Best Things to Do in Nashville

Explore Music City's history, art, and, yes, sounds

Narrowing down the list of attractions to only 10 is difficult in a city that is growing at such a rapid pace but still dedicated to preserving and showcasing historic treasures and landmarks. Depending on your tastes and interests, planning a vacation or long weekend can revolve around music, Civil War sites or even ancient Greece (really).

One of the most sought-after locales for authentic Civil War history sites, the city and surrounding communities host dozens of tours each day to famous sites like Carton Plantation, Lotz House Museum and Carter House Plantation. Spirits come alive and guides are passionate on the topic. 

Part of what's fun on vacation to balance the iconic must-sees, like the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium, with some unexpected sites, like the Lane Motor Museum, that your friends and neighbors may not have known about. Here's a cross-section of things to see and do in Music City.


If you have a history buff seeking entertainment, head straight to Franklin, TN. Here, you can visit many sites for very little expense. Carnton joins other nearby locales including Carter House and The Lotz House for a series of stops (discounts for packages) reflecting some of the most famous historical battles, homes and individuals. Tour through stables and view grave sites of Civil War soldiers lost. Here, there is a true feeling of connection to actual happenings during the conflict between North and South. Elements, furnishings, grounds and artifacts are certified and appreciated by top authorities on the war throughout the world.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Immaculate grounds, a strong and detailed background of Civil War history and informative staff for tours are all reasons to explore Carnton Plantation.

Paige's expert tip: Don't miss stopping at the nearby Lotz House on the way, another historic property full of Civil War artifacts and treasures.

Read more about Carnton Plantation →

One of the few museums in the U.S. to specialize in European cars, Lane Motor Museum is a working museum. Some of the cars are in showroom condition, while others represent typical aging. A well-known Music City landmark, this unique collection of cars will have collectors drooling and turn visitors into aficionados after one visit.

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Cheekwood mansion is a site to behold, and one that Nashville society has carefully protected for years with the annual white tie Swan Ball fundraiser. Curated antiques and a passionately preserved building are the reason this is the city's top choice for weddings and photographs. The grounds are impossibly expansive, with countless installations, water features, wildlife and annual floral displays that receive national accolades. Spring is lovely, but Cheekwood offers delights in every season. The Pineapple Room is a traditional dining experience for enjoying lunch overlooking breathtaking scenery. Evenings are also special here with regular offerings of movies from the lawns or artistic lighting exhibits. There are exploration activities for children weekly and endless ways to find solitude, joy and beauty on every corner of the property. Check the website for happenings, events and open hours and seasonal displays prior to visiting.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Cheek family is one of Nashville's best stories, and this is the place to get all of the details while viewing spectacular plants, flowers, trees and art installations.

Paige's expert tip: Check the weather and if at all possible come in the spring. While gorgeous year-round, the awakening flowers of the gardens are nothing short of magnificent.

Read more about Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art →

Parthenon in Centennial Park
Photo courtesy of iStock / Wesley Stivers

A tribute to classical architecture, the Parthenon in Centennial Park houses one of the premier museums in the area. The permanent collection boasts notable works from 19th- and 20th-century American artists (Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Moran) and contemporary pieces crafted by emerging talents. Athenian sculptures created from direct casts of originals that once adorned the ancient Greek ruins are also on display. It's a popular place for weddings, proposals, and filming for movies and television. Since it is located near Vanderbilt campus, a tour is perfect to pair with visiting some of the school grounds and architecture. Soda shops, revered burger joints and collegiate shopping are all nearby.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The Parthenon is what earned Nashville's title 'Athens of the South', and is one of the most unique buildings on US Soil.

Paige's expert tip: Carve out some time to explore inside and out. The surrounding park is always filled with activity, music and events on weekends.

Read more about Parthenon in Centennial Park →

One of Nashville's most beloved music venues, The Ryman is the premier spot for any music lover seeking to hear their favorite performer or tour a legendary performance space. Originally built as the Union Gospel Tabernacle in 1892 by Captain Tom G. Ryman, it is one of the most famous music venues in the country (as well a a National Historic Landmark). With their top-notch acoustics and history, The Ryman has an almost mystical, welcoming feel. Ryman also offers daytime tours, so you can explore the majesty of this venue at your own pace. Easily spend two hours in the museum and, before you leave, make sure to stop by Cafe Lula for fresh and healthy eats.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: This is Nashville's most famous stage, where membership is coveted and respected by the world's most respected musicians.

Hollie's expert tip: Spend the extra money to get a seat on the first level. It's worth the price.

Read more about Ryman Auditorium →

One of Nashville's most-visited attractions since opening in 2013, the Johnny Cash Museum resembles a small storefront but packs all kinds of memorabilia within. Look for listening booths, costumes and more collectibles chronicling the life and work of the Man in Black.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: It is one of the most well-kept and historical plantation sites in the South. Rolling hills, a full carriage house and gorgeous grounds are favorites for locals and visitors alike.

Margaret's expert tip: Admission is $17; $16 for seniors and military; $13 for children. The museum is open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.

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Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

A nod to this soldiers who served for our country, The Bicentennial State Park showcases the WWII veterans' memorial. Visitors are invited to splash in the fountains, and stroll down a walkway that honors every county in TN. There's a 200-foot granite map of the state, and the aforementioned area that commemorates each of the state's major waterways � 31 vertical fountains in all. During the summer months, the amphitheatre features live performances, an ideal time to kick back, have a snack, and let the music transform your day or evening. If you just want to relax, listen to music, and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Bicentennial State Park is the place to be.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: There is nothing in the city, or the country quite like this venue dedicated to the past and present of country music. Exhibits are constantly changing, cleverly designed and often interactive.

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The top attraction in Music City, The Grand Ole Opry is an American icon. Known as "country's most famous stage," what began as a simple radio broadcast in 1925 is today a live-entertainment phenomenon. Providing world-famous entertainment for all ages, The Opry showcases both country music legends and up-and-coming stars. A one-of-a-kind experience, guests come for the memorable shows and unforgettable moments, and are offered a behind-the-scenes look at this famous show on the Opry tours. Each Friday and Saturday night, a backstage glimpse into new and old country history is available, and guests are sure to remember their "Opry moments" long after the curtain is closed.

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Andrew Jackson's Hermitage

History comes to life at the home of Old Hickory, former President Andrew Jackson. The story of The Hermitage, and how Andrew Jackson's forged his prosperous farm, is peppered with invention, freedom, and the changing tides of the times. At the Hermitage, visitors can expect to see a day in the life of plantation living, as they tour the mansion and the expansive grounds and learn about the history of slavery, the role of women, and the war. During the holiday seasons, guest can expect to discover the origins of many of the Jackson family Christmas traditions.

Paige's expert tip: Be sure to stop in the souvenir shop, and purchase a stick of rock candy if they have any in stock.

Read more about Andrew Jackson's Hermitage →


Meet Stacie Standifer

As the founder of acclaimed titles Nashville Lifestyles, Nashville Weddings and AT HOME/NL, Stacie has been involved with every level of fashion, celebrity and home design in her city for over...  More About Stacie