Downtown Nashville – The Best of Music City’s Tourist Attractions

Downtown Nashville – The Best of Music City’s Tourist Attractions

Downtown Nashville | Attractions and Things to Do

In the past few years Nashville, TN has exploded and no doubt everyone wants in on the fun. Music City, as it is called, is brimming with country music venues, boisterous bars, excellent restaurants, and of course the famous musicians who call this laid-back city their home. The creative energy of Nashville beckons you everywhere you go, and you can’t help but feel the cool in the air. We loved walking around this city, and being tourists, Downtown Nashville was a great place to start.

Downtown Nashville is where you will find Broadway and its bright lights, with bar after bar, club after club, full of aspiring musicians playing their songs all day and all night. The famed Ryman Auditorium is in Downtown Nashville, as is the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Bridgestone Arena, The Johnny Cash Museum, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Frist Art Museum, and the Musicians Hall of Fame. The Downtown Nashville attractions are an interesting mix of the arts, culture, and rowdy late-night venues!

Walking in Downtown Nashville on Broadway

Sure, Downtown Nashville is filled with tourists and not many locals, but you have to visit this neighborhood to take in the vibe and the history of the city. The attractions may be touristy, but for a reason. This is where Johnny Cash and June Carter first met, where famous musicians today got found and plucked off of Broadway, where ambitious souls play their tunes in hopes of getting discovered.

In walking around Nashville Downtown, you will come across western boots stores, souvenir stores, trendy restaurants, all mixed in with the many bars and clubs and music blasting in the distance. You will see bachelorette parties taking to the streets, party bikes cruising around, groups of party-goers ready to take on Broadway. Nashville, especially Nashville Downtown, is one big party. There’s a reason people call it Nash-Vegas! So if that’s not your scene, you’ve been forewarned. But I’m telling you – you’ll probably love it. The energy is amazing, and the people are a blast. There may not be a city with nicer people than in Nashville.


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Downtown Nashville – Fun 1 Day Itinerary

Below I’m going to outline the walking itinerary my family and I did for a day because I think it’s a great way to see Nashville Downtown. I’ll then supplement it with other popular attractions at the end, so that we have you covered!

Cowgirl boot shopping in Downtown Nashville

Broadway

We stayed at the Nashville Renaissance, which is pretty much in the heart of Downtown Nashville. From our hotel we walked to Broadway, the main street full of Honky Tonk venues. If you’re looking for Nashville’s Honly Tonk scene, Broadway is the place. Let’s just say we were there in the morning (of course followed later by some late nights), and the music and commotion was going as if it hadn’t stopped all night long.

There are so many places lining Broadway, full of musicians hoping to get their break, it’s hard to know which ones to go to, so here are some of the faves: The Stage, Robert’s Western World, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Legend’s Corner, Tequila Cowboy, and Layla’s. There are so many more beyond this, it’s impossible to keep track! Just walk down Broadway and take your pick – day or night – and enjoy some live music and drinks. The flashy neon signs are enough to lure you in, and once inside I will say we heard some very good music. What can I say – Broadway is kind of like the Times Square of Nashville, but it’s a blast!

A visit to Tootsie's in Downtown Nashville

Also on Broadway you will find all sorts of Western boots and western wear stores. We liked the Boot Barn, but there are several. Make sure to make a stop at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, especially if you have kids, to try their homemade chocolates and candies. They have everything under the sun, and my girls could have spent hours there. Once we fueled them up on some sugar we headed to The Johnny Cash Museum, nearby in the heart of downtown.

The Johnny Cash Museum 

The Johnny Cash Museum was a real highlight of our trip. It may be small, but it’s rich in its collection of the Man in Black’s artifacts and memorabilia. In fact, it’s the largest collection of Johnny Cash artifacts in the world. I’ve always loved his music, so a visit to the museum was a top priority, and it did not disappoint. It’s very well-done, displaying things like instruments, costumes, handwritten lyrics, personal letters, artwork, even household items such as his china set.

Johnny Cash's clothing and memorabilia at the Johnny Cash museum in Nashville, TN

There are interactive movies and sound clips, making it a fun experience for all ages. Listening back on some of the songs was such a treat, and I loved introducing his music to my girls. The museum was founded by Bill Miller, a long-time friend and admirer of Cash’s. He had been collecting all things related to Johnny Cash ever since he heard him first play when he was 9 years old. His dream was to build a place to pay tribute to the country singer, a place where one could view everything – down to the last detail – that made up his life. And that he did. It’s a fascinating trip down Johnny Cash lane, so if you like his music, this is an absolute-must see in Nashville.

John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

A view from the pedestrian bridge in Nashville, TN

After the museum we took an outdoor walk along the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, just south of Broadway. The truss bridge crosses the Cumberland River and connects downtown Nashville to East Nashville, a residential suburb. The reason for our walk across the bridge was to catch views of the Nashville skyline, plus it’s a nice place to stretch the legs. You can get all those must-have pics with the skyline in the background. It’s not too long of a walk and doesn’t take too much time, so if you have the time I think it’s worth it just to see the city from that vantage point.

ACME Feed & Seed

Lunch at Acme Feed and Seed in Downtown Nashville

After all the walking and museum visit, we had worked up an appetite and it was time to grab lunch. At the end of Broadway, close to where the pedestrian bridge is, is ACME Feed & Seed, a popular 4-story restaurant and event venue. We chose to eat on the 2nd floor, which is the lounge floor with sushi bar. Great for group seating (we were a group of 11), there are tables with sofas and banquettes, and it’s super comfortable – just what we needed after a long morning on our feet. And the sushi? Amazing. We ordered the sushi boat, pictured above, and it was fabulous.

The 1st floor is a modern take on the honkytonk and has communal tables, 28 beers on tap, and live music. The 3rd floor, known as The Hatchery, is Acme’s event and music space, and the 4th floor is the rooftop, which I can imagine during the warmer months is a blast. Overall, ACME Feed & Seed has a great vibe, good food and is a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a happening, trendy spot, head here.

Ryman Auditorium

A tour of the Ryman Auditorium in Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville is home to one of the great music venues in the country, the Ryman Auditorium. You can see it either two ways – by touring it during the day (which is what we did post-lunch), or you can see a nighttime show. We decided to see it during the day, and took a self-guided tour. I wasn’t prepared for how moved I’d be. The “Soul of Nashville” as it is referred to, indeed has so much history and soul. When you take a tour of the auditorium, you begin with a video on the history of the venue. The video, I have to say, is incredibly moving and taught me so much about how and why the Ryman became the most famous place in the world for live country music, and how it changed so many peoples’ lives.

Originally founded as the Union Gospel Tabernacle by prominent steam captain and businessman Thomas G. Ryman, it was a place for worship and social gathering. When Ryman died, the name was changed to his name as a tribute to his life and work. It was in the 1920’s that show promoter Lula C. Naff leased the building and soon the Ryman became a cultural mecca, and was referred to as the Carnegie of the South. But it was in the 1940’s when the Grand Ole Opry, the live radio and tv show, made the Ryman its home and brought it a whole new level of fame. Singers such as Elvis, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash all came to play. In fact, it was at the Ryman where Johnny Cash met June Carter.

Beautiful windows at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville

Country music rose to fame at the Ryman, bluegrass was born, and countless musicians became stars overnight. Everyone wanted to play at the Ryman, and it became a symbol of hope, creativity and promise. When the Grand Ole Opry moved venues in the 1970’s, it sat empty and faced near demolition – until the 1990’s when the people of Nashville fought to get it back in business, and until this day it’s been thriving. One of the premier venues in the States due to its amazing sound system (it was built, after all, for the evangelical voices to be heard), artists from all genres come to play here, not just country musicians. But it is, always has been and always will be the home of country music and its fans.

And that concluded our day. The next day we visited the Country Music Hall of Fame, a huge space dedicated to the history of country music. If you’re a country music buff, you’ll love it, but if you’re like me and don’t know too much about the music genre, you might not find it all that engaging. I could have done without the visit, though having said that, it’s an impressive building with very well-done exhibitions and people seem to rave about it.

There are many other cultural institutions in Downtown Nashville, including the Bridgestone Arena, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Frist Art Museum and Music City Center. We were mainly interested in the places we visited, but clearly there is a lot to see in this fairly small city!

There’s a reason Nashville is on fire these days – it’s fun, it has history, and most of all, it is America’s Music City.

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Downtown Nashville attractions

 

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54 Comments

  1. April 19, 2018 / 3:37 am

    One of our biggest regrets from our road trip was not spending more time In Tennessee – I really like it but never went to Nashville #farawayfiles

  2. April 19, 2018 / 3:43 am

    You have to say “fire” like Johnny Cash. We love him in our house! Have you heard a “Boy Named Sue”? One of our faves. Love the vibe there and looks like enough to entertain even if you aren’t really a little bit country. The murals and food an energy look very fun. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:26 am

      It’s a great town with a great vibe..I’m not big into country music but it really didn’t matter!

  3. April 19, 2018 / 3:50 am

    I wish we hadn’t visited on Christmas Eve because everything was closed for us and there’s a lot I would like to see! Especially the Johnny Cash Museum! #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:27 am

      Hopefully there will be a next time, I get it!

  4. April 19, 2018 / 4:43 am

    Nashville has climbed higher and higher on my list. This looks so cool! Thanks! #farawayfiles

  5. April 19, 2018 / 7:32 am

    I’ve always fancied visiting Nashville and your post has only reaffirmed that I MUST visit. Beautiful photos too. #FarawayFiles

  6. April 19, 2018 / 8:24 am

    Love those boots.. I want a PINK pair 🙂 🙂
    ps. Nashville is on my bucketlist when I next visit the US!

  7. Beth
    April 19, 2018 / 8:36 am

    I’m from Georgia and have spent time in Tennessee, but I don’t think I ever went to Nashville, although as an adult I have always wanted to! Your description of the Johnny Cash museum sounds right up my alley – he is an American treasure. Great post! And I LOVE the pic of the boots! #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:29 am

      Thanks! And yes Johnny Cash is a treasure totally agree 🙂

  8. Clare Thomson
    April 19, 2018 / 9:17 am

    There’s something about country music that really appeals to me and I’ve heard amazing things about Nashville. Is there much about Dolly Parton there? Love the sound of your tour. Hope you got your girls some of those great boots! #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:30 am

      Dolly was a regular (I believe a regular, she definitely performed) at the Ryman. I’m sure loads of other places as well.

  9. April 19, 2018 / 10:11 am

    Nashville is such a dream – really really hoping to go there soon. Also can I please have all the boots on that shelf?! #FarawayFiles

  10. April 19, 2018 / 12:38 pm

    This place sounds so cool! Would love to spend a long weekend here soaking up the vibe. And I need a pair of those boots! #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:11 am

      Everyone needs a pair of cowgirl boots!

  11. April 19, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    It’s fantastic sometimes just to immerse yourself in being a tourist, and Nashville certainly looks like a place to do it.
    We’ve done quite a few road trips around the States and I’d love to complete one around Tennessee and the Deep South. Thanks for sharing #farawayfiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:12 am

      A southern road trip would be fabulous!

  12. April 19, 2018 / 4:38 pm

    What an awesome collection of boots. Looks like you had an a wonderful time. I have not done much Travelling in US. I have added Nashville on to my list. Thank you so much for sharing this. #farawayfiles

  13. April 19, 2018 / 5:13 pm

    Never been to Nashville, but heard great things! I had no idea that it was such a big party 24/7, what a funny nickname! I’m not into country music really, but it sounds like there’s a lot to do besides that. Thanks for all of the great information! #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:13 am

      Thanks so much – it can definitely still be enjoyed if you’re not that into country music!

  14. April 19, 2018 / 5:39 pm

    I haven’t been to Nashville in years. While some things are the same, others are different. I’d definitely visit the Johnny Cash Museum (something new for me).

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:14 am

      The Johnny Cash museum is fabulous – highly recommend.

  15. April 19, 2018 / 11:00 pm

    I’ve been reading more and more about Nashville on travel blogs and it seems like a place with a great vibe! I’d love to visit the Johnny Cash museum.

  16. April 20, 2018 / 1:01 am

    While we had the same subject (Nashville) for this week’s #farawayfiles, yours is definitely a different take on it. I love the photos, though. They’re all very bright.

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:15 am

      That’s the great thing about travel blogging – everyone has their own perspective.

  17. April 20, 2018 / 4:07 am

    Oh, this is excellent. I have been reading quite a bit about Nashville lately and it sooo seems like my kinda city! #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:17 am

      It’s so laid-back – hard to not like!

  18. April 20, 2018 / 1:38 pm

    Wow, my husband would be into the Johnny Cash Museum for sure. #farawayfiles

  19. April 20, 2018 / 3:27 pm

    This looks amazing, I would love to go. In fact just reading this has made me find some Johnny Cash on iTunes #FarawayFiles

  20. April 20, 2018 / 10:34 pm

    What a fun place to visit especially for music lovers! I didn’t know all about this. I recenlty was in San Francisco for the first time and saw a shop which had all these amazig cowboy boots row after row after row – your photo at the top reminded me of that experience! #farawayfiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:19 am

      Cowgirl boots are the best – everyone should have a pair ha!

  21. April 21, 2018 / 9:13 am

    I’m not a huge fan of country music, as such, I may not visit the places of interest in relation to country music. That said, I would love to explore the city scenes and perhaps to experience Tennessee food! 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:20 am

      The food in Nashville is great – a bit heavy, but good!

  22. April 23, 2018 / 10:39 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Johnny Cash and would love to visit that museum and definitely the place where he met June! Looks like the trip was a success! #farawayfiles

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:22 am

      It was, considering I never thought my first trip to Nashville would be with the kids!

  23. April 25, 2018 / 7:15 am

    What a great insight into Nashville! Even if your not a county and western fan it sounds like such a fun & interesting place to visit!

    • April 26, 2018 / 12:23 am

      Yes exactly! I’m not a big country music person at all but that was part of the fun – trying something different out of my radar!

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