Visiting Nashville For The First Time? Tips From A Local + Things You Definitely Must Do While You’re In Music City



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The #1 question that we are asked most often is:

What should we do while we are in Nashville?

Our answer is usually customized like this or this — to suit your specific interests. (Be sure to check out both of those lists to see some recommendations that aren’t listed below!)

Generally speaking, our answer is typically based on:

  • The type of music you enjoy
  • Whether you are driving or flying into Nashville
  • If you’re looking for kid-friendly things to do
  • Where you are staying
  • The type of food you like to eat
  • If you’re interested in venturing out beyond downtown Nashville

That said, the following things tend to appear on our Nashville Visitors Must-Do List time and time again.

So, if you ever get a chance to do these things… you must!!!

Where To Stay In Nashville

If you ever get the opportunity to stay at the Opryland Hotel, you should. It’s one of the most beloved Nashville Tennessee attractions.

I stayed there once during a conference, and I’ve visited the hotel several times since then. (You can never take in everything that there is to see and do there in a single visit alone!)

The Opryland Hotel is way off the beaten path, but if you have a car, then you could make your way to downtown Nashville for the nightlife. Or, depending on your time schedule and how much you want to do, you can find plenty to do within close proximity to the hotel. Some of my favorite Nashville things to do near Opryland:

As far as Downtown Nashville hotels, we like the Sheraton hotel, the Hilton, the Hampton Inn and the Renaissance hotel best — due to their close proximity to the nightlife.

Here are 8 of the most unique hotels in Tennessee, including 4 in Nashville!

If you’re not staying downtown, then we recommend staying in:

Brentwood, TN – just south of Nashville, there are a handful of nice hotels right near the I65 exit.

Here are some Brentwood, TN hotels worth considering.

Franklin, TN – just south of Brentwood, it’s a real trendy place with plenty of fun things do right there.

Here are some pet-friendly hotels in Franklin. (And… if you’re bringing your pet, bookmark this link for after-hours veterinary services — just in case!)

Where To Eat In Nashville

Our personal favorites listed in the best restaurants in Franklin and the best restaurants in Brentwood aren’t necessarily the best for tourists who are typically looking for unique eateries in the area. Just keep in mind the places on those 2 lists were chosen primarily because we tend to frequent them regularly as locals. Tasty? Yes. Unique? Not so much.

As far as noteworthy and unique places to eat in the Nashville area, our top picks include the following:

  • For breakfast: Pancake Pantry – Get there early, there’s always a line to get in. And you never know who you might see there. It’s definitely one of the tastiest Nashville Tennessee attractions — that’s recognized worldwide.
  • For lunch: Noshville Deli – A trendy dive where everyone who’s anyone goes for lunch at least once when they’re in Nashville. The Pharmacy is a fun burger joint and soda shop like no other, and the food is de-lish!
  • For dinner: Mangia Nashville – It’s actually in Franklin, and only open on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s expensive, but worth it! They serve the most luxurious menu in a super fun & casual atmosphere. It’s a place only the locals knew about for years, but it’s becoming one of fastest growing Nashville Tennessee attractions. No joke, it’s truly a show!
  • For dessert: Sweet Cece’s or Jeni’s Ice Cream Scoop Shop – Both have super-large servings, ensuring that your sweet tooth will be satisfied!
  • Anytime: Loveless Cafe – Start with a short drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway, followed by their world-famous biscuits & gravy and some shopping at the Loveless Shoppes. Or, if you’re already downtown Nashville, then try Jack’s Barbeque. It’s sure to be a hit with everyone, and the place is rich in Nashville history. Finally, everyone likes Mexican food, right? Well, Sopapilla’s is better than Mexican food – it’s New Mexican food!
  • Kids will love: Aquarium Restaurant or Rainforest Cafe. Both are located inside the Opry Mills Mall.

For even more unique places to eat around Nashville, check out The Eater Nashville.

These photos show Jack’s Barbeque — one of the more popular downtown Nashville TN restaurants — from the front, from the inside, and from the back:

Nashville Things To Do With Kids

Looking for kid-friendly ideas? Each of these provides a great list of things for kids to do in Nashville:

Outdoor Things To Do In Nashville

To stretch your legs, enjoy some beautiful nature, and get a little bit of a workout, consider hiking on the Natchez Trace Parkway.

There are plenty of lakes around Nashville to enjoy from a boat. Here are the best boating, canoeing & kayaking places near Nashville. And all the best places to rent a pontoon boat.

Did you know that Nashville has a swimming beach? It may not be one of the top Nashville TN attractions for tourists, but it’s definitely one of the top attractions for locals.

For a nice change of pace, you might enjoy horseback riding in and around Nashville.

If you want to see some wonderful scenery and a peaceful place to get away, then Radnor Lake is for you. There’s a nice walking trail, and the wildlife is plentiful!

If you like bicycling, then you’ll love exploring Nashville by bike or pedaling through Franklin on the fabulous Pedego electric bike rentals.

Take a walk (or a drive) with the mission to see as many Nashville murals as you can! Here’s a handy map of the murals in Nashville, and a complete list of Nashville murals — just keep in mind that the murals change frequently.

Good news: All of the nearby beautiful Tennessee State Parks are free! Several are worthy of being included as Nashville TN points of interest. For example, Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park (one of the top 18 Nashville Tennessee attractions) is close to downtown Nashville and the Capitol Building.

While you’re exploring Nashville TN points of interest, be sure to keep your eye out for celebrities in Nashville when you’re out & about. You may also want to take a drive by some Nashville celebrities’ homes — like Miley Cyrus, Tim and Faith, or Alan Jackson’s house!

Fun Ways To Get Around Nashville

Whether you’re looking for a fun way to spend an extra day visiting attractions in Nashville TN, or you’re just in need of a change of pace, here are some fun alternative travel options:

Unique Places To Shop In Nashville

Franklin Factory – a 12-building dining, retail, and entertainment complex that’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. There are a few shops inside that sell really unique Nashville souvenirs!

Opry Mills Mall – nearly 200 stores and restaurants all under one roof. There’s definitely something for everyone! We call it the ‘guy mall’ because even guys who don’t care for shopping enjoy their time here, thanks to guy-friendly stores, massage chairs, big-screen TVs, and local bands.

Loveless Cafe Shoppes – grab a bite to eat at the Loveless Cafe, then enjoy the surrounding stores. The Loveless Cafe itself makes everyone’s list of Nashville TN points of interest.

Main Street / Downtown Franklin – more than 150 unique places to explore in the 15-block downtown National Register District, including trendy shops, antiques, and restaurants. Here are all the best antique shops in Franklin, plus 4 places to bargain shop in Franklin.

10 Best Places To Shop In Nashville – these shopping spots are the ones that are most often favorited by locals and tourists alike.

Hatch Show Print – take home a one-of-a-kind souvenir: an official Hatch Show Print poster! Even if you don’t buy anything, you absolutely must step inside this unique shop on Broadway. I have several of their super cool posters with a Nashville theme.

Boot Country – I can’t tell you  how many of my friends who visited Nashville for the first time have taken advantage of this store’s “Buy 1, Get 2 Pairs of Boots FREE” deal!

Nashville Flea Market – you never know what you’re going to find at this indoor/outdoor event that takes place on the fourth weekend of every month.

Spirit of Nashville – they have some of the most unique pieces of artwork, home decor, and souvenirs I’ve ever seen around here — all with a unique Nashville flavor.

Nashville Movie Locations – take a fun trip around Middle Tennessee exploring the many different locations where popular movies have been filmed.

Best Music Venues In Nashville

Seasonal Fun Things To Do In Nashville TN

Most of the above activities can be enjoyed any time of year — but the following events and activities are purely seasonal:

Nashville Sounds Baseball – The Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, and a minor league baseball team of the Pacific Coast League (PCL).

Franklin Main Street Festival – A free event featuring more than 200 artisans & crafters, 3 stages, 2 carnivals, and an international food court to round out a full weekend of entertainment.

Iroquois Steeplechase – Drawing an average crowd of 25,000, this is one of Middle Tennessee’s top sporting & social events.

Franklin Electric Bike Rentals – You can tour the town on two wheels.

CMA Fest – Each June, the biggest annual celebration of Country music takes place in Nashville. Hundreds of artists perform for free. Tens of thousands of fans come to enjoy the music… and more!

Franklin On Foot – See the sights at your own pace, or choose a guided tour.

Tips For Viewing Nashville’s 4th Of July Fireworks – If you’re in town over the Fourth of July, here are some insider secrets for viewing the fireworks.

Franklin Rodeo – Fun for kids of all ages, and a great opportunity to wear your favorite cowboy and cowgirl attire!

Leaf Peeping In Tennessee – From late September through late October you’ll see the most colorful leaves in Tennessee.

Haunted Franklin Walking Tours – These take place year-round, but they’re more exciting around Halloween! They also have ghost tours in Nashville.

Nashville Corn Mazes – Venture into some of the most amazing corn mazes located in Nashville and Middle Tennessee. (These 5 are the best ones.)

Holiday Lights At Opryland Hotel – Many people make this an annual family tradition.

Jingle Beat Nashville – a unique drive-thru lights event that’s put together by a Nashville-based production team known for their award-winning, arena tour productions for popular music artists.

The Dancing Lights Of Christmas – Another popular holiday light show that happens to be very near the Opryland Hotel. It’s Middle Tennessee’s largest drive-thru light and music show.

Franklin Trolley Holiday Lights Tour – A fun way to see all of the Christmas lights is to let the locals chauffeur you through town to gaze at all of the glittering decorations.

Other Popular Nashville Lights Shows – all the best Christmas lights displays throughout Nashville and Middle Tennessee

Even More Fun Things To Do In Nashville Tennessee

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A thorough list of fun things to do in Nashville TN
Visiting Nashville For The First Time? Tips From A Local + Things You Definitely Must Do While You\'re In Music City

Lynnette

We moved from Florida to Tennessee in 2001. All signs point to the fact that we will probably retire here -- by choice. We L O V E Nashville! Our favorite places to live are just south of the City -- we've had houses in Brentwood, Franklin, and Spring Hill. And we have properties in Leipers Fork, Cookeville, and Lewisburg. This site is where I share my best tips for moving your family to Nashville and/or visiting Nashville for the first time -- with the ultimate goal of helping you find fun things to do in Williamson County and Davidson County. When I'm not out & about enjoying the Nashville area, you'll find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I’ve written over 500 articles on this site! Many of them have upwards of 100K shares.

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