Top 12 Top Attractions in Nashville

Last Updated on February 11, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nashville, the capital of Tennessee, is a city that seamlessly blends Southern charm, history, music, and cuisine into one incredible destination. Known affectionately as “Music City,” Nashville offers visitors an array of attractions to suit all interests. From the iconic Grand Ole Opry showcasing country music legends, to museums commemorating Tennessee history, to lively neighborhoods filled with honky-tonks and hot chicken joints, Nashville has something for everyone.

AttractionDescription
The Grand Ole OpryIconic music venue showcasing country music legends.
Country Music Hall of FameMuseum chronicling the history of country music.
Lower Broadway Honky TonksEntertainment neighborhood with live bands and bars.
The Bluebird CafeIntimate venue for songwriters to debut new tunes.
Ryman AuditoriumHistoric concert hall and original home of the Grand Ole Opry.
The Johnny Cash MuseumMuseum dedicated to the life and music of Johnny Cash.
Belle Meade PlantationHistoric site offering insights into 19th-century plantation life.
Nashville Hot ChickenLocal culinary specialty known for its spicy flavor.
The ParthenonFull-scale replica of the ancient Greek temple.
Tennessee State MuseumMuseum showcasing Tennessee’s history and culture.
Urban Wilderness Mountain BikingOutdoor activity spot with mountain bike trails.
Frist Art MuseumArt museum featuring a wide range of exhibits.

When planning a trip to Nashville, it can be hard to narrow down what to see and do from the long list of possibilities. To help make the most of your time in this vibrant city, we’ve compiled the top 12 attractions you won’t want to miss. From world-famous music sites to beautiful outdoor spaces and cultural stops, these are the essential experiences to have in Nashville.

The Grand Ole Opry

Name and Location: The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country music stage concert located in Nashville, Tennessee. It takes place at the Grand Ole Opry House.

History and Significance: The Grand Ole Opry began as a radio show in 1925 and is the longest-running radio broadcast in US history. It helped many country music artists gain exposure and has become an iconic institution in country music. Many famous musicians have performed on its stage.

What to Expect: The Grand Ole Opry features a lineup of famous and up-and-coming country music singers and musicians. Concerts typically include bluegrass, gospel, Americana and country music. Shows are lively with a high-energy atmosphere.

Visitor Information: The Grand Ole Opry House offers guided backstage tours. Visitors can also explore the Opry Museum to learn about the history of the Opry. Shows frequently sell out in advance.

No trip to Nashville is complete without visiting the iconic Grand Ole Opry. Located about 20 minutes outside the downtown area, this legendary venue has been the heart of country music for over 90 years. Country music stars new and old grace the Opry stage every week for live musical performances dedicated to the show’s devoted listeners. Sing along to classic hits, discover talented rising stars, and soak in the rich history of a uniquely Nashville tradition at the Grand Ole Opry.

The stage and the atmosphere are what truly make this a one-of-a-kind musical experience. With shows happening several nights a week, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see the Opry during your visit. Catch a prime-time show to witness seasoned entertainers and veteran Opry members dazzle the crowd with hits spanning decades of country, gospel, and bluegrass.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Name and Location: Located in downtown Nashville, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of country music.

History and Significance: Founded in 1967, it houses a massive collection of recordings, photos, artifacts and more related to major figures and movements in country music over time. It educates visitors on the genre’s cultural impact.

What to Expect: Guests can view exhibits highlighting influential country musicians and songwriters. There are also displays of historical instruments, costumes and other special artifacts. Visitors can listen to classic country music cuts.

Visitor Information: The museum offers docent-led tours and self-guided audio tours included with admission. There is also a cafe, recording booths and museum store on-site.

You can’t talk Nashville attractions without highlighting the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum – country music’s Smithsonian. Chronicling the history and evolution of country from its early roots to modern megastars, a visit here provides a comprehensive look at the people, places, and moments that shaped Music City.

Wander through the museum’s extensive collections of rare artifacts, films, interactive exhibits, costumes, musical instruments, and more. Learn the stories behind country legends like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline, songwriters who crafted classics still sung today, and trailblazers who pushed the genre forward over generations. Don’t miss the Historic RCA Studio B – also part of the hall of fame campus – where Elvis Presley and many other renowned artists recorded chart-topping hits in the iconic studio.

From rare archival documents to dazzling stage costumes, prepare to spend hours immersed in the nostalgia and narrative of country music at this unparalleled museum.

Lower Broadway Honky Tonks

Name and Location: Lower Broadway refers to the famous stretch of downtown Nashville packed with lively honky tonk bars and music venues, like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Robert’s Western World.

History and Significance: Lower Broadway has been the heart of Nashville’s entertainment scene since the 1940s. Bar bands here helped create the Nashville Sound blending country and pop. Honky tonks here showcase up-and-coming acts.

What to Expect: Lower Broadway features one bar after another with free live music at all hours. The vibe is high-energy with music seeping onto the streets. The bars all have their own character and draw big crowds.

Visitor Information: The honky tonks have no cover charge and welcome guests of all ages. However, evenings tend to attract large crowds and tourists, especially on weekends.

The neon-lit honky tonks along Lower Broadway make up Nashville’s famed entertainment neighborhood. All day and night, a party rages up and down Lower Broad with live bands rocking stages inside multi-level musical venues.

Bars like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, and Legends Corner have been packing in rowdy crowds for decades. Grab some classic Nashville hot chicken, wedge your way to the front with drink in hand, and let seasoned session musicians blow you away with their talent. Be prepared to discover excellent new musicians alongside celebrities taking impromptu turns with stage performances when you explore Lower Broad’s beloved late-night watering holes.

The Bluebird Cafe

Name and Location: The Bluebird Cafe is an intimate 90-seat music club located in an unassuming Nashville strip mall that doesn’t advertise its presence.

History and Significance: Open since 1982, the singer-songwriter venue helped launch huge careers and has hosted performances by Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and other stars before they made it big.

What to Expect: The Bluebird Cafe spotlights songwriters performing acoustic sets. Despite its small size, there’s an energy that permeates throughout the storied listening room during shows. It continues nurturing rising talents.

Visitor Information: There is limited seating at tables and reservations are required, with preference going to first-time attendees arriving early to wait in line. There is a special writers’ night every Sunday.

For an exceptionally intimate Nashville music experience, schedule an evening at the iconic Bluebird Cafe performance space. Like the city’s songwriters who still flock there to debut new tunes, you’ll fall in love with the Bluebird Cafe’s cozy atmosphere and storytelling spirit.

There’s no big stage production here – just hit singer-songwriters swapping stories and songs in the round while gathered around tables with listeners. Given the tiny 90-person capacity, it’s worth planning ahead to get reservations for the Bluebird’s shows. Once inside, soak in the palpable creative energy flowing between artists, instrumentalists, and the audience alike during this one-of-a-kind Nashville tradition.

Ryman Auditorium

Name and Location: Ryman Auditorium is a revered 2,300-seat concert hall located in downtown Nashville that was once home of the Grand Ole Opry.

History and Significance: Named for its original founder and opened in 1892, the Ryman continued hosting the Opry for over three decades. Legends like Johnny Cash have graced its stage. Today, the venue hosts diverse acts.

What to Expect: Ryman Auditorium provides excellent acoustics and atmosphere for concerts spanning genres like country, rock, jazz, blues, folk and more. Some shows are seated, while others allow standing around dance floors.

Visitor Information: The venue offers daytime backstage tours. Concerts happen year-round and certain big-name performances sell out fast, so booking ahead is recommended to secure tickets.

As the original home of the Grand Ole Opry and the iconic venue where Johnny Cash met June Carter, the Ryman Auditorium occupies hallowed ground in country music history. Now a functioning concert hall hosting music and stage shows year-round, self-guided backstage tours allow you to explore the Ryman’s rich past.

Wander the wooden-pew seating of the chapel-like performance hall, step onto the iconic circle of the Ryman stage that so many legends graced, marvel at signed memorabilia lining the building’s back hallways, and visualize the country music spectacles staged here over the years. Concert tickets let you see stellar shows in this nationally registered historic landmark venue as well.

The Johnny Cash Museum

Name and Location: Located downtown, the Johnny Cash Museum celebrates the life and musical legacy of the late, great country legend through historical exhibits and artifacts.

History and Significance: Open since 2013, the museum’s extensive personal collection includes Cash’s instruments, costumes, handwritten lyrics, letters, photographs and more. It provides a closer look at the Man in Black.

What to Expect: Visitors can view and learn about memorabilia spanning Cash’s childhood through his rise to fame and until the later years of his influential career before his 2003 death. His story is brought to life.

Visitor Information: The museum sells tickets for self-guided audio tours. Guests can take their time exploring at their own pace while listening to Cash’s music. Cash’s brother Tommy meets fans on occasion.

The legacy of the “Man in Black” lives on at downtown Nashville’s Johnny Cash Museum – the world’s largest collection of Cash artifacts and memorabilia. From the farm he grew up on to the final stages of his storied music career, intimate exhibits and multimedia displays capture Cash’s monumental impact on music across all genres.

Get goosebumps taking an audio tour narrated by Cash family members, gawk at some of his most iconic costumes and personal items, or pose for a photo in a replica of the Cash family’s longtime Tennessee home. For Johnny Cash fans making a pilgrimage to Nashville, seeing his pioneering musical history honored at the Johnny Cash Museum is a top priority.

Belle Meade Plantation

Name and Location: Belle Meade Plantation is an 1830s historic estate and former thoroughbred horse farm located around 8 miles from downtown Nashville.

History and Significance: Once encompassing 5,400 acres, Belle Meade’s Greek Revival mansion was home to several generations of the Harding and Jackson families. They led a 19th century horse breeding and racing enterprise.

What to Expect: Guided tours of the mansion, farm outbuildings and reconstructed slave quarters relay stories of the families and enslaved people who lived and worked on the plantation. The history is brought to life.

Visitor Information: Combination and discounted tickets are available for the guided tour of the mansion, audio self-guided tour of grounds, wine tasting and more. Some annual events are also held on the grounds.

Understanding Nashville’s complex past involves a visit to the historic Belle Meade Plantation and grounds. One of the nation’s best-preserved examples of a 19th-century plantation, 30-minutes at Belle Meade transports you back in time as costumed guides detail the experiences of those who lived in the mansion and slave quarters over 150 years ago.

Tour the Greek Revival plantation house filled with original furnishings, inspect the structures and tools enslaved laborers utilized on the property, walk through stables still housing regal thoroughbreds descended from Belle Meade’s world-famous stud farm beginnings, and contemplate history while admiring the sprawling estate. Nuanced tours recount varied perspectives not typically included in plantation pilgrimages, providing impactful lessons on the little-known stories of Nashvillians from that era.

Nashville Hot Chicken

Name and Location: Nashville hot chicken is a spicy, crispy fried chicken dish native to restaurants throughout Nashville, Tennessee. Several establishments have claimed its origin.

History and Significance: According to legend, the spicy revenge dish was first created around the 1930s. Today, the iconic local cuisine has gained fame after being featured on food TV and brought other “hot chicken” eateries.

What to Expect: Traditional Nashville hot chicken involves fried chicken coated in or simmered in a spicy chili oil blend. It comes in multiple heat levels from mild to dangerously hot. It’s typically served with slices of bread and pickles.

Visitor Information: Some top spots to try Nashville hot chicken include Prince’s Hot Chicken, Hattie B’s and Party Fowl. Be prepared to wait in line at popular joints.

You can’t leave Nashville without sampling its fiery specialty: Nashville hot chicken. Brought to popularity by local restaurant Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack decades ago, hot chicken is fried chicken tossed in a lip-tingling mix of seasonings and set atop white bread with pickle chips. Be ready to feel the Nashville heat and flavor that keeps locals and tourists alike flocking to hot chicken joints around town.

Try fan favorites like Pepperfire Hot Chicken and 400 Degrees Hot Chicken for crispy, juicy chicken flavored with your choice of warming spice levels. Or make the pilgrimage to Prince’s original location for the humble fried chicken experience that started it all. However you choose to experience it, hot chicken will undoubtedly be a spicy highlight of your time in Nashville.

The Parthenon

Name and Location: Situated within Nashville’s Centennial Park, the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the original ancient Greek Parthenon temple located in Athens.

History and Significance: Constructed in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition, the re-creation was originally made of plaster and wood before being rebuilt with permanent materials years later. It has become an iconic Nashville landmark.

What to Expect: Visitors can tour the Parthenon’s interior, which houses an art gallery and a re-creation of the temple’s famous lost sculpture, Athena. Guests can walk around the outside structure for scenic views of the park too.

Visitor Information: Guided audio tours cover the history and art. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. An annual summer celebration with food and music is also held on the Parthenon grounds.

One of Nashville’s most eye-catching attractions is the Parthenon – a full-scale replica of the famous Greek temple and Parthenon sculptures located in Athens. Constructed in 1897 for Tennessee’s Centennial Exposition and rebuilt in the 1920s from concrete, Nashville’s Parthenon stands proudly as the only exact replica of the original landmark found anywhere in the world.

Stroll around the perimeter of the Parthenon and ascend the steps to take in panoramic views of downtown from its hilltop perch in Centennial Park. Walk among the displays of ancient Greek and Roman art inside, including plaster casts of the Elgin Marbles. At night, stick around to see the columns of the Parthenon colorfully illuminated. It’s an improbable sight that nevertheless makes for an imposing Nashville focal point.

Tennessee State Museum

Name and Location: Located on Nashville’s Lower Broadway at the entrance of Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, the vast Tennessee State Museum explores the state’s cultural and natural heritage.

History and Significance: Originally founded in 1937, the museum houses significant artifacts integral to telling Tennessee’s story from prehistoric eras to present times across multiple floors of exhibits.

What to Expect: Permanent and visiting exhibitions covering art, history, science and culture provide an immersive overview of Tennessee’s vibrant past and emergence over time through real artifacts and displays.

Visitor Information: General admission is free. Other docent and audio tours, IMAX films, gift shop merchandise, and rotating exhibits and events come with varying fees. Parking is available on site.

Dive into Tennessee’s storied past – from its indigenous roots to Antebellum era and beyond – with a visit to Nashville’s expansive Tennessee State Museum. Massive collections feature fossils, war artifacts, clothing, instruments, weapons, photographs, documents, and more tied to Tennessee’s culture and history. Catch rotating exhibits spotlighting unique local stories as well.

Kids and adults alike marvel at seeing an ancient giant mastodon fossil, stroll a replica 1900s Main Street capturing Tennessee small town life, and explore the beyond state-of-the-art Military Museum highlighting Tennessee veterans’ service. Give yourself plenty of time to absorb the ambitious and immersive exhibits found only at the Tennessee State Museum.

Urban Wilderness Mountain Biking

Name and Location: Located around downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, the Urban Wilderness is a unique outdoor recreation zone that spans 1,000 forested acres containing around 50+ miles of scenic mountain biking trails.

History and Significance: A community partnership formed in 2009 between governments and local outdoor groups helped transform neglected open spaces into a sustainably managed trail system catering to hikers and mountain bikers.

What to Expect: Highlights include the flowy Loyston Point Single Track, technical Baker Creek Preserve, and the 17-mile South Loop linking trails across various forested parks and along creeks offering challenges for all skill levels.

Visitor Information: Access is free. The Urban Wilderness site contains interactive trail maps for navigating the vast network. Local outdoor shops rent mountain bikes and offer tours. Water and restrooms are available at various trailheads too.

Trade skyscrapers for lush forests and rolling mountain bike trails just minutes from downtown Nashville. The urban wilderness known as the MetroCenter Bike Park is one of the city’s best-kept secrets for outdoor thrill seekers. Made up of volunteer-built mountain bike trails spanning 250 acres, it’s beloved by area cyclists for its variety of winding single-track terrain over wooded hillsides, fun technical features, and beautiful natural scenery throughout.

Rent a bike from Walk Bike Nashville’s on-site bike share, strap on a helmet, and spend the afternoon perfecting your singletrack skills on trails like the gravity-fed Bomb Trail or the winding Gangster Link. The urban wilderness escape feels worlds away and boasts panoramic views of the Nashville skyline as a bonus.

Frist Art Museum

Name and Location: Located in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, the Frist Art Museum is a leading art exhibition space housed in a historic former post office from the 1930s.

History and Significance: The Frist Center first opened to the public in April 2001. Since then, it has held significant exhibitions by world-renowned artists while also promoting Nashville’s creative visual arts scene through world-class programs and performances.

What to Expect: The Frist showcases visual art in all mediums and covering various movements from the post-World War II era to today through rotating exhibits in its spacious galleries. Mediums range from sculpture to video.

Visitor Information: The Frist is open daily, except major holidays. Save on special member prices, discounts and package deals. The nearby cafe and gift shop are popular spots before or after seeing the galleries.

Nashville’s Frist Art Museum hosts an impressive lineup of visual art exhibits ranging from American folk art to classical European collections and modern installations. Housed in a stunning Art Deco facility that was formerly the city’s main post office, the Frist also claims an ideal downtown location adjacent to popular attractions like the Ryman Auditorium.

Spread across sumptuous second-floor galleries, current exhibitions feature everything from 16th century Italian Renaissance sculptures to contemporary multimedia works. Don’t miss the Frist’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery either, where innovative hands-on education stations make art exploration exciting for all ages. Timed-entry tickets are recommended to bypass lines and start immersing yourself in the superb fine art collection early.

Conclusion

From the neon-lit honky tonks of Lower Broadway to the hallowed halls of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville delivers quintessential musical experiences plus fantastic history, cuisine, art, and outdoor offerings to all who visit. Use this Nashville bucket list to see the diversity of attractions that makes Tennessee’s capital such an appealing place to explore.

Whether you admire the full-scale Parthenon replica or wander exhibits documenting the city’s complex past, soak in the nostalgia of the Grand Ole Opry or tap your toes to bands rocking lively bars downtown, Nashville rewards visitors with authentic sights and sounds at every turn. Follow this itinerary highlighting the best things to do in Nashville to discover all the entertainment, culture, history, and personality Music City is so revered for.

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