From country music to contemporary art, Nashville has got it all. The vibrant Music City, with its hipster vibes and caravans of drunk pedal tavern riders, is always ready for a party. There’s so much to do in Tennessee’s capital city, but we’ll stick to just these 12 things (for now) to give you a little taste of Nashville.
1. Go Country at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
When in the Music City, you can’t miss the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The museum is considered the “Smithsonian of country music”. Its permanent exhibit is a walk through country music’s history and traditions, showcasing famous artists’ instruments, stage costumes, and even cars. Rotating exhibits focus on certain eras and artists in country music. Currently on are exhibits showcasing The Judds, Little Big Town, music of the 70s, and music of 2017. A tour of the museum culminates in the Country Music Hall of Fame, a large circular room containing bronze plaques naming the inductees into the Hall of Fame.
Even if you’re not a fan of country music (which I am not), visiting the museum is still worth while to learn about the music that shaped Nashville.
2. Bar Hop on Lower Broadway
Lower Broadway is Nashville’s Honkey Tonk Highway, a stretch of bars pouring beers and pumping out loud live music. Some of country music’s biggest stars got their start on Lower Broadway, and musicians today are still trying to catch their big break there. Lower Broadway is the place to go for some Music City bar hopping and getting a good mix of the city’s country, bluegrass, and rockabilly roots.
3. Catch a Concert at…
The Ryman Auditorium, Bridgestone Arena, Ascend Amphitheater, you name it. Back in my day (because I’m old now), we would go up to Nashville to see bands play at Rocketown, and that’s the only venue I ever knew because alternative bands only play at venues attached to skate parks I guess.
4. Wonder How You Ended Up In Ancient Greece at the Parthenon
In the center of Centennial Park stands the Parthenon. No, you didn’t take a wrong turn and end up in Greece. The Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the one in Athens, Greece. It was built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, but now it’s the home of Nashville’s art museum. The primary collection is American Impressionism donated by James M. Cowan, but the main exhibit is really the full-scale replica of Athena Parthenos. Athena was added to the Parthenon in 1982, though her construction took eight years to complete and she wasn’t gilded until 2002. Now she stands tall at 42 feet.
5. See Something New at Frist Art Museum
Housed in the historic U.S. Post Office building, Frist Art Museum is a contemporary art museum that keeps new art flowing through it every 6 to 8 weeks, so you can see something new with each visit. Current exhibits include Chaos and Awe: Painting for the 21st Century; We Shall Overcome: Civil Rights and the Nashville Press, 1957–1968; The Presence of Your Absence Is Everywhere: Afruz Amighi; and my favorite, Image Building: How Photography Transforms Architecture.
6. Play With the Polar Bear Statues
At 1408 Edgehill Ave., two polar bears play in a chilling snowball fight at the entrance of a retirement home. The bears have been frozen in this game since the 1930 when they were created to advertise a Polar Bear Frozen Custard shop on West End Ave. There were multiple bears advertising these shops around the city, and once the businesses shut down the bears were shuffled from home to home and even stood outside a funeral home for a while. These two bears in particular made their home at the retirement center in 2005 and have played in their plaza there ever since. Nashville historian and blogger Debie Cox has a great history of the polar bears here.
7. Watch a Nashville Predators Game
The Predators are Nashville’s NHL ice hockey team, and the fans are loud and crazy when they pack the Bridgestone Arena for the team’s home games. If you go, you’ll need to brush up on your heckling and learn all the Predators fan chants so you can really get into the game.
8. Go Shopping at Opry Mills
On the site of the old Opryland theme park is something that’ll probably cause you to spend just as much money — Opry Mills, Tennessee’s largest outlet mall. Opry Mills has stores like Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Forever 21, J.Crew Factory Store, and Vera Bradley Outlet, as well as plenty of restaurants, a movie theater, and a Madame Tussauds.
9. Try to Break Out of an Escape Game
New escape rooms are popping up all over Nashville, but the one that I recommend is The Escape Game Nashville. Their games are well designed and their clues fun and well thought out. We managed to break out of The Heist with only seconds to spare! I always love feeling like Nancy Drew.
10. See Bears at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere has recently opened up an Expedition Peru exhibit that has bears! These bears, hailing from Darkest Peru, arrived at Paddington Station with just a battered hat, duffel coat, and battered suitcase with a hidden compartment for extra marmalade — oh, no wait, I’m getting my bears mixed up. The Nashville Zoo has three Andean Bears, also called Spectacled Bears because the white pattern around their eyes look like glasses, and more than 2,761 other animals like tigers, red pandas, kangaroos (which you can pet), and clouded leopards.
11. Relax at Rockland Recreation Area
If you’re willing to venture a little outside the city, Rockland Recreation Area in Hendersonville is a relaxing spot on the shore of Old Hickory Lake just upstream on Cumberland River. This is a great spot for picnicking and sitting around catching some rays and enjoying time with friends.
12. Explore Modern Nashville at The Gulch
The Gulch district took Nashville’s neglected railroad yard and turned it into one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods. It has everything that the rest of Nashville has — music, shopping, dining — but with a trendy, rather than country, vibe. People wait hours in line under the hot sun to get a picture in front of the wildly popular What Lifts You wing mural here. But there are plenty of great places to eat, some with boozy milkshakes, for when you’re done waiting in line!
What’s your favorite thing to do in Nashville? Let me know in the comments!