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Best Things To Do in Nashville
Melodious attractions like the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Grand Ole Opry draw in plenty of tourists, but Nashville is also proud of its history. You should spend a day sightseeing: The Parthenon, a replica of the famous Greek structure that represents Nashville's role as the Athens of the South, is a pretty good photo op. For those traveling with kids, the Adventure Science Center is a great place to spend an afternoon. And don't forget to pencil in some time listening to live music at the honky-tonks on Broadway. To see all of the best spots, take a guided tour with a local.
Updated September 24, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in Nashville0.3 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND0.3 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
While many people come to Nashville to soak up the history of country music at the city's museums, others prefer enjoying the tunes in person. The best way to do that is to stop in to the many bars that line Broadway, downtown Nashville's main thoroughfare. Lower Broadway is nicknamed "Honky Tonk Highway" because of the numerous establishments that host live acts daily. What's more, there's no cover charge, so you can bar hop as you please.
While all the bars host live music acts, each venue has a distinct atmosphere that makes it stand out from other honky-tonks along Broadway. Some of the most popular bars include:
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It was this radio show, which began broadcasting in the 1920s, that put Nashville on the map as the "Country Music Capital of the World." Although its venue has changed over the years, the Grand Ole Opry continues to host top country performers like Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. And a trip to Nashville isn't complete without stopping by the Grand Ole Opry House for a tour to look back through the ages. Get a behind-the-scenes look one of three ways: with a daytime backstage tour, a post-show tour or a VIP tour. During a daytime tour, your guide will share stories of music legends who have walked the venue's hallowed halls, show you photos from the Opry's venerated history and possibly bring you on to the iconic stage. The Grand Ole Opry is also a featured stop on many of the city's best tours.
Recent visitors were very pleased with the tours, noting the guides were energetic and offered many fun facts about the institution.
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Constructed in 1853 in a breathtaking Greek Revival style, the Belle Meade Plantation is known as the "Queen of the Tennessee Plantations." At the center of the plantation is the mansion (its columns are peppered with bullet holes from the Civil War), where guides dressed in period costumes offer tours of the mansion's antebellum-style interior. You're invited to explore the grounds, which are home to the country's first and best thoroughbred breeding farms (the visitor center is modeled after a traditional Southern paddock) as well as the renowned Iroquois Steeplechase, the oldest in the United States. During the summer and fall, the Belle Meade Plantation hosts numerous events, including Easter egg hunts and antique auctions.
Travelers highly recommend a tour at Belle Meade Plantation, citing the knowledgeable and friendly tour guides as a highlight of the visit. Many also praised the tours that included a wine tasting and lunch.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Nashville0.3 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.3 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Uncover the enigma behind The Man in Black with a visit to The Johnny Cash Museum. The museum, which opened in April 2013, boasts the world's largest collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia, including films, handwritten notes and letters penned by Cash himself along with more than 25 costumes made famous during the music legend's career. Exhibits spotlight different periods in Cash's life, including his years in the Air Force, his marriage to June Carter and his famous prison concert tour. And because the museum is officially endorsed by the Cash family, you can bet you'll stumble across other personal mementos not available to the public anywhere else, like a stone wall excavated from Johnny and June's Hendersonville Lake House that's been repurposed into one of the exhibits. Johnny Cash fans loved the wealth of information on display at this museum.
Not much of a Cash devotee? Recent visitors said you should still make time to see the museum. Some do warn, however, that it can get crowded. The Johnny Cash Museum welcomes visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission for adults costs $20.95; seniors, students and members of the military pay $19.95 and youths 15 and younger can get in for $16.95. Children 5 and younger enjoy free admission with a paying adult. For more information, visit the museum's website.
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There's no better place to start absorbing Nashville's musical heritage than the Ryman Auditorium. It's no longer home to the Grand Ole Opry, but the auditorium continues to host contemporary acts like Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton and Luke Combs. Recent visitors suggest opting for a tour to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the legendary music venue. Sit in on the "Soul of Nashville" screening for a multidimensional experience that uses archival images and footage of performers from the Ryman's past to illustrate its role in music history. Plus, you can learn about the auditorium's backstory with its "Workin' on a Building" exhibit, which displays artifacts from the Ryman's construction. What's more, you can test out your own pipes at the Ryman's recording studio and record a CD to take home as a souvenir. The Ryman is also a featured stop on many of the city's top guided tours.
Recent travelers enjoyed touring the Ryman Auditorium, but many say the best way to experience it is at a concert. Check the concert hall's website for upcoming shows to see if an artist you enjoy is playing during your visit. Shows often sell out, so be sure to book far in advance.
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Music and history lovers can mix and mingle over the exhibits found at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Peruse the plaques dedicated to country music's finest – from Patsy Cline to Johnny Cash – and walk among artifacts like Jimmie Rodgers' guitar and Elvis Presley's solid gold Cadillac limo. If you have time, stop to browse the two-story wall plastered with every gold and platinum country record produced, and then head to Studio B. One of the world's most influential recording studios and a Music Row Landmark, Studio B produced more than 35,000 songs by legends like Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings and Roy Orbison. For an interactive history lesson on the roots and evolution of country music, take a self-guided walk through the "Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music" exhibit, which spans two floors of the museum.
Recent visitors said they were impressed with the amount of country history, lore and memorabilia at this museum, adding it is a well-thought-out venue and very organized. Travelers said true country fans will really enjoy every aspect of this attraction, though some warned those less enamored with the art of country music may not find it as engaging. The museum is a popular stop on the city's top guided tours.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Nashville3.1 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND3.1 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Located on an expansive stretch of the Cumberland River about 5 miles east of downtown Nashville, the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center & Greenway is a sprawling green space where visitors can learn about the local landscape and take advantage of outdoor recreation opportunities. When you visit, start at the nature center, where you can view cultural history exhibits and artwork. You can also rent a bicycle to explore or participate in an environmental education program and learn about things to do in the greenway. When you're ready to get outside, the 950-acre Shelby Bottoms Greenway has more than 10 miles of paved and unpaved pathways (perfect for strolling and biking) that pass through wetlands, streams, forests and fields. Recent visitors said the atmosphere is relaxing and quiet and the trail system is easy-to-follow and clean.
The entire area is free to access, with the Greenway open from dawn to dusk daily. The Shelby Bottoms Nature Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from either 9 a.m. or noon until 4 p.m. (check this website for official hours and additional information). You can get within walking distance of the park using the MTA bus route 4, or you can drive your car and park at a trailhead lot. The best time to visit the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center & Greenway is the fall, when the weather has cooled off and the foliage is gorgeous.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Nashville1.1 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND1.1 miles to city centerMuseums, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Located in downtown Nashville next to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, the Tennessee State Museum preserves the unique and storied history of the Volunteer State. The large museum showcases permanent exhibits that display the heritage of Tennessee's natural history; Native American history; military and sporting history; and Civil War history. Plus, there are rotating temporary cultural and art exhibits on display as well. A number of attractions at this museum specifically cater to children, and the museum hosts many events and educational programs on-site throughout the year. Recent visitors said the attraction is beautiful and informative, with many recent reviewers saying they appreciated the free admission.
The museum is located near multiple shops and restaurants, and it is within walking distance of other attractions like the Tennessee State Capitol and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum. The Tennessee State Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Thursday) and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., though hours vary depending on the day of the week. Free parking is available near the attraction and there are a number of bus stops nearby. For more information, visit the Tennessee State Museum's website.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Nashville7 miles to city centerMuseums, Parks and Gardens, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND7 miles to city centerMuseums, Parks and Gardens, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Art aficionados and nature lovers alike should plan on making a stop at the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. With its greenhouses, sculpture trail and chromatic flower display, the 55-acre Botanical Garden offers sanctuary from downtown's bustle. The on-site art museum is just as beautiful: Housed in the original Georgian-style Cheek family mansion at the heart of the grounds, the museum boasts an impressive collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art, as well as antique furniture, temporary exhibitions and artifacts from around the world.
Recent visitors recommended a spring or summer visit since that's when the gardens are at their most beautiful. Some who visited in the winter and fall were disappointed with the limited blooms to see; however, many said the December holiday lights display was enchanting. Overall, travelers said Cheekwood offers lovely walking trails and well-manicured gardens.
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After a day exploring the roots of the "Country Music Capital of the World," why not experience the sounds of Music City first-hand? If you're looking for an authentic atmosphere with top-notch performances, Tootsie's "World Famous" Orchid Lounge is the place to go. Since the days when the Grand Ole Opry still sought refuge at the Ryman Auditorium, this downtown bar has been featuring performances by both world-renowned and up-and-coming artists.
Recent visitors suggest abandoning your inhibitions and hitting the upstairs dance floor, but you'll find the largest crowd congregated downstairs around the bar and stage. Though some travelers bemoan the bar's cramped atmosphere, others say that's just part of the Tootsie's experience. You can stay at Tootsie's until the wee hours of the morning, and luckily there's no cover charge. The lounge is also a featured stop on many of Nashville's best guided tours. For a list of upcoming performances, check out the lounge's website.
- #11View all Photos#11 in Nashville7.1 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND7.1 miles to city centerFree, Parks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Though Nashville is a bustling metropolis, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors right on the outskirts of town. Located 9 miles south of downtown, Radnor Lake State Park is a calm and serene getaway for those looking to go for a walk and observe nature. The 1,368-acre park features a unique ecosystem of plants and animals, including owls, water fowl and herons. Plus, there are numerous jogging, hiking and biking trails in the park, many of which provide impressive lake views. If you're looking to learn more about local birds in the area, check out the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center for interactive displays, ranger-led programs and panoramic views of the surrounding hillside.
Recent visitors said they loved going on peaceful walks in this park, but some reviewers warn that limited parking is available and the attraction gets crowded, especially in the summer and fall. The park office and visitor center is open Thursday through Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and rangers are available to answer any questions you may have about the area. Trails are open daily from 6 a.m. to sunset, and the Aviary Education Center is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 1 p.m. to sunset on Saturdays. The entire area is free to access, and travelers can reach the park from downtown Nashville by car. For trail maps and additional information, visit the Tennessee State Parks website.
- #12 in NashvilleMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The city of Nashville embodies more than just country music, and nowhere is this more apparent than at the National Museum of African American Music. Opened in 2020, the museum aims to educate visitors on the influence of African American people on more than 50 genres of popular music, including jazz, gospel and hip-hop.
Each of the museum's galleries focuses on how African American music changed through specific time periods. The "Wade in the Water" gallery highlights the call-and-response spirituals of the 1600s, while the "Crossroads" gallery showcases work songs sung by enslaved people in the 19th century. The "Love Supreme" gallery teaches museumgoers about the Harlem Renaissance's influence on music, and the "One Nation Under a Groove" gallery details the emergence of R&B starting in the 1940s and chronicles music popularized by the civil rights era. Finally, "The Message" gallery offers a detailed look into hip-hop, rap and youth culture up until the present day. Visitors can use interactive touch screens in the Rivers of Rhythm Pathways and watch immersive films in the Roots Theater. Throughout the museum, visitors will find musical artifacts, including recording equipment, sheet music, instruments and costumes, used by prominent African American artists.
- #13View all Photos#13 in Nashville1.1 miles to city centerTours, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.1 miles to city centerTours, Wineries/BreweriesTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Fans of whiskey and bourbon should pencil in a stop at Nelson's Green Brier Distillery on a visit to Nashville. The distillery's roots reach back to the 1800s, when Charles Nelson, a German immigrant, started producing whiskey in the late 1800s in Greenbrier, Tennessee. It became so popular he ended up selling about 2 million bottles of whiskey in 1885 alone. He died in 1891 and his wife Louisa took over, though in 1909, Prohibition forced her to shutter the operation. Nearly 100 years later, the couple's great-great-great grandsons, brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson, restored the business and brought the operation to Nashville. Today, the venue features the distillery, a tasting room, an event space and a gift and bottle shop, and tours are offered daily.
Past travelers called the tour fun and informational, with many saying it was the best money they spent on their trip to Nashville. Visitors said the staff members were particularly knowledgeable and all the whiskey samples were excellent.
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Constructed in 1821 for President Andrew Jackson, this Greek Revival mansion now stands as a National Historic Landmark and a preserved window into the president's home life. Most of us may be familiar with Jackson from his role in the War of 1812, his stint as president and his appearance on the $20 bill, but a tour of the 1,000-acre estate provides a more up-close-and-personal look. Along the guided tour you'll see the main house, the kitchen, an original log cabin, Jackson's tomb and the Old Hermitage Church. Another popular exhibit tells the story of the 150 slaves that worked on the grounds from 1804 to 1865.Travelers said the tour of the property was educational, engaging and informative, adding it's well worth the entry fee.
Since much of the tour is spent outside, recent visitors recommend wearing comfortable shoes and dressing for the weather. Located about 12 miles east of downtown, The Hermitage is open daily Oct. 16 to March 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 15 to Oct. 15. Admission ranges from $10 for children ages 6 to 12 to $20 for adults. Children ages 5 and younger are granted free admission. For more information, consult The Hermitage's website.
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If you're an animal lover or just in the mood for a family outing, then the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is an excellent spot to visit. The zoo boasts 375 different animal species and more than 2,600 different animals, including clouded leopards, giraffes, meerkats, red pandas, white rhinoceroses, alligators and komodo dragons. Plus, there are fish and bird exhibits showcasing both local wildlife and exotic creatures. There are a number of hands-on exhibits that are popular among kids, including the Critter Encounters (where you can get up close with various animals), Kangaroo Kickabout (where you can pet kangaroos) and Shell Station (where you can see tortoises and touch their shells). What's more, the zoo also features a historic home and garden, a jungle gym and a Wilderness Express Train.
Recent visitors were impressed with this zoo, with many reviewers calling it one of the best they had ever been to. Several families recommended this attraction as a must-do when visiting Nashville with kids because of its various on-site activities.
- #15View all Photos#15 in Nashville2 miles to city centerHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND2 miles to city centerHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
If you love history, slot some time for a tour of Belmont Mansion – the largest house museum in Nashville. This beautiful Italian-style villa was constructed in the 1850s for Adelicia Acklen, one of the wealthiest women in the country at the time and, according to some, Nashville's own Scarlett O'Hara. Although it was originally built to be a summer home, Ms. Acklen did not skimp on the details. A tour of the 19,000-square-foot mansion leads visitors through rooms ornately decorated with 19th-century antiques and lavish art.
Recent visitors praised the beautifully preserved interior and knowledgeable docents, but warn that parking around the mansion is limited. To avoid dealing with a parking headache, consider using the hop-on, hop-off trolley, which stops at the mansion.
- #16View all Photos#16 in Nashville1.9 miles to city centerMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.9 miles to city centerMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Nashville is a city of many nicknames; most of them have to do with music. Still, the city is also known as the "Athens of the South" thanks to the numerous higher education institutions established there. This identity is realized with the construction of the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the one found in Athens, Greece. Although the Parthenon was only meant to be temporary – it was built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897 – it has since become a beloved attraction, housing models of the statues found in the original structure as well as an impressive art collection. Recent visitors praised the well-kept grounds, peaceful atmosphere and magnificent building, recommending an evening visit to see it illuminated. Others rave about the surrounding green space, which is free to access and great for picnicking. However, parents warn that kids' attention can quickly wane.
Located a little more than 2 miles southwest of downtown Nashville in Centennial Park, the Parthenon is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission costs $6 for adults and $4 for seniors (older than 62) and children ages 4 to 17. However, you can tour the perimeter and exterior of the attraction and its grounds for free. For more information, visit the Centennial Park website.
- #17View all Photos#17 in Nashville0.8 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.8 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Take a break from history and country music and treat your kids to some hands-on educational entertainment. Interactive displays at the Adventure Science Center allow little ones to learn about science, from what goes on inside the human body to what goes on thousands of light-years above our heads. Kids can get behind the controls of a flight simulator, learn what it takes to become an astronaut and step inside a face-altering photo booth to get a peek at what their future selves will look like. Regular demonstrations and lectures help children learn from the center's interactive elements, and shows in the planetarium are entertaining for the whole family. Recent visitors praised the hardworking staff but recommend avoiding an afternoon visit when the center gets overcrowded with school groups.
Sitting a little more than 2 miles south of downtown Nashville, the Adventure Science Center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adults pay $15.95; youths ages 2 to 12 enter for $11.95 and children younger than 2 get in for free. Admission to the planetarium and certain simulation activities costs extra. For more information about the exhibits and upcoming events, visit the Adventure Science Center website.
- View all Photos0.5 miles to city centerFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND0.5 miles to city centerFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Closed to automobile traffic in 1998, the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge provides outstanding views of the Cumberland River and the Nashville skyline. The bridge connects downtown Nashville with the suburb of East Nashville, and is a reliable way to cross the river. It brings out the inner photographer in most tourists, as various points along the bridge allow travelers to capture different angles of Nashville.
Visitors come here for the panoramic views and to escape the busy downtown crowds. From the bridge, travelers can see Nissan Stadium (home to the Tennessee Titans) and any happenings on the Cumberland River. Though there are not many places to sit on the pedestrian bridge, it can be a good spot to enjoy the sunset with a loved one, according to travelers. Visitors also note that it is worthwhile seeing the view from the bridge during the day and at night to get the full effect.
- View all Photos0.9 miles to city centerTours, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.9 miles to city centerTours, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Through its tours, educational programs and events, the Historic RCA Studio B remains a landmark that humbles those who walk through its doors. It contains the essences of the legends who have made music in the building, including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. Opened in 1957, it became the home base of "Nashville Sound" in the 1960s. The studio and its artists' unique sounds helped put Nashville on the map as an internationally known city for recording music. Today, the studio teaches young students the technology of recording music and the science of sound.
Not a country music fan? You don't have to love country music to enjoy the tour, visitors say. If you appreciate music, you'll enjoy the tour. Music geeks can stand where Elvis sang countless songs, listen to music in the studio setting and view original instruments used to record smash hits. For many, the tour brings nostalgia and memories of early days of country music. Visitors say the tour guides are knowledgeable, friendly and timely.
- View all Photos0.2 miles to city centerMuseums, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.2 miles to city centerMuseums, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Before it was the Frist Art Museum, this art deco-style building was a U.S. Postal Service office. Now it holds works of art from the region and from around the world, and new art rotates through every six to eight weeks. Past and present exhibits include Roman art, Australian Aboriginal art, collections by Nashville-born artists and more. The museum also promotes learning through creating art in its Martin ArtQuest Gallery, with 30 interactive stations. In this experimental art space, guests can create works of their own. The admission to Martin ArtQuest Gallery is free with adult general admission tickets and free for those 18 and under.
The Frist gift shop and cafe are also popular, as guests like to take a break between exhibits and shop around for collectible pieces to take home. The cafe receives high marks because it offers a variety of menu options, and it caters to what many museumgoers want: good coffee or a glass of wine.
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