Top Attractions in Nashville
Music City—full of neon signs and honky tonks, country music stars and wannabes—has irresistable allure for all types of visitors. Fine art museums, historic plantations, farmers’ markets, a booming downtown, and vintage shops add to the draw of thoroughly modern and exciting Nashville.
3900 Hillsboro Pike Suite 14, Nashville, TN 37215, USA
In 2011, just about the time many bookstores around the country were closing, author Ann Patchett, a Nashville resident, announced she was opening an independent bookshop. Her risky decision has paid off—the thriving shop has expanded and even added a Parnassus on Wheels bookmobile. The shop has a knowledgeable staff (including a cast of shop dogs like Mary Todd Lincoln, a dachshund) and a warm environment that encourages browsing. Parnassus champions the local literary community and also invites out-of-town guest authors like Zadie Smith and George Saunders to read and speak. The bookstore’s association with the remarkable Ann Patchett occasionally draws famous visitors you won’t find on the published speaking schedule: Yo-Yo Ma once dropped by on the day of his appearance with the Nashville Symphony and treated shoppers to an impromptu cello concert amid the bookshelves.
Nashville, TN, USA
This neighborhood north of downtown was settled in the 1850s by German immigrants, which explains both its name and its annual Oktoberfest celebration. Several of those early residents started meatpacking businesses, so it also makes sense that the neighborhood evolved into a culinary hotbed. Among the first notable Germantown hot spots, City House has remained a top choice for its rustic Italian cuisine made with Southern ingredients and its hip, unassuming vibe. Other restaurants like Rolf and Daughters, 5th and Taylor, and Henrietta Red have helped propel the local food scene into the national spotlight. The neighborhood’s apartments, condos, and historic homes benefit by proximity to things beyond restaurants, too, like the Nashville Farmers’ Market and the Nashville Sounds baseball stadium.
Nashville, TN, USA
The main drag through this neighborhood, 12th Avenue South, gives the area its name, and on weekends, it’s the conduit that delivers the crowds. Sightseers pose for photos at the “I Believe in Nashville” mural or head for coffee at Frothy Monkey, a pioneering eatery along the strip. Other food options include Burger Up for gourmet burgers, barbecue at Edley’s, and Mediterranean eats at Epice. Shoppers (and the starstruck) can stop by actress Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James boutique or White’s Mercantile, a shop owned by musician Holly Williams (granddaughter of Hank). In just a few blocks’ stretch, this neighborhood keeps visitors busy for hours. Like a sweet finish? There’s an ATM that dispenses cupcakes at Sprinkles, creative ice cream flavors by the scoop at Jeni’s, and fresh, Mexican-style ice pops at Las Paletas.
Not so long ago, the Gulch was merely a dip in the landscape where the train lines intersected near downtown Nashville. These days, it’s a hotbed of restaurants (like Biscuit Love, Prima, the 404 Kitchen, Fin & Pearl, Kayne Prime), glass office buildings, condos, and hotels (including the 404 and the Thompson Nashville). Wedged in among all the sleek newness, though, you can still find old-school Nashville flavor at joints like the Station Inn, a legendary (and tiny) bluegrass venue that has hosted the likes of Vince Gill and Dolly Parton over the years. Pop by for a pitcher of beer, a “thing of popcorn” (as noted on the menu), and a great show any night of the week.
Nashville, TN, USA
For a solid taste of Wedgewood-Houston, or WeHo as it’s sometimes called, try to visit on the first Saturday of the month for the art crawl. The self-guided tour gives visitors time to peruse the galleries, studios, and coworking spaces that foster Nashville’s collaborative spirit. Fort Houston, for example, spans 3.25 acres and holds vast amounts of artist space with a darkroom, metal shop, woodshop, and print shop. After the art crawl, head to Cotten Music to ogle guitars, or, if you’re here a while, sign up for a class. Then stop into Bastion for a craft cocktail and a plate of nachos. If you can snag a seat, Bastion’s restaurant (in a room behind the bar) serves food that looks like art of the culinary sort.
310 1st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37201, USA
Situated on the banks of the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville, this outdoor venue has hosted a variety of acts and genres—Janet Jackson, Chicago, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, Marilyn Manson, and Phish, to name a few—since it opened in 2015. Concessions include local flavors like Martin’s Bar-B-Que and Hattie B’s hot chicken, as well as a little Pickers vodka to wet the whistle. Hamburgers, hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, and beer, of course, round out the offerings of outdoor concert fare. The backdrop for the entertainment can’t be beat: the river behind you, the stars overhead, and Music City’s skyline.
116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219, USA
After the Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman Auditorium, country legend Roy Acuff said the redbrick building with its Gothic arches and stained glass windows might as well be torn down. The Ryman had been home to performances and broadcasts since the 1940s, but it was in poor condition and lacked air-conditioning and proper dressing rooms. Fortunately, its legacy as “The Mother Church of Country Music” prevailed and, after years of sitting practically empty, the auditorium was renovated and began hosting shows once again. Originally built as a church, the grand hall has spectacular acoustics and a lingering magic in its pews from all those years spent witnessing country music history. A trip here is practically obligatory when visiting the Music City.
2804 Opryland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214, USA
The radio show that made country music famous, the Grand Ole Opry aired its first broadcast in 1925 and continues to entertain music lovers to this day. Held weekly, the show involves a fast-moving, rotating cast of musicians performing onstage, with past guests including legends like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. It moved from the Ryman Auditorium downtown to this eponymous, purpose-built theater in 1974, and while you won’t find much else in the area, a trek to the Opry is a Nashville tradition worth indulging.
222 Rep. John Lewis Way S, Nashville, TN 37203
Rhinestones, tassels, boots so pointy they’d make toes bleed...what more could you expect from Nashville‘s monument to the music that made it famous? Well, plenty more, as it turns out. The Hall of Fame contains some seriously impressive artifacts from musical history, from Bill Monroe’s Loar F5 mandolin and Johnny Cash’s iconic black suit to Webb Pierce’s car, pimped-out with silver guns for door handles and steer horns mounted on the front grille. Sprawled across several floors, the Hall of Fame misses few details as it tells the story of “hillbilly” music (although the expansive exhibit about Hank Williams is notably sketchy on the particulars of his early death). Big, bold, and shameless, this is one heck of a celebration of country music.
1 Symphony Pl, Nashville, TN 37201, USA
With live music—much of it country—on every corner in Nashville, it’s easy for visitors to miss the city’s stellar symphony. But the magnificent Schermerhorn Symphony Center gives Nashville’s classical musicians a grand home. Located between the Broadway honky-tonks and the Country Music Hall of Fame, the center is named in honor of the late maestro Kenneth Schermerhorn, who led the Grammy Award–winning symphony for more than 20 years. In the true collaborative spirit of Nashville, the symphony often presents interesting pairings such as Brahms v. Radiohead: A Symphonic Mash-Up Experience and nontraditional guests like guitarist Trey Anastasio of Phish. The concert hall occasionally hosts other events like stand-up comedy.
2500 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
This sprawl of green—132 acres’ worth—is an oasis for urbanites. The park’s centerpiece, the Nashville Parthenon, is a full-scale replica of the Grecian structure and a physical testimony to Nashville’s “Athens of the South” nickname. The park’s bandshell hosts Shakespeare in the Park and occasionally serves as the site of the popular Movies in the Park, but because this is Nashville, a free live music series called Musicians Corner dominates the summer programming. On Saturday afternoons from May through September, music lovers, families, and pets gather to enjoy an impressive lineup of musicians, as well as local food trucks and a beer garden. Recent performers have included Preservation Hall Jazz Band and local favorites Rayland Baxter, Cale Tyson, and Langhorne Slim.
623 7th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37203, USA
Third Man Records, the Nashville outpost of musician Jack White’s record label and store, is hard to define. It’s both a retail outlet for vinyl and offices for his label, sure, but it also includes a “novelty lounge” with coin-operated video jukeboxes and whimsical contraptions. What draws the crowds, though, is Third Man’s music venue (decked out with curved blue walls adorned with taxidermy), which regularly holds live performances, shows movies, and hosts record-release events. Visitors also can step into the tiny Record Booth, a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph machine, to record up to two minutes of audio that they can take home on a 6-inch phonograph disc.