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Without a doubt, Nashville is one of America’s most interesting and exciting cities. It’s a great place to go for a weekend getaway or a longer stay. You won’t run out of things to do – I promise!
Although Nashville is called Music City and is mostly known for its music scene, there’s truly something for everyone in this culturally rich place. You can soak up the city’s Civil War history, tour an antebellum plantation, attend a symphony concert, and visit the Ryman Auditorium, where such legends as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, and many others have performed.
And speaking of music, Nashville isn’t just about country music. That’s a common misconception. Nashville is about all types of music. You’re just as likely to find a live blues, jazz, or contemporary Christian performance as you are country music. Even Megadeth, the heavy metal band, once recorded an album here.
If you’re concerned about the cost of visiting Nashville, there’s no need to worry. There are plenty of things to do in the Athens of the South for adults and kids alike that don’t cost anything. That’s right – it’s entirely possible to visit Nashville, have an amazing time, and not spend any money on attractions.
I very proudly lived in Nashville for six and a half years, and I’d like to tell you about many of the things you can do in this special place that don’t cost anything. I think you’ll be surprised by just how many fun things there are to do that are completely free.
Let’s take a look now at the many free things to do in Nashville for families with kids.
1. Walk or Bike the Nashville Greenway
I’m going to start this list with my personal favorite (hey, it’s my list). My number one favorite thing to do when I lived in Nashville was to spend as much time as possible on the Nashville Greenway.
Did you know Nashville has over 80 miles of mostly-paved multi-use trails within the city limits? Not only that, but if you include the trails in the surrounding county (Davidson County), the total climbs to over 190 miles. You could ride a bike on this trail system all day long and only see a tiny fraction of it.
These trails are unbelievably beautiful. I’ve been on the Appalachian Trail, and as far as the scenery goes, I would much rather be on the Nashville Greenway. The trail system has been designed so that it mostly winds its way through undeveloped parts of the city. Although you do occasionally see some of the city while on the trail (it can’t be avoided), most of the time it just feels like you are on a wilderness trail somewhere.
The trail system is very popular, and people use it often for walking, running, riding bicycles, and even for walking their dogs. If you don’t have a bike, there are several places where you can rent one.
There are many places throughout the city where you can park your vehicle and hop on the trail. Fair warning though – once you’ve spent some time on this gorgeous trail system, other trails will never be the same.
Check out this short video of the Nashville Greenway to see how beautiful it is:
2. The Tennessee State Museum
Located in the downtown area, the Tennessee State Museum is a must-see when visiting Nashville. It is completely free to stroll through the museum and learn all about Tennessee’s rich history. If you do visit, plan on spending at least two hours touring the museum (and maybe longer).
The Tennessee State Museum is filled with historical artifacts from all around the state. There are exhibits from the state’s natural history and artifacts from the indigenous people who previously lived in the area. Considering Tennessee’s role in the Civil War, a large section of the museum is dedicated to preserving and displaying artifacts from that terrible conflict.
Right across the road from the Tennessee State Museum, in a separate building, is the Military Branch. Although it is technically part of the state museum, it could easily stand as an amazing museum all by itself. In the Military Branch, you can view historical artifacts from various conflicts in American history. There are artifacts from the nation’s earliest conflicts to modern times.
Check out this short video of the Tennessee State Museum to see what it’s all about:
Also Read: Why Money Can’t Buy Happiness
3. Stones River Civil War Battlefield
Just a short 30-minute drive to the south, you can tour the well-preserved battlefield of one of the deadliest battles in the entire Civil War – the Battle of Stones River. This was a battle that resulted in over 24,000 casualties.
The national battlefield has a great museum and visitor’s center on the grounds where you can view actual artifacts from the battle and learn about the events that led up to the battle and its aftermath. The grounds are pristine and well-marked. You can pick up a free brochure from the museum and go on a self-guided tour or, for a small fee, you can rent an audio CD that guides you through all points of interest.
In addition to seeing the actual battlefield, the site is also home to the Hazen Brigade Monument, the oldest Civil War monument in the country. While most Civil War monuments were built after the war was over, the Hazen Brigade Monument is unique because it was built during the war by Union soldiers.
Finally, the historical site is also home to the Stones River National Cemetery, which is the final resting place of over 6,000 Union soldiers.
4. Vanderbilt University
Located in the downtown area, Vanderbilt University has a beautiful, picturesque campus that is ideal for a casual stroll as you walk along paths that are lined by many different varieties of trees. You can very easily spend a couple of hours walking around checking out all of the buildings and taking in all of the scenery.
If you’re a prospective student, it’s possible to arrange a tour of the campus. Tours and information sessions are offered Monday through Saturday during the academic year. The tours are about 90 minutes long.
While you’re checking out the Vanderbilt campus, don’t forget to visit the Jean & Alexander Heard Fine Arts Gallery. Exhibits rotate, so there’s often something new to check out.
Did you know there’s another university located right next door to Vanderbilt? Most people don’t. But it’s literally right across a narrow two-lane street. After you finish touring Vanderbilt University, you can also check out the equally beautiful Belmont University.
And after you’ve toured both universities, right next to Vanderbilt University is Centennial Park and the Parthenon, which leads us to…
5. Centennial Park
Centennial Park is a 132-acre park right across from Vanderbilt University. Although there are many parks in Nashville, Centennial Park is one of the city’s finest. The park is a great place to hang out, get some exercise, or to just relax for a while.
Centennial Park is enjoyed by thousands each year and it has a lot of interesting things to see and do. The park has a one-mile walking trail, an art center, a stunning sunken garden, an exercise trail, volleyball courts, a dog park, and an events shelter. It also happens to have a full-size replica of the Parthenon.
Why is there a full-size replica of the Parthenon in Nashville?
Well, why not? I mean, doesn’t every city have one?
All joking aside, there’s actually a very simple explanation for the Parthenon’s origins. The Parthenon replica was originally built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. During this celebration of Tennessee’s entry into the Union in 1796 (it was celebrated a year late), several buildings were constructed from ancient times.
Of all the buildings that were constructed for the event, the Parthenon was the only one that was a full-scale replica. After the exposition was over, all of the buildings were torn down except for the Parthenon.
Today, the Parthenon replica houses an art museum. Although there is a small fee to enter, you can still walk around the building’s exterior and even walk right up to the massive bronze doors at the front of the building. Each of the Parthenon’s doors weighs 7.5 tons each, and they are the largest set of matching doors in the world.
Check out this short video of Centennial Park to see why this gorgeous park is a must-see:
6. The Opryland Hotel
What’s so great about visiting a hotel?
Well, this particular hotel just so happens to have its own indoor wonderland. Seriously, it’s like walking into a beautiful indoor oasis. It’s kind of difficult to describe what it’s like to be inside the Opryland Hotel, but I’ll give it my best shot.
This is one big hotel. With 2,888 rooms, it is one of the largest hotels in the world. But what makes it so interesting is all of the beautiful plant life living inside.
The hotel has several large garden areas that are covered by glass ceilings. Brick paths wind their way through exotic trees and plants from places near and far. There’s also a man-made river you can take a boat ride on (for a fee) and in one area there’s even a waterfall that you can walk under. Various shops and restaurants are sprinkled throughout.
The Opryland Hotel is one of the top attractions in the city, and you can easily spend a couple of hours walking through it and taking it all in. Also, it’s worth checking out this attraction both during the daytime and at night. It’s almost an entirely different experience at night when the sun goes down and everything is bathed in gentle artificial lighting. And if you happen to be visiting in December, you’re in for a special treat since the entire hotel is beautifully decorated for the holidays.
Tip: Although there is a fee to park in the hotel’s parking area, you can park for free at the Opry Mills Mall, which is just next door.
It’s hard to really understand what the Opryland Hotel is like just reading about it. You have to see it. This video does a great job of capturing it’s incredible beauty:
7. The Opry Mills Mall
Right next door to the amazing Opryland Hotel is the Opry Mills Mall, the largest indoor mall in Tennessee. Inside of this mega-mall, you’ll find around 200 stores and restaurants. There are shops for just about everything you can think of, and many name brands are represented.
The Opry Mills Mall is laid out in a large oval inside. Depending on how fast you walk, it can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes just to walk all the way around. It’s that big! And that’s if you don’t stop at any of the stores. Many locals come here during the winter to walk for exercise when it’s cold outside.
It’s very easy to spend hours shopping here, and a person can work up quite an appetite from all of that walking around. Thankfully, this mall has many great restaurants to choose from. In fact, if you’re ever in Nashville and you aren’t sure where you want to eat, just head to the mall. You’re sure to find a place that works for everyone in your group.
The Opry Mills Mall has several very nice restaurants in it. In the Aquarium Restaurant, you can enjoy a fine dining experience while seated around a 200,000-gallon fish tank. This remarkable restaurant is home to many different types of fish including stingrays, sharks, and others.
The Rainforest Cafe is another favorite with its realistic indoor rainforest. And if you’re in a hurry or you want something more casual, the mall also has a very large food court with many affordable options to choose from.
Check out this short video to see why so many love visiting the Opry Mills Mall:
8. Downtown Nashville
You can’t visit Nashville and not visit the downtown area. I’m pretty sure there’s a law against it. The downtown area is the heart of Nashville, and it’s definitely where the action is.
It’s very easy to get around in downtown Nashville since it’s neatly arranged in city blocks. As you walk around town, don’t be surprised if you encounter someone performing right on the street. Many aspiring musicians do this in hopes of being discovered.
Downtown Nashville is filled with some of the best restaurants in the country. You’ll find nearly 300 restaurants in this area representing just about every kind of dining experience you can imagine. Just a few of the restaurants you’ll find as you stroll around include B.B. King’s Blues Club & Restaurant, Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar, Coyote Ugly Saloon, Easy 8, The George Jones Restaurant, the Nashville Underground, and Tootsies Orchid Lounge.
Tootsies is a must-see destination. It’s very close to the Ryman Theater, and many music legends would end up at Tootsies after performing. Just a few people who used to hang out at this famous watering hole include Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Mel Tillis, Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, and many others. Tootsies has also been featured in several movies including “W.W. & the Dixie Dance Kings,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and “The Nashville Rebel.”
In addition to its many restaurants, downtown Nashville also has many other interesting things to see and do, too. There are many different shops to explore, several breweries to sample, dozens of arts and entertainment venues to check out, and various other amenities. There’s something for everyone in downtown Nashville. It’s a great way to soak up a lot of the city’s culture and to see what it’s all about.
Related: Free Things to Do in Asheville, NC
9. The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
Within a short walking distance of downtown Nashville is the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. And it’s a must-see!
This park was designed and built to be a lasting monument to Tennessee’s Bicentennial Celebration, which occurred on June 1, 1996. The 19-acre park contains many spectacular monuments including a 200-foot granite map of Tennessee, a 95-bell carillon, a World War II memorial, a “Pathway of History,” and several fountains.
Locating the park is very easy. It’s just north of the downtown area and is bordered by Jefferson Street, 6th Avenue North, and 7th Avenue North. Approximately 1.25 million visitors enjoy the park each year, and it is open all year long.
The Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park isn’t just a great educational experience, it’s also a great place to hang out. In fact, many people come here every day to walk, run, or relax. And to top it all off, you will be serenaded by beautiful bell music at the top of every hour.
Tip: When it’s time for the bells to work their magic, be sure you’re standing in the middle of the bells for the best experience.
After you’ve finished exploring the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, be sure to check out the farmer’s market, which is right next door.
Check out this short video of the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park:
10. The Nashville Farmer’s Market
Yes, there’s a massive farmer’s market right in downtown Nashville. Hey, this is the south, y’all.
The Nashville Farmer’s Market is massive. In this giant outdoor market, you’ll find people selling fresh produce, artisanal food, crafts, and other things. There’s also some really interesting shops and restaurants to explore. Various classes are even offered here. And you may even get to see a chef demonstration.
The Nashville Farmer’s Market isn’t just a place where the locals buy groceries, it’s an amazing experience for the entire family! It isn’t just about shopping, it’s about having fun!
It’s free to walk around and check out everything the vendors are selling. Yes, you’ll have to spend some money if you decide to buy something or eat at one of the restaurants, but there’s no charge to look. Plan on spending at least 2-3 hours to see this amazing attraction.
Tip: Many of the vendors are located in large covered shelters, so you’ll have a place to run to if it suddenly starts raining.
Check out this short video to see why the Nashville Farmer’s Market is such a popular destination:
11. The Nashville Flea Market
What’s so great about a flea market?
Well, this one just happens to be considered one of the top ten flea markets in the country. That’s what.
To say that the Nashville Flea Market is massive is an understatement. Every time it’s open it has somewhere between 800 to 1,200 vendors and nearly 2,000 booths. You can find just about anything you can think of here including a nearly endless supply of antiques, jewelry, and handmade crafts. There are also several vendors selling food items as well, in case you get hungry.
It can take several hours to work your way through all of the booths at this flea market. When you are walking through it, it feels like it never ends. Every time you think you are getting to the end, you turn a corner somewhere and discover many more booths to explore.
The Nashville Flea Market is held every fourth weekend of every month on the Nashville Fair Grounds.
Check out this short video on the Nashville Flea Market to see why it’s considered one of the top flea markets in the country:
12. Cooter’s Place Dukes of Hazzard Museum
Located across the street from the Opryland Hotel and Opry Mills Mall is Cooter’s Place Dukes of Hazzard Museum. This attraction was started by Ben Jones, the guy who played Cooter on the legendary television series.
Cooter’s Place is both a store and a museum at the same time. At the front of the attraction, many different souvenirs are sold. But in the back is a museum that showcases memorabilia from the famous show. The museum is completely free.
Just a few of the many things in the museum include Cooter’s Tow Truck, Daisy’s Jeep, Rosco’s Patrol Car, and the General Lee itself.
The museum in Cooter’s Place is not big, but it’s still worth visiting. It will take approximately 30 minutes to an hour to tour it. As an added bonus, it is also conveniently located near the Opryland Hotel, The Grand Ole Opry, and the Opry Mills Mall.
Check out this short video of Cooter’s Place to see what it’s all about:
13. Music Row
Music Row is where the magic happens. It’s where many famous albums were recorded. It is here that you will find the historic RCA Studio B where Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, The Everly Brothers, and many others recorded albums.
Music Row is the heart of Nashville’s entertainment industry. In this area, you will find several record labels, recording studios, music licensing firms, publishing houses, and other related businesses.
You can either drive through Music Row or you can park and walk around the neighborhood. Walking gives you the best opportunity to take in all of the area’s rich history.
Where is Music Row?
It’s centered on 16th and 17th Avenues South. These roads are commonly known as Music Square East and Music Square West, respectively. Vanderbilt University and Belmont University are both located at one end of the famous district.
14. Puppet Shows at the Nashville Public Library
I know what you’re thinking.
What’s so great about going to the library? I can do that anywhere.
I get it. When most people think of libraries, they usually think of them as being little more than places to get books.
But, dear reader, this isn’t just any library I’m talking about – this is the Nashville Public Library.
The National Public Library isn’t just one library. It’s actually a library system. It has a main location plus 20 branches spread throughout the city with over 350 employees. As far as libraries go, this one is massive.
The Nashville Public Library isn’t just about books (although it has plenty of those). It has a jobs lab, offers computer classes, has free wi-fi, and many other useful things.
But the most interesting thing about this library is that it frequently offers some very interesting events. It’s a great place to take kids. Story Time for Kids is held regularly where children’s books are brought to life. And it also has some amazing puppet shows that are a must-see.
The library also occasionally has famous authors show up to give presentations and have Q&A sessions. And you can also participate in one of the library’s book clubs for lively discussions on popular and classic books.
There’s truly something for everyone at the Nashville Public Library, regardless of whether you are young or old. It’s one of the city’s hidden gems.
Check out this short clip from one of the library’s puppet shows to see how high-quality they are. Kids love them!
15. Riverfront Park
In case you haven’t already figured it out, Nashville is filled with beautiful parks. Even after living in Nashville for several years, I would still occasionally stumble upon a new park that I didn’t know existed. According to Nashville’s Parks and Recreations Department, the city has 108 parks. That’s a lot!
One park that I consider a must-see is Riverfront Park. And it’s super-easy to find, too. It’s located right beside Downtown Nashville right along the Cumberland River. As we say in the south, “you can’t miss it.”
What’s so great about Riverfront Park?
This isn’t just a park, it’s an outdoor entertainment venue. During the summer months, this is a very busy place. It’s a place where festivals, concerts, fireworks, and other special events are held. Maybe there will be something interesting happening there when you visit.
This park is even worth checking out if there isn’t an event happening. The view overlooking the Cumberland River is incredible. It’s a great place to sit and relax for a while. Don’t forget to wave at the General Jackson Showboat as it makes its way up and down the river!
16. Historic Fort Nashborough
If you’re a history buff (like me), then a visit to historic Fort Nashborough is a must.
Fort Nashborough was a frontier outpost that was established in 1779 right along the Cumberland River. It contained 20 log cabins that were arranged in a square shape with a wall around the perimeter to protect its inhabitants from wild animals and Indians. The outpost was named after the American Revolutionary War general, Francis Nash (which is where Nashville gets its name).
What’s so great about a bunch of log cabins?
Well, this tiny little settlement eventually grew to become one of the most culturally rich and unique cities in the United States – Nashville. This is where it all started.
If you visit this collection of cabins (which you totally should), then you’ll be standing in the exact spot where Nashville got its start. Well, almost. It’s actually a few hundred meters from the original location. Hey, it’s close enough for government work.
It’s important to point out that the current Fort Nashborough is a replica. The original structures have been lost to time and decay.
Fort Nashborough is located very close to Riverfront Park. Self-guided tours are available from 9-4 daily. And, most importantly for our discussion, it’s completely free to visit and tour this great attraction.
Check out this short video of Fort Nashborough to learn a little about Nashville’s history and to check out the replica of the fort:
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17. Radnor Lake State Natural Area
Radnor Lake State Natural Area is an absolutely beautiful park that is located in the Oak Hill section of Nashville. The massive 1,368-acre park was created in 1914 and its lake was originally used as a reservoir for steam-powered locomotives.
Today, the park is a stunning nature preserve and contains more than six miles of trails you can explore to see an incredible diversity of wildlife including herons, owls, waterfowl, deer, mink, otters, and other woodland critters.
Except for the Otter Creek Road Trail, only foot travel is permitted on the trails. On the Otter Creek Road Trail, however, pets, bicycles, and jogging are permitted.
Before you start your adventure at this beautiful park, definitely check-in at the visitors center first. While you’re there, see if any ranger-led excursions are being offered that day. Although not offered daily, ranger-led activities include canoe floats, astronomy night hikes, wildflower walks, nature hikes, and others.
Check out this short video of Radnor Lake State Natural Area to see how beautiful it is:
18. The Frist Art Museum
This one is free for some people, but not for everyone.
The Frist Art Museum is located on Broadway Street in downtown Nashville. It houses fine art from artists throughout Tennessee but also includes major national and international exhibitions. the museum has over 40,000 square feet of exhibition space, so you should allow sufficient time to view all of the fine pieces of art it houses.
The Frist Art Museum isn’t just about viewing art. It also offers summer art camps, adult workshops, lectures, and other interesting activities. There’s something for everyone at this fantastic museum. The museum cafe even has a kid-friendly menu.
Okay, here’s the caveat about the cost. The Frist Art Museum is free for those who are 18 and under. Adults have to pay to enter (adulting stinks). The museum does, however, occasionally offer free family days.
Check out this short video on the Frist Art Museum to learn more about it:
19. Live Music at the Bluebird Cafe
You can’t visit Nashville without hearing some live music (this is another local law that is strictly enforced). And, there’s no better place to do it than at the Bluebird Cafe.
This relatively small 90-seat venue is a great place to hear local artists perform songs they have written. You may have even seen it depicted in the ABC hit drama, Nashville. Depending on the artists performing, different styles of music are represented including country, rock, pop, contemporary Christian, and others.
It’s important to keep in mind that Nashville is filled with very talented performers, and most of them are trying to break into the music industry. In other words, although the musicians you will be listening to at the Bluebird probably won’t be famous, that doesn’t mean they will be amateurs, either. If you spend an evening at the Bluebird, you can expect some high-quality entertainment.
Many famous musicians have performed at this famous venue including Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Vince Gill, and others.
As you can imagine, a lot of people want to listen to live music at this iconic venue. Because of the demand, you will have to make a reservation in advance.
Many of the performances don’t have cover charges, although you may be required to make a minimum food and beverage purchase. This is a cafe, after all, and they make their money by selling food and drinks. And since you have to eat anyway, you may as well show up with an empty stomach.
Check out this short video on the Bluebird Cafe to see why it’s such a special place:
20. The Tennessee Agricultural Museum
Located on the grounds of the Ellington Agricultural Center is the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, which is inside of a renovated horse barn from the 1920s.
This great museum, which is completely free, is home to many historical farm artifacts. Just a few of the things you’ll see include a Jumbo steam engine, wagons, a blacksmith shop, various woodworking and textiles tools, and others. The museum also contains many historical photos of rural farm life in Tennessee. And if you’re a tractor fan, you’ll want to check out the Strasser Experience Center, which houses several vintage tractors.
In addition to the museum, the grounds also include a farmhouse, several log cabins from the 1800s, a replica of a one-room schoolhouse, and a nature trail to explore.
Check out this short video on the Tennessee Agricultural Museum to learn more about it:
21. Fort Negley Civil War Fortification
Nashville has a rich Civil War history, and several significant battles were fought in the area including the Battle of Stones River, the Battle of Nashville, and the Battle of Franklin. Although there is a lot of local Civil War history to explore, Fort Negley is something you need to check out if you are a Civil War buff.
Fort Negley is a large star-shaped stone block structure that was built in Nashville by Union troops after they captured the city. What makes this a must-see is the fact that it is the largest inland fort that was built anywhere in the United States during the war.
Although Fort Negley had been neglected for many years, an effort to restore and preserve the historic fortification began in the early 2000s. It’s important to point out that the site has not been restored to its original condition. Rather, efforts have been made to preserve much of the existing structure while restoring other parts.
A state-of-the-art visitors center awaits you when you arrive at this historic attraction. It contains several interactive exhibits and videos that document the surrender of Nashville and the building of the fort in 1862.
You can take a free self-guided tour to check out the fort, and there is educational signage along the paths that document everything. If you want, you can also take your leashed dog for a walk around the area. And because Fort Negley was built on top of a hill, it’s also a great place to view Nashville.
Check out this short video learn more about the history of Fort Negley:
22. Warner Parks
Nashville is filled with amazing parks. Two parks that are worth checking out are Edwin Warner Park and Percy Warner Park. Together, the two parks are commonly known as the Warner Parks.
The Warner Parks are among the largest parks in the state of Tennessee. Combined, they total nearly 3,200 acres. And like all of Nashville’s parks, they are pure eye candy – they are absolutely gorgeous.
These parks are filled with fun and adventure. There is a great Nature Center to check out, 12 miles of hiking and mountain bike trails to explore, horse trails, picnic shelters, and other things of interest.
The Warner Park Nature Center alone is worth the visit. It includes a natural history museum, a library, an organic garden with a greenhouse, a wildflower garden, a fern garden, a barn, beehives, and – perhaps most importantly – public restrooms.
The Warner Parks are also home to many historic landmarks. Just a few examples including a mid-1800s spring house that was previously used to keep perishable goods such as milk, butter, and vegetables, 10 historic cemeteries, an old limestone quarry, a World War I memorial, and other landmarks of interest.
The Warner Parks are a great place to spend a couple of hours or you can plan for an all-day visit. It just depends on your schedule and what you would like to see and do.
Check out this short video of the Warner Parks to learn more about this beautiful recreational area:
23. The Tennessee State Capitol Building
Tennessee’s state capitol building is a beautiful government building located in downtown Nashville. It was originally built in 1859 and is one of the oldest capitol buildings in the nation. Worth noting is the fact that the tombs of President James K. Polk and his wife are buried in the capitol building’s grounds.
Why should you tour the Tennessee State Capitol? Aren’t state capitol buildings boring?
Well, this one is packed with historical significance. It served as a Union fort during the Civil War and its Greek Revival architecture is considered to be among the finest in the nation. The building is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. It’s worth your time to visit this historic landmark.
Free guided tours of the building are offered Monday through Friday at various times. If you have a group of ten or more, you do need to make a reservation before your arrival.
Although it is free to tour the building, you will most likely have to pay to park your vehicle in either a paid lot or along the street by feeding a parking meter.
Check out this short video to learn more about this beautiful historic state capitol building:
24. The Honky Tonk Highway
We’ve already covered Nashville’s downtown area in a general way, but there’s one section in particular that I want to highlight – the Honky Tonk Highway.
The Honky Tonk Highway is located on Lower Broadway. And, as the name suggests, it’s a series of honky-tonks that have free live music you can enjoy every single night.
First, what exactly is a honky-tonk?
A honky-tonk is a bar that also has live entertainment. And since this is Music City we’re talking about, the live entertainment typically consists of live bands performing. Each honky-tonk essentially has its own little party going on – and you’re invited to come and check it out.
Most of the establishments along the Honky Tonk Highway welcome families during the day time. However, after 8 or 9 at night, you must be 21 to enter.
The truly great thing about the Honky Tonk Highway is that there’s never a cover charge to see any of the live performances. The establishments primarily make their money by selling food and drinks. The music is always live, and the band members make their money from the tips you leave.
The best time to visit one of these establishments really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to check them out when it’s not as crowded, the daytime is the best time to do it. However, if you’re looking for more of a party atmosphere, then arriving late at night is best. You could even check each establishment out during the day and then choose one to come back to later at night.
Just a few of the establishments you’ll find along the Honky Tonk Highway include AJ’s Good Time Bar, Honky Tonk Central, Ole Red Nashville, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, and Whiskey Bent Saloon.
Check out this short video to see what the Honky Tonk Highway is all about:
25. The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
What’s so great about a bridge?
Well, this isn’t just any pedestrian bridge. It’s not just a bridge you can use to get from one place to another. This popular bridge is its own attraction. It’s an iconic Nashville landmark.
The John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge crosses the Cumberland River and connects LP Field to 2nd Avenue. And, at 3,150 feet, it’s one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world. It’s a very popular place for viewing the river or a special event. It’s also fun just to walk back and forth across it.
Due to the bridge’s architecture, historical significance, and aesthetic design, it is included in the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge has been refurbished to preserve it for future enjoyment, and it now includes an elevator, ramps, and stairways.
Don’t forget to check out the bridge at night since it is dramatically and beautifully lit.
Check out this short video to see why this pedestrian bridge is so popular:
26. The Music City Walk of Fame
Another area in downtown Nashville that I want to highlight is the Music City Walk of Fame. This is another must-see attraction.
The Music City Walk of Fame is a walkway that honors those who have made significant contributions to the music industry. Every musician who is honored on the walkway has a large stainless steel star in the sidewalk. In many ways, it’s very similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, except it’s for musicians.
Although most people associate Nashville with country music, the Walk of Fame honors musicians of many different musical genres who have made contributions to Music City.
The Music City Walk of Fame is open 24 hours a day and is completely free. As you stroll along, look for stars of your favorite musicians and take pictures. And if you happen to visit during a rare induction ceremony, you’re in for a special treat!
The Music City Walk of Fame is located between the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Bridgestone Arena, and the Shermerhorn Symphony Center.
Check out this short video to learn more about the Music City Walk of Fame:
27. The CMA Music Festival
The CMA Music Festival is a popular event each year that is hosted by the Country Music Association. During the festival (which is four days long), there are many concerts held in various locations in the downtown area.
Over 400 musicians attend the event each year, and many of them hold “meet-and-greet” sessions where you can get a chance to have your picture taken with them and maybe even score an autograph.
While there is a main stage show that you do have to buy tickets for, many of the other concerts are completely free to attend. Most performances are between 10 am and 4:30 pm.
28. Shakespeare in the Park
Are you a fan of the performing arts? If so, you really should check out live performances of the Bard of Avon’s works in Shakespeare in the Park. The annual event coincides with the annual Nashville Shakespeare Festival each summer.
It’s completely free to attend, although a $10 donation is suggested.
Check out this short video to learn more about Nashville’s Shakespeare in the Park:
29. The Tennessee Titans
Are you a fan of professional football? If so, you might enjoy watching the Tennessee Titans completely for free.
How is this possible?
Well, you won’t be able to see one of their games for free, but it’s definitely possible to watch one of their open practices without spending any money. It may even be possible to score some autographs.
The Tennessee Titans practice in late July and early August at Saint Thomas Sports Park. Check their website for practice times and details.
30. Dyer Observatory Open House
Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory is a great place to check out the heavenly realms at night. But during the day you can check out the observatory for free during one of their open houses.
You can arrive and depart any time during open house days, but if you want a guided tour of the facility by an actual astronomer (and why wouldn’t you?), then you’ll have to make a reservation.
You can check out the observatory’s telescope during a tour. And, if the weather is agreeable, you will then go outside to see the Star Chamber, sundial garden, and you also get to see the Sun through a solar telescope.
Check out this short video to learn more about the Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory:
31. The Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators is Tennessee’s professional hockey league. And, like the Tennessee Titans, you can watch them practice completely for free.
Practice sessions are held at the Centennial Sportsplex and are free and open to the public. Be sure to check their website for times and dates of practices.
32. Musician’s Corner
Another great place to hear some free live music is Musician’s Corner. Hey, this is Music City, remember? Music is part of the DNA here.
Musician’s Corner performances are held during the warmer months in Centennial Park. The musicians that perform are usually not well-known, but some are definitely on their way up. The quality of the performances is usually top-notch.
If you decide to attend one of these free events, be sure to bring either a blanket or a folding chair to sit on. For performance dates, be sure to check the Musician’s Corner website.
Check out this short video to see what Musician’s Corner is all about:
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33. Cannonsburgh Village
Located about a 30-minute drive to the south of Nashville is Cannonsburgh Village in the city of Murfreesboro.
Cannonsburgh Village is a reproduction of an 1800s village. It is meant to be representative of early Tennessee life from the 1830s to the 1930s. The village contains a schoolhouse, gristmill, wedding chapel, doctor’s office, general store, blacksmith’s shop, and other interesting structures.
Self-guided tours are completely free, but it’s best to call ahead to make sure it’s going to be open since the attraction is occasionally rented for events.
The Cannonsburgh Village is ideal to combine with a trip to the Stone’s River Civil War Battlefield since they are both located in the Murfreesboro area.
Check out this short video to learn more about Cannonsburgh Village:
34. Tour the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion
If you are a history buff, something you may enjoy is to take a free historical tour of the Tennessee governor’s mansion to learn all about its history. The tours are only offered on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (people actually live here, after all), and you do need to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance.
Tours last approximately an hour and a half where you will get to see the first floor of the home, the underground meeting area, and the grounds.
The tour season is mid-March through mid-November. Tours can be scheduled on the Tennessee State Government website.
Check out this short video to learn more about the Tennessee Governor’s Mansion:
35. The Nashville Arcade
No Donkey Kong here, sorry.
When most think of arcades, they think of places where there are a lot of video games. But did you know that the word arcade used to have a completely different meaning?
Arcades are forerunners to today’s modern shopping malls. Asheville, North Carolina, for example, has a fine example of a historic arcade containing shops and restaurants.
Nashville has one, too.
Built in 1902, the historic Nashville Arcade was the first indoor shopping complex in Nashville. It is a two-story indoor mall that was modeled after a shopping center in Italy and contains nearly 20 shops and restaurants as well as galleries and other businesses.
The Nashville Arcade is fun to walk through to get a taste of what it was like to go shopping a hundred years ago.
Check out this short video to learn more about the Nashville Arcade:
Free Things to Do in Nashville for Families — Final Thoughts
Who says you have to spend a lot of money to have a great time in Nashville? You don’t if you’re smart about it and plan ahead. As this list shows, there are many free things to do in Nashville this weekend or any day of the week that don’t cost a dime.
One thing you might consider doing if you are visiting Music City is to mix it up a bit. You could check out a few things that have admission fees and also include some of the free things on this list. That way you could keep your overall tab low and still have an enjoyable visit.
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