An Insider's Guide to the Best Things to Do in Nashville
Arts & Culture
I've lived in Nashville for 17 years and I absolutely love it. The city has changed so much since I first moved here and it continues to evolve. It’s a fun city that always feels new and exciting. Nashville has something for everyone, especially if you love music. We may be known as the home of country music but the city has a lot more to offer. I've put together a list of some of my favorite things to see, do and eat in my hometown but this is just the tip of the iceberg. The number one piece of advice I give my friends when they visit Nashville is to plan ahead and make reservations! Restaurants tend to book up quickly and concerts will sell out. If there is something you are wanting to see or do while in town it is a good idea to go ahead and book as early as you can. That's where I can help!
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Where to stay in Nashville
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Things to do in Nashville
Neighborhoods to Visit
Printers Alley was once the center of Nashville's publishing industry and then took on a more seedy reputation. The Alley has always been full of music and revelry but in recent years has seen a revival. Several nice hotels have popped and brought new life to entire area. It is one of my favorite spots to spend an evening in downtown Nashville. From secret bars to historic jazz clubs there is always something to new discover. Skull's Rainbow Room has been through it all and remains a staple. Here you can enjoy a gigantic prime rib while you watch live music in an intimate speakeasy-style lounge.
Fifth and Broadway is Nashville's newest shopping and dining center right in the heart of downtown. Plenty of quality brands you recognize have storefronts here, as well as a couple local places where you can pick up all your NASH gear. After you have exhausted yourself shopping you can head to one of the many restaurants or check out the Assembly Food hall. If you plan ahead you can snag a reservation at The Twelve Thirty club where Justin Timberlake is a part owner. This swanky club features several different levels all with food, drinks and music. Speaking of celebrity bars, the newest trend is for country music stars to open their own place. So pick your favorite star and stop in. Or try to visit all of them. Or if you aren't a fan of country music you can stop in Gavin Degraw's long time restaurant and music venue, Nashville Underground.
12th South is one of the city's best walkable neighborhoods. You can easily fill an entire afternoon shopping, eating and drinking. Check out Reese Witherspoon's store, Draper James, for some Southern Charm. Grab dinner at Urban Grub after you're done shopping. At a restaurant housed in an old carwash, with an in house butcher named Thor, you know you are in for a treat. I whole heartedly recommend the double cut pork chop.
Things to Do
If you like to cheer on the local teams when you are in a new town make sure to attend one of Nashville's sporting events. The Titans and Predators games are always a good time and our brand new Nashville SC stadium is the largest in the country. You will find great local food options at any sporting event you attend and might even run into a celebrity.
To take a break from all the sightseeing head to one of Nashville's game themed bars. Game Terminal, Pins Mechanical or Kung Fu Saloon are all great options, especially with a group. Here you can hang out for a while you play free arcade and lawn games. Food and drinks are also available.
If you are feeling crafty there are several fun options available where you can create a custom souvenir to take home. Book a session at Lip Lab at Fifth and Broadway where you will work with a color expert to blend your unique shade of lipstick. You even get to pick a name for your new color! Also downtown is Nashville's own Goo Goo Chocolate shop where you can take hands on chocolate classes and build your own candy bar. Stop by Paddywax Candle Bar for a candle pouring workshop where you get to make all the decisions. If you want to feel extra luxurious visit the Oil Bar at Lemon Laine. You will work with a specialist to formulate a custom facial oil that is unique to your skin care needs, all while sipping on complimentary beverages.
To beat the heat you can get on the water. There are several outfitters where you can rent SUPs, kayaks or canoes for a leisurely day on the water. If you are shorter on time you can book a Kayak with River Queen Voyages and paddle around the Cumberland river right in front of the Nashville skyline. Its the perfect spot for that Instagram selfie.
If you prefer to be on the water without having to paddle then take a ride on the General Jackson Showboat. Catch a show, sip on some drinks, and have lunch or dinner while you cruise down the Cumberland river. Trips last a few hours and you will witness some beautiful scenery, including spectacular views of the Nashville skyline.
Another way to beat the heat is to hike to one of middle Tennessee's beautiful waterfalls. Most of the hikes are moderate and offer up refreshing swimming holes where you can cool off. These hikes have become so popular with the locals that some of them require a permit or day pass.
Want to get outside but aren't up for hiking? Take a stroll around Radnor Lake or try visiting Cheekwood Estate and Botanical Gardens. You can leisurely walk through the gardens, stop in the historic mansion to peruse the art, and then end with a snack or drink at the café.
For those who are more athletic plan a visit to Top Golf or Tee Line where you can try your hand at curling. Both places are great for hanging out and have food and drinks available.
With over 180 music venues, attending a concert in Nashville's is a rite of passage. But it if you don't have time for a full concert you will still find live music everywhere! You will likely pass a live band as soon as you land in the airport. Music will be coming out of each door you pass on Broadway.
The most historic and absolute best place to see a show is the Ryman Auditorium. Originally a church and then first home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman has been host to all the greats and is hallowed ground for any music lover. If you aren't able to catch a show while in town you can still do a back stage tour.
For an outdoor show you have Ascend Amphitheater. Purchase a seat or for a budget friendly option you can go with a lawn ticket where you can enjoy the show from a blanket or lawn chair.
For more music history check out the Johnny Cash Museum or the Country Music hall of fame.
For the indie music fan you can't miss Third Man Records. Jack White's record store and lounge feels a little like a shop, recording studio and museum all in one. You can take a tour of their direct-to-acetate recording facilities or for a unique souvenir try out the 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine where you can record 2 minutes of audio and take home a one-of-a-kind 6" phonograph disc.
If you want to mix in a little art with your music check out the Frist. Housed in a beautiful art deco building you can find rotating art exhibitions and a family friendly activity center.
For slightly funkier art head to 21c Museum Hotel. The free art exhibits are always unique and an easy stop that doesn't take too much time. If you are hungry grab Dinner at Gray & Dudley where you might just have a blue penguin join you for a complimentary cotton candy dessert.
If you happen to be in town the first Saturday of the month you can stop by the monthly art crawl. Its completely free and many of the galleries serve refreshments.
Murals have started to cover the city in recent years. You'll find plenty of great photo ops, some with longer lines than others.
If you plan to stay in Nashville a little longer you might consider a day trip to a neighboring town. Franklin, Leiper's Fork or Columbia all offer a small town slower pace. You'll find antique stores and southern food along with, you guessed it, live music!
Places to eat & drink in Nashville
Places to Eat
Nashville is a foodie's paradise. With so many incredible restaurants to choose from, it can be hard to make a decision. The best option is to choose what type of food you want or what part of town you'll be in and then narrow it down from there.
BBQ, Meat & Threes, taco shops and pizzerias abound. You won't have any trouble finding a casual place to eat.
These days you can find "Nashville Hot Chicken" on menus all over the country. If you want the real deal head to Prince's, Hattie B's or Bolton's. They are the original purveyors of the fiery fowl. I can't handle the heat so I always go for the mildest version and it is still delicious.
For a brunch that is as beautiful as it is delicious try Liberty Common, Mockingbird or White Limozeen.
Feeling fancy in the afternoon? Stop in the Hermitage for Spillin' Tea with Draper James. Sip on tea and snack on refreshments in one of the city's most lovely hotels.
For a nice dinner make a reservation at Drusie & Darr by Jean-Georges. You absolutely can't go wrong with The Continental or Audrey, both by Sean Brock. The hottest ticket in town is Locust! Chef Trevor Moran has built a unique and fun restaurant that is completely unpretentious and the menu is always changing. The kitchen is open so you are able to watch as your food is being prepared, but just wait until you taste it! The whole experience is incredible. For a different kind of experience head to House of Cards, Nashville's secretive magic themed bar and restaurant. You can enjoy some close up magic while sipping on a drink or stay for dinner which includes a ticket to the magic show. While a this may sound corny, House of Cards is actually very classy, they even have a strict dress code.
Speaking of secrets, we have a slew of speakeasies and hidden bars around the city. Some even require a code or invitation!
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Megan Stout’s guide, A Local's 3-Day Itinerary for Off-the-Beaten-Path in Nashville.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Nashville.