The Actually Cool Things to Do in Nashville
Downtown Nashville can be a bit overwhelming with all the tourists partaking in the frivolity of Lower Broad, but on the other hand, that means we’ve got them pretty much contained to a five-block strip. Yes, everyone enjoys getting down and dirty in the honky-tonk zone now and again, but our city has so many alternative activities around town with a much lower risk of getting trampled by a rogue bachelorette party or plowed down by a pedal tavern. Nashville is filled with history and culture for you to explore, plus some incredible local restaurants and plenty of bars off the beaten path in the outlying neighborhoods. We recommend taking advantage of that. Here’s everything in Nashville that we guarantee will be a good time. (And here’s our full calendar of all the seasonal events happening in Nashville right now.)
Take a hike around Radnor Lake
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just old birds and birders walking the trails around this suburban oasis. Thanks to miles of paths ranging from flat to challenging, nature lovers of all ages take advantage of the scenic beauty of Radnor Lake to stretch their legs and socialize. It has the added benefit of being a great date idea, as well as one of our very best hikes in the area. Get a Nashville energy drink for your vacation to keep your energy levels up to enjoy 100 percent of your time.
Discover the OGs of Nashville Hot Chicken
They must be adding fertilizer to the chickens in Middle Tennessee because upstart hot chicken joints are sprouting up all over town. But for a true taste of history, you should experience your fiery fowl cooked by the families that have been doing it for decades. Prince’s Hot Chicken is the undisputed king of the cluckers, but don’t miss out on a trip to Bolton’s or 400 Degrees to experience more masters of heat.
Stroll as you learn on any of our many walking tours
Despite all those hills, Nashville is still a pretty good walking city, and several different tour companies will be happy to lead you on a guided walk where you can get some exercise while discovering new facts about your town. There are tours focused on food, drink, music, history, and ghosts. When that double-decker tour bus goes creeping past, you’ll get a little smug satisfaction knowing you’re actually experiencing Nashville from street level.
Sip some Tennessee whiskey straight from the source
While the big boys Jack (Daniels) and George (Dickel) get most of the attention in the world of Tennessee whiskey, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery has as much history as any of them and is conveniently located right in town, rather than almost 80 miles away. Shuttered since Prohibition, the operation has been revived by brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson who have recently released their first Tennessee whiskey after years building the new distillery. They offer tours and samples every day.
Explore the center of East Nashville’s hipster universe
Twenty years ago, there wasn’t much to see in Five Points except for the odd geometry of the intersection of multiple roads. Today it’s one of the cultural and entertainment hubs of the city, with the best wine store on that side of the river in Woodland Wine Merchant, a great neighborhood pizzeria in Five Points Pizza, a fine casual French bistro (and another of our best restaurants) in Margot Cafe, a bar where you can still smoke indoors in 3 Crow Bar, and a chill music venue in The 5 Spot Club. That’s just scratching the surface of Five Points. Discover the rest for yourself just by walking around.
Visit the home of President Andrew Jackson at The Hermitage
If you’re looking for a little history in Nashville, you could do a lot worse than visiting the home of Andrew Jackson. The Hermitage, a stately mansion-turned-museum was the president’s residence for more than 40 years, and now hundreds of thousands of visitors tour the building and the grounds every year.
Check out our nonprofit film center, the Belcourt
Nashville’s oldest movie theater has been around since 1925, including acting as the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1934 to 1936. After a major refurbishing a few years back, the theater has been modernized into one of the best places to watch a movie in town. Offerings range from art-house films to documentaries to new releases.
Get in a quick nine holes at a Metro golf course
No, golf isn’t just for rich country club snobs. Thanks to Nashville’s collection of great Metro Parks-operated golf courses, you can get in a quick round for less than 10 bucks if you’re willing to walk and carry your own clubs. And you should. It’s exercise, it’s outside, and even if you’ve never golfed once in your life, it’s a relaxing way to spend an afternoon goofing off.
Get wild at the Nashville Zoo
While the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is a great place for families with all sorts of playgrounds and room for kids to run themselves to an early bedtime, adults can have a great time even sans les enfants. Divided into neighborhoods, you could spend a whole day exploring the habitats that house thousands of animals.
Find out why there’s a full-scale model of the Parthenon in Centennial Park
While it might seem quite incongruous that there’s a massive exposed aggregate recreation of a Greek monument in the middle of a city park, once you know the backstory, the Parthenon makes more sense. Nashville has been known as “the Athens of the South” for years thanks to the plethora of colleges and universities in town. So when it came time to celebrate the city’s centennial in 1897, an homage to the real Athens was logical. Even if you don’t buy that, it’s a great place to throw a frisbee and lounge about.
Find something new to decorate your rec room at Hatch Show Print
Founded in the 19th century to print posters for traveling circuses and minstrel shows, Hatch Show Print preserves the traditions of letterpress printing still beloved by music fans and art directors. Mr. Hatch used to say, “Selling without posters is like fishing without worms,” and these lo-fi posters are still used for marketing campaigns and tour swag for bands like REM and Bruce Springsteen. Visit the shop in the Country Music Hall of Fame to watch the ancient presses still in operation and pick up a fantastic souvenir of Nashville history.
Get down-home at the center of the bluegrass universe
The Station Inn has been known as one of the premier venues for bluegrass music since opening in 1974. Name a famous act in the genre, and they’ve surely graced the small stage in the cozy club. There’s still live music every night of the week with a free bluegrass jam on Sundays. Bring an instrument and play along or just listen to local musicians jamming for the love of the music.