Take in beauty of all kinds at the Cheekwood estate, home to a botanical garden, art museum, and the stately Cheekwood mansion. Featuring numerous styles of gardens from a serene Japanese garden to a literary garden used for poetry readings, the 55-acre grounds are an excellent place to enjoy all four(ish) seasons of Tennessee. You’d be hard pressed to find a more beautiful place in all of Nashville than Cheekwood in the spring, when over 100,000 tulips spring from the earth in a resplendent display. The Museum of Art spans the history of American art, including Worcester porcelain and paintings by Andy Warhol.
There’s a lot to see here, so do your research beforehand. The mansion alone is 30,000 square feet!
Photo courtesy of Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
Take a breath of fresh air and get your daily steps in as you explore the park’s trails, ponds, and beautiful sunken garden. Located on 122 acres in the buzzing West End neighborhood, Centennial Park is the city’s crown jewel of urban greenery. Once a prime piece of farmland, the park is now home to numerous historical landmarks, an exercise trail, a dog park, sand volleyball courts, and good old fashioned Mother Nature. The park also plays host to many festivals and special events throughout the year, from jazz concerts to Shakespeare in the Park. It’s also home to the iconic Parthenon.
If you’re not of the whole “connect with nature” mentality, have no fear; Centennial Park is truly a park of the 21st century, with free WiFi found throughout the grounds.
Photo courtesy of The Conservatory for the Parthenon and Centennial Park
Mention Nashville to many out-of-towners and visions of cowboy boots and down-home crooners will surely dance through their heads. That part of Music City is alive and well at the Country Music Hall of Fame, one of the world’s largest museums and research centers dedicated to American music. No country music fan’s trip to Nashville would be complete without a visit to this veritable mecca of the genre. Devotees could spend days exploring country treasures, including Elvis Presley’s 1960 “Solid Gold” Cadillac limousine, Patsy Cline’s cocktail dress, and nearly 200,000 sound recordings. Even those in the “everything but country” crowd may find something to love, and certainly a lot to learn.
Check the calendar of events before you go; with everything from banjo lessons to meet-and-greets with up-and-coming artists, there’s always something new to take in.
Photo courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame
Country music has a home, and it’s known as the Grand Ole Opry. Started as a simple music radio broadcast back in 1925, nearly a century later the Opry is still going strong as one of Nashville’s most popular attractions and the longest-running radio broadcast in US history. Witness the magic yourself at a live taping of the show on weekend nights, or come enjoy a backstage tour of the historic Grand Ole Opry House.
For the majority of the year the Grand Ole Opry House is home to the show, with an annual winter foray to the Ryman Auditorium. If it’s November through January, double check your tickets before you head to a venue.
Photo courtesy of Grand Ole Opry House
Explore how the other half lived in the 1800s at this historic mansion and plantation. Originally established by the Harding family, the mansion has hosted many illustrious guests throughout the years, including President Ulysses S. Grant. Today visitors can take tours of the Greek-Revival mansion and the historic outbuildings, including a dairy, a mausoleum, and reconstructed slave quarters. History nerds will love the chance to take an informative and fascinating tour of a mansion found on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, while wine connoisseurs can take advantage of the Belle Meade Winery’s Tennessee reds and whites made from the natively grown muscadine grape.
Belle Meade’s former owners were one of the largest slaveholding families in Nashville and the reconstructed slave quarters still stand on the grounds today. Be prepared for some serious conversations.
Photo courtesy of Belle Meade Plantation
Perfect for an afternoon entertaining little Picassos-in-training or a cultured date night, the Frist is the city's go-to for letting your inner art critic out. Housed in an Art Deco building downtown that once served as the city's main post office building, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is Nashville's premiere art destination. As a non-collecting museum, the Center is a new experience each time you go, playing host to a constantly revolving calendar of exhibitions, lectures, film screenings, and special events. Kid-friendly programs and the creative Martin ArtQuest Gallery makes the Center a fun choice for the whole family. Oh, and visitors under 18 get in for free.
There is a parking lot located right behind the building but it often fills up quickly--unsurprising given the museum's prime downtown real estate.
Photo courtesy of Frist Center Museum
Telling someone to "take a hike" is far from an insult at the lush Radnor Lake State Park, a 1,332-acre park in Oak Hill. Beloved by nature enthusiasts for its abundance of wildlife, the park also contains several miles of hiking trails and a visitor center worth visiting for its interpretive exhibits and environmental education programs. Whether a canoe tour floats your boat (sorry) or a birding hike is more your style, Radnor Lake State Park offers plentiful opportunities to get in touch with nature. The park features ten different trails but keep in mind that pets, jogging, and bicycles are only allowed on the Otter Creek Road trail.
Leave your hunting rifles and your sleeping bags at home--the park is for day-use only, and hunting within the park is strictly prohibited.
You’ve seen all your favorite food personalities eat hot chicken (and sweat profusely), and for some reason, you want to do it too. More power to you! You have plenty of options to do so, ranging from the classics like Hattie B’s and Prince’s to the newcomers, like Pepperfire and Party Fowl. After you’ve finished recovering in your hotel room, it’s time to don your finest cowboy boots, tuck that plaid shirt into your jeans, and head to Broadway for a night of country music, booze, and more country music.
Hot chicken burns going in and going out. It might make your evening’s dancing a little uncomfortable.