The day begins with a crash course in music, starting at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where optional add-ons include Historic RCA Studio B and Hatch Show Print, one of America's oldest letterpress shops. All three of these attractions begin in the same building. After that, stroll around downtown and stop in at places that pique your interest before grabbing dinner in historic Germantown and hitting Broadway. Note: This itinerary is long and is meant to be a starting point for building your day, so take what you like and leave the rest (though it can be completed in 1 day if you’re long on time and energy). Also note that this itinerary doesn’t require a car, so any part of it can be treated as a walking tour. Start: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
1. Pinewood Social
Fuel up before starting your day at this full-service social club, coffee shop, restaurant, and bowling alley on the south side of downtown on the river.
Head west on Rolling Mill Hill Greenway. Turn right to stay on Rolling Mill Hill Greenway. Turn left onto Korean Veterans Blvd. and walk half a mile. Turn right onto 5th Ave. S.
2. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Start your day at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum (CMHoF) in the heart of downtown. The 350,000-square-foot space is full of multimedia exhibits, over-the-top costumes, and musical history; seeing this first will help you get your bearings for later exploration and beat the crowds.
3. Historic RCA Studio B
An essential part of developing “The Nashville Sound” in the 1960s, this simple studio offers 1-hour tours that provide an immersive way to step back in time with music by Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley. The studio is on Music Row, but tours depart only from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
4. Bajo Sexto
Depending upon how much time you spend at the CMHoF, you may be hungry. If so, this Mexican restaurant in the building you’re already in is surprisingly delicious for being attached to a tourist attraction. But if you can, hold out for the other lunch suggestions below.
5. Hatch Show Print
Get lost in the nostalgic aura of this longtime print shop, where posters of concerts by virtually all of music’s greatest stars were created.
Head southeast on 5th Ave. S. toward Korean Veterans Blvd.
To get to Arnold’s, turn right onto Korean Veterans Blvd. At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto 8th Ave. S.
To get to Martin’s Bar-B-Que, turn left onto Korean Veterans Blvd. and then right onto 4th Ave. S.
Eat Lunch at a Nashville Institution
6a. Arnold’s Country Kitchen
When chefs are asked where they’d eat if they could only have one meal in Nashville, most pick this soul food landmark, a hands-down favorite for meat-and-three.
6b. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Martin’s is no sloppy second to Arnold’s; it is truly a pork-laden playground, full of grub and games. However Arnold’s is only open weekdays, so if you can’t make it there for collards and cornbread, Martin’s should be your next go-to.
From Arnold’s, head north on 8th Ave. S. toward Gleaves St. At the traffic circle, take the 3rd exit onto Korean Veterans Blvd. Turn left onto 4th Ave. S. and then turn right.
From Martin’s Bar-B-Que, head northwest on 4th Ave. S. toward Korean Veterans Blvd. and turn right.
7. Schermerhorn Symphony Center
You don’t even have to go inside to get a sense of the incredible architectural details of this building. If you do want to, however, they offer free, hour-long tours Mondays and Saturdays at 1pm.
Below are two possible stops on your way to the walking bridge; breeze past them if you’re on a short timeline.
To go directly to the bridge, head northeast and turn right onto 3rd Ave. S. Turn left at Symphony Place and continue onto John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.
To get to the Johnny Cash Museum, head northeast toward 3rd Ave. S. from the Symphony Center and turn left onto 3rd Ave. S. The Goo Goo Shop is directly across the street.
8. Johnny Cash Museum
If you’re going to see one country star’s museum, I think the George Jones (below) is more entertaining than this one, but some fans simply must pay tribute to the Man in Black, and this is your chance. Definitely buy tickets online in advance and don’t skip Patsy Cline’s museum upstairs.
9. Goo Goo Shop
If you’re already burned out on music history, stop into the Goo Goo Shop for something sweet. You can even take a class where you make your own treat to take home.
Head southeast on 3rd Ave. S. toward Symphony Place. Turn left at Symphony Place. Continue onto John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.
10. John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
This bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, largely due to its unique truss design. Walk over it for a unique perspective on Nashville and an incredible skyline view.
At the end of the bridge, turn right onto S. 1st St. The park will be underneath the Korean Veterans Bridge.
11. Cumberland Park
New in 2012, Cumberland Park is great for a stroll, and for getting photos with the full skyline in the background, but the real draw is for kids. The park has an innovative play space which includes a climbing wall, splash areas, and walking trails.
Head northwest on S. 1st St. toward the bridge and walk back across. Turn right onto 3rd Ave. S. and left onto Broadway.
Walk down Nashville’s most famous drag, and stop in for a drink or a dance on the way to the Ryman.
Head southwest on Broadway toward 2nd Ave. S. Turn right onto 4th Ave. N. The Ryman will be on your left.
13. Ryman Auditorium
This sacred concert hall was a magnet for country music stars back in the 1940s and 1950s, and it remains a favorite venue today for musicians of all stripes. Take a tour and, if at all possible, come see a show here one night.
Head northeast and turn left on 4th Ave. N. Turn left onto 4th Ave. N. Turn right onto Church St.
14. Printers Alley
For more than a century, this alley has been home to nightclubs, saloons, and restaurants. Stroll down it and stop into the places that pique your interest.
And again here, you have options:
To get to the George Jones, head northeast on Church St. toward 3rd Ave. N. and turn right onto 2nd Ave. N.
To get to one of the rooftops, head southwest on Church St. toward 4th Ave. N. Both hotels are on that street.
15. The George Jones
Grab a drink and walk through this quirky museum that pays tribute to The Possum, or grab a seat on the patio to catch some live music.
16. Watch the Sunset from a Rooftop
If George Jones doesn’t hold any appeal, take this opportunity to check out one of the city’s excellent rooftops. Right off Printers Alley you’ll find two hotel rooftops: Rare Bird above Noelle and the rooftop at the Bobby Hotel.
Note: This is the only place in this itinerary where it would possibly be easier to jump in a car or hop on a scooter or bike, though it is absolutely walkable in about 20 minutes. To walk from Printers Alley to City House, head northwest on Printers Alley toward Bank Alley, turn right onto Union St. and turn left onto 3rd Ave. N. Walk 0.7 miles and then turn left onto Jefferson St. Turn right onto 4th Ave. N.
17. Dinner in Germantown
Grab dinner at one of Nashville’s best restaurants: City House or Rolf and Daughters, both of which are in Germantown.
18. Black Rabbit
If you don’t want to make the journey to Germantown, there are plenty of excellent options right in the heart of downtown, including Black Rabbit, a speakeasy-style restaurant and bar known for craft cocktails, housemade charcuterie, and on some nights, cabaret.
19. Lower Broadway
After a bite to eat, walk or ride back to Broadway and browse the bars and colorful nightlife now that things have really gotten started. Check out live music at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, B.B. King’s Blues Club, the Wildhorse Saloon or, my favorite, Robert’s Western World. See chapter 7, “Nashville Nightlife” to read more about all of them.
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.