Things to do in Nashville

By Eloise Barker

Photography by Sean Pavone / 123RF

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August 2017

Are you ready for Nashville? Tune in to the Big 98 on the radio, squeeze your toes into some tight boots and strut into town with our things to do guide. Eat, drink and dance the night away: this city is good to the last drop.

Southern food means a lot of chicken and shrimp, a good barbecue and a hearty breakfast

Musical legends

For a tour of Music City, head to RCA Studio B, where Elvis recorded over 200 of his songs and played the old Steinway piano that still sits in the studio. Tours come as part of a package with the massive Country Music Hall of Fame. If you're searching for a spotlight, you can even make your own CD at Ryman’s Auditorium.

Exploring Downtown, you’ll find yourself wandering down Broadway to Legend’s Corner, where the best live acts perform and supersized guitars adorn the street. A new mural was unveiled in 2017, featuring 14 country artists. Look out for a slinky-looking Taylor Swift staring down Dolly Parton.

There are two museums in the centre of Nashville dedicated to single stars. The first is George Jones, who has more charting hits than every other country music artist. The Johnny Cash Museum opened in 2013, and paints a full picture of the beloved ‘man in black’. Buy yourself a baseball cap that simply says ‘CASH’ on it from the giftshop.

Stay at: The Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown Hotel is built around a bright atrium and is a popular four-star for visitors.

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame

  • Inside historic RCA Studio B. ©CK Photo. Courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

    The night they drove Old Dixie down

    Are you put up in Heartbreak Hotel, rockin’ around the Christmas tree or just dust in the wind? Artists have recorded their greatest hits in Nashville for decades.

    Book your Nashville flights
  • The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, TN. ©Jennifer Wright / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Music City

    Nashville is famously known as Music City, a moniker it wears loud and proud. Count how many times you see it writ.

    Book flights
  • Neon signs on Lower Broadway (Nashville) at Night. © Nina Dietzel.

    Let there be light

    The city of Nashville was famously founded around Christmas, 1779. Since then, plenty of its residents have found fame, from Sheryl Crow to Oprah Winfrey.

    Introducing Nashville

Nights on the town

For country music, you’ll find bars with all the trappings on Broadway, line dancing and mechanical bulls included. Wildhorse Saloon is on all the tours, it has three floors, and a main stage, dancefloor and tables – not to mention horse statues everywhere.

North of the saloon, sneak down historic Printer’s Alley, where Nashville’s publishing scene had its epicentre. Skull’s Rainbow Room reopened here in 2015 – after the original owner was brutally murdered in 1998. With a story like that, it’s worth sticking your head in.

East Nashville is better for dive bars, craft everything, and a more low-key setting. Sample whiskey cocktails and head to the Crying Wolf for masculine décor and stiff drinks. There are plenty of bro-heavy sports bars for watching the local Tennessee Titans games. For sports without the sports fans, book a bowling lane at Pinewood Social and mingle with Nashville’s plaid-clad hipster locals.

Stay at: Once you’re done with line dancing, whiskey cocktails and that one last spin on the mechanical bull, you need a place to lay your head. If you’re looking for the lap of luxury, stay at the Loews Vanderbilt Nashville, with its big bright modern rooms and a nod to the city in the form of a lobby jukebox.

Book onto a Discover Nashville Tour

Good eating

Southern food means a lot of chicken and shrimp, a good barbecue and a hearty breakfast. Grits and pancakes start your day. At lunch, a hotdog, or a famous burger from Pharmacy burgers or the massive ACME feed and seed should sort you out. If you’re lucky enough to get a parking spot, then head to the daily Nashville farmer’s market.

For a snack, go for something unhealthy. The Goo Goo Bakery downtown opposite the Johnny Cash museum is famous for goo goo clusters, a Tennessee special made from nougat, peanuts and chocolate. Tennessee is famous for hot chicken – it’s deep fried and dusted in dry spices. There are a set of vendors that everyone visits: Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Hattie B’s and Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish (where it comes on a handy stick) should make your hot chicken hot list.

If you want a fancy dinner, Husk has a formidable reputation which means it’s often hard to book a table. Husk claims to have rediscovered southern cooking, but for visitors, its also a great introduction to local ingredients and southern tastes: killed lettuce, pickled peach, griddle cakes.

Stay at: The Doubletree by Hilton Nashville Downtown is a three-star hotel in a great location near the popular city centre sights.

Explore the city on a hop-on hop-off trolley tour

  • The Pinnacle at Symphony Place and the AT&T Building in Nashville. © kneverett.

    Bright lights, big city

    There’s plenty to do in Nashville, the state capital and largest city in Tennessee.

  • A cast iron frying pan of fried chicken, USA, Tennessee, Nashville. © Melodie DeWitt.

    Some like it hot

    Cayenne pepper makes the Nashvillian dish of hot chicken extra spicy. The dish originated as a prank on an unsuspecting husband. But he liked the surprise spice so much that a new speciality was born.

  • Vegetables in baskets for sale at a stall. © Mats Andren / EyeEm.

    Go green

    In the fine weather, go outside and discover farmer’s markets, the Centennial Park and the waterfront, or go beyond the city to Arrington Vineyards.

Take it outside

Take some fresh air with a stroll around West Riverfront Park, easily accessed across the pedestrian bridge from Downtown. You’ll get a best view of the skyscrapers – the AT&T building dominates the Nashville skyline and looks heroic in all your photos – as the top resembles the superhero’s mask, the locals call it the Batman Building.

Kick back in Centennial Park. Anne Robertson Cockrill was awarded the land due to her bravery defending Fort Nashborough from native Americans (she poured boiling water on them). The park is famous now for its model of the Athenian Parthenon. Fort Nashborough itself has finally reopened to the public after years of construction delays – find it in Downtown.

With a car, the open road is tempting. Take the Natchez Trace Parkway out of town, a historic forest trail that retraces an old Native American route to Alabama. Stop for breakfast at the famous Loveless Café for their biscuits and stop again in the Timberland Park by the Double Arch Bridge.

Stay at: Opposite Centennial Park, so that’s your early morning stroll sorted, the Nashville Marriott is also near Vandebilt University.

Pick up your pass to Madame Tussauds Nashville