Top 12 Free Things to Do in Nashville

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nashville, Tennessee is well-known for its lively music scene, with venues that host live bands every night of the week. However, there are also many things to experience in Nashville that don’t cost a dime.

ActivityDescription
Downtown ExplorationWalk around downtown Nashville, enjoy live music, and view iconic murals.
State Capitol TourFree guided tour of the historical Tennessee State Capitol.
Bluebird CafeAttend free songwriter rounds at this famous venue.
Centennial ParkEnjoy the outdoors, including a full-scale Parthenon replica.
Fort Negley ParkVisit the largest stone fortification built during the Civil War.
Belmont MansionExplore this pre-Civil War home with a guided tour.
Art at 5th + BroadwayDiscover local art exhibits and murals downtown.
First Horizon ParkExperience the Nashville Sounds’ baseball stadium.
Fort NashboroughExplore the replica of Nashville’s original settlement.
Bells Bend ParkEnjoy outdoor activities and wildlife viewing.
Tennessee Agricultural MuseumLearn about the state’s farming history.
Street Performers & ArtExperience downtown’s vibrant street performances and art.

From exploring history and art museums to people watching along the vibrant streets, Nashville has something for everyone to enjoy for free.

Explore Downtown Nashville

Name and Location: Downtown Nashville refers to the city’s urban core neighborhoods containing popular attractions like Lower Broadway’s honky tonks, the Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame, and more.

History and Significance: Nashville’s downtown has been an important commercial center since the city’s founding. Recent years have seen extensive business, entertainment and tourism growth in the vibrant districts packed with music history.

What to Expect: Visitors can discover historical sites, live entertainment venues, shops, restaurants, bars, arts and more throughout the walkable downtown districts like the Gulch, SoBro and the Broadway historic districts that make up the bustling city core.

Visitor Information: Nashville’s downtown is compact and easily explored on foot. Free downtown shuttle buses also connect major attractions and parking garages are plentiful.

Take some time to walk around downtown Nashville, which features a mix of honky tonk bars, live music venues, shops, restaurants and historic buildings. During the day, stop to snap a photo with the iconic Nashville mural featuring colorful wings. At night, watch talented musicians give free performances hoping to be discovered by record labels on Broadway. Listen for musicians warming up as you explore the area around venues like Bridgestone Arena and the historic Ryman Auditorium.

Tour the Tennessee State Capitol

Name and Location: The Tennessee State Capitol is located north of downtown Nashville on Capitol Hill and houses the state legislature as well as the governor’s office.

History and Significance: Built in 1859 and designated a National Historic Landmark, the prominent Nashville Greek Revival structure and surrounding grounds have been the site of important government events for over 150 years.

What to Expect: Free guided tours showcase details of the Capitol’s architecture and stately interior while explaining functions. Exhibits on history and state government are also displayed as visitors observe proceedings.

Visitor Information: Open for self-guided explorations weekdays, with guided tours at set times requiring reservations. Free parking on premises and year-round access makes visits convenient.

Learn about Tennessee’s unique political history with a free guided tour of the towering Tennessee State Capitol. Completed in 1859, this National Historic Landmark has original features like the House and Senate chambers and restored Victorian-style furniture and light fixtures. Friendly and knowledgeable tour guides provide context about the building while pointing out architectural details as you walk through. Make sure to go out on the upper floors to take in views of downtown Nashville.

See a Show at the Bluebird Cafe

Name and Location: Tucked away in a small strip mall south of downtown, the Bluebird Cafe is a famous intimate live music venue that’s helped launch major Nashville musicians’ careers.

History and Significance: Open since 1982, the singer-songwriter venue grew renowned through its informal shows and connection to stars like Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift early in their careers. It spotlights rising talent.

What to Expect: With a cozy, listening room atmosphere, visitors hear acoustic original sets and storytelling by talented musicians up-close at their tables over light food and drinks on a typical Bluebird night. Showcase slots are coveted.

Visitor Information: Small capacity means shows sell out fast when reserved tickets become available online monthly. A limited number of first-come, first-served seats may be available night-of depending on cancellations.

Despite its quaint, unassuming appearance, The Bluebird Cafe is one of the most famous music venues in Nashville thanks to its reputation as a songwriter’s haven. Intimate songwriter’s rounds featuring talented musicians happen every night and free seats are available first-come, first-served. The small space provides an up-close experience you can’t find at larger venues. Even if you don’t end up with a seat, just being in the vicinity lets you soak up the creative energy.

Stroll through Centennial Park

Name and Location: Located 2 miles west of downtown Nashville, the sprawling Centennial Park contains open green spaces, walking trails, memorials, arts and the iconic full-scale Parthenon replica.

History and Significance: Originally farmland, the site was chosen for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Expo then redeveloped into Nashville’s flagship park. It remains a popular recreational and cultural hub.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy exercise along the park’s scenic trails and fields, visiting historical monuments, taking in Parthenon art exhibits, or attending festivals and summer concerts at the park’s event space by the lakefront.

Visitor Information: Always open with free admission. Parking lots onsite provide easy access and exploration can be self-guided or via Parthenon docent tours with minimal fees.

Centennial Park offers a relaxing, 132-acre green escape from the Nashville city streets. Walk, jog or bike along its paths as you take in the small lakes, open fields, gardens and wooded areas. For the best views, trek up to the iconic replica of Greece’s Parthenon, complete with a 42-foot statue of Athena. The building hosts an art museum with various exhibits throughout the year. In warmer months, catch musical and theatrical performances at the park’s bandshell.

Explore Fort Negley Park

Name and Location: Fort Negley Park is a 19th century former Civil War fortification turned public park offering recreation and sweeping views of Nashville and the Cumberland River valley.

History and Significance: Constructed by runaway slaves and freedmen in 1862, the fort’s occupation helped Union forces gain control of Middle Tennessee until it was later decommissioned after the war, eventually becoming preserved green space.

What to Expect: Hikers and visitors explore the earthwork fort remnants and trenches across the grassy hilltop location while absorbing panoramas of downtown and rural landscapes from multiple vantage sightlines that cameras can scarcely do justice.

Visitor Information: The grounds are freely accessible year-round during daylight hours with ample free parking. Avoid poor weather conditions for best visibility during tours.

Soak up some history at Fort Negley Park, the site of the largest inland stone fortification built during the Civil War. Located south of downtown, its hills offer panoramic views of the Nashville skyline. Wander through the remnants of the fort, like the towering limestone walls and cannons pointed across the field. Check out the visitor’s center museum housed in the 1930s-era recreations of officer homes. Rangers are on-site daily providing additional historical color.

Tour Historic Belmont MansionBelmont Mansion | Nashville Historic House Museum |

Name and Location: Completed in 1853, Belmont Mansion is a historic Italianate antebellum estate that now operates as a museum in Nashville’s Belmont-Hillsboro neighborhood.

History and Significance: Home to two prominent Tennessee families through the 19th century including past Nashville mayors, Belmont’s period restoration provides insight on extravagant lifestyles and architecture prior to the Civil War through preserved original interiors.

What to Expect: Docent-led tours spotlight gorgeous stylings and early amenities while detailing histories of occupants like one-time owner, horse breeder and business magnate Adelicia Acklen, one of America’s wealthiest women in her era.

Visitor Information: Open for guided tours several days a week year-round besides major holidays. Combination tickets with nearby historic sites are available. Small museum on premises too.

Journey back in time with a free guided tour of the Belmont Mansion, a stunning pre-Civil War home complete with period furniture and artwork. One of the South’s finest manors, it was completed in 1853 for a wealthy Mississippi land owner and his family. Guides share details about the original residents and 19th century Southern splendor as they take you through the extravagant 16,000 square-foot Italian villa and 17 acre estate.

Enjoy Local Art at 5th + Broadway

Name and Location: 5th + Broadway is an open-air mall in downtown Nashville focused on fashion, dining, art installations and entertainment located around the intersection of 5th Avenue North and Broadway.

History and Significance: Developed through 2021 on the site of the former Nashville Convention Center, the gleaming space fused a park, outdoor performance stage, iconic musical note art piece by artist Ricardo Breceda and leading shops and restaurants.

What to Expect: Visitors enjoy public musical performances on the Ascend Amphitheater stage while appreciating massive guitar and musical note sculptures representing Music City before browsing name-brand stores, trendy eateries and taking in ongoing art displays.

Visitor Information: Always freely open to the public. Paid parking garages nearby. Multiple metro bus lines service the hub linking downtown attractions easily accessible to visitors.

Nashville’s trendy 5th + Broadway area features some fantastic free art exhibits. Browse the Nashville Walls Project scattered throughout downtown, with colorful murals transformed regularly by local and visiting artists. The ARTV building has a contemporary gallery with rotating exhibits. And you’ll find over 20 originally-designed guitar sculptures placed along the streets as part of the GuitarTown project, celebrating Music City’s signature instrument.

Trek the Nashville Sounds First Horizon Park

Name and Location: The Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team plays home games at First Horizon Park located north of the city’s downtown area. The venue offers family fun and views.

History and Significance: In its current baseball grounds that first opened in 2015, First Horizon Park replaced the team’s former stadium, continuing local tradition following decades of professional play in Nashville going back to the 1800s.

What to Expect: Fans enjoy typical friendly minor league action while exploring the uniquely guitar-shaped scoreboard, ascending the music-themed band shell outfield area modeled after the Parthenon and taking in panoramas of Nashville from concourse sightlines in between innings.

Visitor Information: The Sounds season runs from April to September. Tickets start around $10 with special theme nights popular. Parking passes should be purchased in advance online when possible.

For some sports and skyline views, check out the First Horizon Park, home of Nashville’s Triple-A baseball team, the Nashville Sounds. Walk around the stadium concourse or find a spot in the outfield bleachers to catch some of a game. You can also take photos with the giant neon guitar statue spelling out N-A-S-H-V-I-L-L-E. Stick around after the last out to watch fireworks light up the night sky on Friday nights.

Experience Local History at Fort Nashborough

Name and Location: Along the Cumberland River banks, Fort Nashborough is a replica pioneer fort depicting 1780s Nashville as a fledgling French traders’ river settlement prior to establishing the city.

History and Significance: First built for Tennessee’s 1970 Centennial Exposition, the fort recreates original wood-and-stone fortification ruins found onsite providing living history demonstrations about frontier life with volunteers dressed in period attire.

What to Expect: Visitors journey back in time before Nashville existed, witnessing rustic cabins, cooking, supplies and discussions of challenges settlers faced interacting with tribes while relying on the Cumberland’s resources seasonally. Kids can ask questions.

Visitor Information: Open Saturday mornings year-round for free public access with additional seasonal hours. Special events also occur onsite. Parking available at the adjacent park.

Just across the river from downtown sits Fort Nashborough, a replica of the original Nashville settlement founded in 1779. Costumed guides and reenactors bring the site’s history to life as you explore the fort, barracks, cabins and gardens modeled after how they looked almost 250 years ago. Throughout the year, the site hosts special events like military drills, trades fairs and reenactments that provide insight into Revolutionary War era Tennessee Valley frontier life.

See Wildlife at Bells Bend Park

Name and Location: Spanning nearly 900 acres along the Cumberland River northwest of Nashville, Bells Bend Park and Outdoor Center provides trails through forests and farmland rich with diverse plant and animal species.

History and Significance: Comprised of land with varying ownership histories, the area has been protected from commercial development as part of Nashville’s park system since the early 2000s in order to conserve its rural characteristics and ecology.

What to Expect: Hikers may spot white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, herons, beavers, and bald eagles while traversing trails with some spectacular valley-framing views. Interpretive signage identifies native flora and fauna.

Visitor Information: Leashed dogs permitted on certain trails. Venue also used for festivals, races and astronomy nights. Note park gate hours – arriving late risks being locked in.

Bells Bend Park contains almost 900 acres of outdoor recreation space where you can hit trails through woods and along the river, go mountain biking, rent a boat, fish or picnic. It also features the Bells Bend Outdoor Center with exhibits on local ecology and wildlife alongside raptor enclosures housing owls, hawks and bald eagles. Staff members handle the birds so you can see them up close while learning about their traits and the center’s conservation efforts.

Tour the Tennessee Agricultural Museum

Name and Location: The Tennessee Agricultural Museum spanning 200 acres outside Nashville documents the state’s agrarian history through exhibits displayed in historic homes and barns.

History and Significance: Founded in 1973 on the former site of a pioneer-era middle Tennessee plantation, the museum preserves endangered rural structures and showcases artifacts portraying advances in farm life technology and self-sufficient lifestyles.

What to Expect: Guests tour pioneer homesteads, gaze at vast collections of horse-drawn plows and tractors, observe live heritage breed animals, and experience interactive demonstrations firsthand conveying hardships and innovations experienced on Tennessee farms through the years.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday through Saturday, with ticket options including docent-guided mansion tours. Seasonal events like harvest festivals immerse visitors further into traditions.

The Tennessee Agricultural Museum pays homage to the state’s farming history with educational exhibits housed in a series of tool sheds, barns and other historic buildings spread across almost 100 acres. See equipment covering 300 years of innovation in agriculture and local rural life. Antique tractors, farm tools and model homesteads illustrate how early Tennessee settlers lived off the land. The site also features gardens, trails and a scenic overlook with panoramic views showcasing Middle Tennessee’s natural beauty.

Check Out Street Performers & Art

Name and Location: Downtown Nashville’s Honky Tonk Highway along Lower Broadway contains colorful murals, galleries and lively street performers entertaining crowds between the famous live music venues.

History and Significance: As the neon-lit backbone of Nashville’s entertainment scene, Lower Broadway has supported public art and spontaneous performances from spray painted walls to makeshift dancers for decades, evolving as a creative hotspot along with the district.

What to Expect: Strolling downtown visitors can shop the artisan galleries while catching breakdancers spinning to amplified tracks, musicians jamming on sidewalks, dazzling mural walls in progress, and more spontaneous creative spectacles unfolding between the bars.

Visitor Information: The street performances occur mainly at night, with weekends being liveliest when the most musicians and patrons converge on Lower Broadway’s stages and streets.

The honky tonks of Broadway attract aspiring musicians hoping to follow in the footsteps of Country greats. Check out bar band concerts and singers on the streets looking for their big breaks. You’re sure to encounter talented vocalists, guitarists and fiddlers throughout downtown. Creative street performers and sidewalk artists also flock to popular pedestrian areas like the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge and 5th + Broadway. Watch dancers, musicians, magicians and caricature artists showcase their skills and talents.

With so many ways to soak up Nashville’s sights, sounds, history, arts and culture without spending anything, visitors and locals alike can enjoy rich experiences across this vibrant city. These activities offer a well-rounded introduction to what gives Nashville its famous nickname – Music City.

Leave a Comment