What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Nashville?” For me, the answer is country music. Country music was not born here (it was actually born in Bristol, Tennessee) but Nashville is responsible for growing the country music industry over the past 100 years. People travel here to see the Country Music Hall of Fame, the legendary Ryman Auditorium, and of course, the hallowed halls of the Grand Ole Opry.
But what if you don’t care about the history behind the music. What if you just want to have a good time? Nashville will not disappoint. With a hopping nightlife scene, live music spilling out of the Honky Tonks onto Broadway, and great restaurants, this city is a ton of fun for the over 21 crowd.
They say that Nashville is a drinking town with a music problem. You don’t have to be a country music fan to have a good time here (Tim and I proved that!). Take a look and see what Nashville has to offer.
Here are our 12 best things to do in Nashville
#1 Bluebird Cafe
If you go to one place in Nashville, it should be the Bluebird Cafe. This was our favorite place in Nashville. The Bluebird Cafe is located in a strip mall a few miles from the heart of Nashville.
In this 90 seat cafe, four to five singer/songwriters sit in the center of the room, taking turns playing their music for the audience. It is an intimate, casual experience. The small venue and the talent of these artists are what really makes the Bluebird Cafe special. Up-and-coming songwriters play here, hoping to make their big break. Bluebird Cafe has become even more popular in the past three years with its frequent appearance on the ABC television series “Nashville.”
Reserve your tickets as soon as they are available online (about one week before the performance) or be prepared to wait in line. We waited in line for three hours to get one of the few walk-in seats. This line grew to over 60 people before opening time, just to give you an idea of the popularity of this venue. But the wait was absolutely worth it.
To visit the Bluebird website where you can purchase your tickets online, click here.
See Also: How to Get a Seat at the Bluebird Cafe
#2 Go Honky Tonking
The Honky Tonk bars on Broadway are Nashville’s most entertaining site. The beer and the Wild Turkey are flowing, live music is playing in every bar, and this place is just pure fun. Our favorites were Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, The Stage, and the Big Bang Dueling Piano Bar.
#3 Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium, a historic building dating back to the 19th century, is now used as a concert music venue. From 1943 to 1974 it was the home to the Grand Ole Opry. Now, artists like Coldplay, Mumford and Sons, and Sheryl Crow perform here. Take a self-guided tour during the day or watch a concert at night. Located just one block off of Broadway, it’s easy to get to.
Click here to buy tickets for concerts at Ryman Auditorium.
#4 Wait in line for some of Nashville’s best eats
The people of Nashville do not mind waiting in line to dine at their best restaurants. Wow, never have we waited in line so many times in one weekend. Most of the time it was worth it. Recommended restaurants are Loveless Cafe, Arnold’s Country Kitchen, the Pancake Pantry, Biscuit Love, and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, just to name a few. During the three days we were here, we sampled as many as possible.
For our post on the best places to eat in Nashville, click here.
#5 Country Music Hall of Fame
For us, even though we are not country music fans, we couldn’t visit Nashville without at least taking a peek at the Country Music Hall of Fame. See Elvis’ solid gold Cadillac, the gold and platinum records lining the walls, and the exhibits documenting the growth of country music.
#6 RCA Studio B
This was another highlight of our weekend. RCA Studio B was the recording studio where Elvis recorded more than 260 songs. Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, and many other artists also recorded their music here. The Steinway piano that sits in the corner of the room has been here since 1957 and was played in many songs from the 1950’s and 1960’s. To sit in this room where so much musical history took place was a very cool experience.
You can visit RCA Studio B as an add-on to your Country Music Hall of Fame admission. It takes one hour to tour the studio and it is worth it!!
Related: Want to visit the recording studio of Motown? Check out our Detroit Travel Guide.
#7 Grand Ole Opry
This is another destination that is on the Nashville “must see” list. How can you pass up a visit to the Grand Ole Opry? This establishment put Nashville on the map and was responsible for making country music what it is today. Take a backstage tour and/or watch a show.
#8 Take a City Tour
There are no shortage of fun tours in Nashville. Take a Segway tour, a redneck NashTrash Tour, or ride the Sprocket Rocket Party Bike or Pedal Tavern around town.
#9 Johnny Cash Museum
One last museum, especially for the country music fans out there. This one contains a world class collection of items that tells the story of Johnny Cash’s life.
#10 Franklin, Tennessee
If you have a car and want to escape the Honky Tonks and the museums, Franklin is a great change of pace. A small, historic town located a half hour drive away from downtown Nashville, this is a place to enjoy more Tennessee cooking and to go shopping.
#11 Jack Daniel’s Distillery
Located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, this is a hour and a half away from Nashville by car. For whiskey fans this excursion may be worth it. Take a tour of the distillery with the option to add on a tasting tour.
#12 Union Station Hotel
This is a 19th century Victorian train station reborn into a historic hotel. It is beautiful inside and would make a great splurge hotel in Nashville.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Homewood Suites Nashville Vanderbilt. This hotel is located 2 miles from the Honky Tonks and downtown Nashville. The hotel offers a free shuttle service to take you to and from downtown. The rooms are large and come with a kitchen. This hotel and the staff are wonderful, but if you are want to stay somewhere closer to downtown Nashville, check out Stay Alfred at 505. This property offers apartments that can accommodate up to six people, is within walking distance of the Ryman Auditorium and Broadway, and gets rave reviews.
Post updated June 2018.
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