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.
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.
- The Best Places in Nashville to Take a Picture, Helene in Between
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.
- Tips for Exploring Nashville’s Music Scene, Traveling 9 to 5er
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.
- Nashville’s Best Eats Under $5, Thrillist
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.
- 5 Nashville Boutique Hotels & Unique Overnight Options to Check Out, Style Blueprint
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.
- Getting Around Nashville, The Travel Channel
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 Packing List, Un-Fancy
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.
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.
- The Best Hotels to Book in Downtown Nashville, The Culture Trip
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.
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.)
- 27 Things You Need to Eat in Nashville Before You Die, Spoon University
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