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The 19 best things to do in Nashville

Enter the home of country music and hot chicken and discover much, much more


Visitors flock to Nashville for its incomparable country music scene, poppin’ honky-tonks and fluffy, satisfying hot chicken. And who can blame them? This city does a lot of things really really well, and its culture scene is second to none. In fact, a ‘things to do’ list is where Nashville really shines, with enough comedy and theatre on offer to make sure you never get bored. 

You might be heading to Nashville for Live on the Green, Nashville’s huge annual open air concert, for Nashville pride, or possibly for the Tomato Art Fest. But we’d advise booking a longer trip to soak up all that this city has to offer. From free art exhibitions to live music and sports to waterparks, the possibilities are endless in ol’ Nashville Tennessee. It’s also got to be the only place you can get table service at a baseball game. So if you’re ready to take the plunge, indulge yourself in the best things to do in Nashville right now. 

🍽️ The best restaurants in Nashville
🕺 Guide to the best nightlife in Nashville
🥑 The best brunch in Nashville
🏠 The best Airbnbs in Nashville 
🍗 The best hot chicken in Nashville
🏘️ The best places to stay in Nashville

What to do in Nashville

2. Madame Tussauds Nashville

Most Madame Tussauds are a lot of fun (and an easy way to get snaps of you and your heroes), but the Nashville location really has a lot going for it. It fits the theme of the city perfectly, with a heavy slant toward musical heritage. That means zones dedicated to Country past and present, including a WSM Radio zone, and the opportunity to lay down a track or two with Elvis, in the Recording zone. Loads of fun.


Well, you are in Nashville, aren’t you? Hot chicken is an absolute must when you’re in Tennessee, and you won’t get it better than here. If you’re not familiar, hot chicken is spicy fried chicken in buttermilk, squished between two slices of soft white bread and served with a pickle. The original is Prince’s Hot Chicken, but Hattie B’s Hot Chicken is pretty amazing too. We’d advise getting both, obviously. 

Chow down on hot chicken and savor more of Nashville during a neighborhood tour


The Ryman Auditorium is the most famous music venue in Nashville, a.k.a. the "mother church of country music." Built as the Union Gospel Tabernacle church in 1892, it once was the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Everyone who is anyone wants to perform on this stage. The acoustics are unparalleled and often result in singers showing off their chops in ways they might not be able to elsewhere. It is a pleasure to watch artists’ reverence for the space. Come early and take the backstage tour.


Nashville is packed with low-key places to hear singer-songwriters play their lyrics, usually acoustically. A listening room is the very core of the Music City experience. Nashville is more about the people who write the songs than the stars who perform them. Open mic and songwriter nights at listening rooms, such as Listening Room Café and Bluebird Café, are places to hear the stories behind the songs.

Want to see more? Book a tour of Nashville

A freestanding exhibit on the second floor of the main public library, the Civil Rights Room illustrates Nashville’s essential role in the U.S. civil rights movement and desegregation. It is kind of a hard sell to convince people to go to the library on vacation, but these powerful photographs, videos, and displays are worth seeing to learn about the sit-ins and other protests that changed the face of America. 


An indoor/outdoor waterpark at the Gaylord Opryland Resort with adult-only bars, big slides, a lazy river, a giant movie screen for watching flicks from the pool, serious cabana action, and more. While Sounbdwaves is designed for hotel guests, there are all sorts of deals for locals (big discounts on rooms and the chance to book day-only parties). While the term staycation is lame, the idea of feeling like you embarked on a vacation without having bought a plane ticket is not. And Soundwaves delivers with a big splash.


Located in the right field of the actual First Tennessee Park (now known as First Horizon Park), The band Box is a seriously hip place to hang out during a Nashville Sounds minor league baseball game. You'll find gourmet spins on the classic burgers and dogs, plus options such as a quinoa kale salad and globally inspired snacks such as empanadas and jalapeño corn fritters. This is not your everyday ballpark food. You can even get actual table service.

Since 1925, Grand Ole Opry (broadcast on WSM) has offered a round-up of different performers playing gospel, country, bluegrass, and more in a jokey entertainment extravaganza. This is the quintessential Nashville experience. Expect shows at least twice a week, Fridays and Saturdays, with additional ones on Tuesday nights during most weeks. Throughout most of the year, it is taped at the Opryhouse in Music Valley, where a backstage tour is available (and worthwhile). Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the Opry returns to its historic home at the Ryman Auditorium.


This is a free party on the first Saturday of the month, where you walk door-to-door-to-door and check out the work of new artists at the city’s top art galleries. The two gallery districts are concentrated in Wedgewood Houston and downtown Fifth Avenue. Each offers a party-like atmosphere (and free wine) to toast the best visual art in a city that values creativity and artistic expression.

Want to see more of the neighborhood? Book a tour


Bicentennial Capitol Mall is a state park inside the city, underneath the shadow of the state capitol building and near the Tennessee State Museum. This is an engaging way to learn about the history of the state without being stuck inside. Locals love to grab lunch at the Nashville Farmers' Market and picnic in the park. Tall trees on the east side replicate the topography of the state. Every hour (on the hour), you can hear the bells toll, playing “Rocky Top” and the “Tennessee Waltz.”

See Nashville at night with an after-hours tour


At restaurants serving the meat-and-three, choose one meat dish (often beef tips or fried chicken) and up to three vegetables. It doesn’t get more Nashville than this. The food is delicious, particularly at Arnold’s Country Kitchen and Swett’s, with solid takes on comfort food Southern dishes, many of which rotate daily (though the latter actually serves meat and two). Also, this is the only context in the world where macaroni and cheese count as a vegetable.

Two of the city’s downtown hotels have world-class art collections, and they’re open to the public 24/7—for free. Noelle features the work of local artists through the lobby and on each floor. The 21c Museum Hotel is an actual contemporary art museum, again in a hotel, with exhibits on several topics that change periodically. The 21c also hosts ongoing artist lectures and discussions.

Want to see more museums? Book a tour


A board game aficionado? Get to Game Point and enjoy a collection of nearly 400 board games that you can play—at no extra charge—inside the Bongo East coffee shop. A trained expert helps you pick out a game you and your friends or family will like. Then they'll teach you how to play, so you don't have to get bogged down reading the rules. Buy a beer, a snack, or dinner from the café to enjoy while you play.

Music City has more than 90 miles of greenways and 133 miles of on-road bike lanes, so it is a fun city to get to know on a bike. In June 2021, this program introduced electric bicycles, a glimpse into the future. You don’t need to own a bike to make it happen. BCycle has 36 rental stations around town, and you can rent a bike for an hour or a day. Nashville has some hills, so you’ll enjoy great vantage points… and a workout.


Marathon Village is a 1900s car factory repurposed into a shopping-dining-drinking district. The old Marathon Motor Works details and photos in the building give a quick history lesson, while the new tenants make for a fun afternoon or evening. Don’t miss Third Coast Comedy ClubCorsair Distillery and Taproom, or the Bang Candy Company. TV’s Mike Wolfe (of American Pickers fame) has an Antique Archaeology shop, too. You’ll recognize it by the line out front.

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