Start your visit with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Not only will you experience the evolution and growth of one of the fastest-growing music genres, but you’ll also see how country music has influenced so many other genres of music and why Nashville is the epicenter of the country music industry. Instead of looking up for the stars, look across the street at the Music City Walk of Fame. This landmark pays tribute to those from all genres of music who have contributed to the world through song or other industry collaboration and made a significant contribution to the music industry with connection to Music City. From there, head up the street to The Parthenon at Centennial Park where you’ll find a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon. There you’ll learn why Nashville was called the “Athens of the South” before it was known as Music City.
Plan ahead and book tickets for shows at the Grand Ole Opry and the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman Auditorium was originally built as a tabernacle and was home to the Grand Ole Opry for 40 years. Located in the heart of downtown you can tour the building during the day and hear stories about musical legends who performed on the Ryman stage during its Opry era such as Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and even Elvis. Today, it hosts a diverse lineup of headliners throughout the year such as Mumford and Sons, Robert Plant, Grace Potter, Sara Bareilles, and more. The Grand Ole Opry moved to the Opry House in 1974 and proudly boasts to be “the show that made country music famous.” The Opry puts on three live shows a week in the same live radio format it's used for more than 90 years. In one show, you’ll hear a dozen performers, from country music greats to newcomers on the scene.
Another legendary music venue that a first-timer must experience is The Station Inn. Located in the Gulch, The Station Inn has brought great bluegrass, roots, and Americana music to millions of fans across the globe for more than 40 years. Many of the world’s most successful musicians have played at The Station Inn, including Bill Monroe, JT Gray, Alan Jackson, Dierks Bentley, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, and John Prine. If you haven't been part of a writers round before, then The Bluebird Cafe is something you can't miss. The Bluebird Cafe is one of the world's preeminent listening rooms that has gained worldwide recognition as a songwriter's performance space where the "heroes behind the hits" perform their own songs. The venue presents two shows a night, seven nights a week so there is always something new and returning visitors can enjoy.
Also, make sure to check out The Music of Nashville, a live show that takes the audience through 60 years of Music City's most memorable songs and the stories behind them. This performance will entertain and give you a new appreciation for the historical importance of Nashville to the world of music.
After you’ve hit some of the must-see attractions, head to one of Nashville’s neighborhoods for a taste of the local side of the city. Each neighborhood has a little bit of everything, but for the first-timer who wants to experience Nashville's culinary scene, neighborhoods like Midtown/Vanderbilt, Belmont/Hillsboro Village, Berry Hill, Downtown, The Gulch, The Nations, SoBro, Sylvan Park, Wedgewood-Houston, and West End/Elliston have great cafes, restaurants, and bars to discover.
In a city where creativity thrives, Nashville's neighborhoods are full of art, history, and music. Find art crawls, galleries, and learn about the history of Nashville in neighborhoods like 8th Avenue/Melrose, East Nashville, Donelson, and North Nashville.
The Music Scene in Nashville is as diverse as the songwriters and musicians who make up the community. Neighborhoods like Marathon Village, Music Row/Demonbreun/Edgehill, and Opryland/Music Valley are home to recording studios, record labels, live music venues, and more. Whatever you are looking to experience, you can find it in one of Nashville's neighborhoods.
Of course, any first-timer to Nashville has to check out Honky Tonk Highway on Lower Broadway. The neon lights and music streaming out onto the streets are often what people think of when they think of Nashville. Rows of honky tonks line the street and offer live music all day and night. There’s no cover charge, but don’t forget that the bands play for tips. If you’d like to experience other genres of music, you can hit one of more than 180 live music venues that fill the city. Check out our Guide to Free Live Music in Nashville for more.