Exploring Downtown Nashville: 16 of the Best Things to Do

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Planning a trip to Nashville? Having lived there, I can promise you a legendary live music scene, mouthwatering Southern cuisine, and an unforgettable atmosphere!

To help you navigate this exciting city, I’ve put together a list of the best things to do in downtown Nashville, from iconic museums to legendary honky-tonks. Let’s explore the must-see attractions and hidden gems that await!

The Heart of Music City: Nashville’s Musical Attractions

Honky Tonk Highway, Broadway Nashville TN after dark. One of the best things to do in downtown Nashville TN

1. Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

You can’t say you’ve seen Nashville until you’ve been to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Located in downtown Nashville, this world-renowned institution provides an unforgettable glimpse into the music that put Nashville on the map.

Even if you’re not a country music fan, it’s worth a visit. We’re talking about over 350,000 square feet of:

  • Rare recordings and vintage instruments from country music legends
  • Interactive exhibits that bring the genre’s history to life
  • Priceless memorabilia chronicling decades of musical innovation

The crown jewel of your visit will be the Hall of Fame Rotunda, where bronze plaques honor the industry’s most influential figures.

Visiting the main exhibit halls and galleries is super fascinating, but that is only one aspect of your visit to the museum. You can also catch a show at the CMA Theater, visit one of America’s oldest working letterpress print shops, and tour historic RCA Studio B, where Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, and other greats recorded hits.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S, Nashville, TN 37203
  • Hours: Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day)
  • Admission: Adults $29.95, youth (6–12) $19.95; children (5 and under) free.

Buy tickets here.

2. Explore the Johnny Cash Museum

Dedicated to the legendary “Man in Black,” the Johnny Cash Museum was ranked as the #1 Music Museum globally by Forbes and National Geographic Traveler. The museum offers an in-depth look at the life and career of Johnny Cash, one of country music’s most beloved artists.

Located just off Broadway, the museum houses a comprehensive collection of artifacts, including stage costumes, instruments, rare personal items, and handwritten letters. Through detailed exhibits, visitors can explore Cash’s musical journey, his collaborations, and his impact on the music industry.

💡 PRO TIP: After your visit, enjoy Southern cuisine and live music at Johnny Cash’s Bar & BBQ, next door.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 119 3rd Ave. S, Nashville, TN 37201
  • Hours: Open daily, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
  • Admission: Adults $25.95, Youth (6–15) $21.95, Children 5 and under free

3. Stroll Along Honky Tonk Highway

Lower Broadway, affectionately known as Honky Tonk Highway, is the heart of Nashville’s world-famous live music scene. This vibrant four-block stretch is lined with neon-lit bars and honky-tonks that offer free live music from 10 AM until 3 AM daily.

Grab a drink, enjoy the music, and soak up the electric atmosphere that makes Nashville the undisputed capital of country music. Iconic spots include Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge (422 Broadway), Robert’s Western World (416 Broadway), and The Stage on Broadway (412 Broadway). These historic establishments showcase talented musicians playing everything from classic country to contemporary hits.

No cover charges apply to most venues, though purchasing drinks is customary. For the best experience, visit in the evening, when the street comes alive with street performers and bustling crowds.

💡 PRO TIP: Take a daytime stroll to appreciate the neon signs and historic architecture, then return at night to fully immerse yourself in Nashville’s electric atmosphere and live music legacy.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: Lower Broadway, between 1st and 5th Avenues
  • Hours: Most venues are open daily, 10 a.m.–3 a.m.
  • Admission: Free entry to most bars (21+ after 6 PM)

Nashville’s Historic Gems

Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tennessee

4. Tour the Ryman Auditorium

Known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” the Ryman Auditorium is a must-visit National Historic Landmark. Originally built as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman became the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. Its hallowed stage has hosted legendary performances by icons like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams.

Today, visitors can experience the Ryman’s rich history through self-guided and guided tours. Explore exhibits showcasing memorabilia from past performances, stand on the famous stage, and even record your own song in the Ryman’s recording studio.

The Ryman continues to be a world-class concert venue, hosting diverse artists across various genres. Check the event calendar for upcoming shows and enjoy live music in this acoustically perfect auditorium.

💡 PRO TIP: Tour slots fill up quickly, especially during peak tourist season. To secure your preferred time slot and avoid disappointment, book your tour in advance.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219
  • Hours: Open daily, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. (hours may vary on show days)
  • Admission: Self-guided tours start at $26.95 for adults, $17.95 for kids (4–11)

Book Your Spot Here

5. Visit the Tennessee State Capitol

For breathtaking views of Nashville’s skyline and a deeper understanding of Tennessee’s governmental history, the Tennessee State Capitol is a must-visit destination. A masterpiece of Greek Revival architecture, this historic landmark stands majestically atop Capitol Hill in downtown Nashville. Completed in 1859, it offers visitors a captivating glimpse into Tennessee’s rich political history and architectural heritage.

Visitors can explore the Capitol’s stunning interior, including the House and Senate chambers, the Governor’s reception room, and the library. The building’s exterior is equally impressive, featuring limestone from nearby quarries and a distinctive copper dome.

The meticulously landscaped grounds surrounding the Capitol showcase various monuments and memorials, including statues of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson, both Tennessee natives, and the World War II Memorial. Bring your camera and be on the lookout to capture panoramic views of the city.

💡 PRO TIP: Take advantage of the free guided tours. They are available Monday through Friday and typically last 45-50 minutes. Tours run hourly from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 600 Dr. M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Nashville, TN 37243
  • Hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. (closed weekends and state holidays)
  • Admission: Free

6. Discover the Frist Art Museum

Frist Art Museum is the best spot in downtown Nashville for art lovers, offering a variety of cultural events, including lectures, gallery talks, music, dance, and film. Thanks to a dynamic array of exhibitions that change every few months, each visit brings new and exciting discoveries, from classical paintings to contemporary installations, photography, and multimedia works.

The Frist Art Museum is dedicated to presenting diverse art forms and fostering a deep appreciation for visual arts. One of the highlights is the Martin ArtQuest Gallery, an interactive area where both kids and adults can enjoy hands-on art activities. This innovative gallery makes the museum a great destination for families, combining fun and learning in a creative environment.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 919 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203
  • Hours: Monday, Thursday to Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. (closed Tuesday and Wednesday)
  • Admission: Adults $15, College Students and Seniors $10, Youth (18 and under) Free

Outdoor Spots in Downtown Nashville

General Jackson Showboat in front of the US Bank Arena in Nashville TN

7. See Downtown Nashville from the Water

Step aboard the General Jackson Showboat for a quintessential Nashville experience. This magnificent four-deck paddlewheel riverboat is one of the largest showboats in the country, offering a unique blend of sightseeing, entertainment, and dining.

One of the highlights of your journey will be the live entertainment. The General Jackson is renowned for its Broadway-caliber shows featuring talented singers, dancers, and musicians. From country and bluegrass to gospel and pop, the performances cater to a wide range of musical tastes.

No cruise is complete without tasty food, and the General Jackson doesn’t disappoint. You’ll enjoy a delectable Southern-style meal that skilled chefs have prepared. The menu often includes regional specialties, giving you a true taste of Tennessee.

The showboat offers various cruise options to suit your preferences. Daytime cruises are perfect for families and those who want to enjoy the scenery in full daylight. Evening cruises offer a more romantic atmosphere with the city lights reflecting on the water.

💡 PRO TIP: Bring your camera. As you float down the Cumberland River, you’ll be able to see Nashville’s skyline and landmarks from a whole new angle.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: Docked at 2812 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214 (adjacent to Gaylord Opryland Resort)
  • Hours: Various cruise times are available for lunch and dinner
  • Admission: Prices vary. Reservations recommended.

Check Prices Here.

8. Relax in Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

In the heart of downtown Nashville, Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park provides a peaceful escape with a rich blend of history and natural beauty. This 19-acre park, inspired by the National Mall in Washington D.C., features beautifully landscaped grounds, historical markers, and monuments that celebrate Tennessee’s history.

As you walk through the park, you’ll find several fascinating attractions. The highlight is a 200-foot-wide granite map of Tennessee, detailing every city, county, river, highway, and railroad in the state. It’s a unique way to explore the state’s geography.

Other attractions in the park include:

  • Pathway of History: A 1,400-foot-long granite wall that is engraved with pivotal events in the state’s history from its founding until the bicentennial celebration.
  • 95-Bell Carillon: Bells representing Tennessee’s 95 counties, playing melodies every quarter-hour and the Tennessee Waltz on the hour.
  • World War II Memorial: Honoring those who served during the war.
  • Civilian Conservation Corps Monument: A tribute to the CCC’s contributions.
  • Rivers of Tennessee Fountains: Featuring 31 vertical geysers representing the state’s major waterways.
  • Amphitheater: Inspired by the famous theater at Epidaurus, Greece, with over 2,200 seats and hosting various events.

💡 PRO TIP: If you enjoy history—or simply need a break from the weather—the Tennessee State Museum is conveniently located at the northwest corner of the park, and admission is free. You can easily combine it with lunch at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, which is just a stone’s throw away.

Visitor Information:

  • Address: 600 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243
  • Hours: Open daily from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM
  • Admission: Free

9. Discover Nashville’s Urban Oasis: Riverfront Park

Lying along the banks of the Cumberland River, Riverfront Park is one of Nashville’s best outdoor spaces. Here, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the city skyline and the gentle flow of the river. The park’s scenic walking trails and open green spaces provide the perfect setting for a leisurely walk, a relaxing picnic, or simply unwinding by the water.

Riverfront Park is more than just a pretty backdrop. It’s a hub of activity and culture in Music City. You can explore Fort Nashborough, which commemorates the city’s first settlement. And check out the park’s unique public art installations, including the “Ghost Ballet for the East Bank Machineworks,” a striking sculpture that illuminates at night.

And if that’s not enough of a draw, the park also hosts an assortment of open-air concerts and events, from country music performances to art festivals, throughout the year!

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 100 1st Ave N, Nashville, TN 37201
  • Hours: Open daily, 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM
  • Admission: Free
Ryman Auditorium. The text overlay says "don't-miss spots Nashville Tennessee"

Getting Around Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville remains compact and pedestrian-friendly, making it easy to explore major attractions on foot. But if you’ve got a lot of activities in downtown Nashville on your list and walking long distances isn’t your thing, there are other options to get around:

  • Public Buses: The Nashville Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) operates bus routes throughout the city, including downtown.
  • Old Town Trolley Tours: While not public transportation, these hop-on-hop-off trolley tours provide a way to see the top attractions in Nashville and get a narrated tour at the same time. They operate daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, with some stops closing at 3:30 pm on weekdays.
  • Bike and Scooter Rentals: These are available throughout downtown for short trips.
  • Ride-Sharing Services: Uber and Lyft are widely available in Nashville, offering flexible transportation options.
  • Taxis: Traditional taxi services can be hailed or booked in advance.
  • Car: A car offers the most flexibility for exploring Nashville, especially if you want to venture beyond downtown. It allows you to visit sights outside the city center, like Andrew Jackson’s home, at your own pace.

Navigating downtown Nashville by car can be a bit challenging, especially during peak tourist seasons and major events. Fortunately, the city has several convenient parking options to make your visit easier.

Where to Find Nashville Nightlife

10. Catch a Show at the Grand Ole Opry

Even though it’s no longer held at the Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry is still an essential stop on any Music City itinerary. As the longest-running radio broadcast in U.S. history, the Opry continues to showcase the best in country, bluegrass, and Americana music.

For such an unforgettable evening of world-class entertainment, it’s worth the short drive from downtown.

When you attend a live performance, you’ll witness the magic that has made the Grand Ole Opry a legendary institution. Each show features a diverse lineup of performers, from rising stars to country music legends, so you’ll get a unique experience every time you visit.

You’ll feel the energy of the crowd and the excitement of the performers as they take the stage. The Opry’s famous wooden circle, salvaged from the original Ryman Auditorium stage, adds a touch of history to every performance.

Given the popularity of the shows and the diverse lineup of performers, it’s best to buy your tickets ahead of time. Tickets go on sale 90 days in advance and the best seats can sell out quickly.

Don’t miss the chance to go behind the scenes with a backstage tour. You’ll get an insider’s look at the dressing rooms, learn about the Opry’s rich history, and maybe even catch a glimpse of your favorite artists.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 2804 Opryland Drive, Nashville, TN 37214
  • Hours: Show times vary; typically Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday nights
  • Admission: Ticket prices vary; check the official website for current rates and show schedules

💡 BUDGET TIP: If you plan to watch the show AND take the backstage tour, this combo ticket is a better deal.

11. Hear the Songwriters at The Listening Room

Nashville’s music comes alive at The Listening Room. It’s more than just a performance, it’s a journey into the songwriter’s heart. Here, you’ll hear the stories that sparked the melodies, and get a powerful connection with the artist and a deeper appreciation for the music.

With two live shows nightly, you can enjoy performances from both established hitmakers and up-and-coming talents. The venue’s exceptional sound system ensures every note is crystal clear.

While the music takes center stage, the cafe serves up some of Nashville’s best food and drinks, featuring fresh local ingredients that perfectly complement the musical experience.

For those looking to enjoy the atmosphere without attending a show, the front bar and restaurant area are open for lunch and dinner with no cover charge. This separate area does not feature live music but offers the same great food and drinks.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 618 4th Ave South, Nashville, TN 37210
  • Hours: Monday-Friday 11:00 a.m.–11:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 a.m.–11:30 p.m. (Closed on Sundays)
  • Admission: $5–15 cover charge for shows; $15 minimum food/beverage order per person per show. No cover charge for the front bar/restaurant area.

12. Dance the Night Away at Honky Tonk Central

If you’re looking for a lively spot to dance and enjoy live music in downtown Nashville, check out Honky Tonk Central. This three-story venue is a staple on Lower Broadway, offering a vibrant atmosphere with live music on every floor.

The music ranges from classic country to modern hits, and each level has its own bar and stage, so you can find the perfect spot to enjoy the music and dance the night away. The crowd is a mix of locals and tourists, making it a great place to meet new people and experience the true spirit of Nashville.

The bartenders are friendly and quick, so you won’t have to wait long for a drink. If you get hungry, they serve up a variety of bar snacks and Southern comfort food to keep you going. The energy here is infectious, and it’s easy to see why it’s a favorite among both visitors and locals.

It’s one of the best places to find a fun and lively atmosphere to let loose and enjoy the vibrant Nashville nightlife.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 329 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37201
  • Hours: Mon-Sun 11:00 AM – 3 AM
  • Admission: Free

13. Visit Printers Alley

Whether you’re interested in live music, craft cocktails, or simply soaking up the atmosphere, Printer’s Alley is ideal for barhopping. Thanks to its compact size and diverse offerings, it’s a wonderful place to enjoy the Nashville nightlife scene away from Broadway’s crowds.

Tucked away between Third and Fourth Avenues, Printer’s Alley is a unique slice of Nashville’s history. This narrow, two-block stretch running from Union Street to Commerce Street has transformed from its roots as the city’s printing hub to become a vibrant entertainment destination. It’s one of my favorite spots in Nashville.

By day, you can stroll through the alley to admire its historic architecture and check out the variety of neon signs that hint at nighttime excitement. Stop for lunch at one of the eateries, like Back Alley Diner or Gray & Dudley.

As night falls, Printer’s Alley comes alive with an array of bars, clubs, and restaurants:

  • Music lovers should check out Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar for live blues performances, or Alley Taps for nightly live music featuring up-and-coming artists.
  • For a unique experience, visit Skull’s Rainbow Room, offering award-winning cuisine and live entertainment, including burlesque shows, in a historic setting.
  • Karaoke enthusiasts can show off their talents at Lonnie’s Western Room or Ms. Kelli’s.

Iconic Places to Eat in Downtown Nashville

Nashville Hot Chicken sandwiches, with pickles and cole slaw

14. Enjoy a Meal at Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant

Located in the heart of downtown, Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant offers a true taste of Tennessee. This beloved local institution serves up hearty Southern comfort food in a warm, inviting atmosphere.

You’ll find classic dishes like slow-smoked barbecue and crispy fried chicken on the menu. Don’t miss their famous meat-and-three lunch specials, a Nashville tradition that lets you choose one meat and three side dishes.

In the evenings, Puckett’s transforms into a lively music venue. Enjoy your meal while listening to up-and-coming local artists perform live, giving you an authentic Nashville experience.

Visitor Information:

  • Address: 500 Church St., Nashville, TN 37219.
  • Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 7:00 a.m.–10:30 p.m.; closes at 11:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday

15. Indulge in Hot Chicken at Hattie B’s

Nashville is famous for its hot chicken, and Hattie B’s is a must-visit destination for this fiery delicacy. Expect a casual, counter-service atmosphere that’s perfect for a quick meal or leisurely lunch.

Nashville Hot Chicken is defined by two key elements: perfectly fried Southern chicken and a coating of hot, melted spices. At Hattie B’s, the chicken is first fried to crispy perfection before being bathed in their signature spice blends.

Hattie B’s offers varying levels of heat to suit every palate, from Southern (no heat) to “Shut the Cluck Up!” (their hottest option).

Pair your hot chicken with classic Southern sides like pimento mac and cheese or Southern greens, cool down with a refreshing sweet tea or local craft beer, and consider trying their famous banana pudding for dessert.

Visitor Information:

  • Address: 112 19th Ave. S.
  • Hours: Monday to Thursday 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m., Friday to Sunday 10:30 a.m.–midnight. No reservations are required, but be prepared for a wait during peak hours.

16. Explore the Nashville Farmers’ Market

For a taste of local produce and artisanal goods, Nashville Farmers’ Market is the place to go. Open year-round, you’ll find vendors selling an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and baked goods. It’s busiest during the April to November growing season, when you’ll find a wide array of farm-direct products, like honey, bread, and other local items.

Along with the farmers’ stalls, the Market House is home to an array of eateries offering diverse cuisine, from barbecue and Southern comfort food to international dishes. It’s the perfect place to grab a quick bite or stock up on unique local products.

💡 PRO TIP: For a unique dining experience, check out the Grow Local Kitchen. It hosts rotating pop-up restaurants six days a week.

Visitor Information:

  • Location: 900 Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37208
  • Hours:
    • Market House: Daily from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
    • Outdoor Farm Sheds: Friday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.; hours vary by vendor on other days.(Opens at 10:00 a.m. from November thru February.)
  • Admission: Free

Conclusion

This is just a taste of what downtown Nashville has to offer; the real magic of Music City lies in the unexpected discoveries—a hidden mural down an alleyway, a chance encounter with a local musician, or a steaming plate of the best hot chicken you’ve ever tasted.

So don’t be afraid to explore and let Nashville weave its own unique spell on you.

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Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries. Her insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages inspired her to create As We Saw It, where she documents her trips, shares practical itineraries, and offers insider tips. She’s passionate about helping fellow travelers save time, money, and hassle, and loves to discover new places to explore.

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