17 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Nashville, TN
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Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and centrally located in the state along the Cumberland River. It's often called the "Athens of the South" given its replica of the Parthenon and many universities and colleges.
Founded in 1779, Nashville began building its reputation as the capital of country music almost 100 years ago with the creation of the radio station dedicated to the Grand Ole Opry. The city is now home to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Music Row. One of the most popular music-themed walks is the Music City Walk of Fame located on Nashville's "Music Mile."
Keep walking to one of Nashville's greenway trails that includes spans over the Cumberland River: John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge. Another popular attraction and wandering place is Bicentennial Capitol Mall. Grab a beverage and pastry from the adjacent Nashville Farmers Market.
The city is a jumping-off point to explore the rest of Tennessee. Many historical attractions, including old plantations and Civil War sites, are no more than a half-hour drive away. Numerous hiking trails around Nashville offer a chance to get active.
Learn about the best places to visit with our list of attractions and things to do in Nashville.
See also: Where to Stay in Nashville
1. Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry radio show is the longest running radio program in the United States. Since its first broadcast in 1925, the Opry has presented more than 5,000 shows. It continues to contribute to Nashville's identity as Music City.
In 1974, the venue for the show shifted from the Ryman Auditorium to the 4,000-seat Grand Ole Opry House northeast of downtown. Throughout its history, performers have entertained fans of country, bluegrass, gospel, and old-time music, along with popular music and comedy.
Join in the fun by attending one of the broadcasts. Purchase your Grand Ole Opry Show Admission Ticket in Nashville in advance to assure your seat and free parking in nearby Opry Mills Mall. Consider a scheduled backstage tour to experience the bright lights of show business from a different angle. The Grand Ole Opry House Guided Backstage Tour in Nashville is your VIP pass.
Address: 2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: www.opry.com
2. Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is located in the heart of downtown. The tall windows of this striking building cleverly resemble the keys of a piano.
The museum features a multi-media display of historical performances, costumes, instruments, gold records, and memorabilia. Other highlights include a Cadillac that belonged to Elvis, a massive 40-foot guitar, a tour bus, and recording booth. Guided tours of the nearby historic RCA Studio B are also available.
Tour yourself through the museum and enhance the experience with audio backup of stars such as Dolly Parton. Visit a replica of a tour bus to record your own country music song.
Address: 222 5th Ave S, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: https://countrymusichalloffame.org
3. Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974, is still being used to host broadcasts of the famous radio show. Originally opened in 1892 as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman offers superior acoustics for regular performances of classical and bluegrass music, musical theater, and television shows.
The Ryman is often referred to as the "Carnegie Hall of the South." Located just off Honky Tonk Row, the auditorium features a museum with exhibits related to its rich musical past. Guided and self-guided tours are available. Try your hand at cutting a record of your own in the Air Castle Studio. Fun backstage tours are available, but book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Address: 116 5th Ave N., Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: https://ryman.com
4. Make the Scene in Downtown Nashville
In the heart of every city are areas that have become a destination. Manhattan has Midtown, Miami has Little Havana, and the Music City has Downtown Nashville.
Many of the go-to music attractions in the city are located in Downtown Nashville: Ryman Auditorium, Honky Tonk Row, museums honoring the best-known country music performers such as Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Broadway is the hub for nightlife in this neon-lit district, where live country music wafts out into the street.
While strolling through Downtown Nashville and experiencing its contemporary tourist attractions, you are following in the footsteps of the city's past. Evidence of the earliest settlers can be found along the shores of the Cumberland River at Fort Nashborough. The views in Downtown Nashville feature landmarks that you can see from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.
5. Learn about the Man in Black at Johnny Cash Museum
Johnny Cash, known as the "Man in Black," had a hard scrabble life that he surmounted to win the Grammy award 17 times and become one of the most beloved stars of country music. Visit the museum in his honor in downtown Nashville.
Among the exhibits, the museum features handwritten lyrics for two of the most famous of the 1,500 songs Cash recorded: "Folsom Prison Blues" and "I Walk the Line." Johnny Cash's costumes, instruments, letters, artwork, and songs are on display. There's also a museum store, where you can buy souvenirs, and a café next door, where you can buy whatever you need to fuel an extra hour of touring the museum.
Consider a trip upstairs to visit the Patsy Cline Museum. View videos, memorabilia, and personal items of this gifted country music star. Her career as a country music star tragically ended in a car accident when she was only 30.
Address: 119 3rd Ave. S. Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: www.cashmuseum.com
6. Belle Meade Historic Site
Built in 1845, the Belle Meade Mansion is designed in the Greek-Revival style and surrounded by what remains of the former antebellum plantation. During the two-day Civil War Battle of Nashville in 1864, Union and Confederate forces fought on the front yard of the mansion. Evidence of gunfire can still be seen in its tall stone columns.
Guided tours are available, including one that's devoted to telling the history of the estate from the perspective of the slaves forced to work and live here. Attend one of the culinary experiences and seasonal programs offered at Belle Meade. Explore the plantation stables, gardens, and grounds. If time allows, be sure to grab a bite to eat at the on-site Harding House Restaurant, a popular spot for lunch or dinner. Belle Meade Historic Site is nine miles from downtown.
Address: 5025 Harding Pike, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: https://bellemeadeplantation.com
7. Groove in Glorious Gardens at Gaylord Opryland Resort
You don't need to be staying at the Gaylord Opryland Resort to enjoy its most famous asset: its collection of 50,000 tropical plants, many of which are rare international specimens. This magnificent exhibition is a visual and olfactory feast, housed on nine acres of indoor space and tended by 20 full-time horticulturalists.
One-fifth of the collection is in the Garden Conservatory, which features palms and banana trees 60 feet tall. These plants were so tall, they had to be installed in the glass-topped atrium before its construction.
Florida was the source of more than 8,000 tropical ornamentals chosen for the Cascades Atrium. You'll find a 40-foot palm tree, and ginger bushes as tall as the average man.
Delta Atrium, the third large garden, ushers you into a zone of subtropical plants that you can explore in a delta flatboat. Pass beneath the Wishing Banyan tree and make a wish. Admire exotics such as black olive trees and mahoganies dripping with Spanish moss, more than 100 palm trees, banana trees, gardenias, and camellias. Marvel at the entrance to the Delta Mansion glorified by two 40-foot Southern magnolias.
Address: 2800 Opryland Drive, Nashville, Tennessee
8. Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
The Hermitage was the home of America's seventh president, Andrew Jackson. The estate is one of the most picturesque spots in Nashville. Located 16 miles from downtown, the Hermitage was originally constructed in 1819 and rebuilt 25 years later after a devastating fire.
Visitors to the Hermitage experience the place as it would have looked when Jackson lived here from 1837 to 1845. The mansion includes a museum with exhibits of Jackson's private and public lives.
Participate in a formal guided tour of the property. Other fun activities include wagon rides and themed events such as ghost tours. The grounds are well maintained and include the burial site of Jackson and his wife. Visit the nearby Tulip Grove Mansion, the one-time home of family members Emily and Andrew Jackson Donelson.
Address: 4580 Rachels Ln, Hermitage, Tennessee
Official site: www.thehermitage.com
9. Nashville Parthenon
If you're looking for one of the best free things to do in Nasvhille, see the iconic landmark of Nashville, a reproduction of the Parthenon in Athens. Located in Centennial Park and a short walk west of the city center, the original was built of wood in 1897 to commemorate the state's first century. The current full-scale replica of the original Greek temple is made of cement.
Inside the Parthenon is a permanent art collection of 63 works by 19th- and 20th-century American painters. Admire the 42-foot-high model of the statue of the goddess Athena Parthenos covered with gold leaf. Replicas of the famed 5th century BCE Parthenon Marbles are also on display.
Address: 2500 West End Ave, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: www.nashville.gov/Parks-and-Recreation/Parthenon.aspx
10. RCA Studio B
RCA Studio B is near Music Square in the area known as Music Row. This is the heart and soul of the nation's music industry, and RCA Studio B is its most protected historic landmark. The "home of 1,000 hits" thrived for about 15 years starting in 1957.
This recording facility is credited as the birthplace of the unique "Nashville sound" that defined so many big hits of the 1950s and 1960s. While the site closed as a recording studio in 1977, it has become a teaching facility. Visitors come on scheduled tours arranged by RCA Studio B's owner, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Address: 1611 Roy Acuff Place, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: https://studiob.org/
11. Visit Exotic Friends at Nashville Zoo
The Nashville Zoo is a great place to visit with children. Explore the plains of Africa, delve into the rainforests of South America, and discover the many animals of Asia. Almost 3,000 animals from 350 species can be viewed, including clouded leopards, Baird tapirs, toucans, and Sumatran tigers. Animals at Nashville Zoo reside in habitats that represent their natural environments.
Lorikeet Landing allows you to enter an aviary and be surrounded by more than 50 Australian parrots. Come to the zoo to ride the Wild Animal Carousel and Wilderness Express Train. Kids naturally know what to do on the zoo's large Jungle Gym, where they slide, swing, climb, crawl, and explore. The Soaring Eagle Zip Line takes your visit to the zoo to new heights.
Address: 3777 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: www.nashvillezoo.org
12. Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
Cheekwood Estate and Gardens is a sumptuous 55-acre haven of peace and grace. This elegant park-like setting is a tranquil place to visit on a sunny day. Galleries of contemporary art in the historic mansion exemplify the Cheekwood's commitment to the arts and arts preservation.
After your tour of the mansion and the Cheekwood collection indoors, step onto the Sculpture Trail to experience creatively landscaped installations, including "The Glass Bridge for Nashville." Marvel at the diversity of garden designs and influences and range of trees and shrubs, especially when flowering in season.
Address: 1200 Forrest Park Drive, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: https://cheekwood.org
13. Make a Recording at Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum
Not to be confused with the Country Music Hall of Fame is the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, which honors the musical heroes who helped to create the stars. These talented session artists hail from Nashville, Motown, Muscle Shoals, New York, Los Angeles, and recording studios. Along with their instruments, these are the fellows that made the hits happen. That's why there's so much emphasis at this 30,000-square-foot museum on the presentation of studios, stages, and guitars.
View the studio where Elvis recorded hits such as In the Ghetto. Behold the stage where young Jimi Hendrix performed, as well as one of his guitars, at the Hendrix exhibit. See guitars played by Glen Campbell, who was a session musician before he became a star. Other instruments on display were played by Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, and Elton John.
If you're into the process that creates superstars of all musical stripes, you can happily learn and experiment at this interactive museum. Here you can try things out–from mixing music and trying out instruments to making your own recording.
Address: 401 Gay Street, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: https://www.musicianshalloffame.com/
14. Belmont Mansion
Built in the 1850s, the Belmont Mansion is the largest antebellum house in Tennessee. It is considered one of the finest mansions of its kind in the United States. Many rooms have been preserved with much of their original décor and furnishings. Designed in the style of an Italian villa, the mansion features elaborate gardens with outbuildings. Belmont also has permanent art exhibits.
Entering Belmont Mansion, the historic splendor of the building is enhanced by furniture, paintings, and original statues by American artists. Following a guided introduction, you are free to explore the mansion on your own.
Address: 1700 Acklen Ave, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: www.belmontmansion.com
15. Tennessee State Museum
Learn more about the rich history of Tennessee's social and natural history at the Tennessee State Museum. Located adjacent to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, this spacious state-of-the-art museum covers an area of 137,000 square feet that efficiently accommodates the large collection of original items, interactive exhibits, and multi-media displays.
Among the museum's diverse collections are artifacts relating to Tennessee's role in the Civil War, including period weapons and furniture. There's also a sizeable collection of artworks and paintings, in addition to displays related to music and musicians. Notable features that bring the state's past to life include a theater, an education and learning center, and on-site gift shop.
Address: 1000 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: https://tnmuseum.org
16. View Vintage Cars at Lane Motor Museum
Lane Motor Museum showcases a large collection of vehicles, most of which are from Europe, but also including exhibits from Japan and the United States. The collection includes the tiniest French-made minicar, with room for only one person and requiring no driver's license. Among vintage cars, there are streamlined Adler coupes dating back to the 1930s. The motorcycle collection includes a 1964 folding scooter.
The museum is not just a space for displaying vehicles. It's a showplace for vehicles that have been restored, as closely as possible, to their original condition. For eight years, the museum also put its engineering expertise into creating a replica of one of the most unusual cars ever made–a 1933 Dymaxion. The brainchild of Buckminster Fuller, designer of the geodesic dome, this streamlined vehicle is so unusual, it looks like it could power an extra-terrestrial.
Address: 702 Murfreesboro, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: www.lanemotormuseum.org
17. Cruise on the General Jackson Showboat
The General Jackson Showboat is the modern version of the 1800s classic four-deck paddle-wheel steamship. This showboat is a great way to get your country music fix while cruising on the Cumberland River.
If you're looking for fun things to do at night in Nashville, this pleasant outing offers a unique view of the cityscape from the water. A highlight is passing under the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.
Simplify your planning by booking the General Jackson Showboat Lunch or Dinner Cruise in Nashville. Everything is included: Southern cooking during a lunch or dinner cruise, onboard entertainment, and unsurpassed views of Nashville and the Cumberland River.
Address: 2812 Opryland Drive, Nashville, Tennessee
Official site: http://generaljackson.com
Where to Stay in Nashville for Sightseeing
Downtown Nashville beats with a country heart, and this is where first-time visitors will want to stay. This area is home to music venues, the historic 2nd Ave, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the world famous Ryman Auditorium, and Printer's Alley. At the southern end of downtown, sports fans will find Bridgestone Arena. Below are some highly rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Nashville's The Hermitage Hotel, housed in a Beaux Arts building dating from 1908, is right by the State Capitol and offers an experience in grandeur from the turn of the century.
- Next door to the Bridgestone Arena and steps to Ryman Auditorium, the recently renovated all-suite Hilton Nashville Downtown offers large rooms, and may be a good option for families.
- Fully integrated with the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Omni Nashville Hotel is well located just a short stroll from hip and lively Broadway Avenue.
- Mid-range hotels tend to be clustered near Vanderbilt University, an easy drive two miles southwest of downtown on Broadway Avenue. This is a nice area, with lots of parks and The Parthenon historical site, a full replica of the original Greek Athenian Temple. Great for families, the Homewood Suites Nashville Vanderbilt offers full kitchens. This hotel has an indoor pool.
- Another all-suite option is the Home2 Suites by Hilton, located in the same area and offering similar amenities.
- The Hilton Garden Inn Nashville/Vanderbilt has standard rooms and provides a free shuttle to the attractions downtown. This hotel has an indoor pool.
- A convenient base for the budget-minded is the area near the airport. It's a straight shot down Interstate 40, seven miles from the attractions downtown. The fully-renovated Red Roof PLUS+ Nashville Airport offers decent rooms and a shuttle to/from the airport.
- A few miles farther out, and featuring an outdoor pool, is the Sleep Inn.
- Just across the street is La Quinta Inn & Suites Nashville Airport, with basic rooms and an outdoor pool at a fair price. Surrounding both hotels is a good selection of chain restaurants.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Nashville
- Depending on your schedule, you can choose between a morning or afternoon departure for the half-day Discover Nashville tour, which packs in all the city's top attractions in a 3.5-hour tour. Music Row, Riverfront Park, and the Tennessee State Capitol are included on the itinerary, and the cost includes admission to Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
- If you prefer to do things at your own pace, opt for a Nashville Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tour. This handy option allows you to stop wherever you choose, and spend as long as you like exploring favorite attractions including Music Row, the Parthenon at Centennial Park, and Vanderbilt University, all accompanied by a guide's informative commentary.
- When you're on a tight schedule or just want to get your bearings at the start of your visit to Music City, opt for the one-hour Best of Nashville City Tour on a Double Decker Bus. This tour will zip you by 100 of the top landmarks and attractions, and offers live commentary by your driver.
- Fly above the skyscrapers and crowds on Honky Tonk Row while scanning the city like an eagle in the Helicopter Tour of Downtown Nashville. During the 15-minute ride, you learn about Music City from your pilot while experiencing Nashville in your own whirlybird.
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Popular Nashville Day Trips: When you're done exploring Nashville, be sure to spend at least a little time exploring the surrounding area. Top-rated day trips within an easy drive include a visit to the Carter House and Carnton Plantation, as well as the Historic Sam Davis Home and Plantation, both of which became famous as battlegrounds during the Civil War.
Another great destination with a rich musical history, Memphis is perhaps most famous as the home of Elvis Presley's Graceland. Memphis is also famous for its fun Beale Street Entertainment District, as well as the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum.
The Great Outdoors: For a fun back-to-nature experience, head to the Smoky Mountains, home to the country's most visited national park. Popular outdoor activities include hiking, biking, camping and white water rafting. And if fishing's your thing, Tennessee is famous for its superlative fly fishing, boasting an impressive 22,000 miles of streams and some 29 reservoirs in which to cast a line.