published: 7/9/23 | July 9, 2023
Home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the famous “honky-tonk highway” in its downtown bars, Nashville is the epicenter of country music (and these days, weekend stag and bachelorette parties take over the city).
I’ve been to Nashville many times. I think Nashville is the perfect city for a weekend getaway or a stopover on a road trip in the US. There is so much to do here, so much great food, so much history, music history, and just a really good energy of the city.
Here’s the perfect Nashville itinerary based on all my years of visiting:
Nashville Itinerary: Day 1
Take a walk
The first thing I do in a new destination is take a walking tour. I think it’s the best way to get on the land, see the main sights, and learn about the history of the place.
Although there are no free walking tours of Nashville, there is a self-guided audio tour that you can purchase at Free Tours By Foot ($2.99) and then explore at your own pace. It includes 18 stops and usually takes about two hours.
Another option is to hop aboard a Hop-On, Hop-Off tour. It covers the main points without walking.
Visit the Ryman Auditorium
This music venue is a sacred place for country music fans. It was the home of the Grand Ole Opry (a live country music radio show that is the longest running radio broadcast in US history) until 1974 and has been the stage for legendary performers like Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and more. The best way to visit is with a guided tour. You’ll get the history of the hall and the musicians who played there.
116 5th Ave N, +1 615-889-3060, ryman.com. Open daily from 9 am to 4 pm. Tickets are $35.50.
Explore the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
With over 2.5 million items (including records, instruments, photographs, etc.), this is the world’s largest museum dedicated to country music. There are over 500,000 photos, 900 gadgets, and even some iconic vehicles (like Elvis’ solid gold Cadillac limousine from 1960). In addition to exhibitions, they also host live music and workshops. Even if you’re not a huge fan of country music (I’m not), the Hall of Fame is worth a visit because the genre has had a huge impact on American culture. The museum takes a few hours to visit.
222 Rep. John Lewis YS, +1 615-416-2001, countrymusichalloffame.org. Open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is $27.95.
Party on Broadway
After spending the day touring, sightseeing, and dining, you can spend the night partying on Broadway. The wide street is lined with multi-story, neon-lit honky-tonks (bars and clubs where live country music is played), each with a different live show, sometimes on different floors at once. On the weekends this place is wall to wall and really gets wild!
Nashville Itinerary: Day Two
Visit the National Museum of African American Music
This media institution takes visitors through the full spectrum of black music in the United States. Beginning with Africa and the centuries when Africans were enslaved and brought to the Americas, exhibits then delve into the origins of soul, R&B, funk, and hip-hop. It is one of the best museums in the city. I learned a ton.
510 Broadway, +1 615-301-8724, nmaam.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday-Monday 12pm-5pm. Admission is $24.95.
Take a tour of the Johnny Cash Museum
Johnny Cash is one of the greatest musicians of all time. He had a great influence on music. This 18,000-square-foot museum houses the largest collection of Johnny Cash memorabilia and artifacts on the planet, such as handwritten lyrics, letters, costumes, and more. It’s a very interactive museum with lots of multimedia, including exhibits where you can create your own mix of his songs, a green screen where you can take a picture next to Kash, and mini-stages to watch clips of his performances. This is one of my favorite museums in the city and gives a really detailed look into the life of one of the most famous musicians who ever lived.
119 3rd Ave S, +1 615-256-1777, johnnycashmuseum.com. Open daily from 9 am to 7 pm. Admission is $24.95.
Watch The Grand Ole Opry
This legendary music venue, originally located in the Ryman Auditorium, was founded in 1925. In 1974, the Grand Ole Opry House opened, a charming and intimate 4,000-seat venue east of downtown. The theater pays homage to its origins with a six-foot circle of Ryman stage wood inlaid into the new stage, a spot revered by musicians who perform here because it connects them to all the greats who have stood there before. Be sure to take a behind-the-scenes tour so you can see the themed dressing rooms, hear stories about what it’s like to perform for musicians here, and literally walk the path the performers take on their way to the stage.
Performances are held regularly on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
600 Opry Mills Dr, +1 615-871-6779, opry.com. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. (with extended hours on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays). Tours $47; Concert tickets start at $50.
Explore East Nashville
This is the city’s “liveliest” neighborhood and is known for its eclectic dive bars, bohemian clubs, and great restaurants. Starting from the early periods, artists and musicians started moving here as it was one of the most affordable places in the city. As more places opened up, more people came. Now, this is where you’ll find all the locals hanging out (trying to avoid Broadway).
Head to the Five Points part of the area, admire the street art, pop into vintage shops, stop for a third-wave coffee, and dine at a variety of restaurants (Hunter’s Point is a great food court with a bunch of different stalls). It is a great part of the city.
Nashville Itinerary: Day Three
Relax in Centennial Park
This 132-acre park is an oasis of relaxation in the heart of the city, with tree-covered walking paths, a tranquil pond, and plenty of grassy space perfect for a picnic. In nice weather, there are always events going on here, from Shakespeare’s Plays in the Park series to music festivals and movie nights in the Park.
The park was established as part of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in 1897, which celebrated the centennial of Tennessee’s admission to the Union. A complete replica of the Parthenon was built for the Exposition, honoring the city’s nickname as the “Athens of the South” (it housed an enormous number of colleges and universities and had a reputation for higher education). The Parthenon replica still stands in the park today and is now an art museum and visitor center, displaying 63 paintings by American artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.
2500 West End Ave, +1615-862-8431, nashvilleparthenon.com. Open Mon-Thurs 9am-7pm, Fri-Sat 9am-4:30pm, Sun 12:30pm-4:30pm. Admission is $10 USD.
Tour the Tennessee State Museum
This museum gives great details about the history of the state. It has exhibits on first peoples, natural history, the American Revolution, and the Civil War. They also have a rotating list of temporary exhibitions (which you can read more about on their website) as well as a children’s gallery which also hosts events for children. If you’re not from the state and don’t know much about its history, this is a good place to spend a few hours. They renovated the exhibits a few years ago to make them not, shall we say, one-sided.
1000 Rosa L. Parks Blvd, +1 615-741-2692, tnmuseum.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm. Submission is free.
See Belmont Mansion
This historic pre-war home was completed in 1853. The owners lived on farms in Louisiana and visited Belmont (originally known as Bel Monte) in the summer. The estate spanned nearly 200 acres and was one of the most elaborate and stately homes in the area (it was the largest home in the state before the Civil War). After the war, it became a women’s school. Today, it is an underrated museum that you must visit. The surrounding area has plenty of restaurants and bars for you to explore afterwards.
1900 Belmont Blvd, +1 615-460-5459, belmontmansion.com. Open Mon-Sat 10am-3:30pm, Sun 11am-3:30pm. Self-admission is $18; Guided tours are $22.
Nashville Itinerary: Day Four
Take a day trip to Franklin
Just 25 minutes south of Nashville, Franklin is one of my favorite cities in the country. It makes a great day trip or, if you have time, an even better overnight trip. The town has a great food and drink scene (it’s where I discovered my favorite bourbon, H Clark, now Company Distilling), is full of history (there was a great Civil War battle here), and has one of the best-preserved historic main streets in the country packed with restaurants, bars, and shops, Plus movie theaters straight from the fifties.
There’s plenty to fill a day or weekend here: take a few walking tours, visit the Civil War Museum, and enjoy some hiking and biking on the Natchez Trace, a historic forest trail originally used by Native Americans. There are also plenty of breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the area.
If you don’t have a car, there is a bus to Franklin you can get that will take you downtown. Or, if you’re looking to explore all the distilleries in the area, there are several companies in Nashville that offer day tours. They book in advance so don’t try to do it last minute, especially if you’re going on a weekend.
I think Nashville is a perfect 3-4 day destination. While most people come here to party, Nashville is a city that is more than just a weekend party destination. Spend some time here doing the non-party stuff. I promise you will go away and love this city even more.
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