When you think of Nashville, you probably think of the Grand Ole Opry. But this up-and-coming city has a lot more going for it than country music. Think fusion BBQ, whiskey and craft beer distilleries, trendy shopping, rock and indie music venues, and off-the-charts affordability compared to other U.S. destinations. Need a reason to visit the Music City? Here are 11 of them.
Why Your Next Trip Should Be to Nashville
Nashville is home to some of America’s best BBQ, live music, and a true spotlight on creativity. With a growing population and plenty to do, it’s one of the nation’s up-and-coming millennial hubs, with lots to offer to visitors.
It’s Not Just About Country Music
While Nashville’s reputation lends itself to cowboy hats and songs about trucks, the opposite could not be truer. Music legends like Paul McCarthy and Bob Dylan have both recorded songs and albums in the city. Rock and roll famed Kings of Leon call Nashville home as well as other artists like The Black Keys and Jack White.
This isn’t to say country music doesn’t fuel the sound of Nashville. For musical inspiration, check out the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where you can find extensive digital archives and interactive exhibits that tell the story of country music. With many of the genre’s major recording labels in the city, as well as the Grand Ole Opry and historic Ryman Auditorium, country music is still a major part of Nashville’s culture.
It Has Some of the Best Craft Distilleries
With the world’s top-selling whiskey’s distillery (Jack Daniel) about an hour and a half outside of Nashville, distilling is a huge part of Tennessee’s culture. While the Jack Daniel Distillery is well worth a visit, so are some of the up-and-coming craft distilleries located much closer, right in the downtown area.
Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Marathon Village does distillery tours every half hour seven days a week and has an awesome gift shop. The distillery, which was originally operational before prohibition, was recently rediscovered and reopened by Charles Nelson’s great-great-great-grandsons.
Just right down the street in Marathon Village is Corsair Distillery, a trendy space with a taproom (they also brew beer), courtyard, and tasting room. The brew-distillery produces everything from a traditional artisan gin to experimental spirits like an elderflower bohemian malt whiskey. Tours are offered every hour over the weekend and limited times on Tuesdays and Fridays. The distillery also recently opened a second location in Wedgewood Houston area that also offers tours.
Its History is Rooted in Tradition
With strong roots in country music and the American South, Nashville has a rich history that can be seen through the city’s architecture, museums, food, and music. Davy Crockett, one of Nashville’s Congressmen, was known for his stories and fiddle playing, making music one of the founded characteristics in the 1700s.
Buildings like the Ryman Auditorium, which hosted the Grand Ole Opry (until it moved to Opryland) is known as the “Carnegie Hall of the South.” And the city even has its own Parthenon that is a full-scale replica of the Greek landmark located in Centennial Park, originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition.
The Food (and Coffee) Is Incredible
Nashville has some of the South’s best food, from Indian-Southern food to traditional West Tennessee BBQ, the options won’t disappoint. Not only does Nashville do great meals, their coffee culture is up-and-coming as well with concept brands Bongo Java, Frothy Monkey, and CREMA. They’ve also got a mean brunch and food truck scene that’s worth indulging in.
Read our guide to the best restaurants Music City has to offer.
The Weather Is Better in Winter
While recent years have lent themselves to some snow and cooler winters, Nashville has a very mild fall and winter compared to other parts of the country with temperatures staying well above 40 degrees during the day. Summertime is often on the hotter side with the average summer temperature reaching its peak at 88 degrees in July.
We recommend going in March, April, May, and October for a mild climate and to avoid the city in the summer months if you don’t like the heat.
It Has Tons of Trendy Neighborhoods
Much like any up-and-coming city, Nashville has quite a few trendy areas that are attracting tourists and locals alike for their food, shopping, cafes, and galleries. While Downtown’s Broadway Street is always happening The Gulch, Germantown, 12South, Marathon Village, and Hillsboro Village can be just as exciting and are worth a visit.
It Has Both Traditional and Modern Museums
In addition to Nashville’s traditional art museums at the Parthenon, Belle Meade Plantation, Belmont Mansion, and Cheekwood, the city has a non-collecting museum in the city’s historic U.S. Post Office Building-Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The Frist Center has hosted exhibits with works from Frank Lloyd Wright to Michelangelo.
The city also has numerous music museums and tours starting with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, as well as the Johnny Cash Museum. See where Elvis recorded the majority of his songs at RCA Studio B, and watch how a vinyl record is made at United Record Pressing.
Its Breweries Are Extremely Popular
Nashville is emerging as one of the nation’s leading craft brewery cities too. Many restaurants now have numerous local beers on tap, and new craft breweries are opening up shop as well.
Yazoo Brewing Company was one of the first on the scene in the early 2000s and is popular for its Embrace the Funk series of tart and sour beers. Yazoo offers tours on select days. While newer to the scene, Tennessee Brew Works is growing fast with its unusual beers. Stop by the brewery’s restaurant and catch some live music or take a tour on Saturdays.
Its Creativity Is Contagious
From music to publishing to performance art, Nashville is perhaps one of the most creative cities growing in the country. With so many people moving to the city each day, the creativity will only grow as its population does.
If you’re looking for some non-music or non-traditional offerings check out Hatch Show Print, the company which designs and prints posters for all the shows at the Ryman. The studio does tours for $15 and lets you make your own letterpress print.
OZ Arts is also a great creative alternative to the more traditional art venues in the city. It’s a newly converted gallery and performance space that was once the headquarters for a major cigar company. The space hosts a variety of creative performances and shows, often only one or two days long, so check their website for events when you’re visiting. On most Thursdays, they host TNT (Thursday Night Things), which showcases local artists in a casual manner as opposed to their traditional visiting artist programs.
Its Live Music Venues Are Some of the Best in the World
From Broadway’s honky tonks to intimate songwriting circles, there’s no doubt that this is Nashville’s most loved quality. No matter what kind of genre of music you like, you’ll be sure to find at least one live performance during your visit.
For modern-day country fans, we recommend hitting up Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, or Legends Corner. If you want a more intimate experience, reserve a seat at the Bluebird Cafe, or if that is too cliché after watching the show Nashville, check out the Station Inn for some bluegrass jam sessions.
If country music isn’t your thing, Exit/In, The End, The 5 Spot, and The Basement all offer rock and indie bands, and you can catch larger touring bands at The Mercy Lounge.
You Can Actually Afford It
When comparing to most major U.S. cities, the cost of living in Nashville for tourists and locals is relatively low. Parking, gas, food and drink prices, and admission prices are all on the lower end, however; year over year growth shows prices are increasing due to both the growing population and number of tourists the city has seen. Even so, low costs once you arrive are still a major benefit when comparing it to most major U.S. destinations.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The Best Places to Eat in Nashville
- 10 Best Things to Do in Nashville
- What to Pack for Nashville (Cold Weather in the South)