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21 Nashville Tips (A Local’s Insider Secrets)

Looking for the top Nashville tips to make your trip the best it can be? Then you’ve come to the right place!

The city, which is best known for its legendary music scene, is full of delicious cuisine, trendy shops, world-class museums, and beautiful outdoor stations. But there are some things you should know before you go that aren’t super obvious from the outside looking in.

As a Nashville local, I’m here to dish all the tips you need to know to get the most out of your Nashville itinerary.

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21 Travel Tips for Nashville

Listen to the Local Radio Station

Hand-painted posters of different artists outside Grimey’s
Grimey’s, one of Nashville’s record stores

Most of us make our own playlists when traveling, but in Nashville, it’s worth listening to a local radio station. Lightning 100 (110.1 FM) is the city’s longest-running independent radio station, and they make an effort to showcase up-and-coming local artists. 

If you’re in Nashville for the music, then listening to Lightning 100 is a great way to discover amazing new artists. Also, because the station is local, you’ll hear about events going on in Nashville while you’re here. You can listen on the actual radio station or you can use a smart device to listen to the broadcast instead. 

The station also hosts the free Live on the Green Music Festival each year which is one of my favorite things to do in Nashville on a budget.  

Book a Tour of Nashville

Exterior view of the trolley of Old Town Trolley Tours at night
Old Town Trolley Evening Tour

If your time in Nashville is limited, then taking a tour is one of the best ways to see a lot in a short period. Different tours focus on different aspects of Music City. Bus or trolley tours are especially nice because you’re able to see attractions in Nashville without having to navigate through busy streets or find parking at each location. 

For music lovers, this evening trolley tour is a fun way to see the city and get the scoop on Nashville’s music scene. I learned about sites I didn’t even know existed.

Decide How to Get Around Nashville

Aerial view of the busy streets of downtown Nashville
Streets of Downtown Nashville (photo: Anne Elle / Shutterstock) 

There are multiple ways to get around Nashville. While I generally suggest renting a car because Nashville’s public transportation system is not fully developed yet, the best way to get around really depends on what you want to do in Nashville. 

If you plan to mostly stay downtown, you might save money by walking and taking the occasional rideshare rather than renting a car in Nashville.

If you want to visit other neighborhoods in Nashville or take a day trip from Nashville, you’ll need a car.

👉 Bonus Tip: Compare different rental car prices using Discover Cars to get the best deal for a car while in Nashville.

Don’t Get a Parking Ticket

A sculpture of red and pink roses at The Frist Art Museum
The Frist Art Museum, one of the best Nashville museums

Some areas in Nashville don’t have much parking, especially in the more popular tourist areas. If you park illegally, then your chances are getting a parking ticket are pretty high. 

In Downtown Nashville, you can usually find a paid parking spot at Music City Center. You might possibly find other smaller lots closer to your destination. There are also some metered parking spots. 

In other neighborhoods, you’ll find a few paid lots or you may be able to snag free street parking if you’re lucky.

Make Reservations for Dinner

The author Elizabeth Demolat sitting inside the restaurant of Peninsula
Me enjoying our dinner reservation at Peninsula 

On weekends, the best dinner restaurants in Nashville fill up quickly. If there’s a particular place you want to try out, then make reservations in advance to make sure you get a seat. 

Not every restaurant takes reservations, but having reservations for at least one meal will let you get delicious food without having to wait in line.

Listen to Live Music

Crowd listening to the live band at Marathon Music Works
Live Music at Marathon Music Works

When you come to Music City, you can’t skip out on the music scene. If you don’t like country music, there’s still plenty for you to listen to. Artists of all genres regularly perform at different music venues in Nashville. You’ll find shows by everyone from up-and-coming musicians to international stars. 

The honky tonks on Broadway have live music all night with no cover charge, and there are lots of great music venues in Nashville you can visit as well. Even if you aren’t a huge music fan, it’s worth looking to see if there are any free music events happening while you’re in Nashville.

Plan Out Your Activities in Advance

Façade and landscape view of The Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame (photo: f11photo / Shutterstock)

From the Country Music Hall of Fame to the Grand Ole Opry and the Johnny Cash Museum, there are so many great things to do in Nashville. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options. 

Pick out one or two must-dos for each day, and then plan the rest of your day based on what’s nearby and in that neighborhood in Nashville. You’ll have more fun if you aren’t trying to race around town to fit everything in during a short visit to Nashville.

Protect Your Trip with Travel Insurance

Blue and white themed store at 12 South of Nashville
One of the stores on 12 South

Chances are, nothing will go wrong during your Nashville trip. However, we’ve all had worldwide events change our plans within the past few years. Plus, in Nashville, there’s always the possibility that severe weather will ruin your trip. It doesn’t happen all the time, but we do see the occasional tornado, flood, or snowstorm.

Travel insurance can be useful just in case something throws off your plans. You can easily compare quotes in minutes at VisitorsCoverage.

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Check the Weather Forecast

Ice cream with sprinkles on top in Retro Sno
Retro Sno is one of Nashville’s best summer food trucks

One great thing about Nashville is that we get to experience all four seasons. One not-so-great thing is that the weather doesn’t always follow the calendar. It is generally hot in the summer and cold in the winter. But, the weather can randomly go from highs in the 70s to lows in the 20s within a day or two (or vice versa).  

When packing for your visit to Nashville, check the weather forecast to ensure you’re bringing the right clothes. It’s a good idea to bring layers in case the weather is hotter or colder than you expected.

Know the City Shuts Down on Snow Days

The author Elizabeth Demolat standing outside in the snowy weather while holding a coffee cup
Me walking around Nashville on one of the few snowy days

Nashville is a southern city, but we still get snow during the winter sometimes. Because it doesn’t happen consistently, people in Nashville aren’t as used to driving in the snow. Snowplows usually clear the main streets, but you’ll have to be patient. Some places close rather than encouraging employees to drive depending on the road conditions. 

I love how cozy the city feels on snow days, but depending on when you visit Nashville, it will probably affect your sightseeing plans. Snowfall is more common in January and February when fewer visitors typically come to Nashville. However, snow is possible any time from November to April.

Book Your Accommodations Before Your Trip

A retro-themed interior at the lobby of the Graduate Hotel
The lobby at the Graduate Hotel

Music City is quickly becoming an increasingly popular travel destination. Several years ago it would have been fine to wait until the last minute to book a hotel in Nashville, but I wouldn’t advise trying that now. 

If there’s a big event happening in Nashville, which is frequent, the more affordable hotels book fast.

Want a unique hotel (with a Dolly Parton themed bar)? Check out my review of the Graduate Nashville. It’s definitely one of those “only in Nashville” places to stay.

My #1 Nashville Hotel
Need a Hotel? Check out Graduate Nashville!

A Dolly Parton themed bar, a unique pink decor, and Southern touches galore mean you'll get the iconic Nashville experience. It's #1 on my ranking of hotels in Nashville.

Check Price on Booking My Review

Explore Neighborhoods Outside Downtown Nashville

Panoramic view of  Nashville’s Parthenon in Centennial Park across the water
Nashville’s Parthenon in Centennial Park

Downtown Nashville is full of popular sites worth visiting like the Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Walk of Fame, but every neighborhood in Nashville has its own unique character. 

If you’re looking for music and nightlife, spend time in Midtown where you’ll find bars and clubs featuring local artists. For a more peaceful vibe, head to West End where you’ll find attractions like Centennial Park. For a fun, quirky atmosphere, go to East Nashville where you’ll find cool Nashville coffee shops.

Visit a Few of Nashville’s Free Attractions

Exterior view of The Tennessee State Museum from the pathway leading to the entrance
The Tennessee State Museum

Doing Nashville on a budget is tricky, but not impossible. Hotels and food in Nashville can get easily get pricy, but you can save money by trying out some of Nashville’s free activities. The Tennessee State Museum and the Tennessee State Capitol Building are both great places you can visit for free. 

One of my favorite free things to do in Nashville is to find beautiful murals located all around the city. Some of the best ones are located in East Nashville and on 12 South. A few of the most well-known murals are located Downtown, but you often have to wait in line to take photos with those.

Spend Time Outdoors

View of the pathway in Shelby Bottoms Greenway
Shelby Bottoms Greenway

Whether you came to Nashville for country music or for historic landmarks, make sure to spend at least a little time outdoors. The landscape in Tennessee is incredibly beautiful, and there are lots of hikes near Nashville

If you’re more interested in paddling than hiking, then you can rent a canoe or kayak and paddle down the Cumberland River or the Harpeth River. 

Don’t Pack Cowboy Boots or Hats

Exterior view of the big architecture of Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium, one of Nashville’s biggest attractions

Nashville may be best known for country music, but most people don’t wear cowboy boots or hats around the city. If you routinely wear those items, then continue wearing whatever makes you most comfortable. For everyone else, boots and hats take up way too much suitcase space. Plus, boots are hot in the summer and can make your feet sore if you aren’t used to wearing them.

When putting together your Nashville packing list, know that most people in the city tend to dress casually. However, you won’t look out of place in a dressier outfit or a bold outfit if that’s your style.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Exterior view of the Five Daughters Bakery in 12 South
Five Daughters Bakery in 12 South, one of the best walkable areas in Nashville

Nashville is not the most walkable city, but you’ll still be on your feet a lot on your trip to Nashville. Expect to walk any time you’re Downtown. It’s difficult to walk from one neighborhood to another, but several of Nashville’s neighborhoods have walkable areas.

High heels are fine if you’re just going to dinner. During the day, though, you’re better off in comfortable shoes. Tennis shoes or other support shoes are a good idea. In the summer, sturdy sandals are a great option when it’s hot outside as you explore Music City.

Pay Attention to Rush Hour

Cars in traffic during the rush hour in downtown Nashville
(photo: Josiah True / Shutterstock)

There are cities that have worse rush hour traffic than Nashville, but the afternoon traffic here can slow down your route from one neighborhood to another. Try to avoid switching neighborhoods between 4 pm to 6 pm on weekdays if you can. 

The traffic will usually only add an extra few minutes to your drive. But if there’s been an accident, you might be stuck on the road for much longer. 

Go for Drinks during Happy Hour

A smoothie with a slice of cucumber on the rim of the glass

Nashville can get pricey, but one of the best ways to save a little money is to try out Nashville’s coolest spots during happy hour. It’s the perfect way to experience more of the top spots without spending quite as much. 

Many restaurants offer their most popular appetizers and dishes for a reduced price during happy hour as well.

Keep Your Phone Charged

A dreamy interior of tiffany blue bar stools, hung pastel balloons, and tussles in The Milkshake Bar in Nashville
The Milkshake Bar at L&L Marketplace

You’ll need your phone for all kinds of things while in Nashville from taking photos to using GPS. Several restaurants use QR codes instead of paper menus, and a few places have you use your phone to order while at the table. 

The last thing you want is for your phone to die while you’re trying to find your way back to the hotel in the evening. I bring a power bank with me when I take a trip, so I can charge my phone while on the go.

Expect Some Places to be Cashless

A plate of currywurst at the Bavarian Bierhaus
The currywurst at the Bavarian Bierhaus

While most places take cash in Nashville, there are some places where you’ll need a card. Some restaurants, cafes, venues, and shops only take cards or other cashless options. 

Nissan Stadium, in particular, does not accept cards. They do have stations where you can convert cash into gift cards you can use throughout the stadium.

Bring a Clear Bag if You’re Going to a Show

View inside the Nissan Stadium with people getting ready for an evening show
Waiting for a show at Nissan Stadium

If you regularly go to sporting events or concerts, then you probably know that you can only take clear bags into venues. When you get tickets, check the information at your venue to see what kind of bag you can bring. 

Every time I’m in line for a show at Nissan Stadium or Bridgestone Arena, there’s always someone who doesn’t have an approved bag and has to get out of line to bring their bags back to the car.

👉 Don’t Forget to Pack: This stadium-approved bag is my favorite for bringing to venues. It’s just big enough to hold everything you need.

Nashville Tips FAQs

What do I need to know before going to Nashville?

Before going to Nashville, know that you should be prepared for a range of weather. Some days the weather is wildly different from the previous day. Pack layers so you’re ready for these fluctuations.

What is the number one thing to do in Nashville?

Going to the Grand Ole Opry House is the number one thing to do in Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry is the longest-running broadcast in the world.

How do I get the best out of Nashville?

To make the best of your trip to Nashville, pick out a few attractions you absolutely have to see. There’s a lot to do in the city, and it’s impossible to do everything. Group your activities together by neighborhood to cut down on time spent traveling between locations.

What is the funnest thing to do in Nashville?

Going to a show at the Ryman Auditorium is one of the most fun things to do in Nashville. The converted tabernacle is an incredibly intimate music venue. Many artists are excited about getting the chance to perform on this legendary stage, and it’s a special experience for both the artists and the audience.

👉 Read Next: 25 Fun Facts About Nashville


Thanks for reading these travel tips for Nashville! As you are planning your trip, be sure to check out our guide to where to stay in Nashville.

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