Nashville overflows with award-winning dishes, more than enough talent to earn the moniker “Music City” and historic locations with just the right amount of spook to sell a spirit story—or sell you a spirit. It should come as no surprise then, that countless tours have popped up, providing an inside (or riverside) look at just about any part of the city one would want to see.
Picture a walking tour and a group trudging behind a guide, cameras in hand, may flash to mind. When participating in one of the classic or custom excursions offered by Nashville History on Tour, travelers will want to have their cameras ready, but they won’t drag their feet. Created by a local historian, Nashville History on Tour provides a fascinating look back in time through 30-plus upscale tours. Its Woman’s Suffrage Tour pulls back the curtain to reveal how the right to vote was won, and its Nashville Civil Rights and Sit in Tour illustrates the important part Nashville played in the Civil Rights Movement. These walking tours are private and by appointment only, ensuring an in-depth experience that’ll make the two hours fly by.
Your required helmet may impede the wind whipping through your hair as you weave past well-known locales, but there’s still something special about experiencing Nashville in the open air. That’s where iRide Nashville comes in, offering adventurous tourists the chance to reach places many vehicle-bound tour groups can’t access. Riders receive Segway training, then take off on one of three guided tours. A standout, the Downtown Tour Experience is a two-hour, 5-mile tour that introduces riders to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Fort Nashborough and the ever-popular Nashville Farmers’ Market, among others.
If cruising on a Segway isn’t your style, step off the streets and see the skyline in a whole new way. Local magazine Nashville Scene dubbed River Queen Voyages’ Skyline kayak tour “Best View of the City,” and those who ditch pounding the pavement for gazing out over a paddle will have to agree. The one-and-a-half-hour route covers 3 miles of the Cumberland River and can be completed with only your four-legged friend onboard (as long as they’re wearing a life jacket), or with friends, led by a guide. Urban dwellers can easily tag along with their nature-loving travel companions, as no experience is necessary and the kayak, paddle, life jacket, kayaking and safety demonstrations and shuttle service are provided.
Sans song, nothing Nashville-related is complete. Which is why SongBird Tours, branding itself “part tour bus and part intimate music club,” puts a rotating lineup of well-known, Nashville-based songwriters front and center stage. Transport yourself to the back of a dimly lit, melody-filled bar by bringing your own alcoholic beverage to sip on as live music swells in the bus and seemingly floats out to meet the music-related sites passing in the windows. Riders may recognize the tunes on the two-hour tour, as many of the various songwriters’ works have been belted out by famous performers and topped the charts.
While indulging your senses, follow your taste buds through historic Germantown or the Gulch District on one of the Local Tastes of Nashville tours. Whichever you choose, you’ll enjoy dishes from five to six restaurants and specialty shops on a two-and-a-half-hour tour. During the Historic Germantown Food Tour, mouths will water as tour-goers meander through the Nashville Farmers’ Market and out into Nashville’s original neighborhood, dining on Southern barbecue and decadent homemade sweets. Starting at the stately Union Station Hotel, The Gulch & Union Station tour is equally appealing, featuring everything from pimento cheese to biscuit donuts served with blueberry compote.
BY GOLF CART
Grab your friends and climb aboard one of JoyRide’s golf carts for a two-hour Bar Golf Crawl. The game spans five local bars, where how much you drink depends on how well you putt—it can’t hurt to brush up on your stroke before you book. JoyRide has something for every traveler’s taste. In addition to its Bar Golf Crawl, it offers a sightseeing tour, featuring more than 35 locations; a Mural and Instagram Tour sure to spice up your profile; and a Jacked Up Monster Truck Cowboy tour with red, white and blue splashed across its cab.
Just because daylight dwindles into darkness doesn’t mean the Nashville tour experience has to end. Enthusiasts of the paranormal jump at the opportunity to tag along on a Haunted Tavern Tour, led by Nashville Ghost Tours. Not only does the tour show the city in a different light, but it’s also a chance to spend more time in downtown bars, pubs and taverns and, of course, hear harrowing stories of hauntings. Those who need liquid courage (to participate in haunted trivia) can imbibe in spirits at each stop on this two-and-a-half-hour tour.
Travelers with a bucket list have every incentive to hop on, and off, and on again while riding the open-air Old Town Trolley, which boasts 15 stops and more than 100 points of interest. Those who want to ride through without budging from their seat can experience a nearly two-hour, live narrated tour. Savvy travelers can learn all they need to know, then ride the loop again stopping at sites they want to explore in more detail. Be sure to get off at the George Jones Museum and Madame Tussauds, as an Old Town Trolley ticket purchase includes free admission to these attractions.
Whether you follow your guide downriver, into a local hangout or back in time, you’re sure to head home having discovered yet another reason to follow your heart back to Nashville.