3-day Itinerary in Nashville
Explore the best things to do in Nashville in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.
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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.
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.5 minute walk
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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 $19.95; seniors, students and members of the military pay $18.95 and youths 15 and younger can get in for $15.95. Children 5 and younger enjoy free admission with a paying adult. For more information, visit the museum's website.5 minute walk
- 3View all PhotosSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.5-10 minute walk
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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. For a list of upcoming performances, check out the lounge's website.
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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.10-15 minutes by car
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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.10 minutes by car
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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.20-25 minutes by car
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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. Recent visitors were very pleased with the tours, noting the guides were energetic and offered many fun facts about the institution.
The Grand Ole Opry is located northeast of downtown Nashville and tours are offered seven days a week, although availability depends on concert schedules. For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit the Grand Ole Opry website. Admission for adults (ages 12 and older) for a daytime backstage tour costs $27, while children's (ages 4 to 11) admission costs $22. Post-show tours and VIP tours cost extra.
- 1#9View all Photos#9 in NashvilleMuseums, Parks and Gardens, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Parks and Gardens, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.10 minutes by car
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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.15 minutes by car
- 3#15View all Photos#15 in NashvilleHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHistoric Homes/Mansions, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
Sitting on Belmont University's campus, a little more than 3 miles southwest of downtown Nashville, Belmont Mansion is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission costs range from $15 for adults to $5 for children ages 6 through 12. Tours of the mansion, which typically last about an hour, are also available. For more information, consult the mansion's website.10 minutes by car
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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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