Top Experiences in Nashville

Live Music

Music City isn’t just a place for country heads: Marathon Music Works, a 14,000-square-foot venue just outside of downtown, hosts an eclectic mix of performances throughout the year. Cannery Ballroom has a similar vibe but a more intimate feel. Midtown’s Exit/In, where the Red Hot Chili Peppers once had Thanksgiving dinner after a late-night set, features punk, rock, and hip-hop performances.

On the Green

Take a midday stroll in Centennial Park, where you can lounge in front of Lake Watauga, or wander the sunken garden. The Warner Parks (Percy and Edwin) are also nearby; enjoy their 3,200 acres of rolling hills, meadows, and forests. Cheekwood Botanical Gardens offers a similar respite, with nearly a dozen individual gardens throughout, and a sculpture trail. In the southern part of the city is Radnor Lake State Park, a nature preserve with more than 5 miles of hiking trails, some of which are accessible to pets, bicycles, and all-terrain wheelchairs.


For local goods, head to the Nashville Flea Market, which is open at the Fairgrounds every fourth weekend of the month; there you can buy anything from jewelry and leather products to health and beauty goods. Nashville Farmers’ Market is a great place for home-baked goodies. If thrifting is your thing, check out Southern Thrift, which has locations in west and south Nashville, and Smack, a vintage clothing store in the heart of midtown. You can also head to GasLamp Antiques for clothing, books, and—you guessed it—lamps.

On the Screen

Nashville is home to several movie theaters, but none are quite like The Belcourt, a newly renovated, nonprofit film center that features some of today’s most avant-garde films. If you’re up for an excursion, take a drive down to Watertown, Tennessee (approximately 40 minutes outside the city), for the Stardust Drive-in, which plays movies on weekend nights, rain or shine, and offers seasonal double features.

On the Stage

For live performances, visit the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC), home to productions by the Nashville Ballet, the Nashville Opera, and the Nashville Repertory Theatre. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center is another excellent venue for live musical performances, and offers annual free days of music. The CMA Music Festival, a four-day event in June, also offers free day concerts by a wide range of country music performers.

Treats and Eats

If you’re looking for something cool, try Las Paletas, a gourmet “ice pop” shop that serves cream- and fruit-based treats in traditional Mexican flavors; or Bobby’s Dairy Dip, a patio-style eatery that serves dipped cones, milk shakes, and banana splits along with other drive-in fare like hamburgers and hot dogs. If you’re on the hunt for baked desserts, check out Five Daughters Bakery, home of the croissant-style Hundred Layer Doughnut, and Vegan Vee Gluten Free Bakery, which serves doughnuts, cakes, and their legendary jumbo cookie sandwiches.


Nashville is the home of festivals year-round, but few are as popular as the late-summer Tomato Art Festival, where attendees can sample entries in the Bloody Mary Contest, and experience the best in Nashville food truck cuisine. In the fall, the Southern Festival of Books draws writers and book lovers from around the world, and Shakespeare in the Park offers free live productions of the bard’s most popular plays in the Centennial Park amphitheater. The annual African Street Festival is another fall favorite, where artists gather to celebrate African and African American culture.

The Art Scene

For exhibits by some of the newest and most provocative artists, visit the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. If you’re looking for smaller exhibits, check out Fisk University Galleries, which are home to world-class artwork from the past two centuries, including permanent collections by Elizabeth Catlett and Georgia O'Keeffe. The new Tennessee State Museum is a must-see for an historical overview of the mid-South.

Southern Comforts

For some of the best drinks in the city, visit the mixologists at Patterson House, or drink and dine at Union Common, which has live jazz performances on Sundays. Tavern’s 2-for-1 weekend brunch specials are not to be missed, nor is Pinewood Social, where you can enjoy a cocktail along with a game of pool, a karaoke performance, or a few rounds of bowling. You can also take a tour of Tennessee Brew Works, followed by dinner and live music in their taproom.

Great For Kids

The Nashville Zoo houses both native and exotic species, as well as a working farm and a petting zoo; or, spend the day at the Adventure Science Center, which has more than 150 interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and a 75-foot-tall Adventure Tower with breathtaking views of the city. Nashville Children’s Theatre is another excellent place for a family outing. It has hosted adaptations of Broadway productions as well as original plays by its troupe of performers.

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