Call it Music City, Cashville, or Nashvegas: there’s only one Nashville, Tennessee. This mecca for country music lovers boasts a history that’s soul-deep. You’ll see and feel the historic music scene in everything from rockin’ honky tonks on Lower Broadway to famous recording studios in Music Row to hallowed concert grounds like the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry.
Nashville exudes the warmth and charm of the small-town South – but it’s also a lively, multi-faceted city that offers all the attractions you’d want in an urban getaway. Explore its beautiful parks, vibrant galleries and museums, and cool boutiques. Sample the thriving food and drink scene in Nashville’s bounty of trendy bars and restaurants.
Ready to plan your pilgrimage to Tunetown? Get warmed up with this complete Nashville travel guide, including what to see & do, where to stay, and when to visit!
What to see & do in Nashville
If you want to see and feel what Nashville is all about, a visit to Ryman Auditorium tops the list of best things to do in Nashville. The original site of the world-renowned Grand Ole Opry, this world-class music venue is a National Historic Landmark.
Loved by music fans and revered by musicians, this living museum began life in 1885 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle – and the stunning architecture has remained true to the original, right down to the polished wooden pews, beautiful stained glass windows, and incomparable acoustics.
In 1943, the Tabernacle was reborn as the Grand Ole Opry – eventually becoming the longest-running radio show in American history.
Take a tour to experience the energy of the “Nashville Sound” and take in star-studded exhibits. Walk in the footsteps of the musical supernovas who made history here: Marty Robbins, Roy Accuff, Johnny Cash, and – yes – the one and only Elvis.
The Grand Ole Opry relocated, but the Ryman is still the acclaimed host of A-list concerts throughout the year, letting you sit back and savor live performances by artists ranging from Emmylou Harris to Taylor Swift.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
If you want to max out your Nashville itinerary, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a no-brainer. Housing over 2.5 million precious artifacts, this landmark downtown site is one of the biggest popular music museums in the world – and it’s the place to visit if you want to soak up Music City’s backstory.
Step inside the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and you’ll discover a treasure trove of rare archival footage and recordings, stage costumes worn by the stars, and priceless musical instruments. Among the highlights: Elvis Presley’s gold piano and Carl Perkins’s blue suede shoes.
Boasting stunning architecture, the 40,000-square-foot museum also features exhibits paying tribute to country music legends, as well as a massive Wall of Honor that displays every gold and platinum record made by country music stars.
Take a Celebrity Audio Tour, and you’ll be treated to intriguing behind-the-scenes insights from stars including Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, and Vince Gill.
Ready to hit the heart of Nashville action? Then buff up your blue suede shoes and cruise on down to Lower Broadway.
Originally known as Broad Street, Nashville’s main drag was once lined with hardware shops and feed stores. Today, Lower Broadway is affectionately dubbed the Honky Tonk Highway – and it’s the true hub of Music City’s thriving cultural scene.
Stroll this iconic stretch of pavement and immerse yourself in the non-stop sights and sounds of a street party that lasts “all day, every day.” Many of the street’s original buildings – like the Merchants Hotel built in the Victorian era – have been repurposed as western gear shops, restaurants, and, of course, honky tonks.
Feel the energy of the live music that pumps out from early afternoon to late into the night. Relax at a street-side table, savor a brew, and drink in the panorama.
(Try to) snag a seat and catch a live show at the wildly popular Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, the world-famous spot that was the launchpad for the careers of legendary performers like Willie Nelson. Keep your eyes peeled for current and rising stars!
Historic RCA Studio B
You’ve heard about the legendary “Nashville Sound.” If you want to see where and how the magic was made, a visit to the Historic RCA Studio B is a must. Known as the “Home of 1,000 Hits,” this one-of-a-kind studio tour offers an insider’s look at Nashville’s creative powerhouse during its golden era.
Walk through the doors and you’ll travel back to an amazing time that put Nashville on the map and made musical history. This period saw country music transform from the ragged honky tonk style of the early days to the smoother sounds of the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Built in 1957, RCA Studio B is where legends like Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, and Elvis Presley recorded world-famous hits, won legions of new country music fans – and spun musical gold. Stand in their footsteps, hear their stories, and feel the magic of a bygone era.
Best way to top off your tour: Hit up the famous Hattie B’s Hot Chicken Midtown for delicious Southern edibles ranging from black-eyed peas to “Burn Notice” chicken. (Elvis would approve.)
Craving a glimpse of green and a break from the urban bustle? You’ll get both in Centennial Park, one of Nashville’s loveliest green spaces.
Just minutes from downtown, this lush 132-acre oasis was originally farmland. Later, it was transformed into a public fairground and racetrack. Today, Centennial Park features gorgeous natural attractions that make it an ideal spot to unwind and recharge.
Relax in the sunken garden, or hit the mile-long trail around scenic Lake Watauga and take in visual treats like water fountains, ducks, and other aquatic creatures. Hit the volleyball courts, let the kids burn off energy in the playground, or watch Fido romp in the dog park.
The park’s centerpiece is a full-scale replica of the ancient Greek temple, the Parthenon – very appropriate for the city known as the “Athens of the South”!
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Step inside the Parthenon and marvel at the 42-foot statue of the Greek goddess Athena – the largest sculpture of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Then take time to browse the Parthenon’s art museum, which features over 60 works by 19th- and 20th-century artists.
Where to stay
As Tennessee’s largest city and a town with a legendary music scene, Nashville is a mecca for visitors from around the world. That means you’ve got loads of terrific options when it comes to deciding where to stay in Nashville! Here’s a handy cheat sheet to help you scout out the best areas and neighborhoods to suit your accommodation needs.
If you’re a Nashville first-timer, you’ll want to be within easy reach of major tourist attractions. Downtown Nashville is home to Lower Broadway, the hub of the city’s top attractions and historic sites like the Ryman Auditorium and the historic Printer’s Alley.
When you want to refuel, check out some local favorites. The massive Assembly Food Hall in Downtown Nashville features artisanal eateries, bars, and live performance stages. For a more cozy setting, pop into the trendy Pinewood Social, a trendy coffee bar/restaurant/lounge set in the old Trolley Barns. Or settle back in the iconic Prince’s Hot Chicken, the originator of Tennessee’s trademark dish.
Given the proximity to Nashville’s hotspots, expect to pay more for accommodations.
SoBro (South of Broadway)
Nightlife lovers will want to base themselves in vibrant SoBro (South of Broadway). Nashville’s hippest district, SoBro is home to major attractions, including the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
SoBro also hosts outdoor concerts at Riverfront Park, and it teems with restaurants, cocktail lounges, and nightclubs. You’ll find a wide selection of accommodations ranging from trendy boutique hotels to national chains.
If shopping and luxury hotels are your thing, you’ll feel right at home in The Gulch. Formerly home to Nashville’s railway, today, this burgeoning neighborhood is packed with chic high-rises, luxury spas, fine restaurants, trendy bars, high-end boutiques, and amazing street art.
Art enthusiasts will want to put the Frist Center for Visual Arts on their must-see list, and music lovers can catch some of the country’s best bluegrass at the legendary Station Inn.
While in The Gulch, be sure to grab a bite at neighborhood star Biscuit Love. This breakfast hotspot has won raves for its mouthwatering twist on one of the southern classics: tender buttermilk biscuits topped with everything from cheese grits to country ham.
And check out the trendy Pinewood Social, a cutting-edge coffee shop/restaurant/lounge set in the old Trolley Barns.
Whether you’re a foodie, history buff, or music enthusiast, the Midtown/West End district will hit all the right notes. This bustling neighborhood boasts dozens of excellent restaurants and cozy bars, and its proximity to Vanderbilt University and Belmont University gives it a special youthful vibe.
Visit the stately Belmont Mansion, built in 1863. Unwind in Centennial Park, Nashville’s largest urban park. Or scope out Music Row, home to legendary recording studios.
When to visit
Cards on the table: the best time to visit Nashville depends on your budget and your tolerance for heat and crowds. When this town gets hot during the summer months (June through August), it really sizzles. It’s alive with cultural events – but it bakes with temperatures nudging 90 degrees.
Summer is also peak tourist season, so be prepared to joust with crowds to get into your target destinations. You’ll also need to be prepared for higher hotel rates and lower availability.
The ideal times to visit Nashville are the “shoulder seasons” between March and May or September and November. During those periods, you’ll enjoy the weather at its best: warm temperatures during the day and cooler temps at night. You’ll also enjoy smaller crowds, plus lower flight and hotel costs.
Nashville is served by Nashville International Airport (BNA), located about 8 miles southeast of downtown. Several major airlines fly into BNA from domestic & international destinations, including:
- Allegiant Air
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
Nashville is well-connected by road to cities in Tennessee and its neighboring states. Popular routes into Nashville and estimated driving times include:
- Knoxville, TN (2h42m)
- Memphis, TN (3h10m)
- Chattanooga, TN (2h16m)
- Birmingham, AL (2h45m)
- Louisville, KY (2h57m)
- Atlanta, GA (4h)
- Asheville, NC (4h31m)
Wondering how to get around Nashville? You’ve got plenty of options!
The WeGo bus system makes it pretty easy to get around downtown and many parts of the city. And all-day passes for just $5.25 make it a good deal. Nashville MTA also runs a free Music City Circuit bus service that hits many sightseeing highlights.
For a more “customized” transportation experience without the headache of dealing with traffic and parking, Uber and Lyft are the two most popular ride-share companies in Nashville, and both are available city-wide.
You’ll also find a number of interesting “touristy” options, including pedicabs and trolleys, which let you hop off at your chosen destination.
Want to go the DIY route? Rent a vehicle from a local company like Discover Cars, or scope out a scooter from companies like Bird, Lime, or Lyft.
Or, if you want to put your foot to the pedal, check out Nashville’s B-Cycle program. You can rent a bike and drop it off at any one of over 30 stations.