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It’s no surprise that Nashville, Tennessee is known far and wide as Music City. With its renowned museums, bustling downtown, vibrant culture, authentic southern cuisine, and, of course, the music, it’s hard to find anything not to love about this city. One of our producers recently had the pleasure of experiencing Nashville for the first time, and we’re going to give you a first-hand account of her trip. You’ll not only learn about all of the wonderful attractions this city has to offer, but also walk away with the secrets to an ideal Nashville getaway.
When selecting a hotel, it’s best to first decide what kind of vacation you want. If you’d like to explore not only Nashville, but some of the exquisite areas and exhibits around the city, we recommend staying just outside of Nashville, in a town such as Goodlettesville, just north of the city, or Franklin, which is south. With downtown Nashville just a twenty minute drive away, you can still soak up the city without the hustle and bustle.
If it’s the hustle and bustle you crave, of course, check out the Sheraton Downtown Nashville. Located right in the heart of Nashville, you’ll be able to walk out your door and right onto the city sidewalks. The Hutton Hotel, located just off the beaten path of Broadway, also makes for a great city stay. Be sure to call your hotel ahead for the best rate, and make sure you inquire about parking as well. Although Nashville does offer parking garages, staying at a hotel where parking is including will save you time and money.
For a genuine Grand Ole Opry experience, there’s hardly a better place to stay than the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Not only is this extraordinary resort ideal for any die-hard Opry fan, centrally located to Opry Mills and the Grand Ole Opry, but it’s also a great spot for families to spend time together, or spread out. With 17 different eateries at the resort alone, it’s like a city in itself! Of course, when you’re ready to explore downtown Nashville, the city center is just a shuttle ride away.
Although not quite as populated as Chicago or New York, Nashville is still a big city, and like just like with most big cities, it’s important to keep transportation in mind. There are plenty of taxis on the streets, but Nashville also offers 2 FREE MTA bus options: The Blue Circuit at Bicentennial Mall runs 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and the Green Circuit at Gulch runs 6:30 a.m. to midnight on weekdays and 11 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays. Both conveniently run every 10-15 minutes and are a great, inexpensive way to get around town.
Parking garages are also available. The parking garage at Music City Center is centrally located to the major museums, shopping, and food in downtown Nashville, and won’t break the bank. Expect to pay about $20 for an 8-10 hour day.
If you’re looking to get around without a car, Nashville B-cycle is a fun, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way to explore Nashville. With 36 bike-rental stations around the city, you’ll be able to soak up the city life, and get some exercise along the way!
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum cannot be described in a few simple paragraphs; it’s an attraction that must be experienced. You’ll get to see hundreds of pieces of memorabilia, such as the clothes that artists like Dolly Parton or Taylor Swift wore, to the guitars they played, and even Elvis’s “Solid Gold Cadillac”. From Hank Williams to Faith Hill, and everyone in between, you’ll learn about and experience all the country music history you can imagine, making the Country Music Hall of Fame a tourist’s delight.
Check their website for upcoming specialty exhibits, like Loretta Lynn: Blue Kentucky Girl, or the Dylan-Cash exhibit. There’s even some great hands-on activities for kids, like a recording studio where they can record their own hit song and even edit the track. The Country Music Hall of Fame Museum takes about two hours to walk through, but you might find yourself wanting to walk it twice!
When you purchase your tickets for the Country Music Hall of Fame, you’ll be offered the opportunity to take the historic RCA Studio B tour. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is well worth the additional cost.
In the RCA Studio B tour, a shuttle ride that doubles as a short tour of Nashville and Music Row will take you from the Country Music Hall of Fame to Studio B, the original studio where musicians such as Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, and the Everly Brothers recorded some of their biggest hits. You’ll not only learn the history of this landmark studio and listen to some of the music recorded there, but you’ll even get the chance to sit at the piano right where The King himself sat!
Another superb attraction is the Johnny Cash Museum. Of course, any fan will find themselves drooling over the original Cash albums and wardrobe, but it’s also impossible for anyone to find something not to admire about the Man in Black. You’ll even have the opportunity to listen to Cash’s music on every medium he ever recorded on; from 78s, to 8-tracks, to digitally remastered MP3s, allowing kids to experience and appreciate the history of music recording, while marveling at Cash’s extensive five-decade career. The museum takes about an hour to walk through, but be sure to allow time to stop in the museum’s coffee shop, the Bongo Java Cafe, for a cup of “Brew Named Sue”!
Before you leave the Johnny Cash Museum, head upstairs to the Patsy Cline Museum, a true hidden gem that pays homage to this talented singer. Though, tragically, Cline didn’t live to see her thirty-first birthday, her impact on country music was spectacular. Her iconic love song “Crazy” is the most played juke box song of all time, showing the popularity she sustained through the years.
Just a short drive from downtown Nashville, you’ll find Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. This plantation is not only a beautiful tour of our 7th president’s home, but also an excellent learning opportunity for the kids. First, you can take in a short video, then walk through the plantation’s museum, where you’ll learn about the birth, life, and legacy of President Jackson.
Following the museum, you’ll cross the scenic plantation grounds to his pre and post-presidential home, so well-preserved you’ll feel like you just stepped back into the 1800’s. Stick around after the hermitage tour to explore the grounds and slave quarters, and for a genuine reenactment of Jackson’s famous duel with Charles Dickinson. Plan on spending a good half-day at the plantation, and be sure to wear your walking shoes! They also offer wagon rides around the grounds, for those who may have trouble traveling on foot, or anyone who would like the full experience of life during this time in history.
In a city known for its music, the nightlife in Nashville should definitely be on your list. While there are plenty of bars with live bands on Honky Tonk Row (aka Broadway), many of them are for adults only. Thankfully, Nashville also offers some family-friendly options. The Wildhorse Saloon on 2nd street is a great place to bring the kids so they can experience the music of Nashville. Sunday through Thursday, they welcome all ages at any time, with an adult present for anyone under 18. On Friday and Saturday nights, all ages are welcome until 10pm. After that, the bar’s age restriction becomes 21 and up.
Parents 21 and over will love BB King’s Blues Club, also on 2nd Street, which offers excellent blues and live music to a more temperate crowd, for those looking to enjoy nightlife in Nashville. without anything too wild. Grab a table, some food, and a drink, and take-in the music, or get up and dance the night away. During our producer’s visit, the famous BB King Allstars tribute band was playing. Talk about a treat!
On a nice night, take a stroll along Nashville’s stunning riverwalk at Riverfront Park. You’ll get to take in some amazing views of the city skyline, marvel at the Cumberland River, and maybe even hear some music from street performers filling the air.
For shopping, head to East Nashville. This up-and-coming neighborhood features restaurants, coffee houses, and endless vintage, eclectic, and novelty shops. Walking around these streets, you’ll feel like you’re in a college town outside of the city. Not only is it a great place for families to soak up the local color of Tennessee, but teenagers will love the trendy vibe and vintage clothing shops, like Hip Zipper Vintage. As soon as you get hungry, walk up to I Dream of Weenie for a delicious Nashville hot dog.
At the intersection of Woodland Street, Clearview Avenue, and North 11th Street, you’ll find Nashville’s 5 Points, where you can browse these one-of-a-kind shops for everything from wine, to handmade jewelry, and, of course, authentic cowboy boots from independent shops like Goodbuy Girls. You’ll be able to meet all your souvenir needs, and feel right at home in these here parts!
You haven’t lived (and you haven’t really been to Nashville) until you’ve tasted a fried chicken and egg sandwich served on a glazed donut. At the 24-hour Sun Diner Nashville, you’ll not only find this delicious southern delicacy any time of day or night, but you’ll also find walls hung with photos of legendary Sun Records musicians, and warm, country hospitality.
Located just a block south of Honky Tonk Row on 3rd Street, Sun Diner is a can’t-miss for any fan or foodie. With good prices and great eats, it’s perfect for families. If you’re looking for a place to go after dinner, ask your waitress or waiter for suggestions. What better way to learn where to explore a city than to ask the locals?
You can’t go to Nashville without getting some good barbecue, or should we say Bar-B-Cutie? With three locations, just on the outskirts of the city, this popular family barbecue joint is inexpensive, casual, and delicious.
From top-choice beef brisket to the “pick 3 sides” option for vegetarians, there’s no better place to get the best BBQ in Nashville. The set-up is simple and efficient: Walk up to the counter, place your order, take your seat, and get ready to eat! If you can, save room for dessert– the banana bread pudding is amazing!
Helpful Tips & Facts
- Book early! Nashville is a hot destination, so be sure to start planning for your trip 6-8 weeks in advance.
- If your kids are too young to experience Nashville’s music scene through the bars, try planning your trip around a concert. Artists like Ed Sheeran, Van Morrison, and Taylor Swift are just a few of many to perform in Nashville at incredible venues like the Bridgestone Arena.
- Looking for a unique way to see Nashville? Check out iRide for segway tours!
- For amazing savings, consider purchasing the Total Access Pass. For only $75, you’ll get admission into 4 attractions of your choice (including the Country Music Hall of Fame, RCA Studio B Tour, Johnny Cash Museum, and many others on our list!), plus additional freebies and discounts, saving you 50%!
- If you’re looking for suggestions or directions, stop by the Nashville Visitor Information Center, located at 150 4th Ave N. Check out our picture below. You can’t miss it!