Nashville is the county seat of Davidson County in Tennessee. It’s also the capital city of Tennessee. And it’s known as the Country Music Capital of the World! Music City is another nickname that this capital city has won for itself, and holds with great pride.
Nashville is a great place to learn about not just country music but music in general, and about Tennessee’s history. Read on for a complete Nashville travel guide!
Before music became the identity of the city, Nashville was known as the ‘Athens of the South,’ for the many educational institutions that had been set up in the area. And even before that, Nashville had developed into a centre of trade because of its place beside the Cumberland River.
It was in 1779 that Nashville was founded. In 1806 it became a city & headquarters of Davidson County. Later in 1843, it would go on to become the capital of the state of Tennessee.
It was in the early 1900s that this city started developing as the Music City we know it as today. In 1925 the Grand Ole Opry began broadcasting live music, and the radio show ended up making Nashville known for its music & turning it into the capital of country music.
What to see and do
When you’re in Nashville you’re going to want to visit the Grand Ole Opry that started it all, and while you’re learning about the Opry, you might also want to see Ryman Auditorium — the first venue of the show as well as the present Opry House.
Other places to see in Music City are the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Johnny Cash Museum, the National Museum of African American Music, & Madame Tussauds Nashville. There should be no missing the live performances and other happenings of Nashville’s Honky Tonk Highway too.
To get to know Nashville better you could do a plantation tour, visit President Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, and go see Nashville’s Parthenon at the Centennial Park. Other museums to consider visiting are the Tennessee State Museum & Frist Art Museum.
Also, don’t forget to spend time at Cumberland Park or the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge in order to get some great views of downtown Nashville.
To experience the nature around Nashville, you could visit Radnor Lake State Park, Long Hunter State Park, and other parks in the area. And if you’re in the mood for water park activities there’s SoundWaves at Gaylord Opryland.
For more ideas on what to do that aren’t included in this Nashville travel guide, check out my post: Top 10 Things to do in Nashville.
Nashville is the place to order a Meat and Three. This is a meal where you’re served with a meat of your choice along with three sides. Order some baked beans, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, or Mac & cheese with your protein and you can say you’ve had a proper Nashville meal.
There’s a lot of Southern food here in Nashville. You’ll also find several restaurants cooking up fusion items; mostly Southern fused with different cuisines. And several of these restaurants are among the best restaurants of Nashville.
Nashville is also a place for barbecue, biscuits, Chocolates, and Tennessee Whiskey. Have all that but never leave here without having your fill of Nashville’s own Hot Chicken. You can have it as a meal or in a sandwich but you must try it.
For specific restaurants to go to that aren’t included in this Nashville travel guide, check out my post: Best Restaurants in Nashville.
Shopping in Nashville is going to be fun. Sure, there are malls where you can go and shop all those brands you’re familiar with, but you’re also going to want to shop at some local stores.
Lower Broadway has a large number of shops. Also, great places to go shopping or window shopping are The Gulch and East Nashville with its boutique & stores selling handcrafted goods. For interesting finds, you might also want to go to Marathon Village or Nashville Farmers Market which has everything from local produce to handmade items.
Things to look for when in Nashville are cowboy hats & boots, jewelry, art, antiques, & leather goods. Vintage posters from Hatch Show Print will also make perfect souvenirs from Nashville. There should be no forgetting music-related gifts like vinyl records, guitars or miniature guitars, & guitar picks. You could also pick up some items from the souvenir shops in the museums you visit, like the Johnny Cash Museum or the Country Music Hall of Fame. You might also want to check out the gift stores in the hotels in town.
You can also take home things like wine and whisky made in these parts and chocolates! Look for Goo Goo Chocolates, Colts Chocolates, and Olive & Sinclair Chocolates.
Tennessee’s capital city developed on the banks of the Cumberland River. To get a glimpse of the river you could spend some time in Cumberland Park or go up the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge for some great views.
Nashville also sits in the Central Basin (aka Nashville Basin), a basin that is over 500ft. above sea level. And the area is surrounded by the Highland Rim. Towards the North & East of Nashville are the Cumberland Highlands & Cumberland Plateau.
High-end hotels, budget hotels, & vacation rentals; Nashville has them all. There are a couple of hostels too.
For first-time visitors and people wanting to be close to the tourist attractions, restaurants, & shopping areas, Downtown Nashville is the place to be. While you’re shopping for a room you might also want to look for one that comes with a view of the Cumberland River.
If you’d rather be outside the city center — yet easy to get there — you could look at South of Broadway (SoBro) or Midtown. You could also consider the Gulch or East Nashville.
If you’re taking a flight to the Country Music Capital, your destination will be Nashville International Airport (Berry Field). The airport is just around 8 miles away from the downtown so you can take a bus into the city center. Your hotel might have airport shuttles, too.
If you’re taking the road to get to Music City, there are 3 interstate highways running through here: I- 65, I-40, I-25 make it easy to drive from places like Louisville, Indianapolis, Chicago, Birmingham, Memphis, Knoxville Oklahoma City, St. Louis, & Atlanta.
To get around the city you can rely on car rentals, ride-sharing, & taxis. You can even see if you could use the trolley or you could bike around. If you’re taking the taxis, it might help to know that the city has a flat-fee-service triangle that’s spread between the airport, downtown, & Opryland Resort.
Best time to visit
Nashville gets most of its visitors April through October with the summer months being the busiest & has the most number of events. If you don’t like hot weather or crowds, this may not be the best time to visit Music City.
In terms of weather, the best time to visit would be Spring or Fall when the temperatures are pleasant. And this is the shoulder season too.
In terms of expenses, the best time to be in Nashville is from November to March. This is when you can enjoy the off-season rates at the hotels around here. In December the city gets a bit more visitors and gets pretty festive too.
When you plan your trip you might also want to keep an eye on the tornado forecasts.
Despite being a Nashville travel guide, I wanted to include some nearby areas! If you’d like to explore beyond the city, you could consider a tour of Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, or even make a trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
You could also visit towns like Frankin, Columbia, & Gallatin, which are under an hour’s drive away from Nashville.