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14 Must-See Attractions and Hidden Gems in Nashville, Tennessee

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 14 things (for now) to give you a little taste of Nashville. 

Nashville is one of the most exciting destinations in the U.S. and boasts a wide variety of attractions, amazing cuisine, and of course some of the best music venues in the country.

If you’re ready to make the most of your trip and explore the best places the city has to offer, then check out these fun things that should top your Nashville itinerary.

Nashville, Tennessee

Top Things to Do in Nashville

From Civil War history to music history, and from Broadway to the Gulch, there are tons of fun things to do and see in Nashville, Tennessee. Don’t miss out on these must-see Nashville attractions and hidden gems.

1. Go Country at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee

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.

Book your Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum ticket here.

2. Bar Hop on Lower Broadway

Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee

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 Broadway, and musicians today are still trying to catch their big break there.

Broadway is the place to go for Music City bar hopping and a good mix of the city’s country, bluegrass, and rockabilly roots.

Book an all-inclusive Nashville pub crawl here.

3. Catch a Concert at…

The Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry, Bridgestone Arena, Ascend Amphitheater, you name it.

Back in my day (wow, I sound old), we would go up to Nashville to see bands play at Rocketown, and that’s the only venue I ever knew because I guess alternative and emo bands only played at venues attached to skate parks back then.

But there are tons of places to see a show in Nashville! They don’t call it Music City for nothing!

Get a ticket to a Grand Ole Opry show here.

4. Tour the Belmont Mansion at Belmont University

Belmont Mansion, Nashville, Tennessee

Belmont Mansion was once the summer home of Adelicia Acklen, one of the wealthiest women in the antebellum South. Built between 1849 and 1860, it’s the largest house built in in Tennessee prior to the Civil War.

The home is located on the Belmont University campus, which no occupies what was once the Belmont estate.

A tour of the restored house gives you a glimpse into Adelicia’s life, the lives of the enslaved people who lived here, and the house’s transformation from summer home to girls’ academy to private university.

Get your tickets to Belmont Mansion here.

5. Wonder How You Ended Up In Ancient Greece at the Parthenon

Parthenon, Nashville, Tennessee

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.

6. See Something New at Frist Art Museum

Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee

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.

Examples of 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.

7. Play With the Polar Bear Statues

Polar Bear Statues, Nashville, Tennessee

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.

8. 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.

And seeing a hockey game is the perfect winter activity in Nashville!

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.

9. 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.

10. 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.

Book your escape room experience here.

11. See Bears at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

Spectacled Bear at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, Tennessee

The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere has an Expedition Peru exhibit that has bears! And I’m all about some bear-related travel!

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.

12. Relax at Rockland Recreation Area

Rockland Recreation Area, Nashville, Tennessee

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.

13. Explore Modern Nashville at The Gulch

The Gulch, Nashville, Tennessee

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 pose with the wildly popular What Lifts You mural here. But there are plenty of great places to eat, some with boozy milkshakes, for when you’re done waiting in line!

You can take a private walking food tour of The Gulch here.

14. Sing Karaoke at Cross-Eyed Critters Watering Hole

Cross-Eyed Critters Watering Hole, Nashville, Tennessee

Cross-Eyed Critters Watering Hole is the world’s first animatronic karaoke bar. It opened in 2020 in the Graduate Nashville hotel, which itself is a lavishly decorated work of art. The “Cross-Eyed Critters” refers to the backup band of an animatronic bear, pig, and fox that help you sing your heart out at karaoke.

The name “Cross-Eyed Critters Watering Hole” evokes visions of a dive-bar, but the bar actually felt pretty classy.

There’s an entrance to the bar on West End Avenue, which was closed when we went; instead, we entered through the hotel lobby where there is little to no signage and down a long back hallway, giving the bar a speakeasy feel. Inside, the bar’s dark walls are lined with paintings of country western stars and string lights.

Read next: A Romantic Weekend in Dickson, Tennessee

Top Nashville Tours

With so much to see, Nashville can be overwhelming for any first-time traveler. To take some of the stress out of planning your visit, opt for a guided tour! Check out this list of the top Nashville tours to help you make the most of your time in this beautiful Southern city.

Top Places to Stay in Nashville

For a great Nashville trip, you’ll need great Nashville accommodations. You have plenty of options.

In Downtown Nashville, you have hotel options like the Dream Nashville and the JW Marriott Nashville. In the Gulch, top choices include the W Nashville and the Thompson Nashville. Top Midtown hotels include the Kimpton Aertson Hotel and the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Hotels closer to Downtown tend to be more expensive. If you’re looking for a nice options further out, I recommend the DoubleTree Suites Nashville Airport. You’ll have a bit of a drive to get into the Downtown area, but you’ll save some money.

I’ve also stayed in the Belmont/12 South/Hillsboro Village area, which is a trendy part of town with a lot of cute restaurants, gorgeous houses, and a bunch of college students. We stayed at a vacation rental called The Belmont – Lux Abode with Pool on Belmont Blvd, which is a beautiful old home that sleeps 12. This rental is within walking distance of a lot of restaurants and is a short drive to Downtown.

Where to Stay in Nashville

Find the perfect place to rest your head on your visit to Nashville, from the top rated accommodations to unique stays you can’t get anywhere else.

Mapping Out Your Stay in Nashville

Ready to explore Nashville’s top attractions and hidden gems? Use the map below to help plan out your itinerary exploring Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville, Tennessee is a fun town with tons of hidden treasures for you to unlock. After a weekend in the city, you’ll leave Nashville with a whole new sense of honkey-tonk adventure.

So, why wait? Start planning your visit to Nashville, Tennessee today.

More Things to Do in Nashville, Tennessee

Make the most out of your vacation to Nashville! Check out these other Nashville travel guides to plan your perfect trip:

Ready to visit Nashville, Tennessee? Plan your trip with these tips.



14 Must-See Attractions and Hidden Gems in Nashville, Tennessee

What’s your favorite thing to do in Nashville? Let me know in the comments!

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