Music might have put Nashville on the map, but music isn’t the only thing worth visiting in this iconic Tennessee city. This wonderfully unique city is as vibrant as you could imagine, and it rivals some of the nation’s biggest destinations. Whether you’re looking to hang out with the family or spend the weekend with friends, Nashville is best when you’re keeping the spending to a minimum. Fortunately, there are plenty of free things to see and do in Nashville, so keep the wallets away and get creative. Here are 20 fun things you can do in Nashville for zero dollars.
1. The Parthenon
There’s no other place in the world where you’d find an incredible replica of Athens’ ancient architectural marvel—except for Nashville. Southernsavers.com writes that this structure was constructed specifically for the 1897 Centennial Exposition in Tennessee. The Parthenon at Centennial Park may not be ancient, but it’s surely aged enough to give it that distinctive historical air. Aside from admiring the Parthenon, you could bring a picnic along to have on a nice day or perhaps enjoy a quiet stroll in the early evening. If you wish to see the museum located inside, you’d have to fork out a small fee to get in.
2. Broadway Historic District
If you know absolutely nothing about honky tonk, the first place you’ll need to visit is the Broadway Historic District. Also known as the Honky Tonk Highway, this Nashville area is all about the usual culture of Nashville food and music. The district is flooded with neon lights and the aroma of good grubs. You’ll hear music just playing on the streets, and you’ll see people—tons of them. This means that this is a good spot for just people watching at any time of the day.
3. Music City Walk of Fame
Thousands of musicians relocate to Nashville in hopes of making it as a headliner on one of its many stages. Even more music fans head to the same city each year with simpler desires: to hear some really decent music and maybe even spot a country artist or two. If you’re a music aficionado, I recommend visiting the Music City Walk of Fame. It’s conveniently located in Nashville’s Music Mile, so you’d be right in the middle of everything. Try to look for Presley’s star or maybe Hendrix’s. Pay tribute to your favorite artist.
4. Tennessee State Museum
Visiting a local historical museum has lots of pluses. It’s probably one of the best ways to truly get to know the story of a place in a short amount of time. The Tennessee State Museum happens to be one of the largest state museums in the country. According to this article from Tripbuzz.com, this museum covers about 70,000 square feet of exhibition space. That’s more than enough to explore on any given day—especially when the outdoors is just not cooperating.
5. Hatch Show Print
Feeling particularly artsy? Head over to Hatch Show Print and see one of America’s oldest working letterpress shops. You can find displayed on the walls some of their most popular works throughout the years. The company has done work for various artists, musicians, businesses, etc. Take a look around and see how letterpress printing actually works. Hatch Show Print is free to visit and browse on your own. However, if you want a dedicated tour, you’d have to pay a fee to schedule one. They have several tours daily, so it’s fairly convenient regardless (aside from the fee). Opt for free instead; you’ll find it worthwhile still.
6. The Nashville Flea Market
There are plenty of southern treasures to discover at the Nashville Flea Market. Considered to be one of the nation’s best, this flea market features an average of 2,000 booths each month. It’s a public affair, and visitors are welcome to browse. While this is free to visit, it might be smart to bring along some cash just in case you find that piece of furniture you’ve been dreaming of. You might find yourself hauling in a good buy at the end of the day, or you might just find a ton of inspiration by just looking around. Either way, dedicate ample amount of time for browsing. You’re going to need it.
7. Fort Negley
Nashville.gov boasts Fort Negley as the “place where people and history come together.” If history’s what you’re looking for, the fort is the place to be. Start off at the Visitor Center, so you can get a solid idea of what the fort is about and how to go about exploring the area. The entire fort is designed for self-exploration, so you could take as much or as less time as you’d like. Just remember that if you’re going during the week, the visitor center is only open between noon to 4 pm. The park, on the other hand, is open year round.
8. Bluebird Café
It’s true that there are hundreds of stages and platforms for music listening in Nashville. It’s also true that it’s difficult to go wrong with any of these places if you want to hear stellar music. There’s one place, however, that’s been a local favorite for quite some time now. Bluebird Café puts local artists and songwriters on its stage, and before you grumble, remember that everyone who’s really good in his or her craft is trying to go to Nashville. It’s quite challenging to make it there. So if you’ve somehow made it onto Bluebird’s stage, you’re good. And yes, there’s no cover charge to sit in and listen.
9. Tennessee Agricultural Museum
If your ears are in need of a music break and you’re looking for something unique to see and do, go ahead and visit the Tennessee Agricultural Museum. The museum is all about farming and the history of farming in the area. It might seem like something completely random, but the museum is actually quite interesting. You’ve probably never been to anything like it before. You can see plenty of farming artifacts from the last couple of centuries.
10. Nashville Public Library
Here’s another place where you could quietly enjoy the day—literally. At first glance, you might not even think that this place is a library. It’s beautiful and well maintained. It also houses thousands upon thousands of titles; so if you happen to be a bibliophile, then you’d be in the perfect place. One Tripadvisor reviewer even used this library as a wedding venue. That’s how gorgeous the grounds and interiors truly are. The free puppet shows are just an added bonus.
11. Sheraton Nashville Downtown
Of course the Sheraton isn’t free. So more specifically, you’ll need to ride the elevators of the famous hotel. These elevators happen to be made out of glass, which means that you can ride the elevator all the way to the top floor—28 stories high. It is an elevator, so it moves fairly slowly. However, the drop is pretty steep, so you will feel enough exhilaration to last you for even a few hours. It may be quick fun, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
12. Riverfront Park
Nashville is such a busy city, and to be able to find refuge in the middle of downtown could be quite a relief. Riverfront Park offers exactly that, and it also features a location for musical and other events. The park has a good view of LP Field as well. Get into the park even for a lunch break. You’ll appreciate the views as well as the atmosphere at Riverfront Park.
13. Dyer Observatory
Whether it’s by sunlight of moonlight, the Dyer Observatory has the scope for you to use. If you want to do it for free, you’ll have to go on a particular Tuesday—the first of each week—in order to look up to the skies. According to this article, the open house days only last from 9 am to noon, but that’s definitely enough time to see something cool through the solar telescope.
14. Fannie Mae Dees Park
This park is geared more for the younger members of the family, but there’s nothing stopping anyone from enjoying time here. This park is also known as Dragon Park due to the large mosaic dragon display that also doubles as a climbing structure for toddlers and young kids. The park has various play areas for specific activities. There’s a water section that’s perfect for warmer days; there are slides, tunnels, and other structures children love to play in. If you’re a parent of a child, you’ll find Dragon Park as equally fun because while you’re child plays, you can settle down and take a moment to just relax and breathe.
15. Vanderbilt University
There’s something about old schools that’s just inspiring and curious. Vanderbilt University, one of the nation’s top ranked private institutions, just happens to be in Nashville. It also happens to be totally worth a visit. Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt has all the characteristics of an old educational establishment—the stunning masonry, the age-old trees that line pathways, the energizing air of accomplishment and knowledge, and so forth. You’ll feel smart just walking around here; and if you don’t, at least you’ll feel pleasant.
16. Shelby Bottoms Nature Center and Greenway
Nashville has a few nature centers you could visit, but there’s something special about Shelby Bottom. US News features this center as one of Nashville best sites to visit. Maybe it’s because of the fact that it’s not right at downtown Nashville; you’d have to go about 5 miles out in order to visit. That means that it’s not as busy here. You’ll really get to appreciate the nature around you. I recommend you walk into the visitor center first for some information, then go ahead and rent a bike. Explore the center on your own and get lost in the natural beauty of Nashville.
17. Radnor Lake State Park
If hiking is more your cup of tea, put on your shoes and make your way to Radnor Lake. This stunning setting is something out of a movie. Surround yourself with nature and all its feels, as you hike some or even a bit of the state park’s 1,200 acres. That’s a lot of hiking to do, but don’t fret. There are other activities you could do here as well. Radnor Lake features canoeing, guided walks, aviary tours, and other activities. Even with a tour guide, it’s still all free.
18. Arrington Vineyards
The vineyards are free to visit every day—all year round. That’s almost unbelievable considering just how gorgeous the vineyard actually is. This is the perfect place for a stroll or a picnic, but don’t be shy. If you’ve got a big event happening in your life, you might even take Arrington into consideration. It’s as picturesque as you’d picture a vineyard to ever be. You could easily spend an entire day here just hanging around and disconnecting from the rest of the world.
19. Jack Daniel Distillery
It’s supposed to be an all-age welcome place, but parents could bring children according to their own discretion. There are plenty of things happening at the Jack Daniel Distillery, but there’s only one word to describe them all: fun. According to Ourroaminghearts.com, this distillery was well worth the trip out of the way. Jack Daniels is the name to remember when it comes to Tennessee whiskey, so this is almost a must-see.
20. Fisk Galleries
If it’s art you’re after, look no further than the Fisk Galleries. The galleries are located at Fisk University, and they can be accessed for free every single day. The permanent collection boasts of over 4,000 objects. These all represent the art history of the nation including some of the important cultural findings and facts from the area. Nashville’s culture is embedded in its artistry, and the Fisk Galleries shines a wonderful light directly onto the culture of Nashville.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker