Explore Nashville

10 Tips For Nashville First-Timers

Helpful hints on having the best Nashville experience

If you’re planning a trip to Nashville, prepare to enjoy incredible music, dining and sightseeing. But before you go, take a little time to learn the ins and outs of Music City so you can maximize your experience.

Here are 10 tips for travelers who have not yet danced down Honky Tonk Highway or heard the country twang on the Opry stage.

1. Get Around Easy …

Ride sharing services are your friend. As more people move to Nashville and visitors flock to the city, traffic continues to get worse—especially in the downtown core. Before you plan your visit, consider adding some money to your budget so you can use Uber or Lyft services or plan to hail a cab. During rush hour, you’ll be glad you’re hanging out with your travel buddies in the backseat instead of navigating bumper-to-bumper interstates.

2. But Miss The Bus

Use the bus system with caution. Many visitors to Nashville can be spotted wandering around a bus stop, trying to figure out the bus schedule. While Nashville has a city bus system, sometimes it runs slowly and delays are frequent. If you like to take advantage of public transportation when you travel, be prepared for a lot of walking and try to keep your schedule flexible. 

3. Eat Well

This is a food town. Nashville has gained a lot of press for its bursting food scene in recent years, so you’ve probably already heard about this. However, new restaurants are opening so fast that even locals can’t keep up. Do some research on the best coffee shops, barbecue, casual dining and fine dining and plan an itinerary that will allow you to taste the best Nashville has to offer.

4. And Taste Culture

Get a taste of other countries on Nolensville Road. Nashville has a growing immigrant population that has contributed to the city’s food scene. Along Nolensville Road you’ll find Thai, Mediterranean, Latin, Cuban, Indian, and other cuisines. For an especially unique cultural experience, visit Plaza Mariachi, a converted grocery store that houses shops, markets, restaurants, and more.

Musicians onstage in front of an audience
Catch live music at The Bluebird Cafe. (Courtesy The Bluebird Cafe)

5. Hear The Music

You should absolutely spend a night on Lower Broadway where you can hear country bands play covers of old and new hits at historic honky-tonk bars. That’s just part of the Nashville experience! But when you’ve had enough of country music, head to local venues to hear some local songwriters or bands. The Bluebird Cafe, The 5 Spot, and The High Watt are all great places to find local Nashville artists.

6. Get Outside

Nashville has plenty of gorgeous parks, hiking trails, walking paths and bike lanes within city limits. If you enjoy nature, consider renting a bike and riding along the Shelby Bottoms Greenway or taking a morning hike at Radnor Lake to see what the natural side of the city has to offer. There are even yoga classes on the front lawn of the Parthenon.

7. Shop Upscale

Up-market retail stores definitely have a presence in Nashville. Years ago, the main luxury shopping center of the city was at a mall in the busy Green Hill neighborhood. Now, nearly every neighborhood offers high-end stores selling housewares, apparel, footwear, accessories and more. Consider stopping in Draper James for women’s clothing, Wilder for home goods and Peter Nappi for shoes.

8. Find A Free Event

From spring to fall, there are free events and festivals happening pretty much every weekend. Check around an see if you can get in on a beer festival, concert series, craft show or cultural celebration.

Nasville Sounds on the field
The Nashville Sounds play at First Tennessee Park. (Courtesy The Nashville Sounds)

9. Catch A Game

Nashville has a minor league baseball team, the Nashville Sounds, and a new stadium near downtown. Tickets are relatively inexpensive, many of the food and beer offerings are local and you can catch a great view of the sunset during evening games.

10. Plan Ahead

Although Nashville is a popular tourist spot, the scene can be pretty quiet Sunday through Wednesday. If you’re visiting during the week, check restaurant and store closing times so you don’t miss out on an experience you were looking forward to.