As the capital of Tennessee, Nashville has big cowboy boots to fill. From southern food and sweet tea to world-famous country music (well, all music, really), it’s no wonder Nashville is one of the fastest growing travel destinations in the United States—even Taylor Swift couldn’t resist purchasing a penthouse downtown. Live music fans flock to venues such as Ryman Auditorium and Bluebird Cafe to watch rising singer-songwriters, and country devotees pay homage to the genre’s legends at both the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Grand Ole Opry. But Music City has more to offer than just its tunes, and Nashville’s appeal is as diverse as its top draws. Visit the good ole honky tonks in SoBro or renowned restaurants like Hattie B’s for hot chicken; admire some Greek-inspired architecture at the Parthenon in West End’s Centennial Park; or head to Germantown, the city’s oldest neighborhood, for a relaxed stroll through the Farmer’s Market. Outside of Nashville, you can discover a quieter side of life along the Cumberland River, a perfect long weekend less than two hours away by car.
When to Visit: After cold, snowy winters, locals and visitors alike look forward to warmer weather. Spring, particularly April, is packed full of festivals, including the Cherry Blossom Festival, Wild West Comedy Festival, and Nashville Film Festival. While summer brings higher temperatures and a bit of humidity, it’s still a great time to get in on the outdoor music scene, especially at Ascend Amphitheater or Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater.
Getting Around: Nashville’s MTA bus system can get you around, but it’s slow, so renting a car makes the most sense for quickly traveling around the car-friendly city. Bike rentals and walking are another alternative, and ride-sharing apps are essential if you forgo a rental. Also, check with your hotel to see if they offer a shuttle service to or from the airport before shelling out the cash for a taxi.
Tipping: Nashville newbies take note: When you go to a restaurant, bar, or nightclub, it’s customary to tip the service staff or bartender anywhere from 15–20%. If you take a cab, stick to 15%. For hotel staff, give about $1 (or more if you’re feeling generous) for services such as luggage delivery or valet parking.
You Might Not Know… The Johnny Cash Museum is about a three-minute walk from Paradise Park Trailer Resort, a trailer park–themed bar where a Doublewide Cheeseburger gets you two 1/3-pound beef patties on a bun with a side of tater tots or sweet potato fries. If you’re more of a daredevil, try Nashville’s original hot chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack at one of the two locations: 123 Ewing Drive or 5814 Nolensville Road.
Bored with eating dinner at the same restaurants every night? Want a new way to relax and enjoy Tennessee's warm weather during the day? Then the General Jackson Showboat might be just what the doctor ordered.
The General Jackson is a 300 foot (91.5 meter) paddlewheel riverboat, one of the largest showboats in the country. Harkening back to the days when showboats plied the American rivers in the 19th century, a tour on the General Jackson serves as both a historic and relaxing trip. It boasts four massive decks with a beautiful two-story Victorian Theater located in the center, which serves as the site of live musical performances. Take either a day drip down the Cumberland River or a night cruise and enjoy a dinner under the stars.
A must-attend event while in "Music City," The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert that has highlighted the genre's biggest stars since 1925. Originally a radio broadcast, the Opry is the longest running radio program in history. Dedicated to honoring country music, the event showcases different artists each night to perform songs in genres including country, bluegrass, folk, comedy, and gospel.
Considered the "Show that Made Country Famous," the Opry is famous for its multi-generational approach and ability to adapt with the changing times. This approach continues today as it features both legendary performers and contemporary chart toppers. An American icon, the Opry is regularly listened to by millions of internet and radio users and visited by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world.
The historic home of the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium is one of the must see sites that makes Music City famous. Built in 1892 (and initially serving as a tabernacle) it was used for the Opry broadcasts from 1943 until 1974. After the Opry moved to a larger venue, the Ryman sat largely unused until it was reopened as a performance hall and museum in 1994.
Today, the Ryman is a popular 2,362-seat live performance venue as well as a National Historic Landmark. Both country music stars and legends in other genres have graced the Ryman stage throughout its long and proud history. Among the many notable stars to have performed there include Elvis Presley, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, and Patsy Kline.
Taking a tour of the Ryman allows you to walk in the same steps of music royalty, seeing the backstage area and dressing rooms that hosted these many stars.
ew things are as deeply connected with the South as country music, so while you're in Nashville (known as "Music City") it's apropos to check out the world famous Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
With its mixture of historic video clips and recorded music, dynamic exhibits and state-of-the-art design, regular menu of live performances and public programs, the museum is filled with fascinating attractions. You don't have to be a country music fan to appreciate the museum's significance. All that is required for enjoyment is an appreciation for musical history and culture.
No trip to Nashville is complete without a visit to Music Row. Along with being the spot where many big names got their start in the music business, it offers numerous choices to hear live music from possible future recording stars.
RCA Studio B is the first thing on most visitors list. The famous recording studio recorded hits from the likes of Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and Chet Atkins. Elvis recorded more than 200 songs here. Music lovers will enjoy seeing all of the old houses converted into music companies and offices. Not far from Vanderbilt University’s campus, it’s the type of place where you can happily wander, especially on a sunny day.
The Johnny Cash Museum may be new to Nashville, but visitors to this Mecca devoted to the Man in Black say the place feels like it’s been around forever. Bill Miller, one of Cash’s closest friends, has gathered and cataloged the country singer superstar’s memorabilia for decades, resulting in a relatively small space that still manages to hold one of the most impressive—and exhaustive—Cash collections ever.
Visitors can wander through museum halls lined with memories and artifacts from the singer’s impressive career, including performance highlights and television cameos. But what makes the Johnny Cash Museum truly unique are the personal effects only a close friend could collect—childhood report cards, military uniforms, and handwritten love letters to Cash’s wives.
All of America’s great cities have a fantastic urban park. New York’s Central Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, and Nashville’s Centennial Park.
The lush green landscape provides a needed escape from the towering skyscrapers and bustling city life. The most notable, and possibly most out-of-place feature of the park is the Parthenon replica, built to scale. Commissioned for Nashville’s celebration of the nation’s 100th birthday, it also commemorates Nashville’s reputation as the “Athens of the South” because of its many universities and arts scene.
Don’t just admire this architectural feat from the outside, the builders took this replica project to its fullest extent. According to Ancient Greek history, the Parthenon was built to house an ivory and gold statue built by Phidias to honor the goddess. Its size can’t be described as anything but breath-taking, and it’s mind-blowing to think about this being built during the B.C. era.
When Nashville turned 200 it decided to throw a party—and to open a park. Since June, 1996, the 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park has given locals and visitors a calm and scenic place to rest. The park boasts numerous features, like an impressive view of the Capitol building, erupting geyser fountains, an informative Civil War exhibit and a Greek amphitheater for live concerts.
Visitors can take an easy walk along the .9-mile paved Bicentennial Mall Trail, or stop at the nearby Nashville Farmers’ Market before picnicking on the well-kept lawns. The 200-fee wide granite map on the park’s southern end gives visitors a bird’s eye view of the state and at the park’s northern end, travelers can wander the short Path of Volunteers and the flora-lined Walkway of Counties.
Nashville may be the country music capital of America, but the Schermerhorn Symphony Center brings a touch of class to a bustling downtown area that’s filled with gritty bars and live music venues.
Since 2006, the Center’s Laura Turner Concert Hall has been home to the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony. Its natural lighting, 30 soundproof windows and custom-built organ make for a unique concert experience. The smaller Mike Curb Family Music Education Hall hosts performances for children, schools and families as part of the Center’s Music Education City initiative. While the symphony is one of the hottest tickets in Nashville, visitors say even if you can’t catch a performance, it’s still worth touring the grand space and wandering through the beautiful public Martha Rivers Ingram Garden Courtyard on a trip to Nashville.
It’s impossible to escape music in a city like Nashville, which makes a visit to RCA Studio B—where it kind of all began—so memorable. More than 35,000 songs have been recorded here, including 200 of Elvis Presley’s rock and roll hits and some 40 million-selling singles by country and rock legends. RCA Studio B is a piece of music history in the heart of city that loves its music. Visitors can wander the halls where Dolly Parton and The Everly Brothers once recorded, and even sit at the piano Elvis played.
Step back into the Old South and get a feel for what it might have been like to live on a plantation in the 1800s. Located 6 miles (9.5 kilometers) west of Nashville, the Belle Meade Plantation is a historic plantation mansion whose grounds now function as a museum.
First bought in 1806, and continually expanded throughout the 19th century, the Belle Meade Plantation became world renowned as a first-rate horse breeding establishment. Buyers from around the world flocked to the plantation for its annual yearling sales, hoping to purchase one of their champion thoroughbred horses. A tour of the mansion reveals Belle Meade's rich history and offers insight into the distinct Southern culture of the Antebellum and Reconstruction eras.