* Music & Dancing: While you’ll pay a premium for some concerts in Nashville, there are tons of free ways to get your groove on. In downtown’s Public Square Park, there’s the annual free Live on the Green music festival every summer, which brings in headliners such as Dr. John, Ben Folds, and Cage the Elephant. In Centennial Park, you’ll find the Musician’s Corner concert series, which offers much more than just music, including a Kidsville section; big band dances Saturday nights; free Shakespeare in the Park performances (Aug–Sept); and the family-friendly Tales at Twilight on Fridays in July. If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, Arrington Vineyards offers jazz in the courtyard and bluegrass in the barn. While the wine’s not free, the music is. In the honky-tonk arena, there are also bars that don’t charge a cover: Rippy’s Smokin’ Bar & Grill, Robert’s Western World, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Layla’s Bluegrass Inn, Legends Corner, Nudie’s Honky Tonk, The Second Fiddle, and The Stage. And finally, songwriter nights are a dime a dozen here and happen weekly at places such as the Commodore Grille, Barlines at the Omni Hotel, Douglas Corner, and Puckett’s Grocery Downtown. The famed Bluebird Cafe also has no cover charge for their Sunday writer night or Monday open mics. To find all the music that’s going on—free or not—download the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau’s app: Nashville Live Music Guide. Search by genre, venue, location, and free or paid.
* Tours: Most tours in Nashville are relatively affordable with just a few sneaky charges they’ll try to slip past you ($20 printed photos, for example, on top of the price of admission). But there are a few thrifty options if you have the willpower to just do the tour and bypass pricey souvenirs and add-ons. For the 21-and-over crowd, the $10 Green Brier Distillery tour tells the unbelievable story of brothers who revived the Belle Meade bourbon tradition that their great-grandfather started, years after the original recipe was lost—and then found on one fateful road trip. Bonus points because this whiskey tour is within the city limits, so there’s no need to drive to Lynchburg. The family-friendly Olive & Sinclair chocolate tour is even cheaper at $5 per person. Learn how the chocolatiers make their rich, unique confection, from beans to bars; watch as chocolate is churned in the back on their antique melanger; and then sample some of their specialty goodies. If you don’t want to shell out the $5, the shop also offers free samples in the front. If art is your poison, join one of the city’s many art crawls, which are basically free mini-museum tours (www.visitmusiccity.com). With a little advance planning, you can reserve a spot on a free tour of the state capitol and/or the Tennessee Executive Residence (you’ll have to reserve a few weeks in advance).
* Attractions & Events: Now that the free-admission Tennessee State Museum has moved from its underground lair into a nice new building in Germantown, it’s a no-brainer for anyone looking for cheap entertainment. Pair it with a stroll through Bicentennial Mall’s 200-foot granite map of the state and then walk through the Nashville Farmers’ Market and you’ve got a free afternoon that would excite any rambler. The Nashville Public Library system presents free events, including book signings and readings, puppet shows, and a variety of wellness activities through their “Be Well at NPL” program, which provides free yoga, cooking classes, and other healthful activities. The cutest: Reading Paws, where children are invited to build their reading skills by reading to a therapy dog. Also at the library is Mr. Bond the Science Guy, who has dozens of free appearances that keep kids involved in science over the summer (https://library.nashville.org). You can also visit Fort Negley, a historic site overlooking the Nashville skyline that was the biggest stone fortification built inland during the Civil War.
* Sports & Outdoors: Downtown’s Cumberland Park has all kinds of kids’ activities, including a climbing wall and splash pad. Warner Park Nature Center hosts free kids’ programming where you can dig in the dirt and investigate snakes and salamanders, or take a nature walk with experts. The Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society hosts public star parties where amateur and professional astronomers share telescopes and insider info about our universe. Nashville also has nearly 90 miles of greenways, so you can walk, bike, or run your way through Middle Tennessee. Small World Yoga offers free and pay-what-you-can yoga classes all over town for all skill levels (www.smallworldyoga.org). For sports fans, both the Tennessee Titans football team and the Nashville Predators hockey club host open practices that are free to the public to watch, and you can get autographs and photos with the players afterwards.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.