Nashville, Tennessee. Music City USA. The home of country music and a whole lot more. My first visit to Nashville was back in 2012. Since then I’ve been back half a dozen times, so it’s safe to save this charming little big town has me hooked.
One of my good friends, Megan, lived in Nashville for 4 years so I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the local side of the city with her help. But before I saw Nashville as a local, I saw it as a tourist! In my opinion, you can’t be a local in a city until you’ve first been a tourist. Here’s my top 10 favorite touristy things to do in Nashville.
Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is the world’s largest collection of country music artifacts. It houses historical sound recordings, photographs, films, musical instruments, and clothing items of some of the most iconic and well-known people in the history of music including: Glenn Campbell, Patsy Cline, John Cash, and Elvis Presley.
The best thing about the Hall of Fame and Museum is that it’s different every time I stop in Nashville. Exhibits rotate all year round and range from current country stars like Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton, to throwbacks to some of country music’s greatest like Charlie Daniels and Alabama.
Fun fact: If you catch a peak at the CMHOF from a distance you can see the windows on the front of the building are made to look like piano keys.
New Orleans has Bourbon Street, Las Vegas has the Strip and Nashville has Broadway. No trip to Nashville is truly touristy without bar hopping down the cities most happening street, Broadway. This street is packed full of three story honky tonks, little trinket shops, boot stores, and of course, restaurants. My favorite thing about Broadway is that there is always (I mean always) live music playing. No matter what day, no matter what the time, there’s someone on a bar stage trying to be discovered as the next big thing.
My advice would be to visit Broadway during the day time and during the night time. During the day it’s filled with families and tourists trying to get a deal on boots or grab a souvenir. By night, the streets are packed, the volume on the music has gone up about 10 notches, and the party-goers are out in full force. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, and Acme Feed and Seed never disappoint.
Take a tour of the Ryman Auditorium
In 1925, a live radio show called the Grand Ole Opry debuted and began to attract listeners from around the area who would come to the studio to see the show live. Soon crowds got to big for the studio, and the show was moved to auditoriums around the city. In 1943, the Opry made its official home at the Ryman Auditorium. The show took place at the Ryman every week for 30+ years and every. single. show. was sold out.
The Opry has since moved, but the Ryman remains one of the most iconic buildings in all of country music history. Tours of the Ryman are available daily and include backstage access and even stepping on to the famous stage that some of the most influential people of country music once graced.
Fun Fact: Johnny Cash met his future wife, June Carter, for the first time backstage at the Ryman.
Tour (or see a show!) at the Grand Ole Opry
In 1974, The Grand Ole Opry moved from it’s original home, The Ryman Auditorium, to its brand new custom built home, The Grand Ole Opry House. If you’re looking to see a show at the Opry House yet this fall, you’ll have to wait. Starting November 1st, The Grand Ole Opry is being presented at the Ryman Auditorium for its winter shows. Backstage and post-show tours of the Opry House are available year round.
Visit the Belle Meade Plantation
For a chance to see Southern charm and hospitality at its finest, take a tour of the stunning Belle Meade Plantation. The story of the Belle Meade spans more than 100 years, involves many generations of the same family, and includes history, wealth, an equestrian dynasty, power, and poverty. The grounds of the plantation are stunning just by themselves, but pay the extra fee and take a tour of the Mansion. You won’t regret it!
Read my full recap of visiting the Belle Meade, HERE.
Eat some Hot Chicken
I ate some amazing fried chicken in New Orleans, but Nashville puts its own spin on the southern classic with their hot chicken. Typical hot chicken is marinated in a water based blend of seasoning, then floured, fried, and sauced with a spicy cayenne pepper paste. There are many restaurants in Nashville that serve up their take on the dish, and there’s even a city-wide hot-chicken festival each year. Hattie B’s and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack are hard to beat, but are also known to have lines out the door at all hours of the day.
Schedule a pedal tavern
The premise of a pedal tavern is very simple. You pedal around (yes, you provide the power, nothing else) on a super large bike and you drink while hopping from bar to bar. You can do pedal taverns all over the world but they are especially popular (and touristy) in Nashville. Being that Nashville is a hot spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties on any given weekend you’ll see pedal taverns all over the city, especially on Broadway.
Fun fact: one of the golden rules of a pedal tavern is that every time a car honks at you, everyone takes a sip of their drink. So if you happen to be driving through Nashville and see a pedal tavern, honk away!
Read my full recap of my pedal tavern experience: HERE
Stop by the Johnny Cash Museum
Johnny Cash is widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. The Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville tells the entire story of the “man in black” from start to finish in great detail. Everything from clothes, to guitars, to precious Johnny Cash memorabilia can be found in the walls of this museum. While it’s not as big as some of the other museums in Nashville, it is as complete and beautiful as they come. Not to mention the gift shop and in-house cafe that are top notch as well.
Eat the best biscuits of your life
Guys, Nashville knows biscuits. I spent most of the summer living and traveling in the Deep South and man oh man, their food is unreal. There are many places in Nasvhille known for serving up some mouth-watering biscuits, including: Loveless Cafe, Nashville Biscuit House, and Sky Blue Cafe. My personal favorite is Biscuit Love. Here you will discover the culinary excellence that is bonuts, the masterful creation of a biscuit crossed with a donut. Yes, you read that right. And no, your life will never be the same.
Fun Fact: Biscuit Love is home to this famous Nashville sign! Be sure to snap a pic for the ‘gram!
Get seats at the Bluebird Cafe
Located in a strip mall outside of downtown Nashville, The Bluebird Cafe doesn’t look like much from the outside. Trust me, this small 90 seat venue packs a punch. Unlike the Ryman or the Opry House, the Bluebird is a “listening room”, meaning artists share their songs in an acoustic version. The Bluebird has many different formats including a Monday Open Mic night, Sunday Writers Night, and of course, Early and Late shows on Saturday evenings.
Getting tickets to the Bluebird is NOT an easy thing to do, but I’ve also never heard from anyone who’s gone that it wasn’t worth the hassle. For more information on how to make reservations at the Bluebird click HERE.
Fun Fact: The Bluebird Cafe is famously known as being the place where Taylor Swift was “discovered”.