cafe is a must for music lovers, but we highly recommend booking your tickets in advance, as the cafe is one of the most popular Nashville attractions and has only 90 seats. Reserve tickets on the Bluebird’s website to secure your seat and skip the line!
Learn About a Country Music Icon at the Johnny Cash Museum
As any country music fan knows, Johnny Cash helped make the genre what it is today. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the legendary “Ring of Fire” singer, don’t leave Nashville without visiting the Johnny Cash Museum, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. You’ll see several of Cash’s instruments and costumes, along with personal artifacts like handwritten love notes and lyrics. When you finish your visit, head next door to the Sun Diner for live music and a bite to eat!
View Contemporary Works at the Frist Art Museum
If you’re seeking the best art museum in Nashville, look no further than the Frist Art Museum. This gallery of contemporary art features a rotating collection and interactive exhibitions, all inside a historic post office built in the art deco style. After browsing the artworks, you can grab a bite at the on-site cafe. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday to Monday and 1 to 5:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Go Behind the Music at the Musicians Hall of Fame
Ever wonder what it’s like to write and record music? Well, you can find out at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. This interactive museum is a great family-friendly attraction in Nashville. You’ll learn about some of your favorite stars’ songwriting processes and the unsung artists behind famous songs here. You can see the studio where Elvis recorded “In the Ghetto” and even record and mix your own music!
Explore the Belle Meade Estate
If you’d like to tour an old Southern mansion and plantation, check out Belle Meade Historic Site & Winery. This fascinating estate features a Greek Revival manor and dates back to 1807. It became an important part of American history in 1864, when its front lawn was the site of the Civil War’s two-day Battle of Nashville.
You can see the property on a family-friendly guided tour or on your own. There are various areas to explore, including a 160-year-old chicken coop, stables, and even a restaurant and winery. Belle Meade is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with free walking tours every 30-45 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wander the Indoor Gardens at Gaylord Opryland Resort
Gaylord Opryland Resort is easily the most beautiful and unique hotel in Nashville. What makes it so special? It’s home to 9 acres of gardens, carefully tended to by 20 horticulturists, in an indoor glass atrium.
You don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to tour its lush gardens. You can see the 50,000 tropical and rare plants here for free, snapping some seriously Instagrammable pics as you go.
Visit Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
President Andrew Jackson called a Greek Revival mansion in Nashville home for 40 years, even rebuilding it after a fire in 1837. The home is now a museum, letting you see where the seventh U.S. president spent the last decades of his life, along with personal artifacts and interactive displays.
You not only get to tour the grounds of this old plantation and learn more about Jackson’s life, but can also indulge in a wine tasting at the on-site Natchez Hills Winery. After a guided tour of the estate, head over to the restaurant to enjoy a meal and a drink!
See Vintage Cars at Lane Motor Museum
Calling all car enthusiasts – this is a can’t-miss museum for you! Lane Motor Museum is home to 150 cars made in the U.S., Japan, Europe, and other places around the world. You’ll see iconic brands and models ranging from the early 1900s to modern classics, along with some quirky cars, including the tiniest French-made minicar and military vehicle. The best time to visit this museum is around 11 a.m., when it puts on free demonstrations with the cars!
Take a Day Trip to the Lotz and Carter Houses in Franklin
Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Nashville is the city of Franklin, site of the Civil War Battle of Franklin. This crucial battle was Confederate General John Bell Hood’s last chance to keep the two Union armies from merging on their Franklin-Nashville campaign. Franklin is home to several Civil War sites, but if you only have a day there, we recommend seeing the Lotz House and the Carter House.
The Lotz House, known as “ground zero” of the Battle of Franklin, is where the Union army dug its trenches and waited for the Confederate attack. A 17-hour battle ensued on Nov. 30, 1864, resulting in a Union victory. You can see the grounds where this epic battle took place, along with the home and artifacts from the war.
When you finish your tour of the Lotz House, cross the street to the Carter House, where you’ll find the Battle of Franklin Civil War Museum. Take a guided tour of the battlefield to see buildings that still have bullets from the battle lodged in them.
Well, now you know the best things to do in Nashville! All you have to figure out now is how to fit them all into your itinerary. Whichever attractions you visit, though, we know you’ll have a memorable trip to Music City (as long as you don’t drink too much on Lower Broadway!).