Nashville is best known for its country music scene. While attractions revolving around music are undoubtedly something that you should include in your first visit to this city, there are many more things that you should see and do during your stay. This is a diverse and interesting city with a rich history and many excellent activities and attractions. This means that there is something for everyone, regardless of their age or interests. The following is a guide of the 20 best things to do in Nashville for first-time visitors.
20. Frist Art Museum
Prior to becoming the Frist Art Museum this art deco-style building was a U.S> Postal Service office. Now, it has been transformed into an art gallery that features art from the local region and from around the world. Every six to eight weeks, the exhibitions rotate, so you might see something different on every visit. Some examples of the exhibitions in the rotation are Aboriginal art, Roman, art, and collections created by local artists. There is also the Martin ArtQuest Gallery that features 30 interactive stations to promote learning through the creation of art.
19. The Parthenon
Nashville is known by many nicknames, including the ‘Athens of the South’. This is predominantly because of the large number of Greek Revival style properties in and around the city. To reflect the association between Greece and Nashville, a full-scale replica of Athens’ Parthenon was created in Centennial Park. You can tour the perimeter for free, but there is a fee to enter and view the interior. This structure is a spectacular sight in the evenings when it is illuminated.
18. Adventure Science Center
A fun an educational attraction that has something for all the family is the Adventure Science Center. This attraction covers many aspects of science, and the exhibitions are predominantly interactive. Some of the topics covered include the human body and space. You will need at least two hours free to spend in this center so that you have the chance to try all the different activities. If you are looking for something that will keep the children in your party entertained, this is one of the best attractions in Nashville.
17. Lane Motor Museum
Many cities boast a vehicle museum, but this one has one of the most interesting collections. At Lane Motor Museum, you will see a collection of 150 vehicles that are each unique in their own way. The collection includes unusual cars, amphibious vehicles, motorcycles, and military transport. Among the collection are prototypes and rare examples of vehicles that you will not see anywhere else in the world. The owner of the collection is Jeff Lane, who has been restoring unusual vehicles since he was in his teens. Even those who do not have a keen interest in vehicles have found this an impressive and fascinating collection.
16. The Jazz Cave
Also known as The Nashville Jazz Workshop, the Jazz Cave is a venue that is dedicated to teaching and preserving jazz music. There are opportunities to take part in free music workshops, and they welcome people of all abilities. It is also a great place to catch a concert, especially if you prefer jazz music to the country music that is associated with this city. The concerts feature various touring artists, some of whom are notable in this genre of music.
15. Gallery of Iconic Guitars
An important element of country music is the guitars, and musicians take their choice of guitars very seriously and consider a personal decision that requires a connection with the instrument. To views some of the most iconic guitars played by famous musicians, you should visit the Gallery of Iconic Guitars. This is located at Belmont University, which is one of the top music and music business schools in the United States. The collection of guitars was given to the university by a benefactor who wanted people to enjoy them after his death.
14. Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Thrillist suggests a day at Nashville Zoo in Grassmere if you are visiting Nashville as a family. However, even if you do not have any children this is a great place to visit as there is something to suit all ages at this attraction. It is home to more than 2,600 animals. Some of these include Komodo dragons, clouded leopards, alligators, giraffes, red pandas, meerkats, and white rhinoceros. There are also fish and bird habitats, along with some hands-on displays. Other features of the zoo include a historic home, the Wilderness Express Train, and a jungle gym.
13. Nelson’s Brier Distillery
Nashville is famous for its whiskey and bourbon production. If you are a fan of these alcoholic beverages and want the chance to learn about its production, then you should take a tour of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. This distillery began production in the late 1800s and originally operated under the name Greenbrier, Tennessee. By 1885, this company was producing around two million bottles of whiskey a year. Now you can take a tour of the distillery to learn about the production process and then sample some of the whiskey. There is a shop where you can buy the products to take home and enjoy or buy for a gift.
12. The Hermitage
This Greek Revival mansion was originally constructed as a home for President Andrew Jackson in 1821. Now, The Hermitage is a National Historic Landmark that is preserved as a tribute to the former president’s life. Visitors can learn about significant events in his life on the guided tour. They will also see his original log cabin, the Old Hermitage Church, and Jackson’s tomb. There is also the 1,000-acre grounds to tour, where visitors learn about the 150 slaves that once worked on the grounds.
11. Belle Meade Plantation
The property at the Belle Meade Plantation is a Greek revival style home that was built in 1835. This mansion lies at the center of the plantation, and it has columns that are peppered with gunshot holes from the Civil War. You can take a guided tour through the house before exploring the grounds, which include the country’s best thoroughbred breeding farms. Events are held at this venue throughout the year.
10. Radnor Lake State Park
If you want to spend some time outside the city and enjoy some of the beauty of the surrounding area, then Radnor Lake State Park is a delightful place to visit. The beautiful lake is surrounded by miles of trails. These vary in difficulty from flat and easy trails to trails that are challenging and best suited to experienced hikers. This is also a popular spot for birdwatchers, and it is a peaceful place to enjoy a picnic. Furthermore, it is a free activity, so it is ideal for those who are visiting Nashville on a limited budget.
9. Tennessee State Museum
If you want to learn more about the Volunteer State, then the Tennessee State Museum is the place to visit. The museum covers many different aspects of Tennessee’s history, such as the Civil War Native American history, the history of sports and the military in this state, and Tennessee’s natural history. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, there are also some temporary displays. Although these exhibitions change regularly, they often include cultural and art displays.
8. Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
No matter whether you are a history enthusiast or a lover of the outdoors, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens is an excellent attraction to visit. The Georgian property was home to the Cheek family, and it now houses a museum that boasts an impressive collection of American art and furniture from the 19th and 20th centuries. Beyond the house, there is a 55-acre botanical garden to enjoy. This includes chromatic flower displays, a sculpture trail, and the original greenhouses.
A great day out for all the family is Soundwaves, says Time Out. This is a large waterpark with both indoor and outdoor elements that is located at the Gaylord Opryland Resort. There is a big movie screen to watch a film from the pool, a lazy river, and multiple water flumes. This is an ideal activity for those who are enjoying a family vacation in Nashville, as there is plenty to keep the children entertained.
6. Shelby Bottoms Nature Center & Greenway
There is much more to Nashville than the music, and Shelby Bottoms Nature Center & Greenway gives you a completely different experience. This is a sprawling green space where visitors have the chance to learn about the local landscape. They can also enjoy a range of outdoor recreation opportunities. Visitors begin the day at the visitor center, where there is artwork and cultural exhibits to enjoy. There are then 950 acres to explore, which includes fields, forests, wetlands, and streams. The trails through this peaceful environment are easy to follow.
5. Listening Room Cafe
To combine the chance to listen to rising stars with enjoying a delicious meal, you should visit the Listening Room Café. Some of the city’s most talented songwriters perform at this café, which has a relaxed vibe. Diners have said that the food at this café is much better than at Bluebird Café, which offers a similar experience.
4. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
As country music is something for which Nashville is famous, it is hardly surprising that one of the most popular attractions in this city is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Exhibits include artificats relating to some of the most famous country music singers, such as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Some examples of the things you can see include Elvis Presley’s solid gold Cadillac limo and Jimmie Rodgers’ guitar. It is the most extensive collection of country music memorabilia you will find, so it is a huge attraction for those who love this genre of music. This attraction is also home to Studio B, which is where more than 35,000 songs by legendary artists have been produced.
3. Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium is the most famous music venue in Nashville, and it is also known as the mother church of country music. Built in 1892, this was originally the Union Tabernacle church and then the Grand Ole Opry. The building has amazing acoustics, which is why so many famous singers and musicians have used it as their practice room. There are events and performances hosted at Ryman Auditorium throughout the year. If you arrive early, you can take a backstage tour.
2. The Johnny Cash Museum
Johnny Cash is one of the most famous stars from Nashville, and this museum is dedicated to his life and career. Opened in 2013, this museum is home to the largest collection of Johnny Cash memorabilia anywhere in the world. Along with 25 of his most famous costumes, the exhibition also includes films, photographs, and handwritten letters. There is free admission for children who visit with a paying adult. The Johnny Cash Museum also has a café, so you can grab a bite to eat during your visit.
Top of the list of reasons people come to Nashville is to enjoy the music. US News says that some people are happy to learn about music in the museums, while others want a first-hand experience. If you fall into the latter category, then you should head to Broadway, which is one of the main roads through Nashville, as this is where you will find the top bars with live music. Due to the number of venues with live music, Lower Broadway has earned the nickname ‘Honky Tonk Highway’. Along this stretch, you will also find multiple restaurants serving various types of cuisine, so it is a place you are likely to visit on several occasions while you are in Nashville.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn