Nashville caught us by surprise. It’s a vibrant, diverse, energetic, and artistic city that welcomes musicians, visitors, and everyone in between. One day in Nashville is simply not enough. Appropriately earning the moniker Music City, it is the birthplace of country music. For us, Nashville was an unscheduled treat.
Nature put a hurricane in our original path, forcing us to change directions. Nashville was the best decision we made. It’s one of the friendliest USA cities we have visited; the unpretentious atmosphere is a welcome change. Nashville is attractive on so many levels. On average, 100 people are moving there each day, making it one of the fastest growing cities in America.
While we had only one full day in Nashville, we stayed for two nights as we were road tripping through the USA. We took advantage of every minute, finding endless fun things to do in Nashville at night, as well as during the day.
Downtown Nashville Nightlife
• Broadway Honky Tonks
Nashville at night is a banquet for the senses that doesn’t need to break the bank. You don’t need a plan. Just put on your dancing shoes and take a stroll down Broadway. One honky tonk after the next, nearly all with live music pouring into the streets. Some are rooftop locations, others at street level. There are bouncers, and the legal drinking age of 21 seemed to be strictly enforced (this was not a problem for us).
Best of all, in almost all the clubs, there is no cover charge nor a minimum drink requirement. The bands collect tips, and the ones we heard were excellent.
(According to Merriam-Webster a ‘Honky Tonk’ is usually a tawdry nightclub or dance hall, especially one that features country music.)
• Enjoy the views from the John Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge
Sometime after dark, be sure to walk about halfway across the to the John Seigenthaler pedestrian bridge and then turn back for stunning views of the Nashville skyline. This is one of the best free things to do in Nashville at night.
Tours are often the best way to understand a city, especially when we don’t have time to properly explore on our own. With only one day in Nashville, we opted for the Hop-on-Hop-off Bus. Here are some of the other best tours in Nashville that we can find:
|Hop-on Hop-off Trolley||Hop-on Hop-off at 15 stops around Nashville|
Trolley conductor provides entertaining narration
Valid for 1 day
|1 hr 40 min loop|
|Grand Ole Opry, Behind The Scenes Tour||Explore the new Grand Ole Opry House and Opryland Resort|
Hear the backstage stories
Ride the Delta Riverboats
|Discover Tour||Narrated tour of Nashville’s favourite landmarks|
Admission to the Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame
Pick up and drop off at the hotel
|Homes of the Stars Tour||Narrated tour of past and present music superstar’s homes|
Pick up and drop off at the hotel
|Food and Sightseeing Tour||Sample authentic southern fare and a local cocktail|
See landmarks and neighborhood sights
|Jack Daniel’s Distillery Bus Tour||Transportation to and from the distillery|
Select from a tasting or non-tasting tour
Time for lunch, shopping and sightseeing in Lynchburg
Country Music Things to Do in Nashville During the Day
There seems an unending number of unique things to do in Nashville’s music scene, most related to country music. Here were our selections (all great choices):
• Country Music Hall of Fame
As a country music fan from way back, a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame has been on my bucket list for more years than I am willing to admit. It’s nicknamed the “Smithsonian of country music” for good reason. Starting from the top, we worked our way down, exploring 350,000 square feet of memorabilia. From Elvis to Taylor Swift, every favourite was there along with many performers we didn’t know. The museum houses over two million musical treasures including recordings, rare photographs, stage costumes, instruments, and even a few cars. It is a must see in Nashville.
• Grand Ole Opry
You know you have arrived when you sing at the Grand Ole Opry. Founded in 1925, it produces the longest-running radio broadcast in US history. This live country music stage offers concerts on Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday nights, each with up to eight performers per show. You never know who you will see. Sometimes the most famous of recording artists pop in for a set.
• Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium is referred to as the ‘Mother Church of Country Music‘. It was home to the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Today it is a popular country music venue offering self-guided multi-media tours.
• Music Row
Dare I admit, I always thought Music Row Nashville was a fictitious place frequently sung about in country songs. In reality, it is home to RCA Victor recording studios and nearly every major recording agent on the country music scene. The row (street) is a historic landmark, and as such the old home exteriors must remain intact, while the interiors have all been redone.
• Johnny Cash Museum
We all know Johnny Cash as the man in black. The museum is filled with memorabilia including a stone wall taken from his lake house in Hendersonville, Tennessee. His 1,5oo recorded songs include charted hits on 78, 45, and 33 1/3 RPM records as well as reel-to-reel audio, 4-track, 8-track, and cassette tapes, and CDs. In addition, his hit “I Guess Things Happen That Way” was the 10-billionth download on iTunes.
• Patsy Cline Museum
A museum dedicated to the short life of Patsy Cline (1932-1963). She is regarded as country music’s top female entertainer of all-time.
• The George Jones (museum)
Often thought of as the greatest counter music singer of all time, the museum takes up only one floor of The George Jones, a four-story building featuring a restaurant and rooftop bar.
• Hatch Show Print
Still doing it the old-fashioned way, Hatch Show Prints uses letterpress printing to create posters for the Grand Ole Opry and other performances. Tours are available, but we just had a look inside from the entranceway. The only rule is no photographing active printing.
Other Fun Thing to Do in Nashville
• The Parthenon
There is a full-size reproduction of the Parthenon located in Athens Greece. Inside Nashville’s Parthenon stands a 42-foot tall statue of Athena (also a full-size replica). We saw the exterior from the Hop-on-Hop-off Bus and opted not to go inside, as we have been to the original in Greece.
• Madame Tussauds Nashville
What makes Madame Tussauds so much fun is the ability to interact with life-like wax figures of people we recognize. In Nashville, the wax residents are nearly all music performers in genres ranging from country to rock, pop blues, and jazz.
• Goo Goo Clusters
Goo Goo Clusters are the United State’s first combination candy bar, made in Nashville since 1912. According to the clerk behind the counter, they were named Goo Goo “so even a baby can ask for them at birth.”
Stop into the Goo Goo Cluster building for free samples. A warning: they are really good. You will most likely buy a few, eat them, and then overpay for more somewhere else.
• Old Town Trolley Tours of Nashville (or Gray Line of Tennessee)
We actually started our day with a ride around the city on this Hop-on-Hop-off Nashville bus. With a comprehensive tour along with the ride, it allowed us to see much more in one day in Nashville than we imagined possible.
Our guide pointed out the key sites like the Parthenon but also gave us interesting tidbits of information like:
Where to Stay in Nashville
Like all big cities, Nashville offers a variety of options. The best places to stay in Nashville would depend on what comfort level you seek.
We slept well in plush luxury at the Embassy Suites Nashville Airport. With a separate room for relaxing, eating, or working, we had more than enough space to spread out. Starting both mornings with a homemade omelette from the breakfast buffet, we were energized and ready to go. Hotel parking is free. The drive into town is quick, and the daytime city parking cost us less than most of the downtown hotels would have charged overnight.
If you want to be downtown, the options range from luxury to hostels.
Practical Information and Tips on Visiting Music City
It is easy to understand why Nashville is on a list of the ‘Best Places to Visit in 2018’ by Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveller, Booking.com, Travelocity, HuffPost UK, The Telegraph, and TripAdvisor. Here are a few tips to make your visit even better:
- Parking in the city can be expensive. The two cheaper lots we found are at at the Nashville Public Library (enter at 6th Ave N) and under the Music City Center (enter at Demonbreun St or Korean Veterans Blvd).
- If you don’t want to wander aimlessly, stop by one of the three visitor centers for a map (in the Music City Center, at 5th and Broadway, or at Commerce and 4th).
⇒ Or, download a free map of downtown Nashville
- Relax, have fun, and check out several of the honky tonks along Broadway. Include one rooftop one, it’s worth the stair climb for the views.
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One day in Nashville is not enough. How many will you spend?
Still Want More? Check out Get Your Guide for some of the best Nashville tours:
Disclaimer: We worked with Visit Music City, the Nashville tourism board. Also, we were provided with many complimentary entrances, tours, sample items, or media rates to assist in the writing of this review. The opinions expressed here are strictly our own.