Posted: 7/9/23 | July 9th, 2023
Home to the Grand Ole Opry, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the famed “the Honky Tonk Highway” of downtown bars, Nashville is the center of country music (and, these days, weekend bachelor and bachelorette parties that take over the city).
I’ve visited Nashville a handful of times. I think Nashville is the perfect city for a weekend getaway or a stop on a US road trip. There’s so much to do here, so much great food, so much history, musical history, and just a really good energy to the city.
Here’s my ideal Nashville itinerary based on all my years of visiting:
Nashville Itinerary: Day 1
Take a Walking Tour
The first thing I do in a new destination is take a walking tour. I think it’s the best way to get the lay of the land, see the main sights, and learn about the history of a place.
While there are no free walking tours in Nashville, there is a self-guided audio tour you can buy from Free Tours By Foot ($2.99 USD) and then you can explore at your own pace. It includes 18 stops and usually takes around two hours.
Another option is to jump aboard the Hop-On, Hop-Off tour. It covers the main highlights without all the walking.
Visit the Ryman Auditorium
This music venue is hallowed ground for country music lovers. It was the home of the Grand Ole Opry (a live country music radio show that’s 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 self-guided tour is the best way to visit. You’ll get a history of the auditorium and the musicians that have played there.
116 5th Ave N, +1 615-889-3060, ryman.com. Open daily 9am-4pm. Tickets are $35.50 USD.
Explore Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
With over 2.5 million items (including records, instruments, photographs, etc.), this is the biggest museum in the world dedicated to country music. There are over 500,000 photos, 900 instruments, and even some famous vehicles (such as Elvis’ solid gold Cadillac limousine from 1960). In addition to the exhibitions, they also host live music and workshops. Even if you’re not a huge country music fan (I’m not), the Hall of Fame is worth visiting as the genre has had a huge impact on American culture. The museum takes a couple hours to visit.
222 Rep. John Lewis Way S, +1 615-416-2001, countrymusichalloffame.org. Open daily 9am-5pm. Admission is $27.95 USD.
Party on Broadway
After spending the day wandering around, sightseeing, and eating, you can spend your night partying on Broadway. The wide street is flanked by multistory, neon-lit honky-tonks (bars and clubs where live country music is played), each with a different live act, sometimes simultaneously on different floors. On the weekend, this place is wall to wall people and gets really, really wild!
Nashville Itinerary: Day 2
Visit National Museum of African American Music
This informative institution takes visitors through the entire spectrum of Black music in the United States. Starting in Africa and the centuries when Africans were enslaved and brought to the Americas, the exhibits then take a deep dive into the origins of soul, R&B, funk, and hip-hop. It’s 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 USD.
Tour the Johnny Cash Museum
Johnny Cash is one of the greatest musicians of all time. He’s had a huge impact 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 mixes of his songs, a green screen where you can get a photo taken next to Cash, and mini-theaters 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 has ever lived.
119 3rd Ave S, +1 615-256-1777, johnnycashmuseum.com. Open daily 9am-7pm. Admission is $24.95 USD.
See the Grand Ole Opry
This legendary music venue, originally located at the Ryman Auditorium, was founded in 1925. In 1974, the Grand Ole Opry House, a 4,000-seat enchanting and intimate space east of downtown, opened. The theater pays tribute to its origins with a six-foot circle of wood from the Ryman stage inlaid in the new stage, a spot that musicians performing here revere as 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 for musicians to perform here, and literally walk the path that performers take on their way to the stage.
Performances happen regularly on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
600 Opry Mills Dr, +1 615-871-6779, opry.com. Open daily 10am-4:40pm (with extended hours on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday). Tours are $47 USD; concert tickets start at $50 USD.
Explore East Nashville
This is the city’s “hippest” neighborhood and known for its eclectic dive bars, bohemian clubs, and incredible restaurants. Starting in the early aughts, artists and musicians began to move here because it was one of the more 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 (they try to avoid Broadway).
Head to the Five Points part of the district, marvel at the street art, duck into vintage shops, stop for some third-wave coffee, and eat at the diverse range of restaurants (Hunter’s Point is a cool food court with a bunch of different stalls). It’s a great part of town.
Nashville Itinerary: Day 3
Relax in Centennial Park
This 132-acre park is a relaxing oasis in the heart of the city, with tree-covered walking paths, a tranquil pond, and plenty of lawn space that’s perfect for picnicking on. In nice weather, there are always events going on here, from the city’s Shakespeare in the Park play series to music festivals and movie-in-the-park nights.
The park was created as part of the Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition in 1897, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of Tennessee’s entry into the union. A perfect full-scale replica of the Parthenon was built for the exposition, paying homage to the city’s nickname as “the Athens of the South” (it boasted an immense number of colleges and universities and had a reputation for higher learning). The Parthenon replica still stands in the park today and is now an art museum and visitors center, exhibiting 63 paintings from 19th- and 20th-century American artists.
2500 West End Ave, +1 615-862-8431, nashvilleparthenon.com. Open Monday-Thursday 9am-7pm, Friday-Saturday 9am-4:30pm, and Sundays 12:30pm-4:30pm. Admission is $10 USD.
Wander the Tennessee State Museum
This museum goes into great detail about the state’s history. It has exhibitions on First Peoples, natural history, the American Revolution, and the Civil War. They also have a rotating list of temporary exhibits (which you can read more about on their website) as well as a gallery for kids that 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 couple hours. They renovated the exhibits a few years back to make them not so, shall we say, one-sided.
1000 Rosa L. Parks Blvd, +1 615-741-2692, tnmuseum.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm and Sundays from 1pm-5pm. Admission is free.
See Belmont Mansion
This historic antebellum home was completed in 1853. Its owners lived on plantations in Louisiana and visited Belmont (originally known as Belle Monte) in the summer. The estate spanned almost 200 acres and was one of the most elaborate and lavish homes in the region (it was the largest house in the state before the Civil War). After the war, it became a women’s school. Today, it’s a very underrated museum that you should check out. The area around it has lots of restaurants and bars to explore after.
1900 Belmont Blvd, +1 615-460-5459, belmontmansion.com. Open Monday-Saturday 10am-3:30pm, Sundays 11am-3:30pm. Self-guided admission is $18 USD; guided tours are $22 USD.
Nashville Itinerary: Day 4
Take a day trip to Franklin
Located just 25 minutes south of Nashville, Franklin is one of my favorite cities in the country. It makes for a wonderful day trip or, if you have time, an even better overnight trip. The city has a stellar food and drink scene (it’s where I discovered my favorite Bourbon, H Clark, now Company Distilling), is full of history (there was a major Civil War battle here), and has one of the best-preserved historic main streets in the country that’s filled with restaurants, bars, and shops, as well as a movie theater straight out of the 1950s.
There’s plenty to fill a day or weekend here: take a few walking tours (or a haunted ghost tour), visit the Civil War museum, and enjoy some hiking and biking trails on the Natchez Trace, a historic forest trail originally used by Native Americans. There’s also a lot of breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the area.
If you don’t have a car, there’s a bus to Franklin you can get that will drop you off downtown. Or, if you’re looking to explore all the distilleries in the area, there’s a ton of companies in Nashville that offer day tours. They book up in advance so don’t try to do them last minute, especially if you’re going on a weekend.
I think Nashville is an ideal destination for 3-4-days. While most people come here to party, Nashville is a city that’s more than just a weekend party destination. Spend some time here doing the non-party stuff. I promise you’ll walk away loving this city even more.
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