Best known as Music City for its deep roots as a hub of country music, Nashville has evolved into a multi-faceted metropolis that retains the charm and friendliness of the small-town South. A cultural boom in recent years has seen the Tennessee capital gain attention for its great cuisine, world-class art, diverse history and high-ranking sports teams.
No matter your interests, this Southern city is packed with things to see and do. These are some of our top picks:
Visit a country music institution
Don’t miss the chance to enjoy concerts by country artists both old and new at the historic Grand Ole Opry. Everyone from Hank Williams and Loretta Lynn to Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood has taken the stage.
Started in 1925, the weekly live music broadcast is the nation’s longest-running radio show. It’s evolved to offer dining, shopping and two performance venues, the Grand Ole Opry House and the 1893 Ryman Auditorium, a National Historic Landmark.
Go back in time
Civil War buffs can tour the sites connected with the Battle of Nashville and Battle of Franklin or take in the historic city’s beautiful antebellum homes, such as Belle Meade Plantation and Belmont Mansion.
Enjoy the great outdoors
Nashville is full of nature — from hiking trails to the riverfront, there are plenty of ways to get outside (and most of them are free). With stand-up paddle boarding, movies under the stars, a picnic in Centennial Park or a trip to the farmers market, you’ll miss too much of the city if you stay indoors.
Shop till you drop
Nashville provides everything from high-end shopping at The Mall at Green Hills to boutique stores in eclectic shopping districts like Hillsboro Village and 12South.
Or take a tour of Music City’s new “maker” culture. From Imogene and Willie‘s denim emporium to Otis James‘ sewing rooms, there are young people all over Tennessee’s capital city using their hands to make one-of-a-kind products that you can only find here.
Culture vultures will adore Nashville’s increasingly vibrant art scene, anchored by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and injected with energy by districts like Fifth Avenue of the Arts, where numerous galleries are clustered around downtown Nashville’s Fifth Avenue, and by events like the First Saturday Art Crawl, which introduces locals and visitors alike to new local talent.
Cheer on the home team
No matter your sport of choice, catch the home team any time of year — the NFL’s Tennessee Titans play at Nissan Stadium just one mile from Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Hermitage Hotel, while the Nashville Predators take the ice at the Bridgestone Arena close by. Vanderbilt University’s sports teams bring visitors from all over the Southeast for everything from baseball to soccer and golf all year long.
Check out the city’s best bars
There’s nothing like a good martini. And no one makes a martini like The Patterson House. If you’re searching for a patio, try 3 Crow Bar or Edley’s Bar-B-Que, or if you’re looking to linger over your libation at a local hot spot, try No. 308 or Rumours East.
Dive into the music scene
You’re missing out if you don’t go hear live music. Every night there’s something different available in Nashville, from free concerts to big-ticket headliners. One of the most popular places to catch a live show is The Ryman. The acoustics are excellent, the lineups are always top-notch and there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Get a good meal
Nashville’s restaurant scene is in the midst of a major renaissance. More local restaurants have popped up in the last few years than we can keep up with — and the food just keeps getting better. Whether it’s Sunburst Farms trout, truffle mac and cheese and a strawberry almond tart at Four-Star Capitol Grille or braised short rib with Guinness demi and horseradish cream at Four-Star 1808 Grill, you can satiate any craving in Music City.
Experience the nightlife on Broadway
Nashville’s nightlife is dominated by the city’s famous honky-tonks, home of great music and good beer. Favorite locations along Broadway known for hosting famous acts in their early days are Robert’s Western World, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Legends Corner and The Stage on Broadway.
Another favorite Nashville nighttime watering hole is the Flying Saucer, featuring billiards rooms and a long list of brews on tap.