From honky tonks to hot chicken to historic mansions, here’s our list of 30 places and experiences you can’t miss on your trip to Nashville…
Nashville is known for country music, but anyone who’s visited a few times or lives in town knows it’s so much more than just country music. Music City is a vibrant, fast-growing place with a little something for everyone from the diehard Hank Williams fan to the shopaholic to the discerning foodie.
As Nashville frequenters, we pulled together our list of 30 spots or experiences we think should be on anyone’s Nashville bucket-list. (Organized by downtown area or not-so-downtown)
1. Country Music Hall of Fame
For country music fans, Nashville is Mecca and the epicenter is the Country Music Hall of Fame. Wander through the Music City Walk of Fame Park before heading into the multi-level Hall of Fame. Inside, you’ll find the massive Hall of Fame with the famed line, “Will the circle be unbroken?” wrapping around the names and faces of country music’s biggest starts.
The Country Music Hall of Fame isn’t just a hall of fame, it’s a massive museum full of country music memorabilia and rotating exhibits all paying homage to the greats like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, and more.
Photo via Flickr
2. RCA Studio B Tour
We’ve done the RCA Studio B tour more times than we can count, but it never gets old. No matter who the tour guide is, you’ll walk away with a feeling you just stood on hallowed ground. We’d tell you more, but quite frankly, we’d just ruin the surprise. We’ll just say this… You’ll never listen to Elvis’s “Are you lonesome tonight?” the same!
NOTE: Studio B is over on Music Row, but you MUST get tickets through the County Music Hall of Fame so we have it placed in the downtown section of our article. Tours depart from the CMHoF with transportation included. Click here to buy tickets.
3. Hatch Show Print
We first stumbled into Hatch Show Print when it was on Broadway, and we’ve been stopping by the poster shop ever since. These days, they’ve got larger digs right behind the Country Music Hall of Fame on 5th, and it’s better than ever. If you’ve ever gawked at an awesome vintage concert poster from a big star, decent chance Hatch Show Print made it. These days, they still crank out retro posters for big and aspiring stars all over the world and you can even tour the operation for yourself!
Photo via Facebook
4. Johnny Cash Museum
The Man in Black was always a legend, but his final recordings with Rick Rubin and the hit movie Walk the Line cemented him as an icon for every generation and age for years to come. Despite his enduring popularity, there wasn’t really a museum for him after the “House of Cash” closed until the Johnny Cash Museum finally opened just steps from Broadway. It didn’t take long for the museum to become one of the most-visited spots in downtown Nashville. We love going at least a few times a year, and if you’re a Patsy Cline fan- it’s in the same building so you can kill two birds with one stone.
Photo via Flickr
No surprise Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge makes our list. Thanks to its proximity to the Ryman, nearly every major country star has stepped on stage here. Heck, Hank Williams’ ghost is said to sneak in and out of the place some nights. It’s just a part of country music history, and you’d be remiss if you spent all your time at some new Broadway honky tonk and missed this legendary spot. Of course, it can get a little crowded, so if crowds aren’t your thing, try stopping by during the day.
6. The Ryman Auditorium
The Grand Ole Opry didn’t start here, but you could say it became legendary here. During the Ryman’s run as the primary home for the Opry, a who’s who of people performed including Elvis, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash (Of course, this is where he knocked out the footlights). Today, the modern country greats still take the stage and a chance to see any live show in this venue is a memorable experience. During the day, the Ryman is open for tours, and it’s a must-visit for any music fan.
Photo via Flickr
7. Acme Feed & Seed
With multiple levels (including a sweet rooftop), tons of live music, a rich Nashville history, and a prime Broadway location, Acme Feed & Seed is one of our favorite spots in downtown Nashville. Whether you’re looking for live music, a stellar cocktail, or some good country comfort food, Acme Feed & Seed will deliver. It’s become wildly popular over the past few years, but it’s 22,000 square feet help keep folks flowing in and out smoothly.
8. The Hermitage Hotel (& Oak Bar)
When it comes to classic southern style, you won’t find a better example in downtown Nashville than The Hermitage. Even if you don’t stay there, poke your head into the lobby for a taste of southern class and charm. Even better, head down to the Oak Bar.
Originally a private gentleman’s club, it was the place to grab a secret drink during prohibition and today it still boasts the best bourbon selection in Nashville.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the bathrooms! We know, it sounds odd, but their bathrooms are consistently ranked as some of the coolest in America.
9. Bobby's Rooftop Lounge
Ok, so there are tons of excellent rooftop bars in Nashville so picking just a few is almost impossible. We’re personally partial to the rooftop lounge at the ultra-cool Bobby Hotel. Not only does it boast great views, but it literally has an old bus. Seriously, they put a bus on the roof! And you can sit in it! Come on, that is just awesome.
Last time we visited, we loved it so much we subconsciously forgot our credit card just so we'd have to go back for another round.
Photo via Facebook
10. Printers Alley (Skull's)
Yeah, Broadway is fun and all, but when we want to catch some live music or have a top-notch cocktail, we typically sneak down to Printers Alley. Our favorite: Skull’s Rainbow Room. Over the years, this little hidden gem has hosted all the big names from Bob Dylan to Elvis Presley, and today their tradition of excellent music continues with nightly jazz and more. The Skull’s Rainbow Room is perfect for a romantic dinner or just a delicious handcrafted drink at their beautiful bar.
Photo via Facebook
11. Martin's BBQ
Seems every southern city has a BBQ place known as the “best in town.” For Nashville, it’s Martin’s BBQ. Just a few blocks from Broadway, Martin’s whole-hog barbeque has made it a household name throughout the state. Grab a local beer and enjoy a Martin’s delicacy: the Redneck Taco- BBQ meat of your choice on top of cornbread hoe-cake with slaw and sauce.
(P.S. Don’t let the line scare you- you order as you go in. You’ll be seated and fed in no time flat.)
12. George Jones Museum
Ok, at the George Jones Museum you can actually see the lawn mower he drove to the liquor store. That’s worth the price of admission alone. Add in all the other memorabilia, fun stories, guitars, and awards and you get a real fitting tribute to the ol’ Possum. When you’ve finished exploring the museum, head on up to the rooftop bar to keep the good times rolling.
13. Goo Goo Clusters
Prior to 1912, candy was pretty boring… You either got squares of chocolate, caramel, or taffy. Then, Howell Campbell Sr. and Porter Moore changed all that with their combination of caramel, nougat, peanuts, and chocolate. With that, the Goo Goo Cluster was born and soon became a Nashville favorite. You can find all sorts of Goo Goo cluster variations now at their downtown shop just across from the Johnny Cash Museum. You might as well buy at least a box because one of these is just never enough.
14. Bicentennial Capitol Mall & State Capitol
The Bicentennial Capitol Mall has a little something for everyone… From native plants to the WWII Memorial to the “Pathway of History,” the 19-acre park is a perfect way to spend a nice afternoon when you get tired of the craziness of the honky tonks.
Just up the hill you’ll also find the Tennessee State Capitol, this stately building looks much as it did when completed in the mid-1800s. Today, guided tours are offered multiple times a day. While at the capitol, be sure to visit the graves of President Polk and his wife.
Photo via Flickr
15. Nashville Farmers' Market
Located right next to the Bicentennial Mall, the Nashville Farmers’ Market is open nearly every day of the year and features not only local produce but tons of local shops and restaurants. Grab a coffee or juice here before strolling the Mall. Finish up your trip through the Mall with some local beers at the Picnic Tap, a bar consistently ranked as one of Nashville’s favorites with a tremendous selection of beers.
Photo via Facebook
16. War Memorial Auditorium
This beautiful, intimate venue hosted the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930s and still hosts it from time to time for special occasions (or say when the flooding forced the Opry out of its regular home). Catching a show at the War Memorial Auditorium is an unforgettable experience where history blends with the modern. If you’re in town on the first Thursday of the month, stop by for their Nashville House Concerts music variety show. Of course, check their events page to see if any big name shows are happening when you plan on visiting.
17. Musicians Hall of Fame
Over the years, Nashville has become a music hub for so much more than just the country genre. That being said, it’s fitting they’d have the Musicians Hall of Fame, a place dedicated to musicians from all genres. Here they honor the great artists, band members, and studio musicians from LA, Motown, Memphis, Nashville, and more. If you’re a music buff, you’ll especially enjoy their exhibit on the Grammys.
18. Ride the Pedal Tavern
Heading to Nashville with a group of friends? Why not grab some seats on a party bike! These 4-wheeled rolling party wagons have become the rage across the United States, and there’s no better place to give it a try than Nashville. We recommend Nashville Pedal Tavern for your party bike adventure. You bring the booze and right attitude and they do the rest!
On the Nashville Pedal Tavern, you'll enjoy a 2-hour pub crawl with a certified city tour guide and at least a couple stops along the way. Each rider also gets a wristband entitling them to drink, food, and shopping specials around town.
Greater Nashville Area
There are tons of great spots, neighborhoods, and more just outside downtown Nashville. Here are some of our favorites...
19. Marathon Village
So the main draw of Marathon Village is Antique Archaeology, you know, from American Pickers fame, but there’s plenty of other great stuff at Marathon Village. Of course, start with a stop at Antique Archaeology, but also budget some time for the multiple other jewelry, craft, and clothing shops.
20. The Parthenon
The imposing centerpiece of beautiful Centennial Park, Nashville’s Parthenon is an exact replica of the Parthenon in Athens. While beautiful from the outside, it’s also well-worth heading inside for the excellent art museum. At only $6, it’s a true bargain. Be sure to check out the 42-foot statue of Athena that dominates the Parthenon, just as it did in ancient Greece.
21. The Gulch
Just blink and a new building will have gone up in The Gulch. This fast-growing area of Nashville is full of great restaurants, bars, and shops, but we recommend having a drink or two at Yazoo Brewing to get yourself started.
If you haven’t had your fill of live music yet, catching a show at the Station Inn is also an awesome bluegrass experience.
There’s no shortage of good food in the Gulch, and we love Otaku Ramen and Arnold’s Country Kitchen. We know what you’re thinking? Ramen? Like we ate in college? No. Real ramen is actually phenomenal and Otaku Ramen serves it with a little Tennessee zest mixed in.
Arnold’s Country Kitchen is cookin’ like you wish your mama would have done growing up. This staple for southern comfort food has been featured in practically every big food magazine and even made it onto Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.
(Also, if you’re into murals, the social-media-famous “wings” can be found in The Gulch at 302 11th Ave S. Click for more murals by artist Kelsey Montague. Photo via Two Old Hippies, an awesome shop in The Gulch.)
For a huge list of shops, restaurants, and more, visit The Gulch.
22. East Nashville
Probably Nashville’s hippest part of town, East Nashville is home to all sorts of cool bars, tasty restaurants, and other funky places. From the Treehouse Restaurant (pictured) to the newest speakeasy from NYC, Attaboy, East Nashville is hip to its core.
Start at Five Points and work your way up or down Main/Gallatin.
23. Brunch at Monell's
We humbly submit this is the best brunch in all Nashville. Fried chicken, every breakfast food imaginable, and fun, family-style service make this the perfect place to recount the previous night’s shenanigans with friends while making a few new ones as well. Read our full write-up on Monell’s here.
Monell’s is just one of the many great spots you’ll find in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville.
24. Prince's Hot Chicken
It’s not hard to find Nashville hot chicken, but why not go to the place that literally invented it? Prince’s Hot Chicken has been serving up their famous hot chicken for almost a century, and it all started with Thorton Prince’s wife spiking his normal fried chicken with a little spice. These days, everyone wants a piece of the Nashville hot chicken market, but only one can claim to be the true start of it all. With six levels of hot, there’s a Nashville hot chicken for everyone at Prince’s.
25. Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
Consistently ranked as one of the top attractions in the entire state of Tennessee, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage gives visitors the chance to tour Andrew Jackson’s estate and learn about the president’s life and legacy through multiple exhibits. Your $20 ticket gets you access to the estate, a tour of the mansion, and a self-guided audio tour of the gardens and surrounding buildings. Be sure to stop by the final resting place of the Jacksons before leaving their beloved estate.
26. Belle Meade Plantation
The Belle Meade Plantation may be just a short drive from the city, but it feels like its a world away. The beautiful grounds feature lush trees and flowers, a winery, and, of course, the impressive Belle Meade mansion. There are multiple options for tours including cruising the grounds on a Segway, but if you’re curious where to start, just give the mansion tour a try. We’ve been on plenty of plantation tours, so what makes their $24 mansion tour different? It includes a complimentary wine tasting!
Yes. Yes, please.
27. Belmont Mansion
If beautiful architecture, Civil War history, and wild tales of illegally trading cotton for gold interests you, we think you’ll like the Belmont Mansion. Tours start at only $15 and take guests through a number of rooms as the guide tells the story of the mansion and it’s main character: Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham.
Be sure to budget some time to walk around the beautiful grounds and Belmont University.
28. Lane Motor Museum
Lane Motor Museum might be the place that’ll surprise you the most with its wonderfully eclectic collection of cars and motorcycles. Nashville may seem an unlikely place for the nation’s largest collection of European cars, but there it is… the 150 car collection at Lane Motor Museum. For us, it’s not just the fact they have a bunch of European cars, it’s what kind of European cars… This place brings in more off-the-wall, rare, remarkable cars than any museum we’ve ever visited. Even the biggest gearhead in your family will be stumped a few times as they tour the museum.
29. The Bluebird Cafe
Garth Brooks was discovered here. There. All you need to know. Go.
Seriously, some of the world’s most famous musicians have played at the Bluebird Cafe, and their many interviews mentioning the place have fueled a steady stream of established and aspiring talent to the Bluebird. Now that it’s also been on the tv show Nashville, it seems the popularity of the place just continues to skyrocket. Keep in mind, first-come seating is extremely limited so make reservations as early as you possibly can!
30. Grand Ole Opry
Last but certainly not least is the Grand Ole Opry. Obviously, an actual Opry show is a must-do, but we also want to advocate for some of their backstage tours and optional packages. We’ve been taking people on the backstage tour for years now, and we still love it. See your favorite stars’ mailboxes, tour their dressing rooms, and even stand on that sacred circle of wood where all the greats have stomped their feet.
For tickets and tour options, click here.
What would you add?
It goes without saying these 30 things are just a good place to start, especially when it comes to dining… As one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, there seems to be a new “it” restaurant every other day, and for us to attempt to point them all out would be crazy. Feel free to comment with your Nashville suggestions!