Nashville

Best Things to Do in Nashville

BY Rob LeDonne | December 16, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Nashville? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Nashville?”

At its core, Nashville’s always been about music. It stands proudly in its cowboy boots thanks to its historic country roots, which are on display today at meccas like the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry. But the sparkling Southern metropolis is so much more. One could spend an entire trip exploring the area’s beautiful outdoors, the dining scene is superb and its hotel landscape has been transformed in recent years. There are tons of reasons it’s become a favorite for bachelorette gals and other rollicking partiers that inhabit the city every weekend night, as you’ll discover when you visit. Your guide to the ins and outs of a uniquely American destination enjoying a major rebirth are here.

Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Nashville, TN--Feb 18, 2019; time exposure of full moon over the roof of the Ryman auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry and birth place of bluegrass music at night.

Ryman Auditorium

116 Rep. John Lewis Way North, Nashville, TN, USA

Much like the city itself, the Ryman Auditorium found itself downtrodden before its current renaissance as one of the primest places for live music not just in Nashville, but in the nation and perhaps the world. First used as a church (hence its grand title as “The Mother Church of Country Music”), the 1800s-era space was the original home of one of Nashville’s proudest exports: the Grand Ole Opry. While the Opry departed for its own confines in the ’70s, interest was revived in the theater in 1993 largely thanks to the Grammy-winning album “At The Ryman” courtesy Emmylou Harris, recorded at the venue. Today, the Ryman sits as a shrine to music past and present (recent performers have included Kacey Musgraves and Bob Dylan).

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National Museum of African American Music
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National Museum of African American Music

National Museum of African American Music

510 Broadway, Nashville, TN, USA

One of Nashville’s newest must-see destinations, the National Museum of African American Music (which opened its doors in January 2021) honors the expansive and influential evolution of music created by Black artists, which includes gospel, rap, R&B, doo-wop, the blues and more. As a result, the museum paints a massive historical portrait, displaying everything from dresses worn by Whitney Houston, Louis Armtsrong’s trumpet and B.B. King’s guitar Lucille to a sweater worn by Nat King Cole. In addition, the just-constructed space also features plenty of interactive exhibits and informative videos.

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Bluebird Cafe in Nashville. Photo via Shutterstock.
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NASHVILLE, TN, USA - MARCH 24, 2019: People queue outside world famous Bluebird Cafe. This music club opened in 1982 and features acoustic music by its composers.

Bluebird Cafe

4104 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN, USA

Located a short drive from downtown, the Bluebird Cafe is the spot where everyone from Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift got their start (the latter of whom was scouted by record exec Scott Borchetta here). A central figure in the city’s modern music scene, today the cafe’s cozy confines of only 90 seats regularly play host to a range of performers and surprise appearances — even Swift herself, who last performed here in 2019. Don’t let the quaint exterior fool you: the importance of the spot is made even more impressive as it’s located on an otherwise nondescript strip of disparate businesses.

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The Johnny Cash Museum. Photo via Shutterstock.
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January 2017.Johnny Cash museum building in downtown Nashville, TN.. Johnny Cash is an American singer-songwriter, one of most influential figure in country music.

The Johnny Cash Museum

119 3rd Avenue South, South Nashville, Nashville, TN, USA

They’re two titans of country music, and they are both feted by adjoining museums. Featuring artifacts from their landmark careers — including Cline’s apartment she designed before she perished in a 1963 plane crash and Cash attire worn by the Man in Black himself — the double museum-whammy serves as a worthy history lesson of the larger-than-life figures. Just beware: you’ll be sure to get Cline’s record-breaking “Crazy” stuck in your head before you walk out the door. (Note: separate tickets required.)

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The Patsy Cline Museum. Photo via Shutterstock.
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The Patsy Cline Museum. Photo via Shutterstock.

The Patsy Cline Museum

119 3rd Avenue South, South Nashville, Nashville, TN, USA

They’re two titans of country music, and they are both feted by adjoining museums. Featuring artifacts from their landmark careers — including Cline’s apartment she designed before she perished in a 1963 plane crash and Cash attire worn by the Man in Black himself — the double museum-whammy serves as a worthy history lesson of the larger-than-life figures. Just beware: you’ll be sure to get Cline’s record-breaking “Crazy” stuck in your head before you walk out the door. (Note: separate tickets required.)

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The Country Music Hall of Fame. Photo via Shutterstock.
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NASHVILLE - August 1: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum August 1, 2014 in Nashville, TN. It opened in 1961 and preserves the evolving history and traditions of country music.

The Country Music Hall of Fame

222 Rep. John Lewis Way South, Nashville, TN, USA

A Nashville crown jewel, the massive Country Music Hall of Fame can be an all-day adventure through the annals of the genre, from the birth of the American artform to the present day. The juxtaposition between artists of yesteryear and more modern names is proudly represented, whether exhibits shining a spotlight on modern names such as Kacey Musgraves and Mickey Guyton, icons like Dolly Parton and Whispering Bill Anderson and everybody in between. It all colaces in its Hall of Fame Rotunda, a somber place to look back, and forward, on a style of music that changed the world.

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Grand Ole Opry. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Nashville, TN - Sep. 19, 2017: A night of country music stage concert at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

Grand Ole Opry

2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN, USA

It goes without saying that it’s of paramount importance to visit the iconic theater from which the long-running “Grand Ole Opry” regularly broadcasts live. The venue is a musical mecca, after all, and fits right in at its home on the property of the eponymous Opryland. An absolutely massive indoor structure that features nearly 3,000 hotel rooms, an indoor river with a waterfall (complete with a bar looking over it) and a copious array of dining and shopping options, the sprawling property is located around a 15-minute drive from downtown Nashville. It all makes the gargantuan destination an all-day visitor’s dream.

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You’re here for Southern food too

Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville.
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Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville.

Arnold’s Country Kitchen

605 8th Avenue South, South Nashville, Nashville, TN, USA

Arnold’s is a special kind of culinary throwback” unpretentious, filling and full of Southern charm. Oh, and it’s also won James Beard awards too. Boasting rock-bottom prices, the longtime eatery has been a staple of the Nashville food scene since its 1982 opening, built on a delicious foundation of daily specials for both lunch and dinner from roast beef to green beans and hot pepper chocolate pie. Much like the rest of the restaurant industry, Arnold’s struggled during the Covid-19 outbreak. The eatery persevered and remains a vital part of the community today.

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Assembly Food Hall
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Assembly Food Hall

Assembly Food Hall

5055 Broadway Pl, Nashville, TN, USA

Another one of Nashville’s latest attractions, Assembly Food Hall is located in downtown’s newly built Fifth + Broadway complex. It’s a large food hall that shines a spotlight on both the latest yummy trends and local cuisine, including fried chicken mainstays Prince’s Hot Chicken and Hattie B’s (more on both later). Hungry visitors have a cacophony of delectable options, ranging from dinner in the form of Steam Boys (steamed bao buns), dessert consisting of bowls of NoBaked Cookie Dough and drinks from a variety of different watering holes including Agave Maria (which specializes in tequila) and Date Night (a romantic rooftop hideaway).

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The Continental in Nashville.
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The Continental in Nashville.

The Continental

The Continental Nashville, 1000 Broadway, Nashville, TN, USA

If one needs proof that the culinary scene in Nashville is thriving, consider star chef Sean Brock. The respected restaurateur is behind the brand-new dining destination inside the city’s Grand Hyatt hotel dubbed The Continental. A salute to traditional hotel fare, its astounding menu focuses on retro dishes, ranging from a mouthwatering prime rib delivered via cart to homemade vanilla bean custard. The space itself is something to behold too, with two bars and an impeccable, high-class attention to detail. All of these details make The Continental not so much a meal, but an experience. 

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And hot chicken

Prince’s Hot Chicken
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Prince’s Hot Chicken

Prince’s Hot Chicken

5814 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN, USA

Yes, one of the city’s most popular bites merits a category all its own. And a solid place to start chowing down on the fine art of hot chicken is Prince’s. Based on a legend of a wife spicing up the chicken she was serving to her cheating husband for spite, the result is a so-good-it-hurts taste and a perfect crunch that makes Prince’s a giant in the scene. Of course you don’t have to get the fire-hot version, but aren’t you curious about its joyous fury?

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Hattie B's in Nashville.
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Hattie B's in Nashville.

Hattie B's

112 19th Ave S, Nashville, TN, USA

Another must-try spot for hot chicken, Hattie B’s is a vital part of the Nashville foodie landscape. Boasting a classic spin on the regional favorite (with heat intensities ranging from none to burn notice), Hattie B’s range of delectable sides (including piping hot peach cobbler and a luscious red-skin potato salad) and reasonable prices makes it a tourist mecca that’s anything but a trap.

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Get a taste of the Tennessee outdoors

As mentioned, one could spend an entire trip exploring Nashville’s beautiful outdoors and parks — Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, Cumberland Park, Fannie Mae Dees Park, Sevier Park, to name a few spots to peruse. Here is a starter list to get a sense of what’s here. 

Centennial Park in Nashville. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Centennial Park in Nashville. Photo via Shutterstock.

Centennial Park

Centennial Park, Nashville, TN, USA

The 132-acre park features a one-mile walking trail, Lake Watauga, historical monuments, an arts activity center, a band shell, the Parthenon —  a full-scale replica of the Athens Parthenon that houses a museum — and much more. It’s located on West End and 25th Avenue North.

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Ziplining fun that is NOT Adventureworks Zipline Forest but pretty darn similar. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Ziplining fun that is NOT Adventureworks Zipline Forest but pretty darn similar. Photo via Shutterstock.

Adventureworks Zipline Forest

4129 Whites Creek Pike, Whites Creek, TN, USA

When you’re ready for a break from all that Southern food and late nights taking in the city’s live music, the adventure set can head about 10 miles from downtown Nashville to get their ziplining on. The tour will last about an hour to an hour and a half depending on how many people are in your group, and you can choose from a canopy tour or a twilight zip of scenery to take in the fireflies. A tour will run adults $59, and they can get jammed up on weekends, so book ahead of time.

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Natchez Trace Parkway. Photo via Shutterstock.
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Tennessee highway 96 as seen from Double Arch Bridge at Natchez Trace Parkway near Franklin, TN, fall scenery. Photo via Shutterstock.

Natchez Trace Parkway

Natchez Trace Parkway, Nashville, TN, USA

The 444-mile Natchez Trace Parkway traces a Native American trading route and explores the most beautiful sections of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. It’s a popular multi-day getaway for motorcyclists and road trippers, with plentiful places to stay along the way. Most travelers navigating the parkway will start the journey outside of Nashville. It officially begins at the Highway 100 turnoff near Loveless Cafe. Once you’ve had your fill of honky-tonks and neon lights of Nashville, head south to the quieter community of Franklin. See our full road trip from issue #2 right here.

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