If you had only one day to spend in Nashville, how would you spend it? As someone who has lived in Nashville, TN for the last seven years – I can assure you that I hear this question a LOT. As I’m planning my Nashville wedding, I know many of my out of town guests will be asking me this as well. So, I figured the best solution would be to put this guide together.
One of the things I love about Nashville is that there really is something for everyone here. Whether you’re an adventurer, a relaxer, a sports fanatic, a musician, or a history buff – there’s something for you here. No one who is visiting Nashville should ever wonder, “how am I going to kill time for a day?” Instead, you should be wondering, “how can I make the most of my time?”
Here’s your answer for:
- Sports Fans
- Adventure Seekers
- Fitness Buffs
- History Buffs
- Families/with kids
- Dog Owners
One Day in Nashville for Musicians
Everyone in Nashville is a musician. Well, maybe not everyone, but it can feel that way at times. If you’re a musician or a music nerd with a day to spend in Nashville, this itinerary is for you:
- Roll out of your hotel bed and get yourself to ANY number of homegrown coffee shops in Nashville. Try out Ugly Mugs in East Nashville, which is likely where 90% of the musicians live.
- If you enjoy music history, head over to the Musician’s Hall of Fame. It’s not just country, and there’s some cool stuff in there.
- Late morning/early afternoon is also a great time to check out the various record shops in Nashville. If you’re already in the East Nashville area, stop by Grimey’s for “new and pre-loved” music and books.
- For a late lunch, head to Rosepepper Cantina. Grab a margarita and your favorite Mexican dish.
- Next, you’re not going to want to miss a tour of Music Row. As a musician, you probably don’t want to sign up for one of the group tours. Instead, take a walk down 16th Avenue South. Take your time enjoying all the publishing houses and companies in front of you.
- If you’re ready for your next cup of coffee and/or a snack, Bongo Java is another musician’s friend.
- Finally, you’ll need to pick your show for the evening. If you’re a top-40 songwriter, the Bluebird Cafe is where you’re going to want to go. You’ll hear writers from top pop and country hits performing their songs acoustically. Be warned though, you’ll need tickets in advance and may have to wait outside at least an hour before the show to grab a good seat. If you’re more of an underground musician, The Basement is the place to be. If you’d rather get dressed up, the Nashville Symphony puts on a beautiful show at the Schermerhorn.
One Day in Nashville for Tourists
I know, technically, everyone is a tourist. However, this section is for you if you typically enjoy seeing the “big sights” that everyone talks about. You’ll know it’s you if you think you couldn’t go to Nashville without this interary:
- You’ll want to get an early start so you can check all the classics off your list! If you’re truly short on time, start your morning with a cup of coffee and a whole grain breakfast at the Frothy Monkey on 12 South, the coffee shop that has been known to have quite a few celebrity visitors (Taylor Swift, Jack White, John Mayer, etc.). If you have a bit more time to spare, make the hike out to the Loveless Cafe and try their famous biscuits (but truly, it’s a far drive, you can go there next time).
- Head downtown to wander around broadway. Duck into the various boot stores (and maybe buy yourself a pair of cowboy boots, just for fun). Check out the gift shops, and take pictures at the “Music City Walk of Fame.“
- Listen to a broadway band play country hits at Rippy’s honky tonk while you enjoy a pulled pork sandwich and a sweet tea (or a Jack and Coke, if you’re not driving).
- Now that you’ve sat down for a while, walk over to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Spend a few hours wandering around with your audio tour, taking in sights like original Johnny Cash lyric sheets and Carrie Underwood’s award show outfits. If you have time, their Studio B/Music Row tour is fantastic.
- Assuming the line isn’t too long for you, enjoy an original Nashville hot chicken sandwich at Hattie B’s.
- Relax for a few moments or head over to the Grand Ole Opry for a show (shows usually start at 7 PM).
One Day in Nashville for Foodies
Let’s be real, we’re all foodies. But for people who truly travel for the sake of tasting new foods and wines, and for people who savor their food and drink instead of shoveling fried chicken and sweet tea into their mouths between tourist trap visits, this is for you:
- You have a long day of eating ahead of you, so you’re going to want to start with a light breakfast at Cafe Intermezzo. A simple croissant with scrambled eggs or a bougie avocado toast (sprouted grain bread, fresh avocado, roasted tomatoes, burnt chile oil, eggs) is a great way to start your day.
- After your breakfast, take a three-minute walk to Bongo Java on 5th, and taste the freshly brewed coffee that all Nashvillians rave about. Whether you experiment with one of their seasonal signature drinks or enjoy a classic, you won’t be disappointed. Take your coffee to go so you can wander around downtown Nashville and walk off your breakfast.
- Especially if you’re visiting Nashville from outside the south, you can’t visit without tasting some barbecue. Now this food can be pretty heavy, so I’m going to take you over to 12 south. Head into Edly’s, the popular barbecue spot where you’re going to want to order small (or split a meal) to avoid a food coma. Their pulled pork sandwich is my favorite, and I usually order two sides: Mac n cheese and banana pudding (but I need a nap afterward). Everything at Edly’s is delicious, but since everything is fresh, they do sometimes run out of certain things (ribs are often the first to go).
- The reason I brought you to 12 South for lunch is that you’ll be able to walk around and explore different shops in between meals. You can even take a blanket and lay down for a while at Sevier Park, a small but beautiful park at the end of the road. Take your time, because there are three dessert options you’ll need to pick from before you head off to dinner. Choose from a thick, chewy, tasty cookie at Christie Cookie Co, a uniquely flavored popsicle from Las Paletas, or deliciously fresh (and also uniquely flavored) ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. You could also drop into Five Daughter’s Bakery for a donut, but I almost want to advise against it for the sake of the sugar coma that will follow.
- We’re going to have to take it easy for dinner after all of that food, no? My suggestion is the Barcelona Wine Bar. It has nothing to do with Nashville as a city, but everything to do with great food and wine. At night, this restaurant is dimly lit and doesn’t feel touristy at all. You don’t always need a reservation, but it may be a good idea to make one. The menu is full of Spanish and Latin tapas. Your server can help you select from various cheese and meat dishes that you may not have heard of. Make sure to select a great wine! Barcelona is a great choice for the end of a food-filled day because you can start with one small tapas order. They tend to come out pretty fast, so you can wait until you know you can handle it to order more.
- My guess would be that by the time you’re done at Barcelona, you’re ready for bed (and maybe a day of fasting). If you’re willing to stay out a little later, The Patterson House is the place to go for a cocktail. There can certainly be a long wait to get in on weekends, so plan accordingly for the weather.
- Honorable mention: If you can get a reservation, The Cat Bird Seat is the ULTIMATE foodie spot. At this experimental restaurant, you’ll be served as many as 13 courses based on what the chef feels like stirring up that night. Amazing.
One Day in Nashville for Sports Fans
Nashville wasn’t always a city for sports fans, but ever since the Predators advanced to the finals in 2017 and the Titans started pulling their weight, things have changed. Nashville even has a soccer team now, and the minor league baseball games (the Nashville Sounds) can actually be pretty fun. Of course, you’ll have to pick one game to catch according to the time of year you’re visiting, but what else will you do?
- Start with coffee and breakfast at Puckett’s downtown. Choose anything from simple biscuits and gravy to a hearty breakfast of fried chicken and apple jacks (as in flapjacks, not the cereal).
- After breakfast, wander around downtown for a while until you make it about halfway down broadway to Nashville Sporting Club. This bar is definitely a hot spot for day drinking. Before you drink, you may want to check out their ax-throwing section on the second floor. Then, head up to the rooftop for cornhole and great views of the city. If you get hungry again before you leave, they do have some tasty tots, chili, a burger, and some other cheap eats.
- At this point, it’s probably already time to pregame. If you’re in town for a Titans or Predators game, you’re in luck, because you won’t have to go very far. For a preds game, you’ll want to hang around broadway. Continue the day-drinking game or pop in and out of the boot stores, record store, and other Broadway gems. For a Titans game, you will have to trek across the pedestrian bridge to the stadium, which can take 20 minutes or longer if you’re drunk. Nissan stadium does have some tasty eats and plenty of places to buy beer, so there’s no reason not to show up early. The gates usually open two hours before kickoff (and remember, no large bags allowed). If you’re in town for a soccer game or a Sounds game, you will have to grab an uber (or drive, if you’re sober) over to the game. If you still have time, grab Hattie B’s fried chicken for dinner or head to the Diner downtown, where every floor has different cuisine available.
One Day in Nashville for Adventure Seekers
If you’re staying in the Nashville area and have a day to kill, but you prefer adventures out in nature over bar hopping, you may want to drive a bit outside of town.
- If you’re staying in central Nashville, start by driving out to Phat Bites. It’s probably one of the more unique dining establishments you’ll ever visit. They serve Bongo Java coffee, so you’ll get a taste of a Nashville favorite, but they also serve up delicious sandwiches, wraps, and breakfast items that will get you going. Every piece of furniture is mismatched, the walls are covered in murals, and there’s a bar hidden in the back for later. Phat Bites is about 15 minutes east of downtown.
- Another 75 miles east on I-40 (an hour and 20 minutes on a good day) is Cummins Falls – a beautiful piece of Tennessee. You may have seen photos of it before on Instagram, because it is truly a “local watering hole” and on any day there could be hundreds of people in the water and on the trails. Do check the weather and the state parks website before you go, because some dangerous weather patterns can result in closed trails or the falls themselves could be closed off. Bring lots of water, good hiking shoes, and water shoes to change into when you get to the falls (you may not want to walk on those rocks barefoot).
- When you’re done exploring the falls, you’ll probably be too hungry to make it back to Nashville. That’s not a problem, because even though the falls feel like the middle of nowhere, it’s actually in Cookeville, a town with hundreds of dining options. I recommend driving into the charming downtown area. Father Tom’s Pub is probably my favorite there, but when you’re all sweaty and tired, Crawdaddy’s may be best. If you need more coffee, Poet’s is the place to stop into before your drive home.
- My guess is you’ll be tired and not very hungry when you get back to Nashville, so I’d recommend relaxing at a brewery or bar where you can get some light snacks and reflect on your day. Fat Bottom Brewery is a great place to do that (and taste local beer).
One Day in Nashville for Fitness Buffs
Fitness buffs and people passionate about living a healthy lifestyle will probably be pleasantly surprised by Nashville. Though its image is typically represented by drunk women in cowboy boots, it also has a 23-mile greenway system and quite a few vegan and clean eating restaurants.
- If you like to start out with a good walk or run, there are plenty of places to start. It depends on where you’re staying. Percy Warner is a great park if you’re on the west side, while the Stones River Greenway trailhead is my favorite place to walk on the east side (note that the loop will take you all over Nashville, so eventually you’ll want to turn around).
- One of my favorite places for a healthy brunch is Fido on 21st Ave. I used to love walking there for a cup of coffee when I was in college. Aside from great (Bongo Java) coffee, they also serve breakfast burritos, vegan salads, multigrain avocado toast, and simpler items like a yogurt parfait.
- Next, there seems to ALWAYS be one yoga event or another in Nashville. I’d start by checking Facebook events. If that’s not your speed, I’d still recommend checking out Centennial Park (where many fitness events are held). You can have a picnic or lay on the lawn with a good book.
- At this point, you might need another quick pick-me-up. The good news is that Nashville is littered with juice. I’d recommend The Urban Juicer (closest location is near Fido, or you can head downtown).
- A fun afternoon adventure on a sunny day would be to head downtown to the Cumberland River for a city version of kayaking. You probably didn’t think you’d be kayaking through Nashville.
- For dinner, you have to go to The Wild Cow! There are a lot of great healthy restaurants in Nashville, but locals rave about this vegan hot spot.
One Day in Nashville for Partiers
Nashville became a party town around the same time that country music became pop. I hate to break it to you, but local Nashvillians don’t walk around in cowboy boots all day. I do see how that could be fun as a tourist, though. Here’s how (from a local perspective) I’d spend a day partying in Nashville:
- Start the morning with brunch at The Pub, a British bar in “The Gulch,” a trendy neighborhood just barely south of downtown. Have some Nashville hot chicken and waffles or a “Hangover Bowl” (eggs, biscuit, cheese, gravy, potatoes). They also have a huge bar menu, so it’s a great spot morning or night.
- Walk off your breakfast in The Gulch, where you can grab Starbucks fuel and pop into shops like Kittenish, a trendy, feminine apparel store owned by Jessie James Decker.
- I recommend heading downtown earlier in the day to avoid the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds (but if you’re cool with that, by all means – flip this itinerary). I’d start the bar crawl at one of the more popular bars like Tootsies, while the night is young. Listen to the bands play before the screaming crowds ruin it. Take your time, but be sure to stop into ACME. It’s my personal favorite broadway bar. It’s typically the cleanest and the bar lines aren’t usually too bad. Avoid any bar with a country star’s name in it. They tend to get rowdy.
- When downtown gets to be too much (but you’re not done drinking yet), switch over to midtown. It’ll be a quick 5-10 minute Uber ride. Try out Kung Fu Saloon, an arcade bar with private karaoke rooms, classic arcade games, and a beautiful front porch area complete with seesaws (which get wild after a few drinks).
One Day in Nashville for Hipsters
This one’s going to be hard to narrow down. They all are, but Nashville is a fantastic city for both hipsters and those who are hipsters by definition but refuse to go by that term. There are homegrown coffee shops with mismatched mugs, record shops, and underground music venues around every corner. One day can’t possibly be enough, but if that’s all you have, this itinerary is for you:
- Coffee shops like Bongo Java and Frothy Monkey aren’t underground anymore. They’re listed at the top of every tourism site and are crowded with college students. True hipsters will want to start their morning with a cup o’ joe at 8th and Roast. Why? It’s not the most underground coffee shop in Nashville by any means, but they only have two locations and their coffee is not served everywhere, like Bongo Java is. It’s one of the few shops that truly has their own brew and does not mass-market it (though thanks to COVID-19, you can buy their beans online now). It’s also one of the few places where you can get a perfect pour over!
- Spend some time record-store hopping. You’ll want to start at Grimey’s – another place that started out unknown, in a sketchier part of town, and turned into a city favorite (but don’t worry, it still feels very homegrown). The Groove is another great stop that is a little less “commercial” while still offering a great selection. If you prefer thrifty clothes over records and books, there are tons of stores to check out! Try This ‘n That or Southern Thrift.
- For lunch, what do you think about having fantastic, authentic tacos away from the tourists? If you’re already in East Nashville taking a peek at record stores, Mas Tacos Por Favor is the perfect place to stop for a quick bite.
- After lunch, you might enjoy heading downtown (hear me out) to rent a bike for a quick self-tour of the city. It’s an efficient and environmentally friendly way for you to see Nashville without having to get too involved with tourists! Click here to find out where you can rent a bike.
- For the evening, I would suggest first deciding if you’d rather catch an indie film at the Belcourt (a non-profit film center), or see a great band that nobody’s ever heard of play at Exit/In. If you’re in town at the right time, I’d suggest scrapping both of those things in favor of the “First Saturday Art Crawl,” where you can sip on free wine and wander in and out of Nashville art galleries. Where you go will determine where you want to have dinner. If you choose the Belcourt, stop at “Belcourt Taps,” right across the street. If you choose Exit/In, stop at Loser’s Bar and Grill.
One Day in Nashville for History Buffs
Nashville is hugely underrated for it’s walks through history. Granted, some of Nashville’s history is…questionable. But, I believe learning about even the harshest moments in history is the best way we can move forward as a society.
- As long as you’re prepared for a long day with a lot of driving, it’s worth it for any history buff to make the trek out to Loveless Cafe. The iconic restaurant started in 1951 and featured a motel. Today, they serve the best biscuits and preserves in town.
- Next, head over to Bicentennial Mall (towards downtown) where you can walk through the World War II memorial, view a 200-foot granite map of Tennessee, a history pathway, and more.
- You’ll probably be full from breakfast, but you might want to stop by Elliston’s Place Soda Shop, one of the oldest food establishments in town, before heading east of town. If you’re ok waiting, the next stop has food.
- Next, drive out to The Hermitage, in the town of, you guessed it, Hermitage. Though it’s still in Davidson County and only 15-20 minutes away from downtown, you might forget you’re in a modern city. The Hermitage was the plantation of President Andrew Jackson. Their tours are incredible and you could spend hours there if you wanted to (there’s another plantation you can see that is closer to the Loveless, called the Belle Meade Plantation, but I’d choose The Hermitage if I had to pick one).
- For dinner, you won’t want to miss Monell’s. The original is technically in Germantown, but if you’re at the Hermitage, you’ll want to visit the “Monell’s at the Manor” location. Monell’s at the Manor will make you feel like you never left the Hermitage. The Manor is inside the Colemere Mansion (built in 1898). The food is served family-style, so you’ll find yourself passing fried chicken or whatever is on the menu that night to strangers sitting at your table (unless you were lucky enough to score your own table). You will honestly feel like you stepped back into history while enjoying some of the greatest southern food you’ve ever had.
One Day in Nashville with Kids
Good news! Even though Nashville may be known for its Honky Tonks and pedal taverns, Music City has a lot to offer for families and kids.
- If you’re in on a weekday, head to the famous Pancake Pantry for an ample kids menu. If you’re there on a weekend, don’t wait in line for hours just to get pancakes. Head over to the Loveless Cafe instead, where there is delicious food for everyone and you can wonder around the cute shops while you wait. Sometimes, they even have sidewalk chalk and other things out for your kids to stay entertained while you wait – much better than standing in line for over an hour!
- Then, head out to the Nashville Zoo, which is quickly becoming one of the most beloved zoos in the country. They’ve recently added a monkey habitat, bears, and rhinos, and just opened a huge expansion to their tiger habitat. What’s great about this zoo is that the whole thing is basically one big loop, so you won’t miss anything. You can expect to spend between two and three hours there.
- If you don’t grab lunch while you’re at the zoo, head back towards the 12 South Edley’s BBQ location, where you can indulge in tasty southern barbecue and the kids can settle for grilled cheese, if they don’t love the tangy Nashville sauce. 12 South is also a great little neighborhood to wander around in, if you have the time and energy!
- If the kids don’t need a nap, head over to the Adventure Science Center, which is currently open until 6 on Saturdays. It’s an interactive science museum and planetarium (you can also skip the zoo in favor of this).
- Lastly, if you still need another meal before bed, run down to San Antonio Taco Company (SATCO) for a quick, casual plate of tacos that you can customize any way you want.
One Day in Nashville with a Dog
Being in the South, it seems like almost every Nashville resident has a dog (or at least every other). There are tons of stores and restaurants that welcome all dogs (not just service animals) as long as you follow their rules. It is perfectly plausible to spend a day or a weekend in Nashville with a dog without too much trouble.
However, if you are traveling with your dog and want to put him in day care while you experience Nashville, there are TONS of options for that as well.
- Start with breakfast at Fido at Hillsboro Village. Like any restaurant, you won’t be able to bring your Fido inside, but as long as you have someone with you who can go in and order, you’re set. You and your dog can sit in front of the restaurant and people watch while enjoying anything a simple as multi-grain avocado toast or as complex as a full breakfast scramble served with breakfast potatoes. Either way, you’ll love their coffee.
- Next, head out to the Stones River Greenway for a beautiful, wide, dog-friendly walking trail.
- For lunch, there’s nothing better than Daddy’s Dogs. Their flagship location in The Nations neighborhood is probably the most dog-friendly (most outdoor seating). You can place your order at the window too, so you don’t have to worry about trying to figure out how to order while not bringing your dog in a restaurant. You can even order a plain hot dog for your fur child!
- You’ll probably need to relax after your morning walk and your heavy lunch, so this is a great time to head over to Centennial Park (even better if you can grab a picnic blanket and a portable dog water bowl). Wander around and admire the foliage or sit down in front of the Parthenon replica and soak up some Nashville sun!
- At this point, if you’re willing to take another little drive, head out to the town of Franklin, TN, where many of the downtown shops are dog-friendly. Put Main St., Franklin, TN into your GPS and go. You can wander in and out of. the mom-and-pop shops, pick up some nice souvenirs, and then stop at any of the restaurants with patios when you’re ready for dinner. Mellow Mushroom is arguable the most dog-friendly, often offering water bowls for your dog(s).