A modern city with an industrial past and several competing identities, Nashville, Tennessee is now primarily famous as the Mecca of country music. It is here that struggling artists and aspiring young stars come to follow in the footsteps of giants like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Music City, indeed. However, long before country music became the de facto symbol of the city, the city fathers envisioned Nashville as the Athens of the South, with an incredibly detailed replica of the ancient Parthenon. The Nashville of today is booming once again, its rich history and emerging businesses attracting all kinds of visitors. In spite of the new developments, hip restaurants, and trendy coffee shops, the old, authentic Nashville is still looming behind it all, in the city’s museum’s and auditoriums, and, more than ever, in the city’s very lifeblood.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Want to explore this fascinating city? Learn all about the things to do in Nashville during the day and find out plenty more interesting info about the place.
1. What’s the best time to visit Nashville?
2. A few facts about Nashville
3. One Day in Nashville Itinerary
3.1. Start Your Day in Downtown Nashville
3.2. Check out the Ryman Auditorium
3.3. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
3.4. Head on over to the Johnny Cash Museum & Café
3.5. Take a Break and Have a Bite to Eat
3.6. Take the Bus/Taxi to Centennial Park
3.7. Check out Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
3.8. Take a Backstage Tour of the Grand Ole Opry
3.9. Check out Madame Tussauds Nashville & Other Fun Things to Do in Nashville with Kids
3.9.1. Experience Everything the Music City Has to Offer at Night
4. Where to stay in Nashville?
5. Day trips from Nashville
6. Extra tips for visiting Nashville
There are plenty of things to do in Nashville all year-long, so choosing when to visit the city mostly depends on your own personal preferences. However, the weather may play a role, too – Nashville’s winters are predominantly cool to moderately cold, with below-freezing daytime temperatures and occasionally even snow while summers are quite hot and humid, with higher hotel rates and pricey flights due to the peak tourist season. If you want to avoid all of that, the best time to visit Nashville is either in April or May, although October and November bring very affordable rates.
Naturally, there are many notable events in the city, and they mostly revolve around music. For example, the Country Music Fan Fair is in June, as is the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, but you can also go to the Americana Music Festival in September. But there are also things like the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, July 4th celebrations and so much more you can see and enjoy.
A few facts about Nashville
The city of Nashville was founded on Christmas Eve in 1779.
Oprah Winfrey’s meteoric rise first started in Nashville TV, where she was both the first African American and female news anchor. Nashville is not all about country music, either.
The city’s Jefferson street was filled with blues, jazz, and R&B between the 1940s and 1960s, and it was not uncommon to see Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, and Etta Jones performing there.
The locals call the AT&T Building “Batman” because of the two spires resembling the superhero’s ears, although some may sooner compare it to Barad-dûr or Orthanc from Lord of the Rings.
In RCA Studio B, there is still a string of red, blue, and green Christmas lights that were placed there to get Elvis in the mood for his Christmas album.
The Grand Ole Opry is a local favorite, with the Goo Goo, the famous Nashville candy, named after the legendary country music stage concert.
You are in Nashville, the country music capital of the world! And even though the musical heritage of this city is immense, there are many things to see and do in Nashville that are not directly related to music. This is the only itinerary you’ll need during your day here, and with it, you will experience the best possible side of this amazing city. Let’s go!
Most of Nashville’s landmarks and points of interest are located downtown, which is bordered by the Cumberland River to the east, the I-40 to the south and west, and Jefferson street to the north. Fairlane Hotel is an excellent place to stay if you want to be in the middle of it all and not waste any time reaching the downtown area.
There are several nice music-themed diners open 24/7 in the vicinity, as well as a number of coffee shops and breakfast restaurants. The Johnny Cash Museum & Café is also nearby, but we’ll leave that for later. Rise Biscuits Donuts is a real sleeper hit across the street from Downtown Presbyterian Church on 5th Avenue. With food just like your Mama used to make on a Sunday morning and delicious coffee, this charming little place has everything you need to get your one day in Nashville off to a flying start.
Church of Christ. After you cross Commerce Street, the Ryman Auditorium is the second building to the left. Now famous as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the venue served as the Grand Ole Opry House from 1943 to 1974 and Union Gospel Tabernacle before that. This is a place for all music fans, not just fervent country music aficionados.
There is a great organized tour of the venue, telling the story of the place in a very fun, engaging way. You can often see stage preparations for the evening show, and talk to the staff a bit. The Auditorium was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2001 for the key role it played in making country music as popular as it is today.
After the Ryman Auditorium, take a short 5-minute walk south on 5th Avenue until you reach the Music City Walk of Fame Park. You will note the neoclassical Schermerhorn Symphony Center here, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the next stop on this itinerary. At the museum, the story of one of the most popular musical genres in America is told through interactive exhibits and more than 2.5 million unique artifacts. Get your tickets here.
There are both permanent and temporary exhibits inside, some telling the stories of contemporary artists such as Taylor Swift, while others focus on legends like Elvis. You can even see a car that used to belong to the King, as well as a whole host of awards, outfits, and guitars.
The popular Songwriter Session is another reason to visit, where artists hold small 60-minute concerts and talk about the creative process of writing songs. The place is huge so expect to spend 2-3 hours there, depending on your preferences.
Once you leave the museum, head northeast on Demonbreun Street and then turn left when you reach 3rd Avenue. After a short walk, The Johnny Cash Museum & Café will be to your left, set in a pleasantly old-fashioned red-brick building.
While small in size, the place is overflowing with memorabilia and does a good job of presenting the life and career of the music icon, from his humble beginnings and rise to fame to all the amazing and little-known details and events that make up his inspiring story.
There is also a small gift shop where you can get T-shirts, books, and CDs. The second floor is dedicated to Patsy Cline, and is also worth a visit, although you’ll need to purchase a separate ticket for that. Touring the Johnny Cash Museum on its own should take you 45 minutes to one hour.
While you are still at The Johnny Cash Museum & Café, it is worth noting that they also serve sandwiches and pastries, pretty good coffee, and (of course) cold beer, so this is a pretty convenient lunch venue.
Alternatively, you can check out the nearby Honky Tonk Central on 4th Avenue and Broadway, an iconic and lively 3-storey barroom with pub grub, non-stop live country music, and great cold beer. Ideal for lunch as it gets crowded in the evening.
The Stillery and Bakersfield are also great places for a bite to eat, especially if you’re not in a hurry and would like to sit down and go over what you’ve seen so far.
Continuing with your one day in Nashville, the next stop is Centennial Park, the city’s premier urban park. Getting there is easy, even with public transport – just hop on bus line 5 and exit at West End Avenue & Natchez Trace.
The Centennial Park World War I Monument is near the park entrance. Some other points of interest in Centennial Park include the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument, the Civil War Memorial, and the Centennial Performing Arts Studios, a gallery in the park displaying local and regional art, also with painting and pottery workshops.
Marvel at the Parthenon
The star attraction, however, is the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the most famous building from Ancient Greece. Finished in 1897, The Parthenon of Nashville is now home to American art galleries. It is located in the center of the park, so it is impossible to miss. Visiting the Parthenon is one of the best things to do in Nashville with kids, especially if they love Greek and Roman mythology. The park is also a great place for families in general, with a nice playground, gorgeous, well-maintained gardens, and a charming lake with geese and ducks.
Not all major Nashville attractions are located downtown. Getting to some of them requires a bit of driving. For example, the Grand Ole Opry and the nearby Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center are located 13 miles northeast from Centennial Park. The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, is a sprawling hotel/convention center with 2888 rooms, making it one of the 30 biggest hotels in the whole world. Stay there for a truly unique experience!
Even if you are not staying there, though, you can visit and explore the hotel complex. However, since the parking can get quite pricey, park at the Opry Mills Mall and take a short walk north to see the resort. The hotel’s conservatory/arboretum is absolutely gorgeous, like a little town with trees and parks under a glass ceiling. You’ll love the little ponds, artificial waterfalls and charming cafés. The place looks like a fairy tale.
The Grand Ole Opry House is right next to the hotel, just a short walk south across the parking lot. There are three kinds of tours of the Opry House. The regular daytime tour provides an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at the artists, locations, and stories behind the show that has launched innumerable successful country music careers.
Post-show and VIP tours are also available, but you should book these in advance if you’re interested.
In case you are not familiar with the Grand Ole Opry’s significance, however, suffice to say that it is the longest-running radio broadcast in the country’s history, founded in late 1925 as an hourlong “barn dance” on WSM.
Today, the Opry hosts rising stars and famous chart-toppers who play not only country music, but also folk, Americana, bluegrass, and gospel music, plus occasional skits and comedic performances.
After touring the Grand Ole Opry, take a short walk back to the mall and visit Madame Tussauds. Here, you can see the legends of country music brought to life alongside famous icons from other genres. Whether you want to take a photo with Kid Rock, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, or Miley Cyrus, Madame Tussauds has got you covered.
If you’re looking for things to do with kids in Nashville, take them here and let them appear on stage with some of their favorite music idols. Some other family-friendly attractions in Nashville include the Adventure Science Center, the Nashville Zoo (with petting and zipline riding), the Lane Motor Museum, and the Nashville Children’s Theatre. So, one day in Nashville will be fantastic for kids, too!
If there is a performance at the Grand Ole Opry House, consider spending the evening there or at least get the ball rolling with a show (they usually start around 7 PM) before going out for a night on the town. Otherwise, head downtown or to East Nashville, famous for its quirky vibe and a vibrant nightlife and culinary scene.
B.B. King’s Blues Club is an excellent choice for dinner/first stop, especially if you like barbecue (Memphis-style) and typical Southern comfort food with flavors inspired by New Orleans cuisine, all accompanied by live music.
Coyote UGLY (remember the movie?) is right next door, with bartop dancing, scantily clad female bartenders, body shots and an all-round good time. For something a bit more off the beaten track, check out Cafe Roze – loved by locals and visitors alike, this is a bit more modern and stylish place compared to the previous two options, with delicious food and incredibly welcoming staff.
And since Cafe Roze closes at 10, you can continue partying across the street at Vinyl Tap, an unusual craft beer taproom that also doubles as a neat, unique record store.
Booking the right accommodation in Nashville can have a huge impact on your day in this great city. It can save you a lot of time when it comes to visiting the main sights, meaning you will have more time to do some serious exploring. On the other hand, if you have an early flight, you will want to stay in a hotel near Nashville International Airport. If that’s not the case, though, do go and book a hotel in town. Our hand-picked list below will show you which places will make your visit a truly unforgettable one.
2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is so massive and beautiful that many travel guides now list it among places you absolutely must see in Nashville. Located only a 10-minute walk from the Grand Ole Opry, this upscale resort’s is easy to get to from Nashville International Airport, with all the major attractions approx. 20 minutes by car from the property. In addition to a gym and spa, the resort has 19 restaurants and bars, two outdoor and one indoor pool, and numerous indoor gardens sprawling over 9 acres. Surprisingly, there are even boat turs of the little canals and lakes inside, reminiscent of Venice. While the Grand Ole Opry and the mall are very close, the hotel’s shuttle service certainly comes in handy when you want to head downtown.
401 Union Street, Nashville, TN 37219
Located on Union Street, mere steps away from Broadway, Fairlane Hotel is the perfect choice for travelers who like to stay in the heart of the city and do most of their sightseeing on foot. The retro-modern rooms are very stylish and well-appointed. Some of the rooms come with floor-to-ceiling windows providing breathtaking views of downtown Nashville. Ellington’s Mid Way Bar & Grill is a real gem, with delicious Southern-inspired dishes and an upscale rooftop location. The hotel’s urban chic décor and fantastic feel are perfectly complemented by its highly professional and friendly staff, quick to help and always going the extra mile to add personal touches.
301 3rd Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37201
Mere minutes from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, The Johnny Cash Museum & Café, and all the other must-see Nashville attractions, Hyatt Place Nashville Downtown is one of the hotels with the best location in the city. Luckily, everything else the hotels has to offer is up to par, starting with the spacious & inviting air-conditioned rooms, each with a comfy sofa and large private bathroom with stylish granite counters. The breakfast bar is another highlight, with a large number of options even for a prolonged stay. The hotel’s décor, especially the artwork at the front desk, epitomizes the true spirit of the Music City.
1500 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, 37203, United States
If you’re looking for a slightly more affordable accommodation, TownePlace Suites by Marriott are an excellent choice! This modern establishment is not too far from the city center, has very spacious and comfortable rooms, a fitness center and even offers bikes to the guests! A clever thing is a discount on Lyft you get if you stay here, something that can come in very handy when exploring the city. A good breakfast and excellent staff round up a great offer, so you really can’t go wrong with booking a room here. The place has everything you need and more and offers terrific value!
If you’re staying more than one day in Nashville, you will have an opportunity to set up a day trip or two, and this is something very much worthy of consideration. This part of the United States has so much to offer, so you’d better study your options carefully – there is plenty to choose from! Here are some of the most popular day trip ideas.
Mammoth Cave National Park – now, this is a really unique day trip from Nashville because Mammoth Cave is the biggest system of caves in the world stretching hundreds of miles. It’s very fascinating to explore, and you can even go hiking or biking in the park. Oh, and check out Diamond Caverns while you’re here, you won’t regret it!
Dollywood – yes, getting here may take about 3.5 hours from Nashville, but for a true Dolly Parton fan, this won’t be a problem. Dollywood is a unique theme park, with plenty of rides, a museum dedicated to the beloved singer, and excellent food, so the trip is worth it even if you’re not a fan of her music. Pure fun!
Arrington Vineyards – if you’re looking for a short day trip from Nashville, go to Arrington Vineyards! Just over half an hour away from the city, this place is perfect if you just want to chill out and relax with a glass of wine and a delicious bite while overlooking the vineyards. And in summer, there is live music here during weekends.
Lynchburg – Lynchburg is the home to Jack Daniel’s headquarters, so those of you who enjoy a good whisky will love it just for that. However, this small town is exceptionally charming, with plenty of shops and restaurants. You can tour the distillery and then enjoy Southern hospitality at its very finest for a lovely slow-paced day.
Haven’t found the trip that seems just right for you? Don’t worry, there’s more! Check out this Day Trips from Nashville article for some seriously tantalizing offers to make your stay in Nashville even more unforgettable.
Many businesses in Nashville are closed on Mondays, a remnant from the past, when Nashville was an industrial powerhouse. Take that into consideration when planning your trip.
The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), rebranded since July 2018 as WeGo Public Transit, serves all of Nashville and Davidson County. The bus system is pretty good, but you’ll still have to occasionally rely on Uber or Lyft to get to places.
When it comes to free things to do in Nashville, there are free festivals and events in the city almost every weekend from spring to fall, including concerts, craft shows, beer festivals, and the like.
PIN FOR LATER!
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).