Your ultimate guide to visiting Nashville

Downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
Get ready for a fun trip to Music City. Nina Dietzel/Getty Images

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky


Nashville, Tennessee: home of twangy country music and raucous honky-tonks, finger-licking-tasty fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits, historic buildings and idyllic college campuses.

The Southern city has given us some of the greatest entertainers – Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, and Billy Ray Cyrus, to name a few – and has continued to serve as a north star for modern-day musicians trying to make it big. In the aptly nicknamed Music City, you can’t go far without running into live music or a tribute to a dazzling luminary.

To help spread your wings, and perhaps introduce you to a few new favorites, we’re showcasing some of the best places to eat, stay, and explore while visiting Nashville.

What you need to know about getting to Nashville
Nashville International Airport
The Nashville International Airport (BNA) offers nonstop flights to and from several US cities. Travel_with_me / Shutterstock.com
Ready to start your adventure in Nashville? Get the ball rolling with a simple booking, whether it’s air travel or ground transportation. Keep reading for the best ways to arrive at Music City. 

Nashville International Airport (BNA)

If you’re more than a few hours’ drive from Nashville, you’ll want to fly in. On the southeastern side of town, Nashville International Airport (BNA) is the city’s primary airport. Because it’s a larger hub, you can fly nonstop from many cities across the US. In fact, flights are available to 75 nonstop locations, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and Phoenix. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have only one or two layovers when flying domestically.

Amtrak

Nashville doesn’t have an Amtrak station, so taking a train into town isn’t convenient, but it’s doable. The closest cities on the Amtrak route include Memphis, Tennessee, and Cincinnati. You can take Amtrak to either of these cities and drive the rest of the way. Memphis is a three-hour drive, while Cincinnati will take about four hours.

Driving

Of course, you can always drive into town. As the city is central in the US, 40% of the country’s population is no more than 600 miles (966km) from Nashville. And three major interstates (I-65, I-40, and I-24) intersect in Nashville, which makes driving a viable option if you’re not too far and are down for a road trip. As an alternative, you can take a bus into Nashville with Amtrak, Greyhound, or Megabus.

Once you arrive in Nashville, you have a few options for getting around town:

Ride-hailing services

Ubers and Lyfts are readily available in the city.

Public transportation

The city’s WeGo Public Transit system (which connects the airport to town) makes getting around Nashville easy. There are also taxis, but unless you’re downtown, they often need to be scheduled, instead of being flagged down.

Rental cars

Unless you plan to hunker down in one part of town, you’ll probably want to have your own car. A rental car is an excellent option if you want to move around freely without relying on ride-hailing or public transit.

Find the best accommodations for your visit to Nashville
The Graduate Hotel front desk, which is positioned in front a wall decorated with a colorful hook-rug portrait of Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl
At the Graduate hotel, you’re greeted by a Margaret Timbrell-created portrait of Grand Ole Opry star Minnie Pearl. Wendy Rose Gould for Insider
Nashville is defined by its numerous neighborhoods. Each has its own flavor, so no matter where you stay, we recommend exploring as much as you can. Here are some recommended accommodation options:

The Gallatin Hotel

Bright and cheery is the modus operandi at the Gallatin Hotel: The conciergeless boutique hotel in East Nashville donates the majority of its profits to those in need. It’s a sister hotel to The Russell, which is also mission-driven.

Virgin Hotels Nashville 

Yep, the conglomerate known for its communication services has a hotel. Minutes from downtown, the vibrant and trendy Virgin Hotels Nashville has sleek modern decor, a hoppin’ rooftop pool, and on-site dining and drinking.

Grand Hyatt Nashville 

A stay at the Grand Hyatt Nashville puts you right on Broadway, a central hub within walking distance to Lower Broadway, The Gulch, Midtown, and Music Row. It’s a sleek, elevated hotel featuring a rooftop bar, spa, and seven food and beverage experiences.

Graduate 

Stepping into the Graduate feels like walking into a whimsical wonderland. It’s decorated with vibrant tapestries and wallpapers, dripping chandeliers, and pop art. The Midtown hotel is also home to White Limozeen, the ultrapink Parton-inspired rooftop bar and pool, as well as Poindexter Coffee, a lobby-level café perfect for quick bites, studying, chatting, or working. 

The Hermitage Hotel 

If you’re heading into Nashville for a special occasion or simply have a mind to splurge, consider the Hermitage as your home base. Built over a century ago, this luxury hotel north of the Lower Broadway neighborhood is one of Tennessee’s treasures. In addition to spacious rooms with vintage furniture, it features a spa, on-site dining, and an air of upscale Southern charm. 

Thompson Hotel

You’ll find Thompson Hotel in The Gulch, an upscale neighborhood with loads of eateries and boutiques. This luxury hotel has a modern minimalist feel and offers floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking downtown Nashville. While you’re there, check out L.A. Jackson, a rooftop bar with sweeping views.

The Fairlane Hotel 

A boutique hotel in the North of Broadway neighborhood, the Fairlane Hotel is dripping with midcentury elegance. The velvet accent pillows, wood paneling, brass details, and terrazzo flooring will make you feel like you’re on a movie set.

Toying with the idea of staying in an Airbnb instead of a hotel? Check out our roundup of the Best Airbnbs in Nashville.

The best restaurants and must-try dining experiences in Nashville
A tablescape featuring biscuit, egg, and baked goods dishes.
Biscuit Love is among the standout Nashville eateries that serve mouthwatering biscuits, breakfast dishes, and more. Becca Wildsmith
Eating delicious food is an essential part of experiencing Nashville. Some of the best BBQ, biscuits, and fried-chicken spots are in Music City, so make sure to try a little bit of everything while you’re visiting. Here’s where to start:

Biscuit Love

For perhaps the fluffiest, most decadent biscuits you’ll have the privilege of devouring, look no further than Biscuit Love in The Gulch. From biscuits and gravy to biscuit benedict, you’ll be in buttery-biscuit heaven.

Edley’s Bar-B-Que 

With multiple locations throughout Nashville, Edley’s Bar-B-Que is the place to go if you’re craving authentic Nashville BBQ.

Cafe Roze 

East Nashville’s Cafe Roze is a petite, airy cafe on the ground floor of a quaint historic building. It offers a casual ambiance and a refined menu. Stop by if you’re looking for a cup of coffee, brunch, or late dinner.

The Yellow Porch 

When the weather’s right, a visit to The Yellow Porch in Berry Hill is the place to be. The casual restaurant offers seasonal fare with a Mediterranean influence.

Catbird Seat 

Midtown’s Catbird Seat is a bijou restaurant perfect for celebrating a special occasion or splurging for no particular reason. The intimate eatery, which serves American cuisine, features a U-shaped seating arrangement and accommodates only 23 people at a time. You’ll need to make your reservation at least a month in advance.

Grilled Cheeserie

An entire restaurant dedicated to grilled cheese? It’s as good as it sounds. These aren’t your typical grilled cheeses, though: Grilled Cheeserie‘s menu offers a fun assortment from “buffalo South” to “pizza melt” to a build-your-own option. Head over to the eatery in Hillsboro Village for a cheesy experience.

The Treehouse

Get your farm-to-table East Nashville experience at The Treehouse, an award-winning restaurant that specializes in seasonal offerings made with locally sourced ingredients. Grab one of their handcrafted cocktails while you’re there. 

Your go-to list of activities for a trip to Nashville
A band plays at the live music bar Layla’s Honky Tonk in Nashville.
One of the best spots to visit in Nashville is Layla’s Honky Tonk music bar where you’ll enjoy a lively atmosphere. Wendy Rose Gould for Insider
From large and small museums to honky-tonks, shows, and more, there’s no shortage of ways to spend your time in Nashville. Here’s a list of must-do activities in the city:

Ryman Auditorium

A visit to Nashville is not complete without dropping by the famed Ryman Auditorium, the historic and storied North of Broadway music venue where the Grand Ole Opry got its start. 

Grand Ole Opry

Few things say Nashville like an evening at the Grand Ole Opry. The radio show, which began in 1925, has found a new (and bigger) home in East Nashville, and it broadcasts routinely for a live audience.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum 

Get your fix of country-music knowledge at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in the South of Broadway area. You’ll get to learn more about all your favorite musicians and enjoy special exhibits.

Layla’s Honky Tonk

For an authentic honky-tonk experience (read: a place where the locals go), hit up Layla’s Honky Tonk downtown. You’re bound to catch some live music while enjoying cheap drinks and a lively atmosphere.

National Museum of African American Music

Visiting the National Museum of African American Music is a must when you come to Nashville. Preserving the legacy of music’s most remarkable luminaries, the museum offers a closer look into how Black artists influenced so many of the genres we know and love today.

Johnny Cash Museum

If you’re in the mood for a smaller music museum, swing by the Johnny Cash Museum in the South of Broadway area. It’ll take about 45 to 90 minutes to walk through as you enjoy the memorabilia, trivia, and more. The Patsy Cline Museum is on the floor above it. 

Nashville Haunted Pub Crawl 

Craving a spooky night and some good booze along the way? Try the Nashville Haunted Pub Crawl. It’s a great way to learn some ghostly stories, as well as more about the history of Nashville. You’ll meet in downtown Nashville and walk from one destination to the next.

Frist Art Museum

In the city’s historic US Post Office building, the Frist Art Museum is perhaps Nashville’s most notable art museum. It features rotating exhibitions from some of the most prestigious collections. The museum also hosts events, workshops, and lectures.

Belmont Mansion 

For a change of pace, consider dropping by the Belmont Mansion, which is on the idyllic Belmont University campus. The Italian-style villa was built in 1853 as a summer getaway for the very wealthy Acklen family and eventually became part of Belmont University.

Advisories to keep in mind while visiting Nashville
Memphis Tennessee
Don’t forget to read up on the latest health and weather advisories before visiting Nashville. Malcolm MacGregor/Getty Images
As is the case with traveling anywhere, you’ll want to be mindful of a few things before visiting Nashville. Keep these advisories top of mind as you plan your trip:

COVID-19 advisory

Nashville is considered “open” and not operating under capacity restrictions or curfews. Masks are required in all Metropolitan Government buildings and encouraged elsewhere, though every private business has its own policy regarding masks and proof of vaccination. Music City tourism is booming, so expect large crowds both inside and outside. For the most up-to-date information regarding coronavirus precautions and mandates in Nashville, check the Nashville Music City website.

Weather

While Nashville does have all four seasons, they tend to be a bit milder compared with other locales. You can expect hot and humid summers, cold and wet winters, and a pleasant spring and fall. Tornadoes are a threat in the early-to-mid spring.