Nashville is best known for being the home of country music, however, this diverse city has deep layers of personality. The capital of Tennessee, Nashville, the city also has beautiful gardens, world-class museums, and an impressive culinary scene. Sure, if you love country music, this is the place to head—from the Grand Ole Opry to the Johnny Cash Museum, you could plan a trip to Nashville solely to learn more about America’s unique musical genre.
Yet, even if country music isn’t your thing, you’ll still find plenty to love about this city called the Athens of the South (due to the number of colleges in the city, as well as a replica Parthenon!). Read on to explore all the things to do in Nashville, to be inspired for your next vacation to lovely Tennessee!
1) Grand Ole Opry
Come for a visit to the heart of country music, and perhaps the heart of Nashville at Grand Ole Opry. A music hall that features weekly musical acts, pretty much anyone whose a name in country music has played here. Friday and Saturday night shows are back up and running, or schedule a tour of the Grand Ole Opry during daytime hours. The backstage tours run at $35/adult and $30/child and will help you understand the gravity of this iconic music hall in American culture.
2) Ryman Auditorium
The former home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943-1974, the Ryman Auditorium continues to function as an important music venue in Nashville. Check out big names such as Amy Grant and Vince Gill or see up and coming acts. A historic spot in the city, the venue began as an evangelical church in 1885, and whose name comes from the founder, Thomas Ryman. The first concert was held at Ryman Auditorium in 1892, and people continue to flock to the hall to be part of the musical magic.
3) Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Round out your musical education at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, one of the largest museums dedicated to American music. Members in the Hall of Fame include stars like Fred Rose and Hank Williams, as well as an ongoing list of names like Tammy Wynette, George Strait, Randy Travis, and Charley Pride. At the museum, check out exhibits like Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s or Sing Me Back Home: Folk Roots to the Present. A hands-down, must-see when in Nashville, explore the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, currently open 10 am – 4 pm, with the exception of Tuesday and Wednesdays.
4) Belle Meade Plantation
If you had any question whether Tennessee was in the north or the south, head to Belle Meade Plantation, a historic estate that prides itself on Southern hospitality. Once one of the largest plantations in Nashville, the Belle Meade Plantation formerly raised the finest thoroughbred racing horses.
Today the plantation can be viewed as part of a tour, as part of a food and wine experience, or as an event space. The summer and fall are an especially fun time to visit the Belle Meade Plantation, as there are frequent events such as Easter egg hunts and antique shows.
5) Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
Love him or hate him, Andrew Jackson was a formative figure in American history. His home, or hermitage, was President Jackson’s home from 1804 until his death in 1845. A vast estate, the grounds include his mansion, garden, and grounds, as well as Jackson’s tomb. The seventh president of the United States, Jackson was known for being “tough as hickory” and was responsible for founding the Democratic Party, defeating the British in the Battle of New Orleans, and sadly, supporting slavery and the genocide of Native peoples.
6) The Johnny Cash Museum
It’s hard not to love the iconic Man in Black, Johnny Cash, who was known for such hits as “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” If you’re a Cash fan, then a trip to The Johnny Cash Museum is a must. Ranked the #1 Music Museum in the World by Forbes, Conde’ Naste, and National Geographic Traveler, discover more about this music legend’s life. The museum is open seven days a week from 9 am to 7 pm, and you can complete your trip with a meal at the Johnny Cash Museum Cafe, which’s best known for breakfast and brunch.
7) RCA Studio B
Step into the building responsible for developing the “Nashville Sound,” which is marked by background strings and vocals and smooth front voices. Studio B is still open for operation during the pandemic, but tickets are limited, so making sure you plan ahead of time with online reservations is a must. Discover recordings by country big stars such as Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Charlie Daniels, The Everly Brothers, and Willie Nelson. Each tour comes with guides, that are knowledgeable and ready to share stories.
8) Gaylord Opryland Resort Gardens
Even if you don’t stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, you can still visit the stunning gardens, which cover an impressive nine acres of indoor grounds. You can visit the Resort Gardens for free, with parking at the Gaylord Events Center, then walk to the impressive estate that is Gaylord Opryland.
The Delta is the area where you can find half of the indoor gardens as well as the Delta Riverboat Tour as well as the Aqua Fountain Show. Checking the map when you first enter is a good idea; the complex is quite large, and getting your orientation upon entering is wise.
9) The Parthenon
The Parthenon in Nashville is a quirky must-see. A full-size replica of the Greek Parthenon, this replica was constructed in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Located in the Centennial Dog Park, The Parthenon inside holds a 42-foot gilded sculpture of Athena.
Inside is also Nashville’s Art Museum with paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists. A beautiful park to visit as well as a beautiful building, The Parthenon should be on everyone’s list when visiting Nashville.
10) Ole Smoky Distillery
Tennessee is the place to get whiskey (save for a hotly contested Kentucky), and a visit to a distillery is a necessary part of any vacation to Nashville. Ole Smoky Distillery is known for Ole Smoky Moonshine as well as YeeHaw Beer, two fun drinks that epitomize the food culture and vibe of the city. Come for a moonshine tasting at the distillery and take a sip of a plethora of distilled drinks, including Blue Flame, Blackberry, Original Moonshine, and White Lightnin’. Balance everything out with tacos or hot chicken, another Nashville staple.
11) Nashville Farmers’ Market
There’s some great food and produce that comes out of Tennessee soil, and the Nashville Farmers’ Market is where to go to get it. A year-round farmers’ market, the Nashville Farmers’ Market also runs events, classes, and chef demos. The open-air Farm Sheds are where you can find over 150 farm vendors as well as artisans. The Market House is home to some 20 locally-owned shops and restaurants. If you’re a foodie, you’ve got to get yourself to the Nashville Farmers’ Market.
12) Riverfront Park
The Riverfront Park in downtown Nashville is five acres of green space set against the Cumberland River. Check out the Nashville skyline as you walk through the park, discover statues commemorating Nashville’s history, including a reconstructed fort that is meant to replicate the original Nashville settlement. Summer months bring concerts to Riverfront Park, and in the winter, you can try your skills at ice skating on the rink.
13) First Horizon Park
First Horizon Park (formerly known as First Tennessee Park) is a beloved baseball field, home to the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. Relatively new, First Horizon Park was constructed in 2015 in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. In addition to baseball games, you can catch soccer matches, concerts, and festivals at the venue.
Originally the baseball field that stood here was called Sulphur Dell, and its historic past included Negro and Minor League Baseball teams. You can book a group event at the park or simply come for a game or event.
14) Percy Priest Lake
If you’re itching to get outside while in the Nashville area, Percy Priest Lake offers the opportunity to do so. With campgrounds, fishing, and numerous marinas, Percy Priest Lake is the perfect place to be for the outdoors enthusiast. Marinas are a great place to start your excursion, as you can buy fishing licenses, rent a boat, and grab a bite to eat. There are five marinas on the lake, and you can find specific information about each marina on the lake’s website. Additionally, the lake has three campgrounds.
15) Printer’s Alley
Printer’s Alley is a small street between 3rd and 4th Avenue that is known for out-of-this-world music. You’ve got to experience the Nashville nightlife at least once while in Nashville, and Printer’s Alley offers authentic bars to duck into and get your socks knocked off by Nashville’s musical talent.
Named for formerly being home to newspaper printers and publishers, Printer’s Alley has evolved but kept its charm. Check out Skull’s Rainbow Room, a speak-easy style lounge with great eats.
16) Vanderbilt University
One of the mainstays of Nashville culture is Vanderbilt University. A private university with undergraduate and graduate programs, a visit to Vanderbilt should include a walk around the scenic grounds as well as visit the Sarratt Gallery, a free art gallery. Though there is definitely less to visit during the Covid pandemic, it’s always a great place to take a break and stretch your legs as you stroll past historic buildings.
17) Tennessee State Museum
Learn more about the history of The Volunteer State, including the state’s role in the Civil War, the story of Tennessee’s native people, and the state’s natural history. A free museum located within walking distance to the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum as well as the state capitol, the Tennessee State Museum is a great way to get grounded in the place you are. With special exhibits for children, this is a wonderful stop for families who want to keep vacation a bit educational.
18) Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is some 180-acres large and home to 339 species of animals. Set on the acreage of a historic plantation, the Nashville Zoo is more than just a zoo, with exciting activities such as the Soaring Eagle zipline, the Kangaroo Kickabout where you can pet kangaroos, and daily events such as animal feedings. You can also learn more about the Grassmere Historic Home by taking a tour through the home and farm grounds.
19) Belmont Mansion
The largest house museum in Nashville, the Belmont Mansion, was constructed for Adelicia Acklen, one of the wealthiest women of the 1850s. Designed in the Italian villa style, the Belmont Mansion is located on the Belmont University grounds. This whopping 19,000-square-foot mansion was created to be a summer home for the Acklens to escape Lousiana’s heat. Tours of the mansion run about an hour and are $15/adult, $5/children.
20) Frist Art Museum
This art-deco style building brings style to Nashville through rotating art exhibits. Current exhibits include a special showing of talented Young Tennesse Artists, as well as an upcoming Picasso exhibit coming February 5th. In addition to the rotating exhibits, check out the Martin ArtQuest Gallery, with 30 interactive stations, where you can become an artist yourself. Kid-friendly, the Frist keeps costs low with a $12/adult ticket entrance, and kids under 18 are free.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Nashville! When it comes to entertainment, Nashville really knows how to rock, as well as providing incredible opportunities to get outside, eat well, and learn. Whatever your intention for going to Nashville, there is always more to discover in this southern gem. With this list of things to do in Nashville, you’re well on your way to a memorable adventure in a city of culture and music.