For years now, Nashville has been THE hot spot for bachelorette trips, weekend getaways, music lovers, and just about everybody else! But as someone who grew up around here, I’ll tell you a secret… A lot of the most famous things to do have become incredibly overpriced!
I mean, I’m a huge Patsy Cline fan, but $25 to visit the small museum about her downtown? Yikes. And over $30 for a self-guided tour of the Ryman Auditorium? That’s more than I’m willing to spend to walk around on my own! Not to be a total miser, but when planning my recent trip back to Nashville as a “tourist,” I was inspired to write about all the amazing FREE things to do there. These are my favorites, and they’re all within walking distance of downtown!
Find the Famous Murals
Nashville is home to several famous murals, including the beloved “I Believe in Nashville” and iconic black-and-white “What Lifts You” murals. You’ll definitely see these and many more while just walking around, or check out this reference on the official Visit Music City website!
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See the Parthenon at Centennial Park
Centennial Park has been a gathering place for Nashvillians since 1896, and the Parthenon has been a Nashville landmark for just as long. At 132 acres right in the center of Nashville, it’s a great place to run, bring a picnic, stroll, or just take a break from the hustle and bustle of downtown. It does cost $10 to go inside the Parthenon, but the view within Centennial Park is FREE!
The Parthenon is closed on Mondays, but open Tuesday-Saturday 9:00am-4:30pm, and Sunday from 12:30pm-4:30pm.
More here: The Best Weekend Trips in the USA
Visit the Tennessee State Museum
The Tennessee State Museum is home to over 2,000 artifacts from Tennessee’s history, many from long before Tennessee was a state! What’s also wonderful? FREE parking is available in lot shared by the Museum and the Farmers’ Market! There are not many places you can park for free in Nashville, so definitely take advantage of this if you have a car. The museum is closed on Mondays, but it’s open Tuesday-Saturday from 10:00am-5:00pm, and Sundays from 1:00pm-5:00pm
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Walk Across Tennessee on the Bicentennial Mall
Bicentennial Mall State Park is located just downhill from the Tennessee State Capitol, and is completely FREE to visit! I actually remember Tennessee’s Bicentennial celebrations in 1996, and I remember visiting the big map of Tennessee on the ground and thinking it was so cool! (A future traveler’s dream.) You, too, can “walk across Tennessee” and explore the entire park as well!
Stay nearby: What It’s Like Staying at The Hermitage Hotel
Tour the Tennessee State Capitol
Would you believe I lived in Tennessee for the first 22+ years of my life and never toured the State Capitol until my most recent visit back to my home state? It’s true! You can take a self-guided tour of the building any time between 9:00am-4:00pm Monday-Friday, or take a FREE, 45-minute guided tour at 9:00am, 10:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, or 3:00pm Monday-Friday.
More history here: What It’s Like Staying at Union Station Hotel in Nashville
Live Music on Broadway
You will hear some of the best up-and-coming (and sometimes professional) music on practically every corner up and down Broadway! Sure, it’s coming out of the bars, but it’s also outside the bar scene–literally, you can hear the music from several blocks away! Between the music schools, the country singing hopefuls, and the local musicians, there’s no telling what you’ll hear–or who–while you’re walking around on any given day, usually starting around 11:00am and going on until 2:00 or 3:00am!
More here: What to Know Before you Visit Nashville
Visit Fort Nashborough
Nashville, like many major cities dating back to early America, is located where it is because of a river, in this case, the Cumberland River. And what’s the first thing a pioneer does when settling new territory? They build a fort, in this case, Fort Nashborough! The one you’ll see today is a replica built in the 1930s, but this is in fact the site of the first American settlers in Nashville.
James Robertson (for whom neighboring Robertson County is named) founded what became Nashville on January 1, 1780, and the rest is history! You can visit Fort Nashborough for FREE any day of the week between 9:00am-4:00pm to see for yourself.
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Stroll Through Riverfront Park
While you’re visiting Fort Nashborough, you’ll be right next to Riverfront Park–also FREE! The park is nice for a walk or run, but it’s also an open-air music venue for all kinds of entertainment, even CMA Fest (which, as Nashvillians know, is actually Fanfair). It’s a bit of a respite from the noise of Broadway during the day.
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Catch the Views from the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
If you want iconic cityscape views of Downtown Nashville, this is where you’ll get them! Walking across the bridge is FREE, and it connects Downtown to trendy and popular East Nashville. Fun fact: My dad grew up in East Nashville, and I remember riding in a car across this bridge (when it was the Shelby Street Bridge) to get to my grandparents’ house before the bridge closed to cars in 1998!
My mom used to come here when it was a shopping mall! If you know me, you know I love when old buildings get new life, and this library, Nashville’s Main Branch, is such an amazing one. It’s very beautiful inside, with hand-painted murals on the walls and a grand staircase. Each former “department” is now a section of the library, and the main reading room, pictured below, is well worth a look!
More here: Books for Travelers
Explore Fort Negley
While it’s just a little outside of Downtown, history lovers will definitely want to put this FREE item on their must-do list! Fort Negley was a Union fort during the American Civil War (that is not a typo), and it’s now a park for anyone to visit. You can explore the park for FREE any day of the year, from dawn until dusk. The Visitor Center is closed on Sunday and Monday, but it’s open Tuesday-Thursday from Noon-4:00pm, and Friday and Saturday from 9:00am-4:00pm.
Need more? Check out all my Tennessee and Nashville posts on my dedicated United States Page!
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