Music city is home to famous natives and residents including Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus, and Oprah Winfrey (believe it or not, Oprah’s winter home is in downtown Nashville at the legendary Ryman Auditorium) and has become especially well known for its influence in the world of country music. Major attractions include the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, The Parthenon, The Hermitage, Nashville Zoo, Nashville Shores Waterpark and the iconic Grand Ole Opry. Nashville is the capitol of Tennessee and it’s currently the second most populated city in the state, after Memphis, yet it the largest metropolitan area in the state. Nashville is about a 4 hour drive from Atlanta (250 miles), 2½ hours outside of Louisville (175 miles), 3½ hours outside of Pigeon Forge, TN (210 miles) and about a 3½ hour drive from Memphis (210 miles).
Top 10 Attractions
1. The Grand Ole Opry is where all of the country music legends got their start, that’s why it’s called “Country’s most famous stage.” This 4,400 seat theater has been the show’s permanent home since it opened in 1974, welcoming stars like Dolly Parton. The stars perform every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday night with guest appearances by the biggest names in music. With 88 years under its belt, it’s the world’s longest-running radio broadcast and shows no signs of slowing down. Show admission ranges from $25 to $69.50. A post show tour can be purchased at $23 for adults and $18 for children.
2. The Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum isn’t just a museum; it’s an experience with something for everyone. Rhinestone costumes, seasoned instruments, and tear-stained lyric sheets are only the beginning. Current exhibits include: The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Hag- gard, and California Country, and Reba McEntire: All the Women I Am. Don’t miss the Music City Walk of Fame across the street in Walk of Fame Park, where music celebrities who lived, worked and played in Nashville are commemorated with sidewalk stars. Also pay a visit to Nashville Music Garden, which is home to over six dozen types of roses. General admission to the hall of fame is $22 for adults and $14 for children.
What a nice new facility. It’s not looking too country to me…urban architecture at it’s finest.
3. Belle Meade Plantation is a historic mansion whose grounds now function as a museum. It consists of 30 acres and features a winery, visitor’s center, and original outbuildings including the Harding cabin, dairy, carriage house, stable, mausoleum and a reconstructed slave quarters. Admission is $16 for adults and $8 for children.
4. Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center was just recently bought out by Marriott. It features rooms that have balconies that overlook one of the three large indoor atriums. They also have cheaper rooms that do not have a view of the atrium–but anyone can stop by for a free self-guided tour of these indoor gardens. Even parking is free if you park across the street at the Opry Mills mall.
5. Nashville Shores Waterpark features more than 1 million gallons of summer fun including thrilling slides, a wave pool, lazy river, pools, a beautiful beach, lake cruises and many more family-friendly attractions. Admission is $34.99 for adults and $27.99 for children. Tickets are just $19.99 if you arrive after 4PM.
6. Tour The Town – Go on a tour and see the mansions that the stars call home. Take a tour of Music Row and visit historic RCA Studio B, the famous recording studio where Elvis recorded over 200 songs. Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold and many more recorded classic hits here.
7. The Parthenon – In Nashville’s Centennial Park, you’ll find the world’s only full-scale reproduction of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, Greece. It actually houses an art gallery and museum, as well as Alan LeQuire’s Athena Parthenos. Standing at almost 42 feet in height, Athena is the tallest indoor sculpture in the Western world. Read my complete review here. Admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children.
Athena is the tallest indoor sculpture in the Western world. See the people below for comparison.
8. The Ryman Auditorium, called the “Mother Church of Country Music,” has welcomed world renowned artists like Jon Bon Jovi and Tony Bennett to its legendary stage. Since 1892, the world’s greatest stars have headlined here, from Caruso to Cash. You can even take a backstage tour and record your own song in the Ryman recording studio.
9. Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is a 200-acre zoo and historic plantation farmhouse located 6 miles southeast of downtown. Species include gibbons, siamangs, giraffes, elephants, red pandas, clouded leopards, and bats. I’ve visited some of the largest zoos in the nation and this one sort of failed to disappoint, as their were only about 7 or 8 cars in the parking lot at the time of my visit, at 3:00 PM on a Saturday. But this was probably because it was a cold December day when few animals were out. Read my complete review here. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children.
10. The Hermitage – Three U.S. Presidents called Tennessee home – Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson. You can revisit the past at The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson. Admission is $19 for adults and $9 for children.
Video: Nashville Attractions – Here’s a video I made of the best of Nashville.
Shopping – Whether you’re looking for a new pair of cowboy boots or a new Louis Vuitton handbag, Nashville has a wide variety of shopping options to suit nearly any taste or budget. Those looking for antiques will want to head to the corner of Eighth Avenue South and Douglas Street, where larger antiques shops are clustered together.
The Mall at Green Hills – Nashville’s premier shopping destination is home to retailers like Nordstrom and Macy’s. Luxurious retailers include Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Tiffany & Co, Jimmy Choo, and Tory Burch. They also have an abundance of dining options, including Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Noodles and Company, Panera Bread, Ruby Tuesday, Nordstrom cafe, and The Cheesecake Factory.
CoolSprings Galleria – Featuring nearly 165 stores and a 500 seat food court. Anchor tenants include Macy’s, Sears, Belk, Dillard’s, and JC Penney. Stores include J.Crew, Oakley, Pandora, Pottery Barn, Talbots, Williams-Sanoma, and American Eagle Outfitters.
Rivergate Mall – With over 150 stores, stores include Macy’s, Dillard’s, Sears, JCPenney’s, and Incredible Dave’s, this three-story mall is among the cities favorites.
Opry MIlls is located next door to the Gaylord Opryland Resort and the Grand Ole Opry House, on the property where a theme park once stood. Since opening in 2000, this value-driven massive mall has achieved massive success thanks to offering a diverse selection of restaurants and stores that have something for everyone. They have over 200 stores, including a Bass Pro Shop, Barnes & Noble, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, a Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, and even an IMAX Theatre. They also have restaurants, ranging from a food court to themed favorites like The Aquarium Restaurant and the Rainforest Cafe. The General Jackson and Music City Queens showboats are docked just outside.
Hear music at a songwriters show – typically called a “writers night,” songwriters are put somewhere where they are not used to being – in the spotlight. Several singer/songwriters will play ‘in-the-round’ as they sit on stage accompanied only by a microphone, a guitar and their incredible talent. These shows can be found in small, intimate clubs all over town, including The Listening Room Café downtown, and the famous Bluebird Cafe.
The Opry Mills Mall is also home to a wide variety of dining options, include the Rainforest Cafe, where you can eat in an “indoor jungle,” surrounded by thunderstorms and animatronic gorillas. They also are home to the Aquarium restaurant, where you can watch schools of colorfully fish, gracefully swimming beside you.
Rainforest Cafe – Step into this indoor jungle and discover one of the most realistic indoor rain forests ever created, complete with cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation, tropical rainstorms, beautiful aquariums, trumpeting elephants and wild animatronic gorillas, jaguars, and elephants. A “thunderstorm” goes off every now and then, where the “”animals” go wild and thunder and lightning appear to sound off in a dramatic yet exciting experience. The menu includes a wide variety of options, including pastas, seafood, salads, sandwiches and pizzas. Order their “volcano” sundae and they start yelling “volcano” and make quite a spectacle! Pick up a souvenir on the way out at their large, iconic gift shop. It is located inside the Opry Mills Mall, which is located across the street from the world renowned Gaylord Opryland Resort.
The Aquarium Restaurant – It is also located in Opry Mills Mall. Guests dine while seated around a 200,000-gallon tank, home to a wide variety of fish, sharks, stingrays and more! The bottom of the sea décor and inventive menu offer guests a dining experience like no other.
Margaritaville – Named after Jimmy Buffett’s famous 1977 song, Margaritaville, redefines the meaning of the laid back American lifestyle. Sip on a Pina Colada and chill by the bay, here at this delicious restaurant. Don’t forget to pick up Jimmy Buffet themed merchandise on the way out.
Ted’s Montana Grill – Owned by CNN founder Ted Turner, this restaurant has become famous for its delicious bison, burgers, and salads. This chain has grown to have dozens of restaurants around the country.
Husk – Welcome to the place that Southern Living and Bon Apetit Magazine call “The Best New Restaurant In America.” Chaz Brown, From The Top Chef TV show, considers the Charleston Husk to be the best restaurant in America. He says “The food is amazing and they are doing America a service by remembering the cuisine of our earliest roots as a nation. The line Cooks and chefs drop the food off at your table and can explain all of the dishes. Chef Brock is truly cooking American Cuisine. Every restaurant in America should take a page from Brock’s book.”
Buca di Beppo – Located in nearby Franklin, TN in Cool Springs. Owned by Planet Hollywood, Buca di Beppo specializes in immigrant Southern Italian food. Vintage photographs cover the walls, in fact each restaurant is said to have more than 2,500 pictures. The food is served family style, where each item is shared among the dinner party. A select number of locations have a lunch menu, with individual-sized portions. All restaurants have a Pope table, a large table in a room to itself, with a bust of the pope in the center. Most locations also have a room right across from the kitchen, where you can watch them cook – chefs even come over and talk to you and even let you sample dishes.
The Cheesecake Factory – Since first opening in Beverly Hills in 1978, these restaurants have become well known for their fun atmosphere, huge portions and wide variety of entrees. They offer nearly forty varieties of cheesecake, with some that are only offered seasonally. These include: Key lime cheesecake, Chocolate Chip Cookie – Dough cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake (available from October – holidays), Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake, and after thanksgiving they even have a peppermint Bark Cheesecake!
The Hard Rock Cafe– The Nashville Cafe has been rockin’ Music City since 1994! Newly revamped in December 2009, Hard Rock Cafe Nashville contends as one of the city’s premier dining and entertainment destinations. The remodeled Cafe has more than 12,920 square feet of space, including a 378-seat restaurant, open air terrace, Rock Shop and a state-of-the-art live concert venue. Jimi Hendrix said it best “That’s where I learned to play really…Nashville.” Located in the heart of the historic ‘District’ of downtown Nashville at the foot of Riverfront Park.
Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Nashville (Opryland) is a great place to stay nearby some of the best attractions, such as the Nashville Toy Museum, the Music Valley Car Museum, Texas Troubadour Theatre, and Opryland Hotel Gardens. Enjoy amenities including a fitness center and indoor pool all year round.
Hampton Inn & Suites Nashville (Opryland) is a fantastic place to stay just minutes from the Grand Ole Opry graced by country stars, and the decor inside sets the tone with country music greats. This hotel also offers a shuttle to the Nashville International Airport, fitness center and free hot breakfast every day.
Union Station Hotel, Autograph Collection is set inside the 100 year-old railway station downtown. This unique stay is complete with historic architecture, dark wood additions and stone fireplaces in the heart of Music City. Dine in at Prime 108 Restaurant and Lounge onsite and take advantage of the fitness center.
Hilton Nashville Downtown is a wonderful stay just across from the Country Music Hall of Fame with newly renovated guestrooms on the horizon. With a great selection of four separate restaurants and cafes onsite, you won’t ever need to venture out for dinner! For the best suggestions for a night out on the town, stop by the concierge.
Renaissance Nashville Hotel is a great place to stay in a central location just outside Music City in Nashville’s business district. Enjoy cozy amenities, fitness center, indoor pool and restaurant and bar onsite. This hotel also offers childcare services for its guests.
Hutton Hotel is a touch of luxury and southern hospitality all rolled into one. This Nashville hotel offers luxurious spa services, premium coffee at the Java Bar, an onsite restaurant at 1808 Grille and allows you to bring your furry friends along with you–its pet friendly!
Omni Nashville Hotel is one fantastic hotel to get the full-on music experience. It’s located just across from the Music City Center, integrated with the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. Dine in at Bob’s Steak & Chop House or the three-meal Kitchen Notes–a southern specialty restaurant. Dive into the rooftop pool overlooking the city.
Loews Vanderbilt Hotel makes for a relaxing experience near Vanderbilt University just minutes from top attractions in Nashville. You won’t ever need to look further for great food with Mason’s Restaurant and Bar that includes cocktails and southern favorites. Take advantage of the fitness center and partner Haute Salon and Spa located in Hillsboro Village nearby.
Gaylord Opryland is a grand resort center and one of the largest hotels in the world. The hotel offers fitness activities, indoor pool and the most famous Relâche Spa. This enormous hotel also includes a world of onsite restaurants from southern comfort foods and steak to Italian, Mexican and Japanese dishes.
The Hermitage Hotel is a luxurious stay boasting prime southern hospitality in downtown Nashville. Enjoy a delicious meal onsite at the Captiol Grille and Oak Bar–home to historic favorites meets a modern twist! The hotel offers airport shuttles and comfort in the thread count within each and every room.
Those in the area may want to drive nearly five hours (passing through Knoxville and Sevierville) to get to Asheville, NC’s Biltmore Estate, the number one most visited attraction in North Carolina – receiving over one million visitors each year. It is America’s largest home, which was built in the late 1800s and has provided self guided tours since the 1930s.