Like a siren’s song for country music lovers, Nashville has long attracted visitors eager to walk in the footsteps of legends. For decades, this was the place where aspiring artists came to be launched into fame and fortune. But America’s line dancing capital has changed dramatically in the last decade, attracting more and more visitors every year!
No longer is it just a dream destination for country crooners – this city is getting well-deserved attention for everything else it has to offer. Nashville’s vibrant Lower Broadway nightlife scene, rich American history, finger-lickin’ hot chicken, and natural playground of rolling hills make it a destination even for travelers who can’t stand the sound of a twangy guitar.
Sure, it has remained true to its boot-stompin’ and rowdy honky-tonk reputation, but a visit to Nashville will take you places you didn’t know existed in Tennessee.
With so many different things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Nashville for you. Stick to these fun and unique Nashville bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have the trip of a lifetime to Music City!
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15 cool and unique things to do in Nashville
1. Walk in the Footsteps of the Stars at Ryman Auditorium
If a love of country music beckons you to Nashville, visiting Ryman Auditorium will be like walking into a dream. You’ll enter the big white doors and be standing in the very place bluegrass music began. Take the backstage tour, and you’ll trace the footsteps of legends like Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline.
Ryman Auditorium was the long-time venue of the Grand Ole Opry and still regularly hosts live music acts today. Don’t like country? You’re in luck as artists of all genres play here today. The Wu-Tang Clan made history as the first hip-hop group to appear on the Ryman stage in 2019!
If you don’t have the time to catch a show, you can opt for the self-guided tour and geek out on costumes and memorabilia that belonged to the stars, as well as get your photo taken on stage.
Even if you aren’t a music buff, the building is a museum in its own right! Built in 1892, Ryman Auditorium was originally a place of worship, which is how it got its nickname “Mother Church.” The original oak pews still line the venue, which is lit beautifully by tall stained-glass windows.
2. Pedal the 26-Mile Music City Bikeway
Nashville may be known for its country ballads, but it’s also gaining a reputation for being one of the best cities to bike in the South.
Nashville’s many greenways allow for endless opportunities to explore the city on two wheels and will take you on scenic routes past the Cumberland River, historic neighborhoods, and even to a pit stop at the best local watering holes.
Cyclists hungry for a long ride will enjoy the 26-mile Music City Bikeway, which serves as a connection for many of the city’s greenway systems. Most of the route is on the paved greenway and removed from traffic, but some segments in highly-trafficked areas are separated bike lanes.
If you take the ride, expect to pedal past some of the city’s most iconic murals and historic hidden gems, like Fort Nashorough, a pioneer-era fort built in the 1700s! Exploring the Music City Bikeway is truly one of the most unique to do in Nashville.
3. Visit a Speakeasy on Printer’s Alley
In the days of Prohibition, Nashville’s historic Printer’s Alley was home to the swankiest secret party spots. Luckily, the former speakeasies are now back in action in this nightlife district, giving you a chance to party like it’s 1909!
Today Printer’s Alley is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants that pay homage to the alley’s storied past. Walk under the neon signs (many of them are restored versions of the originals) that hung above the music icons during their late-night frolics after a big show. Today, you’ll find elegant but refined dive bars, speakeasies that offer nightly burlesque shows, and karaoke spots frequented by some of the stars.
If you’re seeking a daytime way to experience this piece of Nashville history, you may consider stopping by on the first Saturday of the month for the FirstBank First Saturday Art Crawl. Artists set up shop outside, and you’ll get a chance to see them in action creating their masterpieces!
4. Zipline through an Old-Growth Forest
Surrounded by ancient forests, Nashville has plenty of options to get away from the hustle and bustle of Lower Broadway. If it’s an outdoor adventure you’re after, you’ll find it in the treetops.
Make the trip even more memorable by planning your fly through the forest during the first weeks of June when fireflies take over the Tennessee forests. Grab a helmet and clip into a safety harness to zip through the air with nothing but a steel cable above you. You’ll zoom through the air at dusk as the forest lights up around you!
Adventureworks Zipline Forest also offers seasonal packages that are geared toward couples. Zip tours are available year-round.
5. Dance Down Honky Tonk Highway
If you’re headed to Nashville, chances are you love music so much you’re willing to dance in public to it!
There’s no shortage of places to bust a move in Music City, including some stops that are known around the world for their dance floors. The Wildhorse Saloon offers complimentary line dancing lessons on the largest dance floor in Nashville.
No worries if you’ve never done it before. The instructors tailor the lessons to dancers of any age or ability. Plus, classes are held on the hour.
Once you know the steps, you can take your dancing boots to Lower Broadway, also known as Honky Tonk Highway. Follow the neon lights to the dance floor and two-step until it’s time to head back to your swanky Nashville hotel!
6. Kayak Past the Nashville Skyline
The neon lights of Nashville will get anyone’s heart pumping, but there’s another view of the city few people have the opportunity to see – Music City’s skyline from the water! If you don’t have your own watercraft, several outfitters will rent them to you and even offer shuttle services from Shelby Park to Cumberland Park. Routes vary from a short and sweet one-hour tour to a four-hour excursion.
Along the way, you’ll be treated to views of Tennessee’s vibrant wildlife. You’ll travel under bridges where you’ll have the opportunity to spot blue herons, turtles, and kingfishers.
If you’d rather pedal than paddle and keep your hands free to hold a drink, you can even climb aboard a Pedal Pontoon Party Boat and make this outdoor adventure a party!
7. Peruse Works of Art at the Parthenon
Who knew traveling to Nashville could give you a taste of Athens in the 5th century BCE? The Parthenon in Nashville is the only place in the world where you can visit an exact-size and detailed replica of the original temple in Greece!
Back in the early days, Nashville was called the “Athens of the South,” so in 1897, the residents decided to spruce the city up with a massive look-a-like of one of the most famous structures in Greece. Although it was meant to be temporary, people loved it so much that it’s still considered a must on everyone’s Nashville bucket list. The current structure was rebuilt in the 1920s and now houses a wide range of art and history exhibits.
Time your trip out perfectly, and you might even be able to swing by one of the Parthenon’s themed programs geared to immerse guests in arts and 2,500 years of history! The crown jewel for most visitors is the 42-foot statue of Athena – a full-scale replica of the Athenian original.
The museum is inside Centennial Park, a popular place for a pop-up picnic or a leisurely walk through the gardens.
8. Hike the Radnor Lake Loop
If you need a chance to stretch your legs and burn off some calories from all the hot chicken you’re consuming, Radnor Lake is home to some of the highest hills in the area and is located within an easy 20-minute drive from Nashville. Radnor Lake is considered a tranquil oasis from Music City and is brimming with wooded trails and diverse wildlife.
The natural area has 7.75 miles of trails, so you can choose your own adventure. Options range from a short, easy hike to more of a challenge on rugged terrain.
The ADA-accessible trail is the short .25-mile Spillway Trail that will take you to the beautiful observation deck of Radnor Lake. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, opt for the Ganier Ridge Trail, a 1.6-mile hike that will take you up into the forested hills that surround Radnor Lake.
Bikers, joggers, and people with pets will enjoy Otter Creek Road, which offers a beautiful view of the lake. Time your trip right, and you could even participate in one of the many ranger-led programs at the park, including canoe floats and astronomy night hikes.
9. Do a Biscuit Crawl through Music City
Hungry for a Nashville culinary staple? Nashville is known for its hot chicken, but that isn’t always easy to binge on. If you want a foodie adventure, you’re going to want to become a Nashville biscuit connoisseur!
Biscuits are like the cookies of the South, and many restaurants compete to be considered the maker of the city’s most buttery, melt-in-your-mouth version. They find there’s plenty of demand for competition. It’s no secret that Nashvillians love biscuits!
One of the most popular places for those who like their treats on the sweeter side is Biscuit Love, a food truck turned brick and mortar store that offers sweet and savory takes on this Southern classic. They’ve created a donut-biscuit hybrid stuffed with fruity filling, affectionately referred to as a “bonut.”
Loveless Cafe is famous for its secret biscuit recipe if you’re craving a classic taste of Nashville. The rustic-chic restaurant is inside a former motel, and the original rooms now serve as shops and event spaces.
You will stay busy playing the yard games on the property at Loveless Cafe for hours. Several vendors are on-site, so you can also find a piece of Nashville to bring back home with you. The biscuits here are famous, and approximately 10,000 hot and fluffy bites are made each day!
10. Sip Wine at President Andrew Jackson’s House
While there are several places to sample wine in Nashville, only one of them is on the property of the seventh president of the United States.
The Natchez Hills Winery is a boutique, family-run vineyard located inside of Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage estate. The vineyard produces small-batch, old-world style wines. A tasting room at the Hermitage gives you the chance to visit the estate and learn more about the former president, all while enjoying a wine flight!
The venue also offers wine slushes that can be carried throughout the property on tours. A discount is given if you choose to take the mansion tour and follow an interpreter through the house and farmland that belonged to the Jacksons.
Visitors can also learn more about enslaved people’s lives at the Hermitage by taking an “In Their Footsteps” tour. During this tour, you will learn how vital slaves were to the operation of the farm, the harsh reality of the system they were trapped in, and how these men and women endured until gaining their freedom.
11. Go “Rollin Down the River” on a Showboat
If you want to get as much out of your trip as possible, combine a Southern-style meal, scenic views of the Nashville skyline, and live entertainment into one exciting adventure!
The General Jackson Showboat is one of the largest paddlewheel riverboats in the country. You can climb aboard this historically recreated paddleboat for lunch or dinner and catch a show in the two-story Victorian theater.
That boat has a rotating schedule of performances, and the cruises range from 2 1/2 to 4 hours long. The ship has a full-service bar and kitchen with several different meal options for each cruise. Book a seat at the Captain’s Table, and you’ll also get a special tour of the boat’s Pilothouse.
The paddleboat has several outdoor patios and docks to view the city’s skyline from the water, making it one of the coolest things to do in Nashville!
12. Take a Boozy Tractor Ride
Nashville may be the only major US city where it’s acceptable to party while rolling down the street behind a tractor. Amid a crowd of pedaling pubs, the new trend in Music City is country-chic farm parties!
Several companies have versions of the service, and most include a 75-minute ride on the back of a tractor with dance music and flowing drinks.
If the nightlife scene has attracted you to the city, a boozy tour on wheels is one way to get the party started and one of the top things to do in Nashville. A tractor booze cruise will take you past the most famous sights in the city in style.
If tractors aren’t your thing, there are several other boozy options like bus or limousine tours through Lower Broadway.
13. Visit the Legends at the Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame has one of the world’s most extensive music collections, making it a country music lover’s paradise! Created as a way to preserve and honor America’s love of country music, the Hall of Fame has nearly 150 inductees, including Garth Brooks, Johnny Cash, Reba McEntire, and Hank Williams.
It’s one big museum in honor of the country crooners and offers live music, educational family programs, and exhibits with thousands of artifacts on display.
While the Country Music Hall of Fame is home to objects associated with historical moments in the country’s creation of western music, several rotating exhibits feature the behind-the-scenes stories about current stars.
Expect to spend a lot of time in this timeless vault as there are more than 2.5 million artifacts. You may be surprised just how many artists are considered “country,” and you never know who you’ll find inside this maze of history. Expect to see gold records, a Cadillac owned by Elvis, elaborate costumes, and handwritten notes on the sheet music for iconic American songs.
An additional ticket package will also give you the option to spend an extra $20 and take the Historic RCA Studio B Tour. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to stand right where the legends like Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton recorded their hits.
Elvis was something of a regular in the studio and recorded a whopping 200 songs here. Take the tour, and you’ll hear the true behind-the-scenes stories about the creation of the songs you know every word to. If you’re a country music fan, this tour should be at the top of your Nashville bucket list!
14. Find the Waterfall at Narrows of the Harpeth
If you need a break from the music, biscuits, and booze, Narrows of the Harpeth is one of the most unique things to do in Nashville. The natural area features several options to get some fresh air while learning about this part of the country’s history.
The trails are located about a 30-minute drive from Nashville. The trailhead at the park entrance splits into three different directions.
The most popular hike is the overlook trail, consisting of a steep ascent to a bluff along a .25-mile path with about 125 feet of total elevation. If you can make it to the top, you’ll be treated with a view of Harpeth River from above, a sight that is truly stunning during the fall peak season!
The second half-mile trail follows the backside of a limestone bluff that leads to the Montgomery Bell’s Pattison Forge. Here, a small manmade waterfall from an iron forge operation is nestled in the trees.
This isn’t your average waterfall – it’s more like a piece of history. Montgomery Bell owned the land in 1818 and had his slaves excavate a tunnel through the rock ridge that separated the riverbeds 200 years ago. The tunnel was designed to convey water for power and was completed in 1820.
Today, the area is maintained by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Time your visit right as views of the waterfall are best after significant rainfall. Harpeth River State Park also has many other recreational activities, including kayaking, canoeing, bird watching, and fishing.
15. See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry
What started as a radio broadcast eventually became one of today’s most successful live stage shows! For the past 95 years, the Grand Ole Opry has been in the dreams of every aspiring country artist.
It’s the world’s longest-running broadcast and serves as a milestone for every country music artist. Many even consider it to be the “home of American music.”
The Opry left Ryman Auditorium in 1974 for its current building, but if you don’t have time to see both, you could figuratively stand in both venues at once. A 6-foot circle of hardwood from the Ryman Auditorium was placed on center stage and is where most acts stand while performing today. Quite a few celebrities have graced this spot, including President Nixon, who performed at the new Grand Ole Opry during its first show.
Opry shows may have one or two headliners with a handful of other acts that perform before the main event. If you want the ultimate chance to brush elbows with the rich and famous or soon-to-be rich and famous, you can purchase a VIP backstage tour.
On this tour, you’ll have the chance to stand in the 6-foot Ryman stage circle, explore the artist entrance where the superstars walked before their chance at fame and glory, and even get a quick look at the empty artists’ dressing rooms.
A show at the Grand Ole Opry usually lasts about two hours and makes for an action-packed Nashville bucket list evening!
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Nashville. What’s your favorite thing to do in Music City?
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