Are you ready to head out and start exploring downtown Nashville attractions? Did you know that it’s possible to experience a lot of the downtown metropolis in just one day? Don’t be fooled though, Music City is more than just a ‘one day’ wonder and you will be ready to come back for more after taking time to explore everything this gorgeous city has to offer.
Nashville has become our go to spot for a weekend getaway. A short four hour drive makes this a perfect distance for us to take a weekend trip from Arkansas, either leaving after work on Friday or rising bright and early on Saturday. Despite all of our trips to Nashville, we have neglected to explore the downtown Nashville attractions and finally we decided that it was time to head on down to Broadway and see exactly what all the fuss is about!
Downtown Nashville Stereotype
I will be perfectly honest…I associated downtown Nashville with the home of the Ryman Theater and a bunch of country bars scattered along Broadway. Whether this is a stereotype that others follow or perhaps just an ignorant Brit, I don’t know but I will be the first to hold my hand up and say, “How wrong could I be!”
Ok, so yes downtown Nashville is home to the Ryman and yes there are a number of interesting looking bars (more of that later), but there is a lot more to explore than you may first notice. Hopefully this post will give you a brief insight into exactly what you should be on the lookout for during your next visit to Music City.
Nashville is a town that fosters creativity, and is a place where musicians have great respect
Thanks to Neil Portnow for this inspirational quote because this is so true! Once you have explored downtown Nashville, I am sure you will agree.
Here are the attractions we are going to take a look at in this guide, though as you begin to explore downtown Nashville for yourselves, perhaps you will add one or two more to this list (let us know if you do because we are always raring to head back to Music City to explore more!):
- Batman Inspired Skyline
- The Goo Goo Shop
- Schermerhorn Symphony Center
- Country Music Hall of Fame
- Customs House
- Printer’s Alley
The first two on this list are fairly generic but I think it’s a great way to begin exploring Nashville. Below is a map that will hopefully help you identify the locations of all these recommended attractions.
Batman Inspired Skyline
Although there are countless places to start your self-guided day tour of all the downtown Nashville attractions, I highly recommend taking a step back and viewing the gorgeous skyline that Music City has to offer. A great place to see the skyline is from across the Cumberland River beside LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.
If you are an early bird, you can park your vehicle by Cumberland Park and capture some amazing shots of the sun rising alongside the Nashville skyline. Of course Nashville has a fairly unique skyline because of one structure in particular – the AT&T building!
Ok, so AT&T may not mean much but when you hear the more commonly referenced name, ‘the Batman building’ many of you will know exactly what I am referring to. This colloquial reference is known among locals but of course word gets out and just peering into the sky at this gorgeous skyscraper…well you just can’t help but think of Batman with those two spires pointing out!
The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge offers a stunning viewpoint of Nashville and the Cumberland river. We walked about halfway along this bridge and peered across the river as we contemplated our game plan to explore the downtown area.
I will add that Sunday mornings are usually a great time to experience downtown Nashville, though our time here was disrupted a little given that the Music City triathlon was taking place! 7:30AM on Sunday morning and seeing thousands of swimmers fighting against the current upstream in the river…not exactly what we anticipated but it was entertaining to watch the competition.
After soaking in the beautiful scenery, you will be ready to head across the Cumberland river and explore. In hindsight, you may want to leave your car on the other side of the river and walk across the pedestrian bridge to explore all of what downtown has to offer.
We opted to drive downtown and were extremely fortunate to find a parking spot on the side of the road on Broadway. Parking is of course limited as with any downtown district, but there are a number of parking lots available for a small surcharge if you are not fortunate enough to find a spot along the road (metered parking is only Monday-Saturday, so Sunday’s are free!)
Nashville, man. That’s the place to be
Broadway epitomizes everything that makes Nashville ‘the place to be’. Willie Geist may have spoke the above words, but I’m sure many of us are thinking the exact same thoughts.
Walking along this sacred street where many of the world’s all-time musicians have strolled is a memorable experience. Just off Broadway is the Ryman Auditorium, home of the original Grand Ole Opry between 1943 and 1974. Imagine watching the country legends performing live on stage at the Opry and then taking a walk along Broadway before heading inside Ernest Tubbs’ Record Shop for a ‘Midnite Jamboree’.
Now what about these country bars and clubs we all hear about. Welcome to Honky Tonk Highway! Names such as Tootsie’s, Legends Corner and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn are popular spots along Broadway offering a wide variety of beverages and of course live country music.
I would highly recommend popping in to one or more of these bars because you never know who you may see in here. Legends such as Kris Kristofferson and Dierks Bentley have been seen plying their trade in these spots before their careers blossomed.
One other awesome place you have to visit is Mike’s Ice Cream shop which is located on the heart of Broadway. The butterscotch shake was amazing and Heather tried the banana shake which equally as good.
With a wide variety of flavors to choose from, this is a great spot to cool off before exploring more of downtown Nashville.
The Goo Goo Shop
If you haven’t already experienced enough sweet delights after sampling Mike’s Ice Cream, head across the street and down 3rd Avenue to find the home of the infamous Goo Goo Cluster.
The Goo Goo Shop is located across from the Johnny Cash Museum, so there is plenty to see along this street.
We succumbed to the temptation of buying Goo Goo clusters and if you have never tried them, where have you been! A delicious concoction of marshmallow nougat, caramel, and roasted peanuts covered in milk chocolate is what you will be tempted by. They are well worth the price and we bought a box of twelve for $16.99.
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
It’s time to burn some of those calories after sampling ice cream and chocolate delights, so head on down 3rd Avenue after leaving the Goo Goo Shop and you will come across one of Nashville’s gorgeous, ornate buildings – the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. This symphony center is a relatively new construction, and although we were only able to capture a glimpse of the exterior, that was enough to imagine how beautiful this is inside.
The Harmony Fountain captured our attention as we wandered around the Nashville Symphony and is a delightful accompaniment to the center. If you are interested in impressive architectural buildings, I have to say that this is one of my favorite designs throughout the city so be sure to check it out.
To put the location of the Schermerhorn into perspective, this is directly accessible from the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge so perhaps this is the perfect starting point for your day tour of downtown Nashville attractions!
Country Music Hall of Fame
A short walk from the Schermerhorn takes you to the iconic Country Music Hall of Fame, and what an impressive building it is! I have heard stories about the Hall of Fame but I was in awe when I saw the magnitude and size of this place. Initially I thought this was probably the Nashville Convention Center but I soon realized that this was the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The design of the Hall of Fame is modern and with a distinctive look that makes this a building you will never forget. But you may be asking, what exactly is the purpose of the Country Music Hall of Fame? I asked this very same question so I had to find out the answer.
Essentially it is THE place that all country musicians strive to be inducted into. It is a way of recognizing notable key figures in the world of country music. In addition, it serves as a location to educate audiences on the evolution of country music, of course with Nashville being the heart of this tradition.
Looking for a building with a lot of history and character? Look no further than the Customs House that is also located on Broadway. Leaving the Country Music Hall of Fame, head back towards Broadway and after walking past the Bridgestone Arena you should be familiar with your surroundings. Take a left on Broadway and after a short incline (less than a 5 minute walk), the Customs House is located on the left and what a gorgeous attraction this is.
I decided to keep this separate from Broadway because I want to emphasize the beauty of this building and encourage you to see this for yourself. This building is a typical example of Victorian Gothic architecture and the intricate details are clearly visible throughout the exterior, from the design of the lancet windows to the entrance with triple arches.
But in my opinion the key aspect of this building is the gorgeous, ornate clock tower that stands proudly looking down on Broadway.
Once the home of the local publishing industry, Printer’s Alley in Nashville is a quintessential narrow street that typifies the local entertainment and dining scene.
It may not be the easiest alley to find in downtown Nashville, but after passing by the Ryman Auditorium on 5th Avenue, keep walking until you reach Commerce Street and you won’t be able to miss the sign advertising Printer’s Alley.
I may be a little biased here given that this alley is home to the Fleet Street pub (don’t you just love the sign advertising this restaurant/bar with the London Underground feel to it!) but walking along here during the day offers a perfect opportunity to scope out some hidden spots possibly worth returning to at night when it’s a little more lively.
Printer’s Alley is a street with real character, so be sure to keep this on your list of must-see attractions while walking around downtown Nashville.
Downtown Nashville is more than just the country music stereotype many of us are accustomed with.
Nashville, Tennessee moves beyond its country roots and embraces a new, multifaceted role as one of our country’s leading arts-and-entertainment cities
When featuring Nashville in the American Way magazine, the author depicted Music City has moving away from ‘its country roots’ and after experiencing everything downtown Nashville has to offer, it is fairly obvious this city is now a haven for a variety of dimensions.
The beauty of downtown Nashville is that everything is so easily accessible on foot. You don’t have to worry about hiking miles and miles to see all of the key attractions, and you don’t even need to think about finding the nearest public transportation station. The downtown metropolis is designed to be seen on foot and I hope this guide introduces a few of the ‘not to be missed’ spots along the way.