Spending Three Months in Music City? 13 Must-Do Things in Nashville
Music City is a 24/7 kind of town, which means anyone living there will inevitably wind up with a long list of must-do things in Nashville. If you’re only in town for a few months, you’re going to want to plan out your digital nomad experience to make sure you get the most out of your time in Nashville.
Here are 14 things to add to your must-do Nashville bucket list, including:
- Listen to writers in a round
- Go honky tonking
- Get context on Nashville’s music scene
- Paddle out
- Tune in at the Grand Ole Opry
- Explore Nashville by bike
- Take a listen at a music museum
- Shop for boots
- Shop for hats
- Eat hot chicken
- Eat at meat ‘n’ three
- Taste international food
- Take in the views
- Appreciate American art
Let’s get started!
1. Listen to writers in a round
If there’s one experience that captures the true essence of Nashville, it’s hearing the work of local singer-songwriters. The best way to do this is at a low-key acoustic show called “in the round.” A group sits together onstage and takes turns telling the stories behind their songs and explaining the process of what helped the lyrics come to be.
These shows tend to be quieter than a night at a honky-tonk and offer more of a down-home, family-friendly vibe. Many music venues offer set nights of the week for in-the-round events, including Bluebird Cafe, The Listening Room, and Jane’s Hideaway.
2. Go honky-tonking
Lower Broad is world-famous—and infamous—for its live music seven days a week. Many of Nashville’s most talented musicians play at these Instagram-worthy neon-bedecked bars.
These live music venues are popular among tourists on weekend nights, so sometimes it can be hard to find space to do some two-stepping. But head to Robert’s Western World or Layla’s Honky Tonk on a weekday afternoon, and you’ll be able to experience the Western swing that made Nashville famous.
Pro tip: The bars on Honky Tonk Highway are usually open to all ages before 6 p.m., then switch to being adults-only. Also, honky-tonks don’t have cover charges, so don’t forget to tip the band before you leave.
3. Get context on Nashville’s music scene
Nashville’s music scene didn’t just pop up on Lower Broad—it comes from centuries of music from a number of different traditions. Located in the Fifth + Broad complex, the National Museum of African American Music provides a state-of-the-art melodious expedition into the influence of Black music. (Fun fact: 5th Avenue was actually renamed after John Lewis and his actions during the Civil Rights sit-ins of the 1960s.)
Another way to learn about the city’s musical history is by visiting the Jefferson Street Sound Museum, which offers a detailed look at the days when Jimi Hendrix and others played in vibrant clubs on Jefferson Street.
4. Paddle out
Old Hickory Lake, Percy Priest Lake, and the Cumberland River, which winds its way through downtown Nashville, make for easy places to get out on the water without having to take a long road trip out of Nashville. Launch your own kayak, or rent one from Nashville Paddle Co., River Queen Voyages, or Cumberland Kayak for this must-see perspective on these Tennessee waterways.
5. Tune in at the Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry is the longest-running radio show in American history. For almost a century, it has brought country and gospel music of all kinds to the airwaves, making it a must-do in Nashville.
You may be used to just hearing it on the radio, but you can catch a live show (complete with commercials!) several times a week at a brick-and-mortar music venue. The lineup of artists changes regularly, with a mix of full-scale stars and up-and-coming voices. No matter who is onstage, you’re guaranteed to be entertained.
Most of the year, the show goes on at the Opryhouse, but in November and December, you can catch it at the Ryman Auditorium, its historic home for decades. Both venues also offer worthwhile behind-the-scenes tours.
6. Explore Nashville by bike
The official Music City Bikeway stretches across Nashville, covering some of the bucolic Greenways system as well as major city streets. The city also offers bike paths that connect you to different neighborhoods and afford scenic views.
Didn’t bring your bike with you? You can rent bikes from BCycle stations across the city.
7. Take a listen at a music museum
Country music museums are about more than artifacts and sparkly costumes (although they have those, too). They also have interactive listening stations, recordings, and even some live music.
One must-visit while you’re living in Nashville is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, with the add-on tour of the RCA Studio B recording studio on Music Row to learn about Elvis Presley’s time in Nashville. Poke your head in Hatch Show Print while at the Hall of Fame to see letterpress printing in action!
8. Shop for boots
Boots are made for walkin’, the song lyric goes, and you’ll spend lots of time in Nashville walking around and exploring. Stop at 12South’s Planet Cowboy to find a pair that will make you feel like Dolly Parton.
9. Shop for hats
The iconic symbol of country music stars and ranch hands alike, a cowboy hat is a worthy souvenir of your time in Nashville. Get a one-of-a-kind hat from East Nashville’s Daisy May Hat Co.
10. Eat hot chicken
Nashville’s best-known food export, hot chicken, started as culinary revenge. In the 1930s, a woman was upset that her beau was stepping out on her. She made his favorite chicken extra spicy to show him her displeasure. But he liked it. He liked it so much that he and his family—the Prince’s—became the first name in the favorite food. Sample a number of different recipes around town at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish, and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken.
11. Eat at meat ‘n’ three
Cafeteria-style restaurants serving Southern comfort food are an essential stop during your time in Nashville. Head to a meat ‘n’ three for lunch and select an entree and three sides (hence the name), which often change by the day of the week. Solid choices include Wendell Smith, Swett’s, and Silver Sands Cafe.
Don’t eat meat? Sunflower Cafe offers vegetarian dishes in the style of meat ‘n’ threes.
12. Taste international food
Nashville’s Nolensville Pike is dotted with smaller eateries with kitchens helmed by immigrants from around the globe. With the largest Kurdish population in the U.S., Nashville is a great place to eat world-class Kurdish food. Try Edessa Restaurant, Sulav International Market, or Istanbul.
13. Take in the views
One of the best vantage points in the city is Fort Negley, which was built largely by freed and enslaved Black men as fortification for Union troops during the Civil War. Today, it is a top-rated metro park where you can learn about their experiences and see how the city they were protecting has grown.
For a flatter historic view, head to Centennial Park, where you’ll find Nashville’s replica of the Parthenon. Take in its Greek architecture and massive columns. The way the light plays off them at sunset is one-of-a-kind.
14. Appreciate American art
The Frist Art Museum, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, and Fisk University’s Carl Van Vechten Gallery all have different temporary exhibits and permanent collections that shine light on different eras of American art.
Thinking about moving to Nashville?
If you’re looking to make Nashville your home, even for just a few months, consider renting from Landing, which offers fully furnished apartments in Nashville and flexible leases that make it easy to stay in town on your terms. Take as much time as you need to work your way through Nashville’s many charms, and learn more about becoming a Landing member today!