Nashville, also known as Music City, is the home of country music. There’s no denying that music is everywhere you turn. But in addition to the famous music scene, those interested in history, art, and food will find plenty of ways to stay busy on their first trip to the land of Elvis and Dolly. Here is my list of the top eight things to do on your first visit to Nashville, Tennessee.
The first time I visited Nashville, I was traveling solo and the second time I was with a friend. I had an amazing time on both occasions so it is perfect for solo travelers as well as groups or couples. Even if you venture there alone, you can count on Nashville’s southern charm to make you feel welcomed and at home during your trip. Each of the following activities are doable for solo travelers and groups, so don’t be deterred either way!
1) TAKE A WALK DOWN BROADWAY
First things first, take a walk down Broadway to get your bearings and get into the Honky Tonk spirit. Start at the Honky Tonk Highway, where there’s music all day, every day. Even if you arrive at 1am as I did, don’t worry, the party’s just getting started. Honky Tonk generally refers to a bar in which country music is played. In Nashville, however, it’s not only country music that’s played. You’ll also hear rock, blues, and pop music.
2) VISIT NASHVILLE’S COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM
A short walk from downtown Nashville, you will find the Country Music Hall of Fame. Two hours should be enough to explore. Be sure to record a cover single of You Belong with Me at the Taylor Swift recording booth while you’re there. Your visit will take longer if you’re going to take part in the Hatch Show Print. This is one of America’s oldest working letterpress poster shops, and I highly recommend visiting it. Although booking isn’t required, to make sure you get entry at the time you would like you can book in advance.
There is an additional tour run by the Country Music Hall of Fame at the Historic RCA Studio B. If you love Elvis you have to go here, considering he recorded more music here than anywhere else. You can also visit Elvis’s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. This is roughly a 3-hour drive, but it’s definitely worth it for Elvis fans.
A short walk outside of the busy center, you’ll find the Pinewood Social. It is the perfect combo of brunch, cocktails, and bowling, as recommended by locals. There is even a pool and they have a movie night on the last Tuesday of every month. Pinewood Social is a great way to experience the hip food scene that’s developed in Nashville over the past several years.
4) TAKE A TOUR OF THE JOHNNY CASH MUSEUM
For all the Johnny Cash fans, visiting this museum is a must. It features the largest collection of Johnny Cash artifacts in the world. The museum celebrates the musician’s life through the decades. It will make you want to watch Walk the Line (or re-watch it). It’s open seven days a week and costs $20. Skip the queue when you purchase your ticket online beforehand.
5) SPEND AN EVENING AT THE BLUEBIRD CAFE
Some might recognize this from the show Nashville. If you don’t, this small 90 seat venue is a great opportunity to get up close to some of Nashville’s best songwriters. The likes of Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, and Taylor Swift have all played there before.
A typical nightly performance consists of a few songwriters seated in the center of the room, or sometimes on the stage, taking turns playing their songs and accompanying each other instrumentally and with vocals.
If you’re quick enough, there are 20 available tables in the small venue available to book online. Tickets come out the week before each show, normally at 8am CST. The FAQ page is very helpful with guidance on booking your ticket. Check out the website for more information.
However, if you don’t manage to get one of the advanced online tickets, be prepared to head over and wait outside the venue two or three hours before the show begins. This way you might be able to get one of the 10-12 first come, first served seats available at the door only. I did this, and it was definitely worth the wait to hear Lennon Stella and Aubrey Peeples, from the cast of Nashville.
A lot of people don’t realize that the Bluebird Café is located in a small strip mall about 15 minutes car drive from of downtown Nashville. Remember to take this into consideration when planning your schedule.
6) VISIT THE BELLE MEADE PLANTATION OUTSIDE OF NASHVILLE
The Belle Meade Plantation is a beautiful country mansion and estate situated 20 minutes outside of downtown Nashville. It was built in 1807 and is an opportunity to learn about Tennessee’s Victorian architecture. You’ll also be able to learn about the history of the family and slaves that worked there over the years. This is a sad point of Tennessee history but important to learn about nonetheless.
7) WATCH A SHOW AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY
This is another famous must-visit for those coming to Nashville for the first time. One of Nashville’s longest running shows, the Grand Ole Opry started as a radio broadcast in 1925, and today it’s a live music concert where multiple country artists play in the one night. There are performances every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Advanced booking is required for these shows.
8) GO LINE DANCING
Get your cowboys boots on and head down to the Wild Horse Saloon. Don’t know how to line dance? No worries. Wild Horse Saloon has regular line dance lessons so you’ll be able to join in on the fun. And even if you don’t learn the organized danced, it won’t be hard to find a two-step dance partner there who will make sure you have a blast and feel like a pro. Check the schedule here.
WHERE TO STAY IN NASHVILLE
For both of my visits, I stayed at the Downtown Nashville Hostel. It’s the perfect option for touring Nashville because of its great facilities and central location along the Cumberland Riverfront. It is also a historic warehouse that was built in the 1800’s and has been renovated over the years, re-opening in 2005.
If you are looking for more upscale accommodation in Nashville, some of the best reviewed luxury hotels include:
I hope this blog has inspired you to visit Nashville and experience its southern charm for yourself. Next time I want to go to the CMA Festival!
Have you been to Nashville? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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