If you are craving for a foot-stomping good time, then Downtown Nashville is the place to be. The historic city center is known for its music and culture, making it one of the best places to visit while vacationing or living in the area. In Downtown Nashville, you get to meet some of the country's most famous artists as well as to discover many different types of attractions.
You can enjoy live entertainment at the Broadway musicals, watch a basketball game while sampling craft beers from local breweries, shop at unique boutiques, explore the Nashville Convention Center or eat at the restaurants that have been serving food since before the Civil War. Recreational and adventurous options are endless in Downtown Nashville. With this in mind, here are our top 20 best things to do in Downtown Nashville.
20. Visit the Ascend Amphitheater
See thousands of stars shimmer above your head when viewing the night sky at Ascend Amphitheater. This amphitheater has offered concerts during the summer months since 2011 and now hosts an annual event called "Stars over Nashville." There is no better place to view the night sky than on the lawn under Ascend Amphitheatre's brightly lit glass dome. Ascend Amphitheater also holds several other events throughout the year, including live music concerts, outdoor movies, and family-friendly festivals where you'll find fun activities like face painting and balloon animals.
19. Shop at the Ten dollar boutique
You may not think much about shopping at a grocery store with prices starting as low as 10 dollars, but if you want authentic items from around the world, Ten Dollar Boutique located between 8th and 9th Avenue South is the spot to go. With more than 300 vendors selling products from all over the globe, you're sure to find something interesting whether you're looking for African drums, Native American rugs, Asian antiques, or French cheese. They even sell beer bottles from Italy and France; hence you can take home a souvenir of your trip to Nashville.
18. A visit to the Honeysuckle Hill Farm
This farm is located off Highway 100 and features five separate barns and four greenhouses on 16 acres of land. Each structure has its own theme ranging from a small petting zoo with sheep, goats, and pigs to an equestrian barn with ponies, horseback riding lessons, and therapeutic riding programs.
Admission is always free, and guests are invited to sit back and relax while enjoying their experience. Honeysuckle Hill Farm is ideal for families because children can ride a pony or climb into the haymow to play. There are daily special events and live shows held on-site as well so your entire family can participate in a fun day out. While you're there, you don't need to miss the chance to sample some sweet treats like freshly baked pies, cookies, and a variety of healthy fruits.
17. Enjoy yourself at the Nashville Shores Waterpark
Nashville Shores' located along the Cumberland River, makes it easy to access the waterfront park and boat rentals make exploring the river a breeze. The park offers three swimming areas with changing rooms, tennis courts, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, grills, and pavilions to spend time relaxing outside. If you have kids, they will love the playground area, complete with swings, slides, and climbing equipment.
Nashville Shores is the best place where you get hours of laughter in the face of danger as you learn how to surf, canoe, kayak, or boogie board. It's a great way to explore the river without getting wet but still enjoy a unique experience. You can rent any type of watercraft or guided paddle adventure through the river canyon with Nashville Shores guides, including transportation to and from the park and snacks, beverages, and safety gear. The only drawback is that this place is open only during the summer months.
16. Witness Multiculturalism at Sri Ganesha Temple
Sri Ganesha Temple was named by King David II of Thailand after he discovered a Buddhist temple hidden underneath his grandfather’s house near downtown Nashville. This Thai-style temple is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Nashville and is considered one of the country’s oldest continuously operating Buddhist temples.
The temple was built in 1859 by local missionaries and is decorated with beautiful murals depicting Buddha’s life story in vivid colors. As part of your trip to the temple, be sure to check out the monks who perform an elaborate ritual known as "the holy incense ceremony.” Also, climb up to the rooftop garden on the second floor to witness the sunset over the city skyline. You may even spot deer in the surrounding woods.
15. Visit the Schermerhorn Symphony Center
If you want a tour of the historic Music Row neighborhood, head down to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Located at 1205 Demonbreun Street, the building also hosts several music festivals throughout the year. The venue is home to symphony, opera, and ballet. But most people come here to see the huge chandelier hanging from the ceiling of its Great Hall.
It's made entirely of crystals and measures nearly 60 feet tall and 30 feet across. Here, you also get to watch the performances of “Live from the Green Room,” a show where fans get to meet artists backstage and ask questions about their lives and careers. During these intimate sessions, musicians talk about their influences, what motivates them, as well as upcoming projects.
14. Tour the Long Hunter State Park
The state park is located at 1000 Long Hunter Drive, just off I-40/I-440 in East Nashville. Here, you'll find hiking trails that wind around Lake Long Hunter. There is a small campground here too if you need to stay overnight. Hiking isn't allowed when it rains, so be sure to plan accordingly before setting out on your journey through this scenic park.
As you walk around the lake, keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles soaring above the trees. They're usually spotted here between March till October. If you decide to go fishing while here, remember to use only artificial baits. Natural bait attracts the wrong kind of attention from some largemouth creatures living in the waters.
13. Walk along Lower Broad River
One of the best ways to spend a warm afternoon in the heart of downtown Nashville is to stroll along the lower Broad River. This riverbank is always lively, whether it's filled with joggers, dog-walkers, or families enjoying a picnic lunch. On weekends especially, there's typically a live blues band playing as the sunsets. Grab some food from one of the many vendors selling sandwiches, pastries, barbecues, and other delicious snacks. Be sure to pack extra money because almost everything offered along the path is delicious and exciting.
12. See a Show at Bridgestone Arena
It would be hard not to notice the gigantic blue steel-clad entertainment arena when you drive into town. With a total capacity of 14,500 seats, this sports-and-entertainment complex has hosted concerts, boxing matches, major sporting events, and family shows since opening in 2001. In fact, the arena earned the title of having the largest indoor ice skating rink outside of Canada back in 2012. As part of a partnership with the United States Figure Skating Association, the skating rink was converted into an outdoor ice sheet after being enclosed inside the building. Today, visitors can skate outdoors in front of the stadium during the annual Winter Classic.
11. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
This national honor institution opened its doors to the public in 2015. Built by the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, it features exhibits highlighting the history and evolution of honky-tonks, juke joints, honky-tonk bars, dance halls, rural ballrooms, and honky-tonks like Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, which is featured in the documentary. Here, visitors get to see how this unique type of music developed over time and hear stories from those who were there when honky tonks first opened. Visitors also watch archived footage of well-known performances and interviews with artists while exploring country music history. The museum offers daily tours where guests are provided insight into the country music industry while getting an up-close look at honky-tonks.
10. Visit the Adventure Science Center
Opened in 2014 in downtown Nashville, the Adventure Science Center allows visitors to discover their inner child. Located adjacent to the Nashville Convention Center, the facility serves as an interactive learning center for kids ages 1–16. It houses more than 40 hands-on educational experiences such as a giant bubble maze, moon bounce, and giant slide. Other activities include laser tag, sand art studio, aquarium adventure room, and more.
9. Take a tour at Bicentennial Capitol State Park
Bicentennial Capitol State Park is home to numerous attractions, including the Hermitage Hotel, Tennessee Aquarium, Johnny Cash Museum, and the State Capitol Building. This 533-acre state park was established on June 13, 1807, making it older than many cities in America. Even though it only opened to the general public in 1974, millions of people visit each year to tour the grounds, grab some grub and take a ride on horseback.
During the Civil War, the grounds were used as a military base. This park is ideal for picnicking, hiking, and bike riding, among other things and is one of the few places you can see the iconic Parthenon columns without paying admission fees. There is no shortage of incredible attractions here.
8. Sample new products a Nashville Farmers Market
Established in 2005, this farmers market attracts more than 100 vendors selling everything from the fresh farm produce, fruits, and cheeses to fresh baked goods. Live entertainment is often on-site, and children usually love trying all kinds of samples, while grownups always enjoy sampling new foods from around the world. Admission to watch a live performance or to sample food is free. Street parking is available nearby.
7. Visit the Frist Art Museum
This modern art museum is housed inside a turn-of-the-century medical building on 12th Avenue South near the Ryman Auditorium. It showcases the works of international artists alongside rotating exhibitions focused on emerging talent. There is also a gift shop where you can purchase original artwork and handmade crafts.
Generally, the Frist Art Museum is ideal for adults looking to broaden their minds, expand their creativity or just relax after a hard day's work, thanks to its peaceful atmosphere. There are plenty of places you can go within walking distance, like Belcourt Theatre, Raynaud's French bakery, Daikaya Japanese restaurant, and even several bars.
6. Tour the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
Named after the Grand Ole Opry House, this convention center is primarily known for hosting events such as the Country Music Association Awards. It offers many tourist attractions such as shopping, dining, golfing, and even a waterpark. One of the highlights is definitely the family-friendly Herschel Walker Climbing Wall located right next to the Shops at Riverfront—which has something for everyone from little ones to big kids.
5. Visit Tennessee Aquarium (Located in Chattanooga)
One of the most popular kid's attractions in town is the Tennessee Aquarium which is full of colorful fish tanks that host sharks, stingrays, rays, and various other aquatic species. Kids will especially love the Touch Tank exhibits, where they can feed sea creatures hand-to-mouth or discover what it feels like to be rescued by the Coast Guard. The Stingray Lagoon alone is worth visiting.
4. Take a Segway Tour
If your child loves to explore nature, try renting a Segway tour. These small two-wheeled vehicles allow them to move freely through various environments–even muddy grounds or snowy terrains. Many companies provide tours around downtown Nashville so parents can sit back and relax while their little adventurers experience the city. Adults ride the Segway too because there are three levels of difficulty and every level comes with a unique design. In addition to exploring the surrounding areas, visitors can take a two-hour cruise along the Cumberland River and visit local historic sites like Twelve Oaks and First American Church.
3. Pub Crawl
Are you curious about downtown Nashville nightlife? Do you want to see what a real locals' bar looks like? If yes, then sign up for Pub Crawl. This is an active five square mile party happening each Thursday evening during the fall and spring months. You will have to show up early and book for an escorted bar tour to different pubs within the area, where you will sample them and choose the best that seems interesting to you.
2. Peg Leg Poker BBQ
Want to try some authentic southern BBQ but don't know where to start your search? Visit Peg Leg BBQ in Cool Springs. They serve delicious slow-smoked barbecue bites such as ribs, baby back ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, and much more. Interestingly, their location allows guests to dine outside in comfort under a tent or inside by the fireplace. Guests can also enjoy live bluegrass music, a full-service bar, and local craft beers on tap.
1. Nashville Ghost Tours
Nothing will freak you out in the middle of the night than not knowing where all these ghost stories came from. Join one of the best haunted tours downtown Nashville for true creeps. See locations where only paranormal activity is reported. See if you feel anything unusual before you decide to spend the night in those buildings. Places like Ryman Auditorium and printer's Alley, home to many ghosts, are often teeming with spirits. Also, check out the new My Sister's Place Haunted House in West End for a truly terrifying experience.
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Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn