* See Live Music at the Ryman: Anyone who’s seen a concert at the Mother Church of Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium, knows it is a singular experience. Simply put, it’s one of the best places to see live music in the world. If that sounds like an overstatement, it’s only because you’ve yet to experience it. Seeing your favorite artist take that sacred stage and blow the doors off is inspiring, unforgettable, and something that only happens in Nashville. Touring the 1890s tabernacle with its gorgeous hardwood pews and stained-glass windows is good, but it’s no match for seeing The Ryman’s pitch-perfect acoustics, rich history, and incomparable drama in action.
* Eat And Drink It All: While Nashville’s always been a drinking town, more and more the city is being noted for its food, too. Of course there are the hot chicken (fried chicken covered in spices—a Nashville original) and meat-and-threes (a Southern dining staple—one meat, three sides), but you’ll also discover great ramen shops, tasting menus, craft breweries, upscale dives, rustic Italian fare, and an ever-expanding offering of craft burgers that’s oddly overtaken the town. The bottom line: Don’t waste a meal on the free continental breakfast at your hotel—we can do better.
* Explore Old School Honky-tonks: While half the junk on Broadway these days is just that—junk—there are several bastions of the old guard holding strong. The best is Robert’s Western World, which is full of loud crowds, live music, cold beers, and a fried baloney sandwich best enjoyed after a raucous turn on the jam-packed dance floor. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is another tried-and-true option where there’s never a cover and always a good time.
* Hit a Historical Music Trifecta: Many of the 15.2 million people who visit Nashville each year are here to party, and that is a respectable goal. The good news is that there’s an easy way to work in some historical outings without spending a lot of money or time. Start your day downtown at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum to immerse yourself in all things country music. Listen to old recordings, play interactive games, pore over jewel-encrusted costumes and rock out in the 1990s country music video room. Then visit Historic RCA Studio B on nearby Music Row to see where acts like Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner, the Everly Brothers, and Elvis Presley cut 1960s hits that helped define the Nashville Sound. While the studio is on Music Row, the Studio B tour departs from the Hall of Fame and takes little more than an hour to complete. You can also visit the legendary letterpress Hatch Show Print, which is now also housed in the Hall of Fame building. Here, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at how they hand-paint every concert poster that passes through their doors. Aggressive tourists can easily knock out all three of these tours in one morning, leaving the rest of your day free to explore.
* Get Loud with the Locals at a Preds Game: I am not much of a sports person, so for me to rank going to a Nashville Predators hockey game as one of the best things to do in Nashville, you can trust that the Preds put on a wildly entertaining show. While many locals have been fans of the franchise for years, the city’s obsession was reinvigorated during our 2017 Stanley Cup run, and Nashville routinely turned into a sea of gold during every game. The energy that courses through Bridgestone Arena during every game is simply electric. Even those years we’re not the best team in the league, we are sure as hell the best show.
* Get Outside Inside the City Limits: While Nashville’s downtown scene is thriving, for many years we were a pretty sprawling place, and the benefit of that is that all of our green space hasn’t been paved over just yet for a new juice bar or a SoulCycle. Downtown there are Cumberland and Riverside parks, in Germantown there’s Bicentennial Mall, and in Belle Meade there’s Cheekwood Botanical Garden, plus many, many more spots to enjoy the outdoors inside the city.
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.