Nashville is Tennessee’s self-styled Music City. This fast-growing city still has a small town feel and its residents will give you a warm southern welcome.
There’s no end of things to do and see, including fascinating museums and historic buildings, live music venues, bars and restaurants and a beautiful riverfront space that’s ideal for a stroll or a picnic.
If you’re planning to visit, here are our suggestions for fifteen unique things to do in Nashville, Tennessee.
Unique Things To Do In Nashville Tennessee
Grand Ole Opry House
The Grand Ole Opry is the home of country music. This concert hall hosts a weekly concert.
The tradition started in 1925, long before the current venue was built, with a radio “barn dance” broadcast on WSM. Those impeccable credentials mean that Grand Ole Opry House can – and does – book the best names in the business.
Backstage tours are offered too, so you might get to tread the hallowed boards and see that famous inlay that was transferred from the original Ryman stage. Peer into some of the 18 uniquely-themed dressing rooms as you listen to stories from days past from an entertaining guide.
You’ll be treated to photos and archive footage, but the 10 mile trip from downtown Nashville is worth it for the music alone.
The Grand Ole Opry was broadcast from the Ryman Auditorium from 1943 to 1974, giving the place its nickname “Grand Ole Opry House”. It was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. But its fortunes stumbled when the Opry moved out to better digs.
Neglected for a time, it fell into a state of disrepair but was restored to its former glory and re-emerged in the late 1990s as a concert hall. In 2001, it was awarded National Historic Landmark status.
The Opry often settles back in for a winter residency, preferring this smaller downtown venue during tourism’s low season and maintaining that all important connection to its roots.
Catch a show or take a tour to find out more about the legendary performers who have trodden its stage, including Elvis, Johnny Cash, Paul Simon, Tom Petty and B.B. King.
Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame
Boasting a collection of more than 2.5 million artefacts spanning the history of country music, the question is not whether you should visit the Country Music Hall of Fame but how many times you’ll wish to do so.
The exhibits inside the Hall of Fame include vintage photographs, recorded sound and original video footage. Without question one of the most impressive spaces is the Hall of Fame’s Rotunda. Crane your neck under its domed roof to read the inscription: “Will the circle be unbroken”.
On the walls, bronze plaques commemorate many of the biggest names in the business, from Kenny Rogers to Patsy Cline and Hank Williams to Johnny Cash.
Take a tour of Historic RCA Studio B
Some of the greatest names in the history of music have laid down tracks at Nashville’s Historic RCA Studio B.
Take a tour of this incredible place and you’ll be following in the footsteps of Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Fats Domino and the creator of the Nashville Sound, Chet Atkins.
The recording studio opened in 1957, but when a larger studio opened next door, that became Studio A; eventually C and D came along too. Accompanied by a guide, you’ll be able to see for yourself where the magic happened and learn more about the place where musical history was made.
Stroll along the Music City Walk of Fame
Nashville’s take on Hollywood’s pavement full of stars is its Music City Walk of Fame.
It’s one of the attractions on the city’s famous Music Mile and pays tribute to those with connections to Nashville who contributed to the music industry.
Honorees span all genres, from classical to country via rock and pop. Among the many that have their name on a star are Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Faith Hill, Amy Grant and the Kings of Leon.
Posthumous recognition has been given to many more musicians with a connection to Nashville, such as Jimi Hendrix and Eddy Arnold. Have a wander and see how many of your favorites you can spot.
Find out how it all began at Fort Nashborough History Center
The city of Nashville was founded back in 1780 when two men named James Robertson and John Donelson led a group of pioneers over the frozen Cumberland River and built a fort at the Cedar Bluffs.
It was never a military fort, though periodically they came under attack from the Native Americans whose land it was. The log stockade the men constructed contained twenty log cabins, fenced in to keep out wild animals. It was abandoned in 1794.
A small replica of the fort, located on the waterfront, was recently replaced by an interpretative centre which offers a more balanced account of the events of the time.
Look around the Tennessee State Capitol
Architect William Strickland’s greatest achievement – according to the man himself – is the Tennessee State Capitol building. It’s a little unusual, being one of just a handful of state capitols that doesn’t have a dome.
Though he was involved in overseeing its construction, Strickland never got to see it finished. He died in 1854 and was buried in its north façade. The building opened five years later.
Today, it houses the Tennessee General Assembly and it’s also where you’ll find the office of the state governor. The general public are welcome to tour the premises, either on their own or as part of an escorted group.
Make sure you take a stroll around the grounds too, as that’s where you’ll find statues of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson, plus the tomb of President Polk.
Browse the exhibits in the Tennessee State Museum
If you’re keen to learn more about Tennesseans and their home turf, then you need to come to their State Museum.
The area’s history, from prehistoric times to the present day, is presented in an engaging way.
Exhibits include antique furniture, works of art, a textile collection which includes a rare 13-star flag and fascinating photographs which help bring the accompanying text to life.
You’ll find out that a mammal a little like a red panda roamed the land around five million years ago, learn about the lives of early settlers through a cutaway log cabin and explore themes such as social change and the civil rights movement.
The museum’s whimsical Children’s Gallery engages youngsters in a fun yet educational way.
Imagine you’re in Athens at The Parthenon
Nashville is sometimes nicknamed the “Athens of the South”. Like its Greek counterpart, the city places great emphasis on learning.
Ponder that as you stand in front of this full-size replica of Athens’ famous Parthenon, which is especially beautiful when it’s illuminated in the evening.
When it was erected in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, no one could have dreamed it would still be standing more than a century later – it was only ever supposed to be temporary.
But when it came to tear it down, Nashvillians got all protective of it and so it’s still here, albeit improved in the 1920s to improve its ability to stand the test of time.
The likeness to the original extends beyond the exterior, where efforts were made to reproduce some of the columns. The impressive statue of Athena came later, installed in 1990 and finally painted in 2002.
Explore the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
Eight miles from downtown Nashville in Belle Meade, you’ll find Cheekwood Estate and Gardens.
The Cheeks, Leslie and Mabel, built the place as their home in 1929, but since 1960, this magnificent place has been repurposed as a botanical garden and art museum. In spring and summer, floral displays add color to the landscape.
By fall, the leaves of the oak, maple and dogwood trees are on the turn, to be replaced by the twinkling lights that signal the start of the festive season. A varied collection of art can be seen in the Cheek’s Georgian-inspired mansion.
National Museum of African American Music
The National Museum of African American Music opened in January 2021 and celebrates the contribution of African Americans to the world of music.
Nashville was the obvious choice when considering where to site this new venture, not least because artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles and Little Richard are just three of the many African American performers who were a part of Nashville music scene at the beginning of their career.
More than fifty genres are covered in this fascinating collection, including R&B, hip hop and jazz. More than 1600 artefacts are already on display, including stage costumes, instruments and other memorabilia.
Admire the collection at the Gallery of Iconic Guitars
You’ll find the Gallery of Iconic Guitars at Nashville’s Belmont University.
Thanks to a generous gift by Stephen Kern Shaw of more than 500 instruments, this is home to some exceptionally rare and unusual guitars.
These include a 1939 Martin D-45 (only 91 of them were ever made), a 1938 Gibson SJ-200, dubbed “The King of the Flattops, and classic Fender Stratocasters from their 1950s heyday.
As well as guitars, other stringed instruments are represented and some surprising connections are made.
For instance, there’s a collection of mandolins which help visitors trace the link between this 18th century Italian instrument and the American bluegrass sound.
Pick your favorite: Cline, Cash or Campbell?
Nashville’s home to museums celebrating the life and works of three great musical talents: Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell.
The first two share the same building. Patsy’s collection is upstairs and includes a copy of every 45 RPM record she ever released, the key to the city of New York which she was awarded in 1961 and the silver watch she was wearing when she died in the tragic 1963 plane crash, a gift from her husband.
Just as valuable are some of the exhibits downstairs in the Johnny Cash Museum. There’s the Cash family piano, a vintage radio to help you imagine how as a child Cash would listen to the Grand Ole Opry with his family, together with platinum discs, handwritten lyrics and his custom-made Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar.
A block closer to the river is the Glen Campbell Museum and Rhinestone Stage. Hum some of his greatest hits, such as Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman, as you peruse the memorabilia which includes stage outfits, instruments and awards.
A laptop used towards the end of his career to help him remember his lyrics as he bravely battled Alzheimer’s is perhaps the most poignant exhibit of all.
Get your fill of art and architecture at the Frist Art Museum
The Frist Art Museum occupies what was once Nashville’s US Post Office building. This Art Deco gem took shape from 1933 and 1934.
The elegant, classical exterior is faced in white Georgia marble accentuated with Minnesotan granite. Inside, it’s unmistakably of its time with marble floors, cast aluminum doors and those distinctive period details that makes Art Deco so easy to recognize and so beloved.
The art’s special too: constantly changing exhibitions that showcase art from around the world. The Frist is especially proud of its Martin ArtQuest gallery. This interactive space promotes hands-on creative activities designed to engage, delight and inspire.
Grab tickets for a local game
Watching a game at Nashville’s top sports venues is a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening. NHL’s represented by the Nashville Predators, and this fast-paced game is a thrill from the moment the puck hits the ice. Not for nothing do fans refer to their team as “Smashville”.
You’ll find them at the Bridgestone Arena from October to April and the venue’s also home to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Taking up the spectator sport baton throughout the warmer months are the Nashville Sounds Baseball team. Head over to First Horizon Park to watch the action from April to September.
If football’s more your thing, grab tickets to watch the NFL Tennessee Titans in action. The team started out as the Houston Oilers but moved to Nashville in the late 1990s for a name change and a residency at Nissan Stadium.
Whoever you choose to root for, make sure you’re ready to cheer them on as enthusiastically as the locals do.
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