Cool Things to do in Nashville, According to Locals

"Music City" is a spectacle of lights, sound, and endless forms of entertainment for locals and tourists alike. So let's narrow down your search with quality over quantity in mind.

If you’re taking a trip to Tenessee’s capital, “you can bet your bottom dollar” there will be no shortage of things to do and cool places to explore. In fact, you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed by your seemingly endless options.

Nashville is frequented by tourists all year long and for very good reasons. “Music City” has a proud and rich history, a world-famous music scene, great food, flourishing art, and frequent festivals. And sure, you can get away without doing some popular activities. But locals say you haven’t really experienced Nashville without these.

Catch a Show at The Ryman Auditorium

full moon over the roof of the Ryman auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry and birth place of bluegrass music at night

Locally and globally dubbed “The Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman is an important piece of Nashville’s lively history. Open since the late 1800s, it was once the longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry. And it remains a music mecca to this day.

Throughout the years, this historic landmark’s musical lineup has gotten more and more eclectic. From Dolly Parton to Widespread Panic, some of the biggest names in music have graced the Ryman stage. Check out this round-up of their big moments and even bigger performances, and catch a show here if you can.

Stay at The Hermitage

facade of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville
Instagram/The Hermitage Hotel/KesselPhoto

There are tons of great hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals in Nashville. But if you’re looking for something a bit more distinctive, consider a few nights at The Hermitage Hotel. Not only is it the state’s only Forbes Five Star Hotel, but it’s also been the preferred choice for countless stars over the years, including Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash.

Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, the only thing more striking than this cherished landmark’s outside is its absolutely stunning interior, boasting stained-glass skylights and pure luxury.

The Hermitage is full of fun historical facts like this one: “The 19th Amendment to the Constitution gave women the right to vote, and the Hermitage Hotel was a critical centerpiece for the women’s suffrage movement as the hotel was used as a headquarters by suffragists to secure Tennessee’s ratification,” per Historic Hotels of America.

Have Breakfast at The Pancake Pantry

close up of pancakes at the Pancake Pantry

The Pancake Pantry is by far one of Nashville’s most iconic diners. Chances are, you won’t find it on any pamphlet of major attractions, but its low-key vibe is part of what keeps the local feeling alive, no matter how popular this breakfast landmark has become.

Serving scratch-made pancakes and fresh omelets since 1961, you’ll get exactly what you pay for and then some. When it comes to comfort food, nowhere does it quite like The Pancake Pantry, and they often have the line to prove it. But I promise it’s totally worth the wait.

Go on a Mural Walk in Music City

mural on brick building that says "pretty music city" in Nashville

Music City has evolved into a mural city in recent years. And if you’re looking for a free and fun activity, locals highly recommend taking a stroll to take in the local street art.

Buildings and walls are adorned with public art projects, many of which have historical or cultural significance. There’s also a virtual tour for those who don’t feel like leaving the hotel. Here’s a local guide to the ever-evolving, awe-inspiring street art scene, for your viewing pleasure.

Read More: The World’s Best Cities for Street Art

Explore Local Cuisine at 5th + Broadway

entry point of Fifth + Broadway in Nashville, TN
Fifth + Broadway Official Website

Can’t decide where to eat? Thanks to 5th + Broadway, you don’t have to! This retail complex offers a unique opportunity to try some of Nashville’s most popular local eats all rounded up in one place. The 20+ dining options include independently-owned outlets featuring some of the most celebrated dining establishments in town. It’s also Nashville’s largest rooftop venue.

Start by familiarizing yourself with the Assembly Food Hall app. When you’re food is ready, you’ll receive a text message and pick up your meal (or meals) from places like Prince’s Hot Chicken, Thai Esane, and Pharmacy Burger, to name a few of the most iconic.

Scoot or Cycle Around Town

Spin electric scooter on roadside near Broadway and downtown entertainment

Walking is fun, but sometimes it’s a little too hot and too far. Rideshares are always an option, but this might be a better one, both for its price point and entertainment value.

In the past few years, electric bicycles and scooters are definitely taking urban meccas by storm. The Nashville B-Cycle program is getting in on the action, adding e-bikes to their fleet strategically laid out around Nashville. You can buy a single ride or a ride package and then zoom around town as much as you wish.

Take The Trolley

Old Town Trolley Tour bus drives by Country music star Dierks Bentley Whiskey Row bar on the popular Broadway Street.

If you want to immerse yourself in all things local Nashville, take the trolley. You’ll be free to hop on and hop off at your leisure at any of the 15 stops. It’s also one of the most affordable, city-centric transportation options in existence.

Trolleys also have local guides to point out what you definitely don’t want to miss and share special stories about Nashville. And sure, this ride is on the touristy side, but it’s an easy, breezy way to sightsee multiple landmarks and major attractions around the city.

If you’re looking for something a little more lively, hop on the Music City Brew Hop. Unlike much of the “boozy transportainment” scene that Nashville is becoming well known for, this fun-loving trolley explores the city’s best breweries. If this seems more up your alley, you might want to do some touring and tasting at the famed, local distilleries as well.

Go to The Goo Goo Shop

The Goo-Goo shop and factory store, iconic to Nashville since 1912,

Ready to take a bite out of history? Goo Goos are known as America’s first cluster candy bar. And now, you can dive into all things Goo Goo in Nashville.

Whether you’re into candy-making classes, wine and spirit chocolate pairings, or designing your own custom Goo Goo bar, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store for sure.

See a Movie at The City’s Oldest Theatre

facade of The Belcourt Theatre
Belcourt Theatre Official Instagram/@bfastallday

Calling all cinephiles! If you’re going to Nashville, get tickets to a show at The Belcourt. Iconic since its opening in 1925, Nashville’s oldest movie theater formerly housed the Grand Ole Opry. These days, it’s a hot spot among locals to catch an art-house film, documentary, new release, or weekend classic.

The official website describes this historic, cultural hub as “a unique Nashville treasure with a vibrant historic past and deep roots in the community. Today, the Belcourt is a nonprofit cultural institution dedicated to presenting the best of independent, documentary, world, repertory, and classic cinema.”

Don’t Leave Without Trying The Hometown Speciality

spicy nashville hot chicken sandwich with coleslaw and pickles

Now’s your chance to experience a true taste of Nashville’s history. While many claims they’re cooking up the real deal, locals say if it wasn’t cooked by the families that have been in the business of hot chicken for decades, it doesn’t count. 

Prince’s Hot Chicken is the resident king of fiery fowl, but there are others just as legit, hot, and undeniably delicious. Ogle the menus at Bolton’sBig Shakes, or 400 Degrees and see what tickles your tastebuds the most.

Escape to Nature in The Middle of Everything

the pantheon replica in Centennial Park in Nashville

Nashville is a bustling urban hub, but it also boasts plenty of hiking trails and scenic spots in super close proximity. Look into Nashville’s extensive greenway system and you’ll see what I mean.

I highly advise a morning stroll around the one-mile loop in Centennial Park and hanging out on the newly remodeled Great Lawn, pictured above. And yes, that’s a replica Greek Parthenon.

Take The Music Home With You

Ernest Tubb Record Shop and honky-tonk neon signs along Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee.

Looking to build an exceptional record collection? You’ve come to the right place. And if you’re spending time in this musical city, why not take one of its best parts home with you? When it comes to unusually great vinyl venues, the options are expansive and excellent.

Stop by Jack White’s Third Man Records for the latest and on the verge of cool. For classics, flip through the never-ending vinyl stacks at Grimey’sPhonoluxeFond Objects, and Vinyl Tap, to name a few that definitely won’t disappoint.

Vintage Shop in East Nashville

Exterior view of Black Shag Vintage clothing store

Make your way to Five Points to sift through some of the city’s coolest vintage stores. You’ll undoubtedly find something special, including the historic establishments themselves.

The Hip ZipperGood Buy Girls, Black Shag Vintage, and High-Class Hillbilly all come highly recommended by locals.

Go on an Art Crawl

The Van Gogh Immersive experience

If you go to the Frist Art Museum, you never know what you might get to see. This city staple showcases rotating exhibits of local, regional, and international artists. You’ll also find works from icons like Alma W. Thomas, the first Black woman to have a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Locals also say you absolutely cannot miss the Van Gogh Exhibit. This immersive experience continues to make its masterful mark in the heart of Nashville. And if you need a little guidance, you’ll be in the right city. Check out these locally approved, thoughtfully guided art crawls around Music City.

Read More: Small U.S. Cities With Surprisingly Big Art Scenes

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