Nashville is the perfect Southern city to enjoy on a tight budget
The seat of Country Music is overflowing with free concerts and opportunities to experience practically every genre of music and art. But there’s a lot more to Nashville than just its thriving and famed music scene. From urban day hikes to Civil War forts and sandy beaches, Nashville has plenty to do and explore without opening your wallet.
Want to enjoy and experience Nashville without spending a fortune? Here are a few suggestions you should take note!
1. Give Yourself a Free Tour
Feel like skipping traffic? I’d recommend it; rush hour in Nashville can be crazy and you’ll be contending with some of the worst drivers in the country. Skip out on the mess and see the city by bus instead. You can ride the Music City Circuit for free and see many of the different neighborhoods in Nashville without having to keep your eyes on the road.
2. Catch a Concert at the Frist Center
The music city has plenty of opportunities to enjoy music even if you’re on the budget tour. Every Thursday and Friday night from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts hosts free music concerts for the public. The musicians are Nashville university and college area faculty, professors, and students, and it’s a great way to see a different side of Nashville’s music industry and soak up some culture without spending a dime.
3. Visit the Bluebird Cafe
Opened over 30 years ago, Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe is where some of the city’s biggest stars got their start and is still known today as a place where musicians are constantly being discovered, from Garth Brooks in the 1980s to Taylor Swift 20+ years later. Some of the shows are free, while other nights are charged, but even if you can’t score a free concert you can still go and take a look around the building that has played such an impact in music history.
4. Visit the Parthenon
You don’t have to go all the way to Greece to see one of the most recognizable pieces of ancient architecture; Nashville’s Parthenon in the city’s Centennial Park is built to scale and is an exact replica of the famous original located across the globe. It was originally built just before the 20th century as part of the city’s Centennial Exposition, and now exists as an art museum. There is a price for admission inside, but you can wander around the building, climb the giant steps, and visit the park for free. It’s almost like visiting part of Greece without having to fork over money for a plane ticket.
5. Walk the Honky Tonk Highway
Nashville’s Broadway Historic District, aka the “Honky Tonk Highway”, is a great place to walk around at night for some of the city’s best nightlife. The streets are lined with musicians playing outside and in the bars that line the district, and you can aimlessly wander for hours soaking up music and people watching from the streets. There’s also plenty of shops to browse through. There are guards set up to enforce the 21 and over rule after 9:00 pm, so if you’re traveling with kids or younger than that you might need to show up a bit early to enjoy the sights.
6. Watch the Tennessee Titans
While a season game ticket to the Tennessee Titans will set you back quite a bit, you can still catch a glimpse of the action for free by attending the training camps. The team trains during the month of July, and nearly every morning you can watch the practices for free and even score a couple of autographs if you’re lucky.
7. Visit a Civil War Fort
You can visit the largest inland stone fort at Fort Negley, just a few minutes from Nashville's downtown district, and get to experience some of the city’s role in the Civil War and the history of Nashville, which was an important city even then. The fort was constructed in the beginning of the war by the Unions with slave labor and later used as a meeting place for the Klu Klux Klan. While it’s role in the Civil War is limited, it’s a great place to learn more about the city’s role in the Civil War, and you can easily give yourself a self guided tour for free. There’s plenty of exhibits and educational signs to help you along, as well as a fantastic vista of the Nashville skyline.
8. Listen to a Symphony Outdoors
During the summer months, the Nashville Symphony offers free concerts at parks and locations throughout the city. The program is called Symphony Under the Stars, and is a cheap way to enjoy some of the classics while soaking up some outdoor urban landscapes.
9. Take an Urban Hike at the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
Located in the heart of Nashville’s downtown and surrounded by the buildings that house Tennessee’s government, the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is a haven of almost 20 acres. Much like Washington DC’s Capitol Mall, there’s plenty of government buildings, memorials, fountains, and symbolic displays of the state. The entire park is lined with walking paths, and you can easily hike around while exploring the different walkways, maps, and WWII and Civil War memorials. There are plenty of free events held throughout the year at the park, and right next door is the Nashville Farmers Market, which is open year round and is a great place to extend your walk.
10. Tour the Grand Ole Opry Museum
Located right next to the Grand Ole Opry building, the museum is a great place to explore more of Nashville’s music history and see memorabilia from some of the most famous musicians of the last century. Admission is free and the museum is open to the public. It’s a great budget friendly alternative to the Country Music Hall of Fame, with plenty of displays to keep you entertained for several hours.
11. Visit the Tennessee State Museum
The Tennessee State Museum is a great place to learn not only about Nashville’s history, but Tennessee as well. There is no charge for admission, and you are welcome to browse through exhibits of some of the city’s best works of art, historical artifacts, and more unknown aspects of Tennessee life and culture. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, and offers several free programs and concerts throughout the year.
12. Watch the Dave Ramsey Show
Home to the third largest talk radio show in the nation with over 10 million listeners, Dave Ramsey’s radio show is much bigger than Nashville. His books have sold millions of copies, topped the New York Times Best Seller’s list multiple weeks in a row, and his class on financial peace has taken the country and world by storm. Visitors are welcome to watch the show for free, and you can sit in the lobby of Ramsey Solutions and watch Dave take calls, listen to the debt free screams, and even maybe find yourself on the radio’s TV channel as well. There’s free cookies and beverages to enjoy as well, handmade every morning by Dorothy in the bookstore, where you can browse Dave’s books and other materials.
13. Take a Class at the Warner Park Nature Center
There are a lot of exciting outdoor things to do and explore at Warner Park, including hiking trails, outdoor play areas, and even organic gardens. Admission to the park and the nature center is free, and the center often hosts classes and programs throughout the year that are free as well. You can learn about butterfly identification, watch the lunar eclipse, or take a hike and learn more about the fauna and horticulture in Tennessee. There’s plenty of activities and programs for kids as well as adults throughout the year and at various times throughout the day.
14. Visit the Opryland Hotel Gardens
You don’t have to leave Nashville to experience some tropical paradise scenery. Located in the very heart of Nashville, the Opryland Hotel Gardens boasts almost 10 acres of tropical landscapes, waterfalls, and lush gardens to explore. There’s no charge for admission, and you don’t have to be a guest of the hotel in order to enjoy the oasis in the midst of the city.
15. Enjoy Yoga in the Park
Throughout the summer, you can enjoy an hour long session of Yoga for free at Centennial Park. The classes are instructed by Yoga students, and it’s a great way to try Yoga if you’re new or just a bit rusty on the beginning poses. Unwind, relax, and have fun with others, all for free! The classes are held every Tuesday from 6:00 to 7:00 pm.
16. Have a Beach Day at Anderson Beach
Nashville may be miles inland from the ocean, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a beach day while visiting. Anderson Beach, located on Percy Priest Lake, is the perfect place to go swimming, enjoy a picnic, sunbathe, and build a sand castle. The water is almost always clear, and the beach is lined with perfect sand up and down the shoreline.
17. Walk an Art Crawl
Nashville’s Art Crawl is a great way to enjoy a variety of art and music without spending a dime. The Art Crawl is hosted the first Saturday of every month, and is located in the heart of the downtown district. You can usually score a couple of free snacks and drinks as well at some of the galleries to enjoy along the way as well. Admission is free, and a shuttle can help you navigate the crawl without dealing with traffic and parking.
18. Tour Cooter’s Museum and Store
The Dukes of Hazzard may be banned from TV reruns, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a show beloved by thousands across the country. Cooter’s Museum and Store, located in Nashville, hosts room after room of Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia, and you can even get a chance to sit in the General Lee yourself. The museum is owned and operated by one of the stars of the show, Ben Jones, and is free and open to the public throughout the year.
19. Watch an Outdoor Movie
There are plenty of places in Nashville to cuddle up under the stars and enjoy some of the film industry’s classics on screen. At 5:00 pm on Thursday nights throughout the month of June, you can enjoy outdoor movies and games for free at Elmington Park. On Wednesday nights in June, you can catch a family friendly flick at the amphitheater in Centennial Park as well. Every second Saturday of the month, you can enjoy an outdoor movie for free in the parking lot of Belcourt Movie Theater.
20. Visit the Flea Market
Nashville’s Flea Market is infamous, and regularly spotted as one of the top 10 across the nation. It’s easily the best in Tennessee, and you can enjoy hours of entertainment and people watching for free while browsing through the rows of vendors. The Flea Market is held every 4th weekend of the month at Nashville’s fairgrounds.
21. Take a Ride in a Glass Elevator
Think elevator rides are just cheesy jazz music and ugly carpeting? Think again and head to the Sheraton in downtown Nashville, where you can ride the gorgeous glass elevators almost 30 floors up and down. It’s a cheap and thrifty way to experience life in the glamorous side, and a fun quick adventure that won’t cost you a dime.
22. Join a Volleyball Game
Want to head outside and meet new people? Centennial Park hosts free pick up volleyball games where anyone of any skill level can join in on a game and play for free. Starting at 6:00 pm and lasting until the park closes, the games are divided by skill level, so even if your serve is a bit rusty you’ll still be able to enjoy the game and get some exercise.
23. Sip Wine for Free
You’ll have to pay to tour the Belle Meade Plantation, but you can sample some of the plantation’s wines for free at the Belle Meade Plantation Winery. Tastings of the winery’s samples are held every day of the week, and located only 6 miles outside of Nashville.
24. Visit Civil War Markers
Almost every corner in Nashville has a brown, historical marker or monument from the Civil War, giving you the chance to read about the city's role in the war and the history of the various spots around town. You can easily walk from one to the next and give yourself a free class on the Civil War and learn more about the war than you ever did in school, from battle sites to architectural anecdotes.
If you’re ready to explore Nashville for yourself, plan your trip, find budget friendly accommodations, and other free Nashville activities with Trekeffect!
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