30 Free Things to Do in Nashville in 2023 (By a Local)
If you’re planning a trip to Nashville, then costs for accommodations, transportation, and food can get expensive. Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do in Nashville to help save your budget.
While in Music City, you can visit some of the best museums, enjoy Nashville’s sites, and even listen to live music all for free. I’m a Nashville local, and here are a few of the best things to do in Nashville without spending money!
Table of Contents
- Free Things to Do in Nashville
- Tennessee State Museum
- Tennessee State Capitol
- Nashville Murals
- Radnor Lake
- Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge
- First Saturday Art Crawl
- Explore the Neighborhoods
- Listen to Live Music
- Nashville Public Library
- Music City Walk of Fame
- Nashville Flea Market
- Gaylord Opryland Resort
- Fort Negley
- Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
- Tennessee Agricultural Museum
- Frist Art Museum Architecture Tour
- 21c Museum Hotel
- Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery
- Zeitgeist Gallery
- Fannie Mae Dees Park
- Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
- Centennial Park
- Shelby Bottoms Nature Center & Park
- Big Band Dance Series
- Live on the Green
- Musicians Corner
- WeHo Art Crawl
- Arrington Vineyards
- Nashville Shakespeare Festival
- Southern Festival of Books
- FAQs about Free Stuff to Do in Nashville
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Free Things to Do in Nashville
Tennessee State Museum
Take a walk through Tennessee’s rich history
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 741-2692 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1 am – 5 pm, closed Monday
There’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Tennessee State Museum. The collection at this free museum includes artifacts that span thousands of years.
You’ll see everything from a dugout canoe used by the First Peoples of Tennessee to the flight uniform worn by astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore. I visit the museum every few months to check out the new traveling exhibits on display.
Combining a visit to the Tennessee State Museum with lunch at the Nashville Farmers Market and a walk around the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park next door is the perfect afternoon in Nashville on a budget.
Tennessee State Capitol
Tour one of the oldest working capitols in the United States
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 360-4326 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 4 pm Monday – Friday
If you enjoy history, then take a tour of the Tennessee State Capitol. Built in 1859, it’s one of the few state capitols without a dome and one of the oldest state capitol buildings still in use. The capitol building is open for visitors to tour on weekdays. Join one of the guided tours available each hour or take a self-guided tour through the building.
The Capitol is located on a hill overlooking the city, so it’s a great vantage point for taking photos of the Nashville skyline. While on the grounds, you can also see the tombs of President and Mrs. James K. Polk.
Discover beautiful street art in Music City
It’s not surprising that a place known as Music City attracts all kinds of artists. Nashville is full of beautiful murals and street art. You can’t spend very long exploring the city without spotting at least of few murals.
12 South and East Nashville have the largest number of easily accessible murals, but you’ll find art all across the city. If you’re up for splurging, this guided tour will take you to several beautiful murals around the city to ensure you get your Instagram-worthy photos.
Hike one of the most popular local trails
📍 Google Maps | Website
Escape the hustle and bustle by driving 8 miles south of downtown to one of the most popular hiking trails near Nashville. The waterfront trail around Radnor Lake is a flat, easy hike. Hikers of all levels will enjoy watching the wildlife and trying to spot deer, turkeys, turtles, and other animals.
Radnor Lake is very popular with locals. Either arrive first thing in the morning or wait until the early birds have finished their hikes to find a parking spot.
Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge
Enjoy the views from this bridge connecting two of Nashville’s parks
The Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge is a new pedestrian bridge that connects Shelby Bottoms Park and Two Rivers Park, two of the best Nashville parks. The 745-foot-long bridge spans the Cumberland River and is a beautiful vantage point.
I’d suggest starting off at Two Rivers Park and walking toward Shelby Bottoms unless you’re prepared to dedicate your entire morning or afternoon to hiking. While you can go in the opposite direction, the main trail at Shelby Bottoms is much longer.
First Saturday Art Crawl
Enjoy a date night exploring Nashville’s downtown art galleries
🌐 Website | Hours: 5 pm – 8 pm
If you’re in Nashville on the first Saturday of the month, then check out First Saturday Art Crawl in downtown Nashville.
Every month, several galleries open to the public to host special exhibitions. Art lovers can enjoy the local and international artwork on display. Many of the art galleries offer free drinks along with refreshments, so check the website to see which art galleries are participating each month.
Explore the Neighborhoods
See the spots where the locals hang out
One of my favorite things about the city is that each Nashville neighborhood has its own distinct character and atmosphere. Most visitors tend to spend the majority of their trip downtown, but there’s more to Nashville than Broadway and country music cover bands.
You’ll find hidden gems in neighborhoods like East Nashville, 12 South, Wedgewood-Houston, the Nations, and Sylvan Park. Try out local Nashville coffee shops, browse vintage stores, or just spend the afternoon people-watching in a park.
Listen to Live Music
Discover Nashville’s talented artists
Nashville is full of great musicians. You’ll find free live music at venues across the city every day. Honky tonks on Broadway typically don’t have cover charges, and they always have live music.
Bars in the Gulch, on Printer’s Alley, in SoBro, and at other locations throughout the city also have live music. You’ll need to have some money for drinks or to drop into a tip jar, but it’s still a great way to listen to free live music.
The city also has events and festivals with free music throughout the year. Check to see what’s happening during your visit.
Nashville Public Library
Visit one of the most beautiful libraries in the country
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 862-5800 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm Monday – Friday, 9 am to 5 pm Saturday, 2 pm to 5 pm Sunday
Visiting the Nashville Public Library downtown is one of the best free things to do in Nashville. The main library branch has stunning architecture and houses multiple special collections. Make sure to visit the Civil Rights Room and the Votes for Women Room. The library also has a beautiful courtyard with a patio and a fountain.
The library is always worth a visit, and it’s one of the best things to do in Nashville with kids. In addition to books, the children’s section has play areas and there are lots of great children’s activities on the schedule.
Music City Walk of Fame
Search for your favorite artist at the Music City Walk of Fame Park
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (800) 657-6910 | Website
Located across from the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Music City Walk of Fame honors the city’s biggest musical talents. As you walk through the park, you’ll find stars for entertainers of all genres, not just country music. Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, and Dolly Parton are a few of the names here.
The park is small, but music fans will enjoy searching for their favorite artists. Expect to spend around 15-30 minutes here.
Nashville Flea Market
Shop for one-of-a-kind treasures
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 862-5016 | Website
On the fourth weekend of the month (except in December), the Nashville Flea Market takes place at the fairgrounds. From Friday through Saturday, over 2000 vendors set up shop. With so many different vendors, there’s something to catch everyone’s eye.
The Nashville Flea Market is considered one of the best flea markets in the country. Even though visiting the flea market is free, there is a possibility that you’ll end up finding a few treasures that you just have to have.
Gaylord Opryland Resort
Visit the resort’s impressive atrium
📍 Google Maps | Website
Staying at the Opryland Resort is an unforgettable experience, but you don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy its indoor gardens. The gardens are particularly beautiful around the holidays, but they’re worth visiting any time of the year.
If you want to splurge on a hotel in Nashville, staying at the Opryland Resort is a great option. The resort is right next to the Grand Ole Opry and is surrounded by plenty of other interesting attractions in Music Valley.
See the largest inland stone fort built during the Civil War
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 862-8470 | Website
Fort Negley is a stone fort built by the Union troops in 1862 after capturing Nashville during the Civil War. Today, visitors can learn about the site’s history through interactive and multi-media exhibits. There are also panels that allow guests to take self-guided walking tours.
Besides learning about Nashville’s role in the Civil War, visitors can also enjoy walking around Fort Negley. Leashed dogs are allowed and the pathways are paved. During the day, the site offers a great view of the city.
Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame
Discover Tennessee’s most famous figures in sports
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 242-4750 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm Tuesday – Saturday
Sports fans will want to make a stop by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in Bridgestone Arena. While this Nashville museum is small, it’s an interesting visit to learn more about Tennessee’s coaches, athletes, and other sports figures.
College basketball fans will especially enjoy getting to see the newest exhibit. It honors Pat Summit, the most successful women’s college basketball coach.
Tennessee Agricultural Museum
Learn about farm life for 19th and 20th-century farming families
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 837-5197 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 4 pm Monday – Friday
On the south side of Nashville, the Tennessee Agricultural Museum invites visitors to learn about the history of agriculture in the state.
Inside the self-guided museum, you’ll find farming tools and other objects used by farming families. Most of the artifacts date from the 19th and 20th centuries. There’s a section near the entrance with farm-related toys and books for children to enjoy.
Visitors can also explore the outdoor area surrounding the museum. There are historic cabins on-site, and during the growing season, you can take a look at the heirloom garden. When the weather is nice, you can walk the trail behind the cabins.
Frist Art Museum Architecture Tour
Take a tour of a stunning Art Deco building
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 244-3340 | Website
The Frist Art Museum is housed in an Art Deco building from the 1930s that was once the city’s main post office. Today the building has been converted into an art museum housing award-winning traveling exhibits. Once a week, the museum offers a free architecture tour where guests can learn more about how the historic building.
The museum is always free for visitors under the age of 18, and tickets for adults are reasonably priced as well.
21c Museum Hotel
Browse the contemporary art on display 24/7 at 21c Museum Hotel
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 610-6400 | Website
The 21c Museum Hotel is a contemporary art museum, hotel, and restaurant housed in the historic Gray & Dudley building in downtown. The art is open to all of the public, not just guests of the hotel.
21c Museum Hotel is typically one of the galleries included in the First Saturday Art Crawl, but art lovers will enjoy visiting during other times as well.
Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery
Enjoy the carefully curated art exhibits
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 322-9999 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 4 pm Tuesday – Friday, 1 – 5 pm Saturday and Sunday, Closed Mondays
The Vanderbilt Fine Arts Gallery is located in the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries on Vanderbilt’s campus. Over 8000 works of art are in the gallery’s collection, but only a small fraction of the collection is on display at a time.
The gallery shows three to four exhibitions each year. Anyone who enjoys art will enjoy the small, carefully curated exhibits at this hidden gem in Nashville.
Experience one of Nashville’s premier art galleries
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 256-4805 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Thursday – Saturday
Located in the Wedgewood-Housten neighborhood, Zeitgeist Gallery is one of the city’s best contemporary art galleries. You can get a feel for the local and regional art scene with the world-class exhibitions hosted by the gallery. Check the website to see what’s on display during your visit.
Fannie Mae Dees Park
See Nashville’s “Dragon Park”
For families, a visit to Fannie Mae Dees Park is one of the best free things to do in Nashville. This fun attraction is commonly called the “Dragon Park” thanks to the giant mosaic dragon located in the park.
If you’re traveling with kids, this is the perfect place to visit. Besides the giant dragon, there’s a playground and splash pad at the park.
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
Listen to the Carillon Bells at this downtown State Park
📍 Google Maps | Website
The Bicentennial Capitol Mall is an 11-acre park located just north of the Capitol building in downtown Nashville. One of the most popular attractions at the park is the Carillon bells. These bells ring every 15 minutes and play an entire song related to Tennessee at the top of every hour.
The park is managed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and events open to the public take place on a weekly basis. You can walk around on your own, or depending on when you visit, you may be able to take one of the free tours led by a park ranger.
Picnic and walk around the lake at a local park
📍 Google Maps | Website
The grounds of Centennial Park were used for Tennessee’s centennial exposition in 1897. After the exposition ended, the grounds and the full-scale replica of the Parthenon built for the exposition were preserved for the public. Today, Centennial Park is one of the most popular Nashville parks.
Locals and visitors enjoy the one-mile walking trail around Lake Watagua. The park is the perfect place for a picnic or to sit with a book on a sunny day. No Nashville itinerary is complete without a trip to Centennial Park.
Shelby Bottoms Nature Center & Park
Hike along the Cumberland River
📍 Google Maps | Website
If you want to get outdoors without leaving the city, check out Shelby Bottoms. Shelby Bottoms includes a Nature Center, a Park, and a Greenway located in East Nashville.
The Shelby Bottoms Greenway has more than 5 miles of paved pathways that are easily accessible for hiking, biking, running, and roller skating. There are also 5 miles of primitive pathways to explore. Check the map and make sure to visit the Hidden Pond. If you’re there at the right time, you may be able to spot beavers.
Big Band Dance Series
Dance the night away and enjoy free music by a live swing band
If you want to spend the evening dancing, then check out the Big Band Dance series. This event takes place on Saturday evenings in the summer at the Centennial Park event shelter. Each dance begins with a free 30-minute dance lesson, like waltz, foxtrot or other popular dance styles. Then, the live band plays for a couple of hours under the stars.
Pick up a meal from one of the food trucks and enjoy a date night in Nashville or bring the whole family for a memorable outing.
Live on the Green
Attend a free outdoor music festival in the heart of downtown
Local radio station Lightning 100 hosts Live on the Green each year. This free outdoor music festival takes place at Public Square Park in downtown Nashville.
Attendees can enjoy free live music by up-and-coming local artists as well as well-known artists from around the country. The event is a lot of fun, and it really showcases just why Nashville is known as Music City.
Listen to free music on weekends in Centennial Park
Musicians Corner is a series of free concerts that takes place in Nashville’s Centennial Park. The dates usually fall on Fridays and Saturdays in early summer and in the fall, and line-ups include everyone from local emerging artists to music legends.
You can bring your own food and drinks, but there are also food vendors on-site as well. Musicians Corner is one of the best ways to enjoy free live music in Nashville.
WeHo Art Crawl
Explore dozens of art galleries in Wedgewood-Houston
On the first Saturday of each month, art galleries in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood participate in the WeHo Art Crawl. The galleries are all within walking distance and have played a large role in developing Nashville’s art scene. Art lovers will definitely enjoy this event.
Listen to live jazz and bluegrass while sipping wine
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (615) 395-0102 | Website
Visiting Arrington Vineyards is one of my favorite day trips from Nashville any time of the year. During the warmer months, you can attend Music in the Vines on weekend afternoons. The vineyard hosts jazz and bluegrass groups who play free live music. Visitors are able to pack a picnic or buy food from food trucks and other on-site vendors.
Outside alcohol is not allowed. But you can always buy a glass of frose to enjoy during your outing.
Nashville Shakespeare Festival
See amazing performances of Shakespeare’s plays
For more than 30 years, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival has been bringing free performances of Shakespeare’s plays to the city.
The performances take place during late summer. Check the website to see if any shows are taking place during your visit. Whether you’re a frequent theatergoer or not, the festival is designed to be accessible to a wide audience.
Southern Festival of Books
Meet your favorite authors at this free event
Literature lovers will enjoy the Southern Festival of Books. The annual festival typically takes place in the fall. Hundreds of authors and others in the literary world are present for discussion panels, book signings, and other events. No matter what topic you’re interested in, there’s probably an author there discussing it.
You’d typically have to buy tickets to hear talks like this. The event is one of the best free things that happens in Nashville each year.
FAQs about Free Stuff to Do in Nashville
What is the number one thing to do in Nashville?
The best thing to do in Nashville is to visit the Ryman Auditorium. It’s one of the best music venues in the United States.
What museums are free in Nashville?
The Tennessee State Museum, the Tennessee Agricultural Museum, and the Tennessee Capitol Building are all open to the public for free. The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame frequently has free admission sponsored by different businesses and organizations.
What should I do with one day in Nashville?
If you only have one day in Nashville, make sure to visit the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry. These are two of the attractions that makes Nashville Tenneessee unique.
What is there to do in Nashville that’s not a bar?
If you don’t want to go to a bar in Nashville, you have a lot of options. Nashville has great music venues, beautiful parks, and plenty of good restaurants. You can also visit the city’s museums or spend time shopping at vintage stores and record stores.
Thanks for reading my guide to the best free things to do in Nasvhille! Need more local recommendations for your trip to Nashville? See my full list of things to do in Nashville. And if you’re hungry, see my guide to the best restaurants in Nashville.
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