5 Things to Do in Nashville When You've Had Your Fill of Country Music

There's way more to Music City than just music

You know there must be a pretty strong influence of the noted kind when the city you're visiting is called Music City.

In Nashville, music pops up at every turn—at a live taping of the Grand Ole Opry, inside the colorful honky-tonks on Broadway, within the collections at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Heck, duos, trios and full-on bands often hosie corners of local boutiques, entertaining shoppers browsing antiques or Italian-made leather goods.

And, yet, Nashville is also full of many wonderful things that remain completely separate from music. In this spirit, we present five must-do attractions for when you want a change of beat.

Frist Center for the Visual Arts

With its colored marble, cast-iron grillwork and 1930s Art-Deco flair, this former U.S. Post Office building is as remarkably imaginative in its own appearance as the art its galleries exhibit. Nashville's de facto art museum doesn't actually have a permanent collection. Instead, curators present an ever-changing lineup of outstanding traveling exhibitions that run the gamut from early Soviet photography to midcentury Italian automobiles to experimental contemporary multimedia artists. The Frist's Martin ArtQuest Gallery offers creativity goals to which more museums should aspire: Kids and adults alike can spend hours at 30 hands-on stations to try their talents at printing, painting and the like. A once-per-week (Saturday at 4:30 pm), free architecture tour sheds light on the construction of the historic landmark.

Kids (and adults) just want to have fun at the Frist's ArtQuest Gallery


Andrew Jackson's Hermitage

Located a little ways (around 20 minutes) outside Downtown Nashville, one needs a rental car or an Uber in order to venture out to the seventh President's sprawling former family home. The posh mansion and gorgeous gardens get visitors excited at first sight, so much so one almost overlooks well-stocked exhibitions detailing the exploits of this controversial Southern soldier (at age 13), strategist and slaveholder bearing charisma and a fiery temper. Learn about Jackson's life in Tennessee before examining the thrice-remodeled abode, his wife's always-blooming one-acre garden, slave sites and outbuildings, and a small cemetery—all with the help of costumed interpreters. Like any historic place worth its weight, ghost stories and insider legends abound.

Andrew Jackson's Hermitage is a quick trip from downtown Nashville


The Parthenon

Who knew one can stumble into an ancient Grecian relic in the heart of Music City? Well, kind of. A full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon was recreated in plaster for Tennessee's 1897 Centennial Exposition and became so popular over the six months of the fair that it was left standing as the centerpiece of the newly formed Centennial Park until 1915, when the building started to disintegrate. By 1920, Nashville had committed to making the structure permanent. Main draws for the 21st century are twofold: galleries showing off relevant, regional art, and Alan LeQuire's rendition of Pheidias' lost "Athena Parthenos." The 42-foot, blue-eyed sculpture of the Greek goddess took LeQuire eight years to create and is a gilded vision inspiring awe in all that see her.

Alan LeQuire's Athena 42-foot statue inside Nashville's Parthenon


Nelson's Green Brier Distillery

Not only does Marathon Village offer up a number of splurge-worthy shopping diversions (e.g. The Bang Candy Company—think Belgian chocolate-dipped gourmet marshmallows—and Antique Archaeology of "American Pickers" fame), it's also home to two local whiskey distilleries. Nelson's Green Brier boasts an interesting 'founded–then lost–then found again' family history revitalized by Andy and Charlie Nelson in the decade leading up to 2014, when the distillery officially opened. Enthusiastic staff guide groups around the space and divulge the brand's entire story from its start more than a century ago. Connoisseurs savor tasting time at the horseshoe bar; signature booze includes Tennessee White Whiskey and Sherry Cask-Finished Bourbon.

Take a tour and taste some bourbon at Nelson's Green Brier Distillery


Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

Take in one of Music City's most iconic views as you hoof it around this long and thin, 19-acre greenspace that's also chockablock with historical elements (the park is meant to mark 200 years of statehood, after all). A star attraction is, well, the Court of Three Stars and its 50-column, 95-bell carillon that plays songs like "The Tennessee Waltz" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo." There are fountains, hiking trails, sculptures, and a direct view of the State Capitol. Park rangers lead free tours on Wednesdays.

The view of Tennessee's State Capitol from Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

Leigh Harrington
About the author

Leigh formerly served as the Boston editor for Where and was the br...