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Find music, museums, outdoor fun & more in Nashville

By Amanda Stravinsky

Tennessee’s Music City is more than just music (but it’s got a lot of that, too). Here are 10 things you shouldn’t miss on your next visit.

Concert at Grand Ole Opry
Credit: Tennessee Tourism

Nashville is a booming city. With its burgeoning neighborhoods, overflow of restaurant and live music venue choices, Music City should be at the top of everyone’s travel list. If this is your first or thousandth time to Nashville, here are a few must-do suggestions for every traveler.

Learn about Nashville’s music influence

Sure, Nashville is commonly known as Music City, but did you ever wonder why? Go back in time to this city’s roots at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which covers country music’s start and continuation. From the first note sung to the guitars that provided the music to legends and rising stars in the industry, you’ll get a well-rounded education on Music City’s music footprint. Also, check out Ryman Auditorium, also known as the Mother Church of Country Music, and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum which is the only museum in the world to honor the musicians and instruments who played on the greatest recordings in music history.

Explore the neighborhoods

Once you’ve had a taste of downtown, mosey to some of Nashville’s pockets of cute boutiques, restaurants and coffee shops. In the Gulch, you’ll find delicious menus of a variety of fare from street tacos at Saint Anejo to succulent steaks at Kayne Prime or grab a drink at Whiskey Kitchen. In 12South,  you’ll find Edley’s Bar-B-Que, Burger Up, Reese Witherspoon’s boutique Draper James, Holly Williams’ store White’s Mercantile and American farmhouse cuisine at Josephine. Also check out Germantown, East Nashville, and Hillsboro Village, just to name a few more.

Experience the country music scene

The show that made country music famous can be experienced as it makes its way live through the airwaves on 650AM/WSM. Take a backstage tour at the Grand Ole Opry and you may just brush elbows with the stars. It’s bustling with activity, and many times you can catch artists doing their vocal warm-ups before heading on stage to sing for hundreds of thousands year-round. After the show, dance the night away on Lower Broadway among the honky tonks where live music flows into the streets.

Beyond country music

If country music doesn’t fit your music tastes, check out Nashville’s additional venues around town. Ryman Auditorium plays host to a variety of talent, just like it has for more than 125 years. Exit/In hosts bands like Buckethead, David Bazan, The Fall of Troy, Swans, and Steve Gunn & the Outliners throughout the summer. Mercy Lounge hosts groups such as Noise Pollution, Black Pistol Fire, and more. Cannery Ballroom hosts music genres produced by bands like Turnpike Troubadours, Us The Duo, The Wombats and others throughout the year. If you want symphonic music, head to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center where you can hear the GRAMMY Award-winning Nashville Symphony perform Mahler, Beethoven, Bach, John Williams and more.

Connect with nature

Need some fresh air? Nashville’s close proximity to lakes, rivers, and greenways are endless. Pack a picnic and spend a day at Radnor Lake State Park, a 1,200-acre park with six hiking trails that make you feel as if the city isn’t a mere half-hour away. Other parks include Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks, Sevier Park, and Centennial Park, which is home to a replica of the Parthenon and a full-scale statue of Greek goddess Athena.

Visit the past 

Visit presidential homes like Andrew Jackson’s The Hermitage where you’ll find what many historians claim is the best-preserved early U.S. presidential home. More than 16 million visitors have made this their stop since it opened in 1889. Belle Meade Plantation was the site of a skirmish during the Civil War Battle of Nashville. You can see bullet holes in its pillars as a result of the fray. Also, find out why Belle Meade also holds significance in the thoroughbred industry.

The significant impact Nashville had on the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s can be learned when traveling along the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which leads you to sites like the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library and Fisk University. Hear the stories and see the progress of foot soldiers who led the charge for equality among all races in the United States.

See a show

From national tours of Broadway musicals at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to a graceful performance of classic and contemporary works by the Nashville Ballet, Nashville has you covered if you want a night filled with the arts. Browse the artistic elegance of world-class works at the Frist Art Museum. Take in a play, spoken word concert, or an artwork installation (or all three) at OZ Arts.

Fill your belly

All that exploring works up quite an appetite. Thankfully, Nashville’s known for a few classic things like barbecue, farm-to-table restaurants, and hot chicken. Find all three at a variety of restaurants including, but definitely not limited to, Peg Leg Porker (for barbecue), The FarmHouse (which uses nothing but local farm meats and produce to create authentically local meals), and fire-in-your-mouth hot chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken.

Have a day of play

Kids of all ages have a blast exploring space, weather, biological history, and the science behind how everyday items work at Adventure Science Center. The Nashville Zoo is currently expanding in large ways with immersive exhibits like Expedition Peru: The Trek of the Andean Bear and Sumatran Tiger areas. They have their sights set on developing the African Savannah and Village and the African Forest exhibits in the coming years. Family-friendly games filled with clues, puzzles and more are a blast with older kids at The Escape Game in downtown Nashville, Opry Mills and Berry Hill. You’ll have an hour of nonstop action navigating temple runs, space, taking part in a heist and more.

Celebrate the seasons

Finally, Nashville is the place to be for unforgettable, annual music festivals, events and activities during the holiday season. Enjoy a smorgasbord of samples from the city’s famous restaurants at Taste of Music City, Nashville’s largest food and drink festival each June at Public Square Park. Grab your friends to experience one of the biggest country music festivals in the country: CMA Music Festival each June at various stages in and around downtown Nashville, with nightly performances from big artists like Carrie Underwood, Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan and more.

Don’t miss family-friendly activities during the holidays like the Gaylord Opryland’s A Country Christmas featuring holiday shows, tubing, ice skating and more. Take the family to Cheekwood Estate & Gardens during the holiday season to see not only 1 million lights illuminating the gardens, but also carolers, Santa, real reindeer, gingerbread house decorating and a s’more pit. Wrap up each year at the Jack Daniel’s Music City Midnight: New Year’s Eve in Nashville.