A must-visit for music fans, Nashville draws visitors from all around the world. But as a touristy city, it can be hard to figure out what to do – and what not to do when you plan your trip to Nashville. Here, travel blogger and graphic designer Joshua Luck shares his tips on what you must do when you visit Nashville for the first time, as well as some local insider knowledge to get you off the beaten path.
Over to you, Joshua!
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Why plan a trip to Nashville?
Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Known as the birthplace of country music, Nashville is bustling with excitement and a unique culture.
Over the years, Nashville has grown rapidly. This means plenty of great things to do, but also plenty of difficult decisions to be made about where to go and what to do during your visit to Nashville. Lucky for you, this insider’s guide is sourced straight from the locals. Get a behind-the-scenes look at what to add to your Nashville itinerary.
What all visitors must do on a trip to Nashville
As a tourist, there are a few things that simply must be done to truly feel the heart of the city.
Country Music Hall of Fame
Everyone who visits Nashville needs to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame at least once. See the rich history of what made Nashville famous as you take a tour through history and experience the greats in country music.
Centennial Park is home to the Parthenon, an exact replica of the Parthenon in Greece. This Park is great for a photo op and many couples go here just to take pictures. The scenery is like no other and the Parthenon makes for an interesting backdrop against the city. Be sure to check out Centennial Park on the weekends for the occasional outdoor festival.
Did you really go to Nashville if you didn’t take a picture in front of one of its many murals? This is probably the most touristy thing to do in Nashville, but there is just something so satisfying about it! If you see one, be sure to stop by and snap a few pics. However, be prepared for a line in the peak seasons.
Gaylord Opryland Resort
Once an amusement park called Opryland is now a mall and vast hotel named the Opryland Resort. Take walk through the resort’s massive indoor sanctuary complete with an indoor river, shops, and lush plants. This is a can’t-miss sight and once you’re done walking through the resort, be sure to check out Opry Mills, a mall next door.
What the locals do in Nashville
For those who have time to spare, or those who have been to Nashville before, here are some things to do in Nashville that only the locals know about!
Radnor Lake is a free park that is an excellent location for any nature enthusiast. With a huge lake, biking trails, and beautiful scenery, Radnor Lake is a relaxing oasis away from the chaos of the city. Take a picnic and enjoy the sun.
Five Points is the conversion of five roads in East Nashville. Here, you can find independently owned restaurants and shops as well as the occasional festival. Five Points is a great place to feel the vibe of Nashville away from the tourist crowds.
Open since 1925, the Belcourt is Nashville’s oldest movie theatre. They play independent movies from festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival.
Topgolf is a roaring great time! It’s actually a chain and has locations in Dallas and Miami, and Nashville recently got its own slice of the action. This is an excellent place for large groups. Topgolf is essentially a three-story driving range where visitors rent a pod and hit golf balls at targets similar to ski-ball.
Pro tip: order some tableside snacks and drinks to really get the party going!
Where to eat on your trip to Nashville
Nashville has some of the best food in the United States, and any tourist visiting needs to make it a priority to eat at as many places as possible during their stay. Although known for Nashville hot chicken, this city is jammed to the brim with independently owned restaurants putting their own spin on things. Here are some of the can’t-miss places to eat in Nashville, broken down by neighbourhood.
- Sambuca – New American food $$
- Biscuit Love Gulch – Southern $$
- Otaku Ramen – Japanese $$
- Burger Up – American $$
- Edley’s Bar-B-Que – Barbecue $
- 12 South Taproom and Grill – Grill $$
- The Old Spaghetti Factory – Italian $$
- ACME Feed & Seed – Southern $$
- Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant – Family $$
- Bella Napoli – Italian $
- Mamacita – Mexican $$
- The Pharmacy – Hamburgers $$
- 5 Points – Pizza $$
- Lockeland Table – American $$
If you look at any Nashville tourist website, it will say time and time again to live up your nightlife on Broadway. Broadway is a large street running through the centre of Nashville, lined with bars.
However, every local knows that Broadway – while fun – is just a tourist trap. Save yourself the headache and have some class with your nightlife. Here are some of the best bars and clubs that you need to visit during your stay in Nashville.
Pinewood Social has a buzzing nightlife! As one of the most popular places to visit, almost every tourist finds their way to Pinewood Social before the end of their trip. Pinewood Social offers great food, a fun atmosphere, a pool and even a bowling alley!
Located in the Gulch, this is an excellent place to hear some authentic Nashville live music. Though Sambuca is more of a restaurant than a bar or club, it still offers excellent live music which creates a roaring nightlife scene. This destination is perfect for large groups because of its upscale vibe and excellent food.
The Sutler is a must-see destination for any drink connoisseur. This expansive bar offers over 90 different whiskeys and bourbons and a variety of beers on tap. The Sutler is a popular music venue and many big name artists have performed here.
To really get into the country spirit, the Wildhorse Saloon is the place to go. With a large interior and high ceilings, the music rings throughout the venue all night long. This club is located in a renovated warehouse and contains three levels of excitement. It also has nightly dancing lessons so everyone can get out on the dancefloor before the night is up.
The Mercy Lounge is one of the most popular places to hear live music and the atmosphere is perfect for it. No matter what kind of nightlife you’re interested in, Mercy Lounge has it. From top-tier bars to vintage pinball machines and pool tables, this is the perfect venue to dance the night away.
Where to stay in Nashville
Nashville is broken up into subsections around the city: the Gulch, 12 South, Hillsborough Village, East Nashville, Music Row, Edgehill and Downtown. Of those options, Downtown and the Gulch are the best places to stay in Nashville. These two locations are the main hub for hotels and most anything worth going to will be within walking distance.
However, if you are looking to stay at an Airbnb, East Nashville and 12 South are the best options. These locations are more residential and are bustling with shops and restaurants. Staying at one of these locations will still put you in the heart of the action, but you can have some room to breathe.
How to get around Nashville
Most visitors don’t drive their own cars when visiting Nashville. Uber and Lyft are among the most popular methods to get around to avoid the traffic and paying parking fees.
Nashville also recently introduced an electric scooter system. There are scooters scattered around the streets, and all you need to do is scan the QR code on it and ride wherever you need to go. Once you get to your destination, simply get off and leave it for the next person. It only costs a dollar to start it up!
About the author
Joshua Luck is a content creator and graphic designer from Tennessee. When he isn’t writing, Josh spends his time travelling, creating art and hiking with his dog. As a travel enthusiast, he currently runs the blog Vacation Lion. You can also find Vacation Lion on Twitter and Facebook.
What would you do on your trip to Nashville? Leave your tips in the comments below!
This post was published in May 2019, and was updated in June 2020.