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The Necessary Nashville Destination Guide

nashville travel packing destination guide

To say that Nashville, Tennessee is having a moment is putting it lightly. The rise of tourism to the Music City is giving Southern darling Charleston a run for its money.

Thanks in part to the popular television show highlighting the lives of country music stars, there’s so much more to the city than the honky tonks of Broadway. It’s home to diverse neighborhoods and a surprising international community. You’re just as likely to enjoy a dinner of fried chicken as you are authentic Ethiopian fare.

Give yourself time to learn about the history, starting with the early settlement, onward to the Civil War at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and Belle Meade Plantation. And don’t leave out music history, of which there is plenty, starting at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

If we’ve left anything out or you’d like to join the conversation, please leave comments below!

Nashville Travel Expenses Tips

By national standards, Nashville is fairly cheap to travel to, but some items will set you back more than others, namely hotels and meals.

Nashville travel and packing guide
Hillsboro Street in Nashville is a good place to look for street art.

Check out the street art.

One of the best activities won’t cost you a dime. Nashville is ripe with Instagram opportunities, from the “I Believe in Nashville” wall to the dragon that covers a block in Hillsboro Village.

Seek out live music.

Even if you aren’t into country, you’ll find all sorts of acts around town, from the famous venues like the Ryman to hip, indie bars, to street corners. You never know who might become the next best thing! Some establishments require some planning, namely The Bluebird Cafe, while others you can show up. The most you should ever spend on a concert will be at the large venues, but otherwise it should be no more than a $20 cover.

Plan out your meals.

There’s no shortage of great places to eat, but some require early reservations, namely the hottest restaurants in town. A table at Husk is hard to come by, but scour OpenTable and plan on eating at 5 or 9 pm. Backup plans are great too. For breakfast and lunch, explore the neighborhood eats in East Nashville, Hillsboro Village, and even in the town of Franklin.

Stay further away from Broadway.

As this is the most well-known neighborhood for tourists, expect to pay more for your hotel room near Broadway than you might further out. Nashville is made up of dozens of unique neighborhoods, so try The Gulch or East Nashville. You’ll get a more local experience and get to check out boutique properties.

Leave the car behind.

If possible, go without a car in Nashville. You’ll have to pay to park in decks all over town and it’s not worth the hassle. Take advantage of the public buses and free shuttles around the city.

Essential Gear to Pack for Nashville

Cowboy boots can be left at home as this is a surefire way to identify a tourist. Instead, dress comfortably and prepare for the Southern humidity.

Breathable fabrics – If you’re traveling during the spring or summer, expect to sweat while walking around. Many people aren’t used to the humidity, so the more breathable your attire is, the better. A flowy sundress is ideal.

Comfortable shoes – The distances around town don’t seem that far, but are when you’ve been walking all day. Those new cowboy boots will certainly rub blisters, so switch them out for some comfy sandals.

A great playlist – Research the notable musicians that have left their mark on the Music City before you go (Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Roy Orbison are a few!) and download their songs for the flight or drive over.

Jeans – At its core, Nashville is a casual city, so you won’t be out of place in jeans. Dress them up or down, depending on where you’ll be.

Nashville travel and packing guide
You might be tempted to wear cowboy boots in Nashville, but your feet will hate you for it.

Books to Read Before Visiting Nashville

Few books set Nashville as their backdrop, but a few feature the city.

All the Pretty Girls, JT Ellison – Written by a Nashville-based author, a serial killer strikes the Music City that a police officer and FBI profiler must investigate. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Bowling Avenue, Ann Shayne – A tries to sell the home after the death of her sister, despite family interventions. Grab a copy on Amazon.

How Nashville Became Music City USA, Michael Kosser – If you’re interested in the history of the city, read this book by a local veteran journalist. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Movies to Watch Before Visiting Nashville

The popular television series named after the city is a good place to start your research, but here are a few films set in the Music City.

Country Strong – A fallen country star tours with an up and comer, causing problems with their relationships. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Coal Miner’s Daughter – Based on the life of Loretta Lynn, a poor country girl rises to worldwide fame. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Walk the Line – The biopic on the lives of Johnny and June Carter Cash highlights their time touring together and his drug abuse problems. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Nashville – Not to be confused with the show, this film showcases different characters all connected to the city’s music industry. Grab a copy on Amazon.

The Thing Called Love – Starring River Phoenix and a young Sandra Bullock, a group of aspiring performers head to Nashville in search of love and fame. Grab a copy on Amazon.

Top Things to Do in Nashville

There’s no shortage of things to keep you entertained in Nashville, whether you’re seeking arts and culture or the great outdoors.

Museums: Music fans must see the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Johnny Cash Museum, while art fans can’t miss the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Don’t miss the Studio B and the Ryman Auditorium tours, either.

Nashville travel and packing guide
Check out the Ryman Auditorium during your trip to Nashville.

Live music: See who is up and coming in the Nashville music scene at The Bluebird Cafe, Tootsies, or Exit/In. Nearly every bar offers live music on weekends as well.

Restaurants: Dine out at the city’s hottest restaurants, including Husk, Catbird Seat, and Rolf & Daughters, should you be lucky enough to nab a table.

Shopping: Find unique Southern souvenirs at boutiques like Draper James, owned by Reese Witherspoon, and White’s Mercantile, owned by Holly Williams. Imogene + Willie sells the best blue jeans in town, while Antique Archeology sells unique pieces found on the show American Pickers.

Parks: Spend time in the great outdoors at Centennial and Percy Warner parks. The Harpeth River offers kayaking and the nearby Natchez Trace Parkway offers scenic views.

Where to Stay in Nashville

There’s no shortage of accommodation options in Nashville, including all the big chains. The Gaylord Opryland is an icon, designed like one big greenhouse. The Hermitage is another classic hotel, while The Hutton and 404 Hotel are the newer boutique options.

You can also camp within a short drive of downtown in your RV, tent, or even a rented vintage trailer from Flying Ham Rentals. But the most local way to get to know the city is by renting an AirBnB.

Nashville travel and packing guide
The Gaylord Opryland Hotel is an icon in Nashville.

Food and Drink in Nashville

Apart from the music, the most important reason to go to Nashville is to eat. You’ll get countless recommendations on where to dine out, but here are just a few of the dishes and drinks you must try while you’re there.

Biscuits – Try the old and new versions of this Southern staple at Loveless Cafe and Biscuit Love, respectively. Just don’t expect the British version of “biscuits” as these are salty, flaky pastries.

Nashville travel and packing guide
Best. Biscuits. Ever.

Hot chicken – Perhaps the city’s most iconic dish, this fried chicken is topped in hot sauce. Check out Prince’s, a legendary local spot, and Hattie B’s, a newer interpretation.

Local beer – The craft beer trend has arrived in Nashville, so tour breweries like Jackalope and Yazoo while you’re there. (Check out this Nashville brewery and pub tour on Viator.)

Whiskey – Legendary distillery Jack Daniel’s is a day trip away, while newer establishments like Nelson’s Greenbriar and Corsair are in town. (Check out this Nashville distillery tour on Viator.)

nashville destination guide
nashville destination guide

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Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Holly says

    Native Nashvillian here. If you’re into country music and all that, feel free to hit up the downtown/Broadway area. Other popular places with great food options are East Nashville, 12th South, the Gulch, and Hillsboro Village areas. Locals tend to avoid the Broadway strip, so be prepared for crazy prices in that area and lots of people. Agree with the cowboy boots and hat suggestion above. We have jokes about how to spot tourists by their boots and hats. As far as sights to see, I highly recommend taking a minute to see the Parthenon in Centennial Park in the West End area of Nashville. This is a life size replica of the Parthenon in Athens as it probably looked in its prime. You can purchase a ticket to view the art gallery and one artist’s idea of what the massive Athena statue might have looked like inside. *Caveat – I don’t recommend hanging out in the park after nightfall, but you do you.
    In addition, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, where the Nashville Symphony (and others) perform is beautiful, and modeled after the world renowned symphony hall in Vienna.
    For someone not into the party scene as much, I recommend checking out the Downtown Franklin area (20 minutes south of Nashville). It’s an adorable small town square with the cutest boutiques (voted top 10 small towns by Travel & Leisure). Franklin also has a vast array of Civil War historic sites, including the Carnton historic home and cemetery. In addition, there are often festivals and fairs various weekends including the Main Street festival in the summer and “A Dickens Christmas” in December (to name a few). Additionally, if you get out of town, there are lovely rolling hills and sprawling farms that portray more a true image of middle Tennessee.
    If country music and bars are your thing, Nashville has plenty of that that, but if that’s not your scene, don’t discount everything else the Nashville area has to offer. Happy traveling!!

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