Top Things to Do in Nashville
Compiled by Francie Likis, INANE 2020 Host
My recommendations for all visitors are live music and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum including Hatch Show Print, which you can visit by itself. If you can get tickets to a show at the Ryman, that is a must do. If you like to take travel photos, it is definitely worth finding some of the murals. I’m also a big fan of the parks and Parnassus. The rest of the places on the list are all great, too, depending on your interests.
- Live music: With more than 180 live music venues and artists of every genre, Nashville offers something for everyone. Some of my favorites among the famous honky tonks on lower Broadway (an area that can get loud with lots of drinking at night, especially on weekends) are Robert’s Western World and The Stage. Two famous small venues are the Bluebird Café in Green Hills and the Station Inn in the Gulch. The Listening Room Café downtown has songwriter shows similar to the Bluebird but is a bigger venue so it easier to get tickets. Large concert venues include the Ryman, Bridgestone Arena, and Ascend Amphitheater. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is beautiful and another great place to see a concert. The best source for what live music is playing on any given night is the Nashville Live Music App. All of the large venues have event calendars on their websites, and tickets for concerts usually go on sale months ahead of the event.
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: Whether or not you’re a fan of country music, don’t miss this beautiful museum filled with the history of America’s music. Be sure to check out Hatch Show Print next door. Their posters are legendary, and you’ll see them throughout town. While there are paid tours of Hatch Show Print to learn all about the history and process, you don’t have to pay if you just want to see the front of the production shop, where you can watch posters being printed, and visit the print store.
- Ryman Auditorium: This National Historic Landmark is rich in history, and the acoustics in the auditorium are among the finest in the world. There are tours daily and if you’re really lucky, you’ll get tickets to see a show one evening while you’re in town.
- The Great Outdoors: Nashville has many beautiful parks and greenways. Radnor Lake and Percy Warner Park are my favorites, and both have great paths for walking and hiking.
- Nashville Murals: Many of the murals are not only pretty to look at, but also great backdrops for photos. There are constantly new murals being added so it is hard to find a list that has all of them, but https://www.visitmusiccity.com/trip-ideas/nashville-murals and https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/nashville-murals are good sources. You can also find murals via Instagram accounts (for example, Nashvillemurals615 and Nashvillemuralsguide).
- Parnassus Books: This bookstore has gotten national attention because its co-owner, novelist Ann Patchett, has become a champion for independent bookstores. Parnassus is popular among locals and tourists. The friendly booksellers make great recommendations, the event calendar is packed, and there are great gifts and cards in addition to books.
- Cheekwood Estate and Gardens: This 55-acre botanical garden and the estate’s mansion, which is now an art museum, have events and exhibits throughout the year.
- Frist Art Museum: Nashville’s premier art museum has multiple exhibitions in a magnificent Art Deco building.
- Parthenon: The Nashville Parthenon and its 42-foot Athena statue are full-scale replicas of the originals in Athens. The building houses an art museum and is in a public urban park.
- Vanderbilt University: The entire campus is designated as an arboretum, and it is lovely to walk around both the main campus and Peabody college campus. If want details on the trees, you can find self-guided tours and information about all of the species on campus at https://www.vanderbilt.edu/trees/.
- Grand Ole Opry: This live show has several artists at each performance including a mix of new stars, superstars, and country music legends. There are multiple shows each week.
- Belle Meade Plantation: The plantation grounds house a Greek-Revival mansion, historic outbuildings, and a winery.
- Family Favorites: Many of these recommendations are suitable for children. Parnassus Books has a children’s section that includes a play area. Cheekwood’s kid-friendly activities include model trains, a treehouse, and scavenger hunt games. The Frist Art Museum offers free admission for anyone 18 and younger, and it has an interactive space where kids can make all kinds of art. Other family-friendly places to consider include the Nashville Zoo and Adventure Science Center.
- Miscellaneous: I haven’t done any of these myself, but they come up regularly when I ask friends what activities they recommend to Nashville visitors: the Doyle and Debbie Show, the Original NashTrash Tour and Music City Rollin Jamboree (both are adult-only tours and for those who aren’t offended by bawdy humor), the Hermitage (President Andrew Jackson’s home), the Johnny Cash Museum, and Plaza Mariachi.