When you think of Nashville, country music probably comes to mind. I’m not a country music fan unless you count a short stint during high school when I listened to the country music station to impress a boy I liked. When visiting Nashville recently, I decided to visit with an open mind, unsure if I would have a good time. I found it’s much more than honky-tonks.
Things To Do in Nashville (That Don’t Involve Country Music)
According to Christina Bennett, Consumer Travel Expert at Priceline, in 2024, major metropolitan areas will continue to attract attention, but there is a rising trend in the popularity of “second cities” as travelers seek new and exciting destinations. Nashville is one of those second, emerging cities, offering a variety of parks, a rich history, museums, luxury accommodations, music, and more.
There are many ways to experience this vibrant city beyond the stereotypical association with country music. From cultural experiences to outdoor adventures, there are things to do in Nashville that cater to a wide range of travelers.
All Kinds of Music
In Nashville, often referred to as Music City, the term Honky Tonk, as defined by The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp, refers to an establishment with at least one rockin’ stage, cold beverages, and live music throughout each day. Notice there’s no requirement for these venues to exclusively play country music. In addition to the city’s renowned country music scene, Nashville supports diverse musical experiences. My journey to Music City began with a 2-hour flight from Austin, where Gunhild Carling, a Swedish jazz singer, and multi-instrumentalist seated next to me, shared her purpose for heading to Nashville—to play at the Ryman with Postmodern Jukebox and record a jazz album.
Broadway, a bustling thoroughfare downtown, is home to Honky Tonk Highway, an entertainment district with free live music 365 days a year, from 10 am until 3 am. There are no cover charges, so visitors can use the money to tip world-class musicians. Contrary to the common expectation that only country music plays in honky tonks, walking along Broadway and popping into a few honky tonks, I heard heart-thumping, toe-tapping music from a variety of genres.
At Kid Rock’s honky tonk, a band played “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters, and further down the street, another band cranked out The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside”. A very talented band at Legend’s Corner played everything from The Cranberry’s “Zombie,” Black Crows’ “Hard to Handle,” and a rock version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” where a highly skilled electric guitar player shredded what would typically be the fiddle solo in that song.
In Nashville, not only is the music being played, but it’s also being created. Nashville is known as the songwriting capital of the world. Songwriters from all over the world flock to Nashville to learn and share their songwriting passions. The famous Bluebird Cafe is an intimate setting where songwriters perform their original music. Taylor Swift, along with Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, and more, all got their start at the Bluebird Cafe.
Food and Drinks
Nashville’s food and drinks scene has unique culinary flavors and experiences. The city has many award-winning chefs creating southern staples, creative takes on food from around the world, and delicious seasonal dishes and drinks. One iconic treat is the Goo Goo Cluster, created in 1912 in Nashville, a tasty combination of caramel, marshmallow nougat, fresh roasted peanuts, and milk chocolate. The downtown location offers classes with a little history lesson and the opportunity to make your own candy bar.
Speakeasies and Pop-up Bars
Many speakeasies throughout the city provide cozy, intimate lounges and temporary pop-up bars offer seasonal themes with special menu items. For the holiday season, Hotel Bobby created a camp-themed winter wonderland complete with cozy igloos, firepits, and a holiday lounge from a converted 1956 Greyhound Scenicruiser, all ten stories up, on the rooftop with panoramic views of Nashville. Under the stars, visitors can sample backyard bites, seasonal sweets, and winter-themed craft cocktails.
For a fun, nostalgic, and whimsical vibe, The Cocktail Factory pop-up at The Parlour Bar invites guests to step into a world of pure imagination Wonka-style with a golden gate, a life-size lollipop forest, and themed craft cocktails and treats like the “I Want It Now” cocktail or the “Candy is Dandy, Liquor is Quicker” coffee, tequila concoction served in an editable chocolate shot glass.
Parks and Nature
Nashville is a walkable city with many parks, open-air green spaces, and even indoor gardens that are enjoyable year-round. Centennial Park, across the street from Vanderbilt University, has 132 acres of gardens, sports courts, an exercise trail, a dog park, a full-size replica of the Parthenon, and a park bench dedicated to Taylor Swift for her “to read on.” On a sunny day in November, fall foliage lined the main walkway. There was a sand volleyball game, couples on picnic blankets, kids jogging the trail following the ducks in the pond, a young family playing Frisbee, and many happy dogs walking and running with their owners.
A year-round tropical paradise of nine acres and 50,000 tropical plants is tucked inside the Gaylord Opryland Resort. Towering palms and banana trees 60 feet above the atrium floor share space with thousands of smaller plants, creating a breathtaking horticultural wonderland. Guests can ride on the Delta Riverboat, winding down a scenic river through a 4.5-acre indoor garden.
In addition to the famous Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville has a diverse selection of museums. The National Museum of African American Music and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum offer interactive exhibits and memorabilia, providing insights into the rich history of various music genres and the lives of some of the most popular artists.
At the National Museum of African American Music, visitors can explore an animated timeline connecting American history to music, create playlists, take an interactive quiz to learn about their musical production style, sing with a gospel choir, and dance to songs through different musical eras. The Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum allows guests to sing, play instruments, record, and try their hand at DJing.
For other cultural experiences, visitors can appreciate international fine art at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville’s historic U.S. Post Office building. For a look at presidential history, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage has the country’s most accurately preserved early presidential home. Take a tour of the Ryman Auditorium, the world-renowned concert hall and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame landmark. Other options include the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, Lane Motor Museum, and the Tennessee Agricultural Museum.
Nashville has many luxury accommodations and activities for rest, relaxation, and award-winning hospitality. The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center offers “everything in one place” from award-winning diverse dining options, a full-service spa, on-site entertainment, SoundWaves – an upscale indoor/outdoor resort water attraction, shopping, and a year-round tropical atmosphere. Choose from one of the 2,888 spacious rooms perfect for relaxation. My Atrium View room had a quaint balcony overlooking the peaceful indoor gardens.
For the perfect blend of Southern charm and world-class luxury, the Four Seasons Nashville in downtown’s SoBro neighborhood offers unforgettable experiences and exceptional hospitality with utmost style and comfort. The five-star hotel ranks second place on Travel + Leisure‘s The 24 Best New Luxury City Hotels Around the World and is recognized by Esquire as one of The Best New Hotels in North America and Europe, and offers rooms with floor-to-ceiling views of the river, the city skyline, or the pool terrace. Each room has cloud-like beds, Lavazza espresso machines, Bluetooth speakers, all-natural luxury toiletries, and other amenities such as bedside charging stations and white noise sound machines.
This hotel is the optimal destination for those looking for a mix of live music, sports, and entertainment, all within a short walk. The sunset views from the rooftop pool are magnificent. For the ultimate music enthusiast, the Four Seasons Nashville offers a one-of-a-kind Gibson Guitar-themed experience and one-hour solo acoustic performances right in your suite by Nashville-based hit songwriters. With its excellent location, the hotel also hosts exciting parties and events. Robert Chinman, the Director of Communications and Public Relations at The Four Seasons Nashville, proudly shared that the hotel has thrown “#1 parties,” including a rooftop pool party sponsored by Codigo Tequila and a special tailgate for all Titans games.
Sports and Recreation
Sports fans will have plenty to keep them entertained as the city has four professional sports teams, several NCAA Division 1 programs, and notable events like the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the NFL Draft. Nashville also provides a diverse range of indoor and outdoor recreational activities. There are plenty of options to keep visitors active and healthy, from golf, archery, ziplining, axe throwing, and standup paddleboarding. The city also has state-of-the-art facilities for skateboarding, freestyle in-line skating, and BMX bike riding.
After strolling down Broadway immersed in a mix of musical genres, crafting my own food and music, eating and drinking fun, creative treats, and experiencing beautiful nature both indoors and outdoors, I saw that Nashville has more than just country music. I discovered my musical production style (that is not country), enjoyed an intimate songwriter performance, learned about the connection of American history to music, and relaxed in luxury hotels. Contrary to my initial perception, Nashville offers something special for all types of visitors, even if they don’t like country music.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Rachel K. Belkin, M.Ed is a journalist and syndicated freelance writer of travel, business, health, education, and local Austin, Texas events with publications in HuffPost, Hometalk, Matador Network, AP News, MSN.com, and her websites Rachel K. Belkin, Elkin Bay, and Probe the Globe.
Rachel loves to experience cultures, customs, foods, activities, and nature. She studied abroad in Spain, volunteered and studied in Costa Rica, and spent a summer in Israel as a volunteer English teacher at a kids' camp.
Rachel has over 15 years of experience in writing, social media marketing, digital content creation, and search engine optimization. She founded and sold a site, brand, and community centered around health, education, parenting, travel, and lifestyle topics.
Rachel is also an experienced public speaker and has been on TV segments for Fox 7 Austin, KXAN, and CBS Austin and is a professional speaker at conferences and networking meetings for business owners and cancer survivors.