Free things to do in Nashville

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November 2019

Southern hospitality and sunshine… both come gratis when you visit Nashville. But if you look in the right places you’ll also find plenty of sights and events to enjoy, especially at Christmas time - and they won’t cost you a single dime.

Best for… Creative types

Take notice

One of the oldest working letterpress print shops in America, Hatch Show Print is open to art lovers, music lovers, collectors and everyone else in between. Step inside and see how these legendary posters are made.

The big picture

The Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery’s permanent collection features eastern and western art, including everything from Etruscan artefacts to works by Roy Lichtenstein. Also located inside Vanderbilt University’s Student Center is the Sarratt Gallery, a small and interesting space which houses ten contemporary art exhibits a year by regional and national artists. 

See the light

The Gaylord Opryland Resort is a festive must-do thanks to its annual ‘A Country Christmas’ shindig, which takes place from mid-November through to the new year. While many events are ticketed, just wandering around the grounds will get you into the spirit of things thanks to the three million twinkling lights and lavish Christmas fountain shows. Over on the hotel’s Magnolia Lawn, the outdoor nativity display features special lighting effects and an audio rendition of the biblical story.

Follow your art

Every first Saturday of the month, art galleries open their doors from 6 to 9pm for what’s known as the First Saturday Art Crawl. Enjoy contemporary art, wine and hors d’oeuvres as you wander galleries spanning every aspect of the art world in Nashville.

Holiday cheer

Bass Pro may be a chain catering for outdoors enthusiasts but, come November, it puts on a magical Santa’s Wonderland at each of its stores. Expect the works: from rustic Christmas cabins and elves to snow-covered hills and illuminated trees. There’s loads of crafts and you can even have your photo taken with the big man himself, Father Christmas.

Puppet master

Take kids to the Nashville Public Library for their puppet shows, which take place on Friday and Saturday mornings in the Main Library in December and January. This year it’s Wishing Chair Productions' Cinderella, a musical telling filled with magical surprises and featuring exquisite puppets.

Find a Nashville hotel

  • The walk of history in the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in Nashville, TN. ©Images-USA / Alamy Stock Photo.

    State history

    Tennessee became a state in 1796 and shortly afterwards the population tripled as land was negotiated with the Cherokee and Chikasaw nations. 20% of the rising population were slaves. Nashville became the permanent state capital in 1826.

  • Hatch Show Print shop ©CK Photo courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

    Pressing matters

    Traditional posters from this unassuming letterpress are made with up to three colours and a set of wood or linoleum blocks. With this simple formula, relatively unchanged since 1879, the press has made its mark. Book return flights to Nashville and a seven night hotel stay from

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  • Facade of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee, in warm morning light. ©JacobH.

    My pediments exactly

    The Nashville Parthenon is an exact replica of the 2500-year-old temple in Athens, from the Elgin marbles to the alarming (but faithfully recreated) 13m high statue of Athena inside. Look up at her right hand – she’s holding a 1.8m statue of Nike, goddess of Victory.

Best for… Ticking off the sights

King of the road

Are there any Dukes of Hazzard fans in the house? Ben Jones, who played the family’s mechanic and sidekick, operates a Dukes of Hazzard museum called Cooter’s Place. Find pictures, props, costumes, memorabilia, and classic Dukes cars including Cooter’s two trucks, Daisy’s Jeep, Rosco’s Patrol Car, and the General Lee.

Hold the fort

Nashville was founded when James Robertson led his group of pioneers across the frozen Cumberland River to a place called The Cedar Bluffs. It was here that these men built a fort called Nashborough, which would be a shelter for the first families. Today, a replica of the fort is located at the end of Lower Broadway and is open for self-guided tours.

  • Civil War Galleries ©Tennessee State Capitol and Museum.

    Did you know…

    There were over 400 battles and skirmishes in Tennessee during the American Civil War. Only Virginia had more. You can visit many civil war sites across the state, including at Chattanooga, the site of three battles.

All is calm

The Upper Room Chapel and Christian Art Museum has become renowned for its annual ‘Night of the Child Nativity Exhibit’, in which 150 nativity scenes are displayed to tell the story of the birth of Christ through the eyes of over 35 cultures. Ranging in size from one inch to four feet high and in materials from papier-mâché to exquisite porcelains, expect whimsical to dramatic portrayals of Jesus’ birth. Opening in November and running through January.

Travel back in time

Guided tours are available Monday to Friday of the historic Tennessee State Capitol and grounds - one of the oldest-operating capitols in the country. Permanent exhibits in the Tennessee State Museum begin with prehistoric people and continue through to the early 1900s, plus there are interesting temporary shows and a Children’s Gallery. While the nearby Military Branch Museum explores America’s overseas conflicts, from the Spanish-American War through World War II.

Best for… Music City at its most tuneful

Just dance

Ring in the new year in Music City-style at Nashville’s New Year’s Eve Party. The musical extravaganza takes place at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park where you can rock out to the likes of Grammy-winner Keith Urban, Peter Frampton and Judah and the Lion before the countdown to the midnight Music Note Drop and fireworks.

Party line

Let's talk about a thing called Honky Tonk Highway. This stretch in Lower Broadway consists of a series of establishments which pump live music into the streets all day, every day. There's no cover charge but the tip jar gets passed around for those wanting to appreciate the musicians that help give Nashville the moniker Music City. Visit venues like AJ’s Good Time Bar, Legend’s Corner and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and you’ll find the party.

  • Entrance to Arrington Vineyards. ©Arrington Vineyards.

    Bring back a bottle

    If you visit Arrington Vineyards, pick up a bottle of the Antebellum. Made from four different grape varieties, this red is aged for a year in oak barrels, before spending six months in whiskey barrels to give it an extra smoothness. Goes great with pecan pie.

  • Dukes of Hazzard museum display at Cooter’s Place ©Cooter’s Place Nashville.

    Car crash television

    The television series Dukes of Hazzard has had a patchy past, courting controversy with its use of the Confederate flag, wrecking Dodge Charger after Dodge Charger, the eye-wateringly short Daisy Dukes, and the famous walk out of its two main stars. Through it all the fans have stuck around – and find heaven in this dedicated museum.

  • Cohen Memorial Hall, home of the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery. Sculpture featured: The Grand Dauphin, Son of Louis XIV, ca. 1702-05. Attributed to Giovacchino Fortini. Purchased with funds provided by Life and Casualty Insurance Company of Tennessee 1981.014.

    Vanderbilt University

    12,000 students are enrolled at the university, which ranks very high in American league tables for undergraduate teaching.Book return flights and a seven night hotel stay from

Jingle bells

The Christmas Eve Carillon Concert is a yuletide tradition that sees hundreds of people flocking to Belmont University’s campus Bell Tower on 24 December for a performance featuring traditional Christmas music played on the tower’s 42-bell carillon.

Best for… When the sun comes out

Star quality

The Music City Walk of Fame on Nashville’s Music Mile is a landmark tribute to those who have contributed to the world of music. All the artists immortalised in the sidewalk stars are connected to Music City in some way - from Keith Urban, who lives nearby with wife Nicole Kidman, to Tim McGraw, who found fame when he moved to the city. Walk along and find Elvis, Faith Hill and Roy Orbison, too.

Park it

The 132-acre Centennial Park comprises a one-mile walking trail, Lake Watauga, the Centennial Art Center and myriad historical monuments including the iconic Parthenon, which is traditionally illuminated in red and green lights at Christmas time. You’ll also come across an arts activity centre, a beautiful sunken garden, a band shell, an events shelter, sand volleyball courts, a dog park and an exercise trail. And, after all that, you’ll be exhausted.

  • Neon bar signs at night on Main Street in Nashville Tennessee. ©Martin Norris Travel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Ernest Tubb

    American country music singer Ernest Tubb pioneered honky tonk music and used to duet with Loretta Lynn. His own shop on Main Street has been open since 1947. Book flights to Nashville plus a 7 night hotel stay from£546 pp

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