Nashville, you captured my heart! From the music, culture, and history, to the beautiful gardens, amazing food, and the friendliest people, Nashville is an incredible city with a long list of wonderful things to see and do.
We spent a full week in Nashville, and believe me, I could have happily stayed another week. The drive from New York City to Nashville took us 24 hours, after stopping in Virginia for the night. The reason for our trip was to attend my sister-in-law’s medical residency graduation, visit family, and then drive north to Chicago.
Considering the amount of time we spent with family, I can’t believe how much I packed in! Here is the list of the best things to do in Nashville.
What is Nashville known for?
As the hometown of country music, Nashville is known for its live music in the honky tonks of Broadway, its famous recording studios, cultural events, and delicious food.
Best Things To Do in Nashville TN
Let’s take a look at some of the best things to do in Nashville.
1) See the Country Music Hall of Fame
Nashville is the capital of country music, so the Country Music Hall of Fame was at the top of my list of things to see in the city. Even if country music isn’t your thing, you want to experience that side of Nashville, as it is what makes Nashville one of the country’s most popular destinations.
I really enjoyed it, and recommend paying the extra $5 for the audio guide as the explanations at the museum’s galleries and exhibits were fantastic. My jaw dropped when I learned how much Garth Brooks, Morgan Wallen, and Kenny Chesney made in ticket sales last year.
Country music is such a big part of the music industry in the United States, so it was great to learn more about it.
Be sure to book your Country Music Hall of Fame tickets in advance, and arrive early to avoid the crowds.
In the photos below you can see Taylor Swift’s original sparkle guitar and Shania Twain’s ensemble that she wore the day she was presented with the prestigious Entertainer of the Year award.
As of January 2022, Taylor Swift is the female artist with the most weeks at No. 1 in the history of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.
2) Visit Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
Just 10 miles from Downtown Nashville, you will find Cheekwood Estate, the extraordinary former home of Mabel and Leslie Cheek.
This 1930s estate has a 55-acre botanical garden and an art museum that opened to the public in 1960. During your visit, you will enjoy the architectural style of the house, impressive vistas, and beautiful art installations.
Cheekwood Estate – Fun Facts
- Architect Bryant Fleming was an acclaimed professor and former head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Cornell University.
- Leslie and Mabel met on a train in 1895 and married a year later in Clarksville, Tennessee.
- The name of the estate is derived from the combination of Leslie and Mabel’s respective surnames prior to their marriage — Cheek and Wood.
- Cheekwood’s design was influenced by their trip to England in 1929.
- Leslie invested in the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company, owned by his father’s cousin and creator of the Maxwell House Coffee Blend, Joel Cheek. President Theodore Roosevelt once exclaimed that the coffee was “good to the last drop!” leading to the popularity of the brand.
- Leslie Sr. and Mabel enjoyed hosting extravagant themed parties such as the “BC Ball” in 1934, where guests dressed as deities from Greek mythology.
- Leslie Sr. died in 1935, shortly after the completion of the estate. Mabel lived in the house until 1944 when she deeded Cheekwood to their daughter.
3) Admire The Parthenon
If you’ve been to Athens, Greece, you may be familiar with The Parthenon, a former temple on the Acropolis, that was dedicated to the goddess Athena during the fifth century BC.
I had the opportunity to see it during my trip to Greece a few years ago, so when I learned that there is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Nashville, I wanted to check it out. It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and it is definitely impressive!
The Parthenon is one of the best things to see in Nashville, and you will easily find it in Centennial Park. While there I noticed lots of people were either taking a walk around the park, having a picnic, playing soccer, or enjoying the sunshine.
If you are into seeing cities from above, book this helicopter tour of downtown Nashville, to fly over Music City’s top sights and landmarks.
4) See the Tennessee State Capitol
The Tennessee State Capitol first opened in 1859 and is a stunning tribute to the people of Tennessee. The building is surrounded by the Tennessee Supreme Court, Legislative Plaza, Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, and other state government buildings.
Tennessee State Capitol – Fun Facts
- Architect William Strickland designed the capitol and modeled it after a Greek Ionic temple.
- Both the interior and exterior are built with limestone from a quarry that is located about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the site of the capitol.
- Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796, as the 16th state, Knoxville was its first capital. The 1835 state constitution mandated that the General Assembly choose a permanent capital.
- In 1843, Nashville was chosen as the permanent capital of Tennessee.
- The cornerstone of the Tennessee state capitol was laid on July 4, 1845, and the building was completed in 1859. The final cost was around $900,000 (equivalent to $29,313,000 in 2022).
- Strickland died five years before the building’s completion and was entombed in its northeast wall. His son, Francis, supervised the construction of the structure from 1854 to 1857.
5 See a show at the Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium is a block north of the Country Music Hall of Fame, making it easy to visit both of these on the same day. While in the area, grab lunch at the Frothy Monkey, an all-day cafe that is a 5-minute walk from the Ryman.
Over the last 130 years, the Ryman Auditorium transformed itself from a religious entity to one of the most revered music venues in the world.
This Nashville landmark sat largely empty for almost 20 years while rumors of demolition spread throughout the area.
In 1989, the auditorium’s new owner, Gaylord Entertainment Company, started renovations and reopened it in June of 1994 as a premier performance hall and museum.
Rock legend Bob Dylan made a stop at the Ryman in 2007.
Ringo Starr celebrated his 73rd birthday here in 2012.
Pop sensation Harry Styles made his Ryman debut in 2017.
If you can, take a tour of the Ryman during your visit to Nashville! And if you’d like to see a show, check out Ryman’s calendar and upcoming events here.
Afterwards, book tickets to Nashville’s Evening Trolley Tour to see the city’s landmarks illuminated at night, and learn about the history of Music City.
6) Stroll over the John Seigenthaler Bridge
Another of the best things to do in Nashville is to walk across the John Seigenthaler Bridge. It spans 3,150 feet and is one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
The bridge opened on July 5th, 1909, but closed to vehicular traffic in 1998 due to its condition. That same year, the bridge was admitted to the National Register of Historic Places because of its unique truss design.
We walked across the John Seigenthaler Bridge in the morning, and the views of Downtown Nashville from the bridge itself were phenomenal.
If you are short on time and would like to see the best of Nashville, book this double-decker Nashville city tour designed for those who want an introduction before exploring more on their own.
SHOP: Pink Dress
7) Visit Belle Meade Plantation
Belle Meade Plantation is a historic mansion that is now open to the public. We arrived without prior reservation, and 50 minutes before closing. Luckily there was a tour starting in five minutes, and we ended up with a nice small group of 7 people.
It was interesting to step back in time and learn stories about both the Jackson and Harding families, two prominent families that lived in Nashville.
After the tour, we visited the winery. I thought that the blueberry wine was delightful and the gift shop adorable.
8) I Believe in Nashville Mural and Draper James
There are around 20 impressive murals throughout Nashville that you can’t miss! It took me a while to realize that there are three official versions of the I Believe in Nashville mural, and the original one below is located on 12th Avenue South.
At Draper James, a store started by Reese Witherspoon, you will find timeless Southern-style pieces for your wardrobe and home. The flagship store is located in Nashville, so I decided to do a little shopping!
9) Have a Bushwacker at Edley’s Bar-B-Que
When in Nashville, trying a Bushwacker is a must! A Bushwacker is a frozen drink made with milk, coffee liqueur, creme de cocoa liqueur, and two different types of rum.
I followed my sister-in-law’s recommendations when it came to where to eat during our week in Nashville. She has been living in the city for the last four years and is familiar with the best local coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants.
We had dinner at Edley’s Bar-B-Que (Sylvan Park), and we enjoyed the food so much that we returned a couple of days later for more.
If you’d like to taste your way around Nashville, look into Nashville’s Walking Food Tour for an intimate culinary experience where you’ll get to try southern delicacies.
10) Walk around Honky Tonk Highway
Honky Tonk Highway, located on Lower Broadway, is a row of honky tonks pumping live music from 10 am to 3 am. And did I mention there is no cover charge?!
A honky tonk is a venue with a stage, live music, and cold beverages, making it one of Nashville’s top attractions. While this area of the city is definitely touristy, I checked it out before my visit to the Ryman Auditorium as they are 2 minutes from each other.
If you are looking for world-class live music, this area of Nashville is for you!
11) Walk around The Gulch Neighborhood
During our last day in Nashville, we decided to check out The Gulch, a newer and trendy neighborhood full of boutique hotels, high rises, shops, and restaurants.
I was craving biscuits so we stopped at Biscuit Love Gulch, a popular spot known for locally sourced Southern breakfast & lunch fare.
Nashville’s WhatLiftsYou Wings mural is located 425 feet from Biscuit Love!
How would you spend your days in Nashville?!
More Things To Do in Nashville TN
Here are popular activities to add to your itinerary:
- 1-Hour Nashville Line Dancing Class
- Helicopter Tour of Downtown Nashville
- Explore the City of Nashville Sightseeing Tour by Golf Cart
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO NASHVILLE
What is the best time to visit Nashville?
May, June, and October are the best months to visit Nashville. We visited during the second week of June, and we thought the weather was pleasant, a bit chilly during the first few days, and a little warmer towards the end.
How far is Nashville from Memphis?
Nashville is 210 miles (340 km) from Memphis. The drive takes a little over 3 hours with normal driving conditions.
How many days in Nashville is enough?
While I enjoyed a full week in Nashville and could’ve stayed even longer, three full days are all you need to see this incredible city’s top attractions.
What’s the best way to book my Nashville accommodations?
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