Nashville, capital of Tennessee, lies almost in the center of the state on the Cumberland River. Founded in 1779, Nashville is perhaps best known as the capital of country music, as evidenced by such attractions as the Country Music Hall of Fame and the city’s famous Music Row district. The city also serves as an excellent jumping-off point to explore the rest of Tennessee, and Nashville’s surroundings offer many historical and recreational tourist attractions, including old plantations and Civil War sites.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Nashville is from April through October, when the warm weather brings this music city to life. Although December is quite charming with Christmas decorations.
Top Places to Visit in Nashville
1. The Nashville Parthenon
In Centennial Park, just a short walk west of the city center, is the famous reproduction of Athens’ Parthenon. Originally built of wood in 1897 to commemorate the state’s centenary and later rebuilt in cement on the same site, it’s an impressively accurate full-scale replica of the original Greek temple. Inside is a permanent art collection of 63 works by 19th- and 20th-century American painters, along with a 42-foot-high replica of the statue of the goddess Athena Parthenos covered with gold leaf. Also worth seeing are the replicas of the famed 5th century BC Parthenon Marbles.
2. Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is set in a stunning building in the heart of downtown Nashville, its tall windows resembling the keys of a piano. The museum features a multi-media display of historical performances, costumes, instruments, gold records, and memorabilia. Other highlights include a Cadillac that once belonged to Elvis, a massive 40-foot guitar, a tour bus, and a recording booth. Guided tours of the nearby historic RCA Studio B are also available. Country music fans should also pay a visit to the Johnny Cash Museum and Cafe, notable for its vast collection of artifacts and memorabilia related to one of the country’s leading music legends. Also, while not strictly country-music related, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum is worth visiting for its displays and exhibits related to recorded music and its stars.
3. The Grand Ole Opry
A number of attractions are associated with the famous “Opryland” name, the former music-industry-themed amusement park that once graced Nashville. Today, the name is associated with the Grand Ole Opry, the paddle-wheel showboat the General Jackson, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and the huge Opry Mills shopping mall. Grand Ole Opry radio shows have been broadcast from here since 1925, and visitors can enjoy regular shows starring famous country stars in the Grand Ole Opry House itself, along with fun backstage tours. If you’re looking for things to do at night in Nashville, this is the place to come.
4. Fort Nashborough
Located on the banks of the Cumberland River and reconstructed in recent years to provide visitors with an accurate depiction of life in pioneer days, Fort Nashborough was established in 1780 after James Robertson led settlers across the frozen Cumberland River. While the original fort only lasted until 1792, this modern-day reconstruction provides a fascinating insight into the life and times of early Nashvillians. Start your exploration of this free attraction at the on-site interpretive center, which in addition to addressing the conditions for the pioneers – as well as offering great views over the Cumberland River – also features displays relating to local Native American history, including an interesting sculpture made from feathers. A number of historically accurate replica buildings are also located on the property, including fortifications, log cabins, and block houses.
5. Nashville Zoo and the Adventure Science Center
A great place to spend a few hours with the kids, Nashville Zoo provides a chance to explore the plains of Africa, delve into the rainforests of South America, and discover the many animals of Asia. All told, some 2,700 animals from 365 species can be viewed, including rare clouded leopards, Baird tapirs, toucans, and Bengal tigers, housed in habitats that represent their natural environments. Lorikeet Landing allows you to enter an aviary and be surrounded by more than 50 Australian parrots, while kids will love the Wild Animal Carousel, Wilderness Express Train, and the large Jungle Gym where they can slide, swing, climb, crawl, and explore. Other must-dos include enjoying the zoo’s thrilling zipline experience. The Adventure Science Center is another great attraction the kids will love. In addition to its many fun, hands-on, interactive displays and educational exhibits related to science and technology, the facility features a planetarium and a fun 75-foot-tall “adventure tour,” where kids can blow off some steam and play. Kids camps and sleep-overs (the latter suitable for adults, too) are also held frequently.
6. Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art
Cheekwood is well known for its lovely gardens and park-like setting and is a splendid place to spend a few hours. Highlights of this beautiful 55-acre estate-like property include the Woodland Sculpture Trail with its four greenhouses with camellias and orchids, as well as a learning center with contemporary art galleries. The city’s Museum of Art is also housed within the 1920s Georgian-style mansion, displaying a fine collection of American art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Nearby is the Tennessee Agricultural Museum with its collection of historic farm artifacts, as well as collections of rural Tennessee prints and folk art sculptures. The Frist Art Museum is another gallery worthy of a visit. Located downtown in the city’s attractive old post office building, it’s notable for its many visiting art exhibits from around the world.
7. Downtown Presbyterian Church
The Downtown Presbyterian Church – one of more than 600 churches in Nashville – is a splendid example of Egyptian Revival architecture. The Egyptian decorative theme is continued inside in the wall paintings, woodwork, and stained glass windows. Used as a hospital during the Union occupation of the city during the Civil War, it was designated Hospital No. 8 and housed 206 beds. Self-guided tours are available, and guests are welcome to attend events and services.