Founded in 1779, Nashville is the capital and most populous city of Tennessee. Located on the Cumberland River, right in the heart of the state, Nashville is a hub for culture and education. The city is home to several prestigious colleges and universities, which is why it is often referred to as the “Athens of the South”, and boasts a wide range of culturally-significant attractions.
The city, however, is perhaps best known for its association with music, particularly country music. In fact, the Tennessee capital goes by the moniker “Music City” and has been the home base for some of the world’s most famous musicians, including Steven Tyler, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson and Miley Cyrus, to name a few.
As one of the most exciting destinations in the United States, Nashville is visited by millions of tourists every year. The city also serves as the perfect starting point for those looking to explore and check out the rest of the state. On your trip to the Tennessee capital, you need to take note of this list of best attractions to visit in Nashville.
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You simply cannot call it a trip to Nashville without going to what is undoubtedly the most popular stage in all of the city – the Grand Ole Opry. Located in downtown Nashville, it started as a radio show in 1925 and hopped around different venues across the city before settling in its current home in the Grand Ole Opry House.
Today, the Grand Ole Opry is synonymous with country music. The stage has become the venue for weekly country music concerts. Past artists over the years have been Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Rascal Flatts and many more. If you can’t make it to the regularly-held concerts in the venue, opt to book a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry House instead to see where all the magic happens.
Arguably the most iconic landmark in the Tennessee capital, the Nashville Parthenon is a must-visit when in the city. Situated in Centennial Park, the 13-mile tall building is an impressively accurate replica of the original Parthenon in Athens and was erected in 1897 to commemorate the state’s centenary.
Originally made out of wood, it was rebuilt using cement and is now one of the most prominent structures in Nashville. Aside from being a landmark, the Parthenon also doubles as an art museum; the building is home to over 60 paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists.
If you’re looking to dive deeper into the history of Tennessee, then you should definitely plan a visit to the Tennessee State Museum. Located on the foot of Capitol Hill, the museum boasts over 60,000 square feet of exhibitions that display artifacts and other works related to the state’s history.
One of the highlights of the Tennessee State Museum is The Military Museum, a section that is dedicated to military conflicts and wars from the Spanish-American War to the Second World War. Other interesting features of the museum include a digital learning center, an interactive children’s gallery and a memorabilia store that sells handmade arts and crafts.
Country music is a massive part of Nashville’s culture and is probably the biggest reason behind the city’s popularity in the music industry. It only makes sense that you visit one of the biggest and most renowned institutions dedicated to this musical genre – the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Often referred to as the “Smithsonian of country music”, the museum is found in the heart of downtown Nashville and features exciting exhibitions throughout the year. Its main exhibit is Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, an interactive exhibit and tour that details the origins, traditions and stories of those who played a role in its formation.
If you want to get away from all the music-related attractions in the city, take a day off and visit the animals at Nashville Zoo. Established in 1996, the 200-acre zoo in Grassmere boasts nearly 2700 animals across 365 species, including Australian parrots, rare clouded leopards, elephants, Bengal tigers, toucans, kangaroos, red pandas and more.
These beautiful animals are housed in their own habitats reminiscent of their natural environments. In addition to the intriguing animals found here, the Nashville Zoo has other facilities such as a Jungle Gym area for children as well as in-house cafés where visitors can grab a bite after a long day of exploring.
About a 20-minute drive into the suburbs of Nashville will bring you to one of the loveliest and most historic spots in the city – the Belle Mead Plantation. Founded by John Harding in 1807, this historic plantation started out as a 250-acre property housing a single log cabin.
Over the years, it grew to around 5,400 acres and has since become one of Nashville’s most popular attractions and now houses a mansion, thoroughbred horse farm and other facilities. The property is also home to Nashville’s first-ever winery, which produces both Tennessee red and white wines. Guests of the Belle Meade Plantation have plenty of activity options, including historic tours, food and wine experiences and even outdoor adventures.
Situated around 10 miles east of downtown Nashville is The Hermitage, a historical museum and one of the most important attractions in Tennessee. Spanning over 1000 acres, the property served as the home of former United States president Andrew Jackson from 1804 until his death in 1845.
Although the mansion has undergone major restorations over the years, the majority of the features of the original home were retained, including the original wallpaper, furniture and family possessions. In 1960, The Hermitage was declared a National Historic Landmark and is now among the most prominent historic attractions in the city, attracting millions of visitors every year.
Another iconic Nashville landmark, the Ryman Auditorium is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music” and is a popular music venue in the city. From 1943 until 1974, the auditorium served as the home of the Grand Ole Opry and has hosted a wide variety of concerts of several famous musicians.
In 2001, the Ryman Auditorium was designated as a National Historic Landmark for its major contributions to the popularization of country music.