Nashville Fun Things To Do
We spent a week finding out all the fun things to do in Nashville. Read about all the fun things we did and how we were able to visit Nashville on only $35 dollars a day including flights and accommodations. We also answer the top 5 questions people ask Google about Nashville.
Ultimate Guide to Nashville
1. Nashville, Tennessee things to do.
2. Where and what to eat.
3. How to book the cheapest flights, accommodations, and car rentals.
4. How much your vacation could cost.
5. When is the best time to go to Nashville?
6. Is it safe in Nashville?
Planning A Trip to Nashville
Why Go To Nashville?
I have wanted to go to Nashville for a long time. Every fall or spring for about 10 years that I thought we were going to go, something came up that delayed our visit to Music City, USA. When I finally got there, it was everything I imagined and more.
I love live music. I especially like live music that is up close and personal. That is what you get in Nashville. There are dozens of live music venues in Nashville. Many of them are found on Lower Broadway. Many of the old retail stores that lined Broadway like Robert’s Western World are now Honky Tonks playing Country music.
If you like colour and lights, you will like the view of Broadway at night with all the neon signs glowing in the dark. It is a sight to see. Inside, the Honky Tonks are lite up with draped lights.
The energy flowing through and around Broadway is vibrant. The sound of Country music filling the air. The laughter and joy of the people milling around the Honky Tonks and on the streets all contribute to the amazing energy. I love it.
Nashville, Tennessee Fun Things To Do
Nashville does not have a shortage of fun things to do. It will take more than a week to see and do everything that is in the area. In the week we spent in Nashville, we saw and did a lot. The big draw is the music. The top fun thing to do in Nashville is to go to the Honky Tonks on Broadway.
1. Broadway Honky Tonks
The bright lights of Broadway. On the neon signs you see the names of Country music pioneers like Ernest Tubb. His biggest hit, ‘ Walking the Floor Over You’ in 1941, marked the start and style of Honky Tonk Country music. He started the Ernest Tubb Record Shop on Broadway in 1947, over 70 years ago. It carries all kinds of Country and Blue Grass CDs and memorabilia.
Nashville is also known as ‘Music City’. The name was coined in 1950 by David Cobb an announcer on WSM-AM radio station that broadcasts the Grand Ole Opry.
Nashville’s music history goes back several hundred years. It is a mecca for not only Country artists but even artists like George Harrison and Paul McCartney of the Beatles. Peter Frampton, a huge rock star from the 1970s, lives in Nashville.
Broadway is known as ‘Honky Tonk Row’ with all the music bars that line its street. The Honky Tonks are free to enter. Each has a stage where local musicians ply their trade from 10 am until 3 am everyday.
The musicians depend on tips for income as they are not paid. Be generous but don’t be drunk stupid and throw in a $20 the first time. The bands know how to work the crowd. They send a tip collector through the audience every 3 or 4 songs. We usually throw in a $1 each time around. If we were really entertained we also throw in $5 on the way out.
Robert's Western World
Robert’s Western World is known as Nashville’s ‘Home of Country Music’. Year after year it is voted Nashville’s Favourite Honky Tonk. On stage is Rich and Eileen and their band. We stayed in one of their homes in Madison, a few miles from Broadway. They play a wild and raucous set of traditional Country Music that has you bopping and moving along with the music. When you get hungry, you have to try Roberts Recession Special; a fried bologna sandwich with chips and a PBR for $6.
Live music is played all day and all night in the dozens of venues in ‘The District’, a 20 block area in downtown Nashville. You can find any type of music that suits your taste. There is not only Country, but also Blue Grass, Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Symphony, Rock and Hip Hop.
On Honky Tonk Row, the bands and solo artists play 4-hour sets flat out. You have to have a lot of stamina to be on stage for that length of time. Most bands I see elsewhere play 40-minute sets and then take a long break. I am jaded now after Nashville.
The Honky Tonks go way back from the front door where the stages are usually set up. They all serve food in addition to all kinds of beer and spirits and of course, Jack and Coke.
According to the Jack Daniel Distillery, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey and Coca Cola is the number one selling mixed drink in the world. I know I added to that stat the week we were in Nashville.
When the Honky Tonks are full you will have lots of strangers asking you if they can join you at your table. We had that happen daily and we met a lot of wonderful people. One couple our age, joined us. They come down from Kentucky to Nashville once a month for business. In fact, they come so often, they have a permanent paid parking spot just off Broadway.
Muscle Car Museum
We got talking cars. I said that I would have liked to gone up to Bowling Green, Kentucky, a 2 hour drive, to visit the Corvette assembly plant and museum but the tours had been cancelled while they were upgrading the facility. (I found out later that the facility had actually collapsed into a huge sink hole.)
He said that I should stop into his car museum at the same time. That piqued my interest. I said, you have a car museum – what kind of cars do you have?
He said, it’s a muscle car museum. I have 100 different classic muscle cars. When he was growing up as a kid he had always loved the muscle cars of the 60s and 70s but could never afford one. Now he owns 7 factories around the U.S. and with his wealth he created this free muscle car museum for other aficionados.
Well, that is me, and I will be definitely going to it the next time I am Nashville.
2. The Country Music Hall of Fame
Nashville has a small downtown area and you can walk most everywhere. Just off Broadway is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. It is a must thing to do when you are in Nashville. The venue is open daily from 9-5 pm and costs $25.95 per adult. There is no discount for seniors or students.
We spent almost 3 hours going through the Hall of Fame and Museum. The displays are well presented. We have some background of traditional Country Music listening to it on TV growing up in the 60s and 70s. We learned a lot of new things going through the museum. As in all cases when visiting museums, I made connections to other things that I know and it completed the picture.
Wall of Gold and Platinum Records
3. Acme Radio on Broadway
4. Bridgestone Arena
The Bridgestone Arena across from the Country Music Hall of Fame is the home of the NHL Predators. Many music concerts are held here throughout the year. The Country Music Awards were held there when we were in Nashville.
5. Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is one of the top things to do in Nashville. It is the longest running radio broadcast in U.S. history. It began on November 28, 1925 as the ‘WSM Barn Dance’ aired over WSM-AM’s 50,000 watt radio owned by National Life and Accident Insurance Company. The call letters WSM was from their slogan, ‘We Shield Millions’. The original announcer George D. Hay coined the name, The Grand Ole Opry.
The Opry has played in many venues over the years. It did a 30 year run, from 1944 to 1974 at the Ryman Auditorium, nicknamed ‘The Mother Church of Country Music’ as it was a church at one time. It was then moved to the brand new Grand Ole Opry theatre.
Each year from November to January the Grand Ole Opry is held in the Ryman just off Broadway. We were lucky enough to be there for a show.
The Grand Ole Opry is not a music concert per se. It is still performed as a radio show complete with a deep-voiced announcer that delivers an on-air advertising plug between songs before he introduces the next song and musician.
The night that we went, there were not any big name musicians. In fact, we did not really know any of the musicians. I would only go again if there were some big name musicians playing. The price of admission is not cheap at $55 per person.
6. The Bluebird Cafe
The Bluebird Cafe is a listening room that has 90 seats. It began in 1982 and became a popular place for up-and-coming songwriters to play their music. Since being featured on the TV show, ‘Nashville’, it is almost impossible to get a seat. There are only 12 seats open on a first-come-first-served basis. The other seats are reserved on-line. The day we went there were already over 40 people in line two hours before opening and 4 hours before show time.
There are a number of listening rooms in Nashville where new and established artists play their new music. The listening rooms are for quiet listening. Talking and Honky Tonk behaviour is not allowed while the artists play.
If you want to get a seat for listening, check out the Listening Cafe on 4th Ave. S. It is a larger space and much easier to get seats. It is not as popular but every bit as good as the Bluebird for listening to new songs.
Other Attractions in Nashville
7. The Parthenon
The full scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens was built for the Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition in 1897. It is the centre piece of Centennial Park. It serves as a monument to what is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture.
Inside the Parthenon is the 42 foot (12 m) replica of Athena sculpted by Alan LeQuire. It is the largest inside sculpture in the Western Hemisphere. The Parthenon is also Nashville’s art museum. Admission is $6.
8. Jack Daniel Distillery Road Trip
In the middle of our week we took a road trip to Lynchburg located 69 miles southeast of Nashville. You won’t find any Honky Tonks in this neck of the woods because Lynchburg is a dry county. It is also the home of the Jack Daniel Distillery.
It is about an hour and a half drive. We took mostly country roads so that we had a scenic tour of the area. Some of the secondary roads had no traffic on them making for a very pleasant drive.
The commercial area of Lynchburg is located in a square with the public building located in the centre.
Lynchburg is popular place to go for a day outing. The day we were there was a beautiful autumn day. The leaves were falling and you could smell them in the air.
The town site is just a few minutes walk from the Jack Daniel parking lot. You can spend an hour or more browsing through the shops. You will find hats, shirts, belts, dresses, condiments, coffee and a lot of other interesting merchandise.
A life sized bronze statue of Jack Daniel. He was a small man in stature – only 5’4″ with size 4 feet – but a big man in ideas and ambition. No one really knows the origin of the label Old No.7 for his whiskey. Some say it was the 7th recipe for his whiskey that he decided to make and sell.
Jack Daniel Distillery Tour
The Jack Daniel people make you feel welcome from the moment you drive into the huge parking lot. A greeter meets your vehicle to welcome you and direct you to your parking area. After you park and approach the information booth you are greeted again; the attendant gives you a brief summary of your options and directions. They are very well organized. You are welcome to walk around the well kept grounds. There is a slow moving creek going through the property with a walking bridge over it.
The tours are available 7 days a week except major holidays. They are an hour and a half in length. There are 3 different tours and they are various prices. We took the Jack Daniel’s Flight Tour for $17 plus tax each. This tour includes a flight of 5 Jack Daniel’s whiskeys at the end of the tour.
The tour guide meets you in the above holding room. Our guide was hilarious with his dry humour and funny anecdotes. He spent most of his time walking backwards ahead of the group. (He must have well developed calf muscles.) The information presented was very thorough and we got a very good understanding of the operation and the process of making Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
The Safe That Killed Jack
Our guide showing us the safe that Jack Daniel kicked and broke his toe. Jack had come in early to do some paperwork but could not open the safe. He had trouble remembering the combination. In his anger he kicked the safe with his left foot and broke his toe. The toe got infected and his foot went gangrene, his leg was amputated and he eventually died of blood poisoning at age 61. Or, so the story goes. Tennessee people tell us the moral of that story is: ‘Don’t go to work early’.
Making Charcoal to Smooth the Whiskey
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is filtered through 10 foot (3 m) stacks of sugar maple charcoal. The sugar maple sticks are stacked and air dried in the yard in 5-foot stacks. The stacks are then moved into the burning area covered by an immense black soot coated fan and exhaust scrubber.
Three times a day, three times a week, two 5-foot stacks of dried sugar maple are doused with raw whiskey and then burned. The temperature reaches 2000 degrees Fahrenheit before it collapses and reduces to burning embers. The embers are raked and cooled to make the charcoal used for mellowing Jack Daniels whiskey.
The 140 proof whiskey slowly drips into the charcoal vats located in this building. It takes 3-5 days to filter through the charcoal filled vats. It is charcoal mellowing of the whiskey. The people at Jack Daniel call it ‘The Extra Blessing’ that gives the whiskey a head start in the aging process.
It's All About the Water
The cave that is the source of the water for Jack Daniel’s whiskey. The spring water filters through hundreds of feet of limestone before it pools in the 2-mile long cave.
“Jack on the Rocks” – a bigger than life size statue of Jack Daniel. It was sculpted by the famous Nashville sculpture Alan LeQuíre and dedicated September 2, 2000.
Jack on the Rocks was Frank Sinatra’s favourite drink for over 50 years. Two fingers of Jack Daniel’s whiskey over 3 ice cubes and a splash of water. Jack was with Frank wherever he went; in his dressing room, at the bottom of his microphone during concerts and even to his grave. Sinatra was buried with a flask of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey inside his jacket pocket.
The mash that becomes Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Whiskey. The mash room is filled with massive mash tuns that heat up the water and mixture of malted grain to a preset temperature so that the starch in the grain turns to sugar to be fermented. The whiskey is made from 80% corn, 12% barley and 8% rye.
Tasting Jack Daniel's Whiskey
The tour ends in Barrel House 1-14 where we sat in a glassed-in tasting room. Our tour guide educated us about each of the 5 samples that we got to taste. The free samples were delicious. The tasting room leads right to the gift shop and exit. You are able to buy all of the different whiskeys made by the Jack Daniel Distillery.
I would highly recommend you visit the Jack Daniel Distillery if you have the time. We drove out in our rental car and stopped at a few sites along the way. There are bus tours from Nashville if you do not have a vehicle.
Restaurants in Nashville
9. Loveless Cafe
Loveless Motel began in 1951 just outside of Nashville on Hwy 100. At first they only sold fried chicken that people ate at the picnic tables out front. When they renovated some rooms in the house, the menu expanded and included biscuits and red-eye gravy.
The popular restaurant has been visited by many celebrities including Vice-President Al Gore, Martha Stewart, Princess Anne and just about every Country music star you can name.
The recipe for the biscuits was developed by Anne Loveless and is still a closely guarded secret today. The biscuits are so good that they make 10,000 of them a day! You can see the bakers making the biscuits in the glassed in bakery room. Your meal comes with a plate of biscuits along with Loveless jams and preserves.
The prices are very reasonable and they have a daily special. Dinner meals cost about $14 and the portions are huge. My slow roasted brisket with a side of corn pudding and mac and cheese was so much food that I got two full meals out of it.
10. Hattie B's Hot Chicken
Hot chicken is a Nashville thing. The top hot chicken shacks are Prince’s, Boltons and Hattie Bs. Hattie B’s Chicken is located on 19th Ave. S. in Midtown Nashville. Just look for the line-up down the block. People order, get a number then pick up their order. Most people get take-out orders so the line moves fast. We opted to eat at one of the inside tables.
There are 5 levels of heat for your fried chicken. I had Hot! and my lips were numb for several hours. The ‘Shut The Cluck Up!!!’ is 3 million Scoville units. It is like eating a mashed up habanero pepper! You are not going to taste much chicken with that kind of heat.
My large dark Hot! chicken order with 2 sides for $10.50 and a beer for $4.50. That’s what I like, a $15 lunch!
11. Monell's Communal Eating
Monell’s is a Nashville fixture located in Germantown just a few minutes north of Broadway. I had read that it is a must visit restaurant. One day around lunch we just happened to be driving by the restaurant. Pulling over quickly we followed the path to the back of the building where the main entrance is located.
I checked in at the reception desk and the person behind the desk put my name on a list. We did not know anything about the restaurant other than it was highly recommended. Loie and I sat on a bench in the waiting area along with about ten other people.
In a few minutes names were being called out and then our name was called. The person asked us to follow him so we followed him along with 10 other people. The host took us into a private dining room where we were seated at a long communal table for 12 people.
Right away servers came out with bowls of buns and pitchers of lemonade and ice tea. Before we finished pouring our lemonade and putting a bun on our plates the servers began arriving with plate after plate of food.
The food was passed family style to the left. There was 3 types of chicken, pork chops, mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, mac and cheese, corn pudding, coleslaw, vegetables and more! I had to pass on some of the dishes because I did not have room on my plate. Every dish was so delicious you just wanted to eat more.
How Much Food Can You Eat?
The food just kept coming. After we had our fill of the food on the plates, the servers brought plate after plate of desserts; brownies, peach cobbler, puddings, different types of cake, and cookies. We were stuffed to say the least.
This was all new to us. We did not know when we entered that it was an all-you-can-eat restaurant that served Southern style comfort food at communal tables and we would be eating family style. We had a great time with our new friends from all over the U.S. We chatted and laughed through the entire meal.
We had no idea how much the meal would cost. We were thinking that it was not going to be cheap with all the food that was brought out. When I went the reception desk to pay, I asked how much the meals were and the host said $30. I thought okay, not bad for the amount food we got, as I looked at the bill. I was expecting to see a total of around $60. The total bill was $30. It only cost $15 a person! Wow! I was pleasantly surprised. It certainly was money well spent.
If you go to Nashville, make sure that you go to this restaurant. It is also open for breakfast and they have a midnight breakfast Saturday nights from 12 am until 3 am. See what’s cooking at Monell’s in Germantown at this link: Monell’s
If you don’t get time to go to Monell’s in Germantown, you might try Monell’s at the Manor by the airport if you are flying out of Nashville.
Is Nashville Safe?
Yes, Nashville is generally save. Nashville has been named a “safe travels” destination, making it one of only two destinations in the United States to achieve the designation. This title was given to the city from the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The usual cautions should be followed. Be aware of things around you, there are pickpockets in crowded areas. Do not walk down dark and lonely streets or alleys.
When is the Best Time to go to Nashville?
December to March is Winter and Nashville does get snow during this time. April to June are rainy months, August and July are hot and humid and it is high season.The best time to go to Nashville is September to November when the weather is warm but not hot.
We went in early November and the days were warm with cool evenings. November is a good month for budget slow travellers as it is off-season. The price of accommodations is lower and there are less crowds during the week so getting into popular Honky Tonks is not a problem.
The Cost of Our Week in Nashville
Flights – $0
Accommodations – $0
Car Rental – $125
Gas – $30
Uber – $100
Admissions – $100
Total – $355
Our daily person cost was only $35
Our flight was free. We were able to get a free flight to Nashville from Calgary, Alberta when we booked a return flight to Washington, DC. The week stop in Nashville was a free layover. We saved over $1000 on our vacation budget.
Budget Tip – Most airlines will allow you a layover at no cost. We do it all the time. You get to visit two cities for the cost of one ticket. When you are booking your airline tickets select the multi-city tab and insert the city where you want to layover then put in the date that you want to leave to your final destination.
Our accommodations were free. We were able to do a home exchange with some musicians from Nashville so we did not have to pay for accommodations. We saved over $1400 for the week. Read all about it in the section on Where We Stayed in Nashville.
Our car rental was $125 for the week. We rented a compact car but were upgraded to a new Ford Flex. Renting a car for the week saved us a lot of money in taxis and shuttles from the airport and touring around. With the upgrade we saved at least $400 in transportation costs for the week.
Budget Tip – it is cheaper to rent a car by the week than by the day. Most car rental companies give you a discount for weekly rentals. It is sometimes cheaper to rent for a week than for 5 days. We also belong to every car rental loyalty program which generally gives you a free upgrade.
Overall we saved at least $2800 on this trip by paying budget prices for all the big ticket items and we were able to do that by following the slow travel doctrine.
Where We Stayed in Nashville
Our House in Madison
I loved our house out in Madison. It was a traditional Rancher styled bungalow and like all the other houses in the area, it was set way to the back of the property.
Right next door is one of Nashville’s top recording studio, the Hilltop Recording Studio. It looks like a house set back like ours on a hill top. Their client list is a virtual who’s who of Country Music stars. Artists like Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Trace Adkins, Oak Ridge Boys and many, many others.
I could literally feel the Country music vibes seeping out of the house-looking-studio right down into our place. It was fabulous!
We had done a Home Exchange with Eileen and Rich who are long time Nashville musicians. They play regularly at Robert’s Western World on Broadway, one of the best Honky Tonks in Nashville. Our accommodation costs were $0 for the week. Eileen accepted Guest Points from us that she used to book a place in Miami. (Guest points are earned when someone stays at your place and you don’t stay at their place. They ‘pay’ for the home exchange with their guest points. The guest points are then used to stay at someone else’s home anywhere in the world. It makes Home Exchange a lot more flexible.) Click here to check out our listing. Maybe we can do a home exchange.
I loved being out in Madison county where so many Nashville Country Music stars have lived over the years. Stars like Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash. We lived the week on Due West Avenue. I thought that was such a cool name for a street. “Just head Due West and you’ll come to it”.
We had a rental car that cost us $125 for the week. The automobile made it easy for us to get around on our daily exploration trips. It was only 15 minutes by car to the Broadway Honky Tonks. Not that you would take your car there as there is very little parking and the prices are outrageous. It is much cheaper to call an Uber which we did each time we went to Broadway to listen to the live music and explore the downtown area. The fares ranged from a low of $9 to a high of $17 depending on the time of day.
We generally cook most of our meals when we are travelling. This time, the only thing that we brought into the kitchen was coffee, cream, fruit, pastries and take-out. We did not cook one meal in the 7 days we were here because there are so many regional foods and restaurants that we wanted to try.
We even went out to the Waffle House for breakfast! (The Waffle House down the road from us that we went to twice was involved in an incident two weeks after we were there. It made the national news! A guy had entered the Waffle House with a gun to hold it up. The staff and customers weren’t having anything to do with that and they promptly chased him out and captured him in the parking lot.)
Accommodations in Nashville
Accommodations in Nashville are relatively expensive. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The downtown area is small so there are not a lot of hotels. Nashville has a large convention centre that brings in thousands of people.
The rise in popularity of Nashville as a destination city for live music brings thousands of people to Nashville. The start-up of professional sport teams like the NHL Predators bring more people to Nashville. Lots of people with limited supply of rooms means expensive prices for accommodations.
As a result of the limited number of hotel rooms in the downtown area, there has been an explosion of condos and houses being used for short term rentals through Internet companies like VRBO. These are not cheap either unless you go out from the downtown area. We quite liked staying out in Madison and did not find it inconvenient in the least.
We did a Home Exchange with Eileen for her place so our accommodations were free. Home Exchange is a good way to get free accommodations but it is not for everyone for a variety of reasons. And, you may not always find a Home Exchange in the area you want to go visit. Home Exchange becomes just one accommodation strategy in your overall travel planning.
Make All Your Bookings Here
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Book Your Accommodations for Your Nashville Trip
Click on the Hotwire.com link below. Put in Nashville and dates that you are visiting. A map will come up with a number of areas in the city outlined. You pick the area where you would like to stay and whether you want a 3, 4, or 5 Star rated hotel.
I use Hotwire for last minute bookings. I will book a hotel using the regular Hotwire rates a month or two out but then the day before my booking is final I check what is available in the hidden category.
Here you just select the number of stars and the location. The name of the hotel is not revealed until you book and you are instantly charged – so make sure that it is your last step because there is no going back.
I have booked many $450 rooms for $120. We have saved thousands of dollars over the past fifteen years of travelling.
Let Hotwire Find Your Perfect Accommodation
Hotellook Searches All Booking Sites For The Best Rates
Book Your Car Rental Here
If you are just going to stay in Nashville, you will not need a car. If you have a week to spend like we had, you might want to rent a car to explore around Nashville. For some of the sightseeing it is cheaper to have a car than to use a taxi or Uber. Check out the price of car rentals here.
Where is Nashville, Tennessee?
Located in the heart of Tennessee it is a 2 hour flight from New York City and 4 hours from Los Angeles. From Calgary a direct flight is under 4 hours while Toronto is just over 2 hours. The time from London, direct on British Airways is about 9 hours.
Flights to Nashville
Ship Your Luggage
If you are a big packer and need to take enough things with you for your trip you know the cost of shipping with your airline. United Airlines charges $35 for the 1st bag, $45 for the 2nd bag and $150 for each additional bag. With Lugless, you print out a label, drop off at a local FedEx or UPS facility and your luggage is delivered right to your door or hotel. You can save 50% or more and save the hassle of lugging extra luggage around.
We never leave home without travel insurance. We want travel insurance from a company that is experienced with local and world travel and gives us the best rates possible. For budget travellers it is important to get the best rates possible and we have found World Nomad Insurance the best in the industry. Click on the blue heading.
Travel Gear That You Might Need for Your Trip to Nashville
It is hard to go to Nashville and not have a western hat. White is for the day and black is for the night. Order yours before you get to Nashville so you don’t spend your time looking for one when you are there. There are no shortage of places to buy hats on Broadway but you may pay much more.
I like the Stashbandz to put my valuables in while visiting the Honk Tonks. You certainly do not want a purse or your wallet in your back pocket. It is too crowded and easy for pickpockets to rob you while you are unaware.
Click on any of the items and you will be taken to Amazon where you can browse and order the things you need to enjoy your trip to Music City!