Things To Do In Nashville
Part iconic record shop, part retro recording studio, Third Man Records is a Nashville landmark that is owned and operated by modern music legend, Jack White (White Stripes, Raconteurs)! Stop by to grab some rare vinyl, chop it up with the knowledgeable (very cool) staff, or even book a recording session that ends with a personal 7” of whatever you come up with in the booth. Oh, and you might even be in luck – sometimes Mr. White himself shows up!
Formerly The Cumberland Science museum, this place has been a fun, educational centerpiece of the Athens of the South for many years. It’s evolved with the times, renovated, and remained relevant for kids and adults alike. Bring your kids for an afternoon of curiosity (effectively disguised as playtime) or bring your partner to one of their awesome and fascinating date night events. They also have a domed planetarium with light shows and virtual journeys into the final frontier!
Nestled in the heart of Nashville, this bustling museum boasts the WORLD’s most complete collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia. Seriously, this place has everything Cash. Not only is it a fitting tribute to a foundational figure in music history, but it’s a darn good museum as well – you don’t even have to care about Johnny Cash to appreciate this shrine of americana. It’s in the most walkable block of the city, too, with the Johnny Cash Kitchen and Saloon next door and the historic Ryman Auditorium a four-minute walk away.
This is where it all started, folks. Founded right here in the Berry Hill area of greater Nashville by local university students, The Escape Game (TEG for the cool cats) combines the very best in immersion with unforgettably satisfying puzzles. If you think an escape room is a locked door plus math, you’ve got another thing coming. You can hear the laughter and gasps from the hallways in this place. It’s the best in the biz and with three locations around town (Berry Hill, Downtown, AND Opry Mills Mall) there’s an adventure right around any corner. Every national brand starts somewhere and this one shines the light of adventure right here in Music City for anyone looking to experience their finest hour.
If you have a free evening in Nashville, you should be at House of Cards. One of Nashville’s newest and most unique dining/entertainment experiences, House of Cards elegantly combines fine dining, craft cocktails, and MAGIC performed by some of the nation’s top magicians. A dress code is enforced (sport coats for the fellas, cocktail dresses for the ladies) but that only enhances the experience, as this place is pure class. Add the stunning decor and a legitimately impressive collection of vintage magic ephemera, and you have an evening you won’t soon forget. This place is popular, even among locals, so reservations are encouraged.
Fun fact: Nashville was named the Athens of the South before the Nashville Parthenon was built (because of all the universities around in the 1800s). The Parthenon in Centennial Park was built as an exact replica of the ancient Athenian marvel. It’s considered to be the peak of classic architecture and Nashville’s version is no different. It’s the same thing – inch for inch. The molds for the sculptural castings were even taken from the original marble reliefs and standing within the deceptively massive walls is an exact replica of the Athena statue. The building also served as Nashville’s only real art museum for quite a while, housing 63 19th and 20th century original paintings by American artists. There’s a lot to enjoy inside the Parthenon, but outside is a real treat as well. It sits at the center of the iconic and gorgeous Centennial Park. Huge fields. Duck ponds. Amphitheater for local talent. What’s not to love?
Ladies and gentlemen, The Grand Ole Opry. It’s the most famous stage in Nashville, and one of the most famous and historical venues in the world. With near constant shows, you can easily grab tickets to the main event and enjoy some classics, or you could opt for the tour and head backstage! The Opry has no shortage of history and is actually largely responsible for modern FM radio broadcasting (look it up! It’s why we’re called Music City). The current location is on the Opryland hotel and Opry Mills mall campus, so take a walk, do some shopping, grab a bite, and enjoy an unforgettable show. The original Grand Ole Opry stage is in the historic Ryman Auditorium, but that gets its own listing.
The Ryman needs no introduction (but I’ll give it one anyway). The original Grand Ole Opry venue until 1974, The Ryman’s significance (and acoustics) can’t be overstated. It’s an essential piece of Nashville and a shrine to music history. The WSM (later, Grand Ole Opry) broadcasts on FM radio reached people that traditional AM (the standard at the time) couldn’t and established Nashville as The Music City. That’s right. Music City started in The Ryman. The tours are worth checking out for sure, but my recommendation would be to catch a concert if you can. It’s easily my favorite venue in the city and has been home to artists, musicians, and comedians from every corner of the arts for many, many years (plus, it’s on 5th Avenue – walking distance from most mentionable downtown Nashville attractions).
Take a hike! No, seriously, there are few slices of wilderness more scenic and beautiful than Radnor in Middle Tennessee. Just outside the city, in Oak Hill, Radnor offers miles of unpaved hiking trails (of varying difficulty – for all my real hikers out there), and year-round displays of the native wildlife. With constant events, festivals, and even art shows, the 1,300+ acre preserve really could be the highlight of your trip. Hang out with the deer and otters that call Tennessee home, and take in the idyllic vistas upon the water. Don’t just take my word for it, even Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler made time for a hike the last time he was here (according to his Instagram). It’s family and pet friendly, and a very easy way to lose track of your afternoon.
When’s the last time you enjoyed a trendy restaurant that had comfortable coffee, craft cocktail bar, and bowling alley? Oh, and a SWIMMING POOL? My guess is never. How would such a place even work? Well Pinewood Social has figured out the magic formula that brings these things together in a shockingly cohesive dream-come-true. On top of all those offerings (and in spite of the chaos you might imagine in such a place) Pinewood even excels as a relaxing workspace. I know it sounds too good (or wild) to be true, but you owe it to yourself to check it out while you’re in Nashville. Stop in for a drink or book a table and a lane and enjoy.
Nashville hot chicken. You’ve heard of it. It is, in fact, one of the true delights of this city. It’s made its rounds as a trend in national chains, but no one else really gets it right (as somewhat of a connoisseur, you can take my word for it). Now Hattie B’s isn’t the first to do it, but because of availability, consistency (and branding), it’s managed to achieve the rare combination of popularity among both locals and tourists. It’s the real deal. If you’re dubious about your spice tolerance, fear not! Hattie B’s offers its famous recipes in a range from approachable to absolutely insane. Oh, and the sides can’t be beat either. Pro tip: go for Sunday brunch when they offer hot chicken on fluffy belgian waffles with a side of southern grits.
The chances of meeting Taylor Swift are pretty low. The chances of meeting Johnny Cash? Well, you’re a bit late. But all hope is not lost! Check out the incredible lyrical and musical wax sculpture tour of Madame Tussaud’s Nashville where you’ll find exquisite and uncanny sculptures of country stars past and present. Country not really your thing? No problem. Stroll through music history with “appearances” from the likes of blues legend Muddy Waters and even venerable vagabond (young) Bob Dylan. This is actually a great way to start your melodic journey through Nashville. Plugged right into Music City heritage, you’ll find this location next to the round stage inside Opry Mills Mall, on the Opry campus that’s home to both the Opryland Resort and the Grand Ole Opry.
This is a pretty easy sell. Sit down and prepare your own fluffy pancakes while enjoying some southern comfort. In the heart of historic Berry Hill (right outside of the city), the Pfunky Griddle offers an all-you-can-eat experience where every party gets a personal griddle to craft unique pancake creations with a bevy of toppings and add-ons at your disposal. Heck, throw some french toast on there while you’re at it! Not sold on the idea of cooking your own food at a restaurant? Go off the griddle and try some of their decadent sandwiches and salads. Either way, you’re gonna be glad you went. The coffee is fresh and you can take the experience home with a bag of Pfunky batter on your way out!
Here’s one for even the most insatiable sweet tooth. Legendairy (yes that’s spelled correctly) Milkshake Bar has been blessing Nashville with their signature Blue Bell ice cream shakes for a while and have been featured on The Cooking Channel’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. That seems like some incredulous praise, but I’m here to tell you that you’ll understand once you’ve seen these creamy masterpieces. Each signature shake comes piled high with an entire dessert on top. That’s right – it’s treats on treats. Just click that link above and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s right on 3rd Ave too, so you can plan your visit around a 60-minute adventure at The Escape Game across the street or hit the broadway strip just minutes away.
If you can swing a booking at this place, do it. It’s on the Opry campus, flanked by the Opry Mills Mall and iconic Grand Ole Opry. For the rest of us, luckily it’s open to the public to walk around and enjoy the gorgeously remodeled space (it was underwater during the Nashville flood of 2010, look it up. It was crazy). One unmissable space is the palatial arboretum. It’s as massive as it is majestic. Enchant yourself with its indoor gardens, waterfalls, and even a boat ride. It’s surrounded by a small village of shops and restaurants too. Pro tip: go during the holidays if you can. A breathtakingly enormous Christmas tree is erected and the space is transformed into a winter wonderland. You’ll have plenty of reasons to check it out, since no Nashville visit is complete without doing something on the Opry campus.
Exit/In is a venue, but not just any venue. It might not appear on many travel lists as it doesn’t offer tours and, honestly, it’s not really anything special to look at. But what it lacks in touristy amenities, it makes up for with its independent charm and shear volume of historic performances. You need only take a look at the wall of fame painted on the exterior to understand and appreciate the significance of this place. You won’t believe the acts that have taken that small unassuming stage. I’m serious. Check out the history (http://www.exitin.com/about/). Exit/In holds a very special place in my heart for the uniquely unforgettable experiences I’ve had there. Like I said, you’re not gonna be able to walk in and see what I mean by looking around, but I highly recommend catching a show if you can. Lose yourself in the music, vibe with strangers in their cool leather jackets, and make some memories. Then you’ll get it.
What does one of Nashville’s best live music bars and mustard have in common? The building, of course! While that’s technically true, Nashville’s historic Cannery building (built in 1883 to produce food products, i.e. mustard) was transformed into a quaint, happening, and endlessly cool live music club in 2003. Enter: the Mercy Lounge. This 500 capacity venue was an instant hit with locals. It’s central lowkey location off 8th avenue (half a mile from downtown), relaxed and hospitable atmosphere, and knack for attracting some heavy-hitting talent quickly launched it into national recognition. They’ve since acquired a more spacious venue for huge touring acts called the Cannery Ballroom and a smaller space for emerging artists called the High Watt. It’s all where the mustard used to be in the historic building on Cannery Row. With almost nightly shows and events (and some great bars), it won’t be hard to find a reason to drop in.
A sweet little gem with locations scattered throughout greater Nashville, Five Daughters Bakery was founded in Franklin, TN by a third-generation baker, his wife, and their five daughters. Offering fresh-baked comforts like their famous doughnuts and cookies, Five Daughters committed from day 1 to serve only the best ingredients (many of them local) along with a warm smile and welcoming atmosphere. The bottom line is the doughnuts are great – I mean real treats. The trouble is actually getting them before they sell out. But don’t worry, they’ve thought of everything. Reserve your treats online for now or later, or pop in for some glazed goodness on the go. *Vegan options are also available!
The Bar-B-Que options in Nashville can be a bit overwhelming. To help cut through the clutter, I’ll hit you with the real deal, a Nashville institution, and a personal favorite of mine. I’m talkin’ about Edley’s Bar-B-Que. Named after the founder’s grandfather who inspired the restaurant and kicked off the lineage of family-secret recipes, so you already know it’s good. As a tribute to all things southern (well, really all the best things southern) Edley’s combines the comfort and service of southern hospitality with the classic Tennessee meat-and-three dining style. Edley’s delivers only the highest-grade meats, smoked low and slow, and prepared with generational family recipes. Then you got farm-fresh produce turnin’ out 8-10 scratch-made sides and classic desserts, DAILY. If you’re in town and lookin’ for Bar-B-Que, you can’t go wrong with Edley’s.
If you’re planning a trip to Nashville, you’re probably familiar with Broadway – it might even be the reason for your trip. Well, lemme tell you, Broadway is the real deal, and famous for all the reasons you think it is. It’s been a hub of the country, nightlife, and entertainment scenes for as long as it’s been around and the neon lights from the base of Broadway at the Cumberland river are truly a sight to behold. Pretty much anywhere you stand looks like a postcard. The sights, the smells, the sounds… a Nashville trip is not complete without them. Here’s a quick guide to get you started – buy some hand-made cowboy boots, hit literally any of the spots on the Honky Tonk Highway (lower Broadway), take in the history of Printer’s Alley, and check out a Preds game if you can. If you’re here to dance, eat, shop, catch a show, or just people-watch, please don’t miss a chance to walk down this historic thoroughfare in the entertainment district of the music capital of the world.
Interested in southern cuisine but fine dining is more your style? Look no further. Husk is a Nashville treasure – exploring and celebrating southern cuisine with a menu curated to utilize strictly local ingredients. That’s to say, even though the menu is evolving and ingredient-driven, if it’s not from the South, it’s not touching your plate. Seed-saving, heirloom husbandry, in-house pickling and charcuterie programs by Executive Chef Katie Coss and her culinary team are the basis of Husk’s cuisine. If you want to experience uniquely southern food in the heart of Nashville (Husk is just blocks from Broadway) and you’re the type to dress up for a meal, I highly recommend checking out Husk.
Oh, so you wanna play games? Well Game Point Cafe has you covered. We’re talkin wall-to-wall board games, dedicated space for folks of all ages, and a pretty remarkable cafe menu. The brainchild of two board game lovers (one being the founder of the local staple coffee shop, Bongo Java), Game Point Cafe delivers both on the game selection (venerable classics to modern strategy) and the vibe of a chill Nashville cafe. The location is also killer. It’s right in the super hip Five Points section of the ever-trendy East Nashville. Kick back with the family, grab hummus plate, and melt into a comforting classic, or step up the competition with a more modern option. We’ve all gotta unplug enjoy some good company. Why not do it around a game with a hot beverage in your hand?
Arnold’s… Arnold’s, Arnold’s, Arnold’s. Where do I even begin? I mean, the name says it all – this is a REAL country kitchen. Arnold’s is a mom and pop restaurant, opened almost 30 years ago by the Arnold family, and you’ll still find two or three of them in there on any given day. This place is impossible to resist. EVERYTHING is made from scratch by the same family that’s been doing it since day one. You’ll come for the signature roast beef and stay for the unbelievable pie. My guess is, you’ll actually find plenty of reasons to stay. An absolute institution for Nashvillians and visitors alike, Arnold’s is not just legendary, it’s decorated. Winner of the 2009 James Beard American Classics Award, and featured in publications like Bon Appetit, and shows like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, this is a can’t-miss in Nashville. And after you leave, if you just can’t get that pie off your mind, you can have one shipped anywhere in the US.
Their description says it best – The Catbird Seat is a “Buzzy, upscale new American mecca serving a changing tasting menu in a U-shaped open kitchen.” The Catbird Seat is absolute fine dining. The experience here is that of the world-renowned restaurants and celebrity chefs you see on TV and think “where the heck is that place?” It’s here, in Nashville! By reservation only, this is one for true aficionados of the culinary arts. The counter seating provides guests the opportunity to view the inner workings of an active kitchen and the ever-evolving tasting menu celebrates ingredients with an emphasis on those sourced at the peak of the season. If you can swing it, I recommend getting your reservation now.
The Belcourt is as iconic and important to the arts as any stage, hall, or venue in Nashville. This place has been here (in the SAME location) for almost 100 years. It’s been in many hands throughout the previous decades but the current state of the Theatre is an amazing non-profit institution dedicated to the education of guests and the celebration of cinema. Check out indie productions, documentaries, cult classics, and oddities in this historic southern film Mecca. Though upgrading to some pretty sweet 4K digital projectors during recent renovations, you can still catch some occasional gems on the original 35mm projectors rolling traditional film stock.
Another big Nashville (well, close to it) classic – Cheekwood is an old country place era estate that was converted into a top-notch museum in the center of a 55 acre eden-esque botanical garden. From world-class art exhibitions to sprawling celebrations of the seasons – there’s always something goin on at Cheekwood. Visiting in the Spring? Feast your eyes on 150,000 blooming bulbs! Visiting toward the end of the year? Check out a MILE of holiday lights. From the pristine grounds to the breathtaking indoor and outdoor exhibitions, there’s something for everybody.
Founded by two guys with an unbridled passion for rock climbing, Climb Nashville takes a community-driven approach to the sport of climbing. The gyms are modern and massive. The staff is helpful and caring. The atmosphere is welcoming and encouraging. Nashville may not be abundant in natural cliffs, but it is overflowing with hospitality. There’s no better environment for a good workout. Oh, and you get to CLIMB GIANT WALLS.
Voted Best Regional Attraction and Best Day Trip by The Tennessean, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is a progressive and dynamic zoological park. Currently occupying only 90 of its 188 acres, this zoo is still the 9th largest zoo in the country. With a focus on conservation and discovery, this ever-expanding park features amazing exhibits, enclosures, and educational programs. The park is beautiful and has something for everyone – even a huge rope jungle gym for the kiddos! It’s built on a massive patch of land donated to the city decades ago, specifically for nature observation, and the zoo takes full advantage of it. Bonus – the historic Grassmere family estate house is preserved on the outer rim of the park for those interested in a tour (the lights lead you right to the front door during the whimsical holiday light display).
Nashville Shores is a huge waterpark built right on the stunning local Percy Priest lake. Grab a float, hit an intimidatingly tall slide, get dumped on by the comically oversized, but endlessly fun timed water bucket pool, or hop on a banana boat in the lake. If it’s hot outside, you probably wanna be at Nashville Shores.
This one’s a two-piece. Water park not for you, or if you just wanna make the most out of your trip? You’ve gotta hit Treetop Adventure Park. Enjoy 100 different obstacles on this adventure course strung across the beautiful woods of Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort. I’m talkin ziplines, Tarzan swings, rope nets – the works. Take it on solo, or bring the whole squad and enjoy a treetop adventure.
Live music. Your requests. All night. That’s the slogan, and I gotta say, that’s exactly what you’ll find at The Big Bang. Loved by the rare combo of locals and visitors alike, this place delivers. In their words “leave your inhibitions at the door and join the party”. Big Bang combines music, comedy (and sometimes acts like magic and juggling if you’re lucky) and audience participation in a way to create an experience unlike any other. This place is great and conveniently offers another opportunity to wear your brand new cowboy boots from your first night on Broadway.