Updated February 2019
When your kids are away at college most of the year, you try to make the most of the time you have together. All through her childhood, my youngest daughter, Rachel, and I made frequent trips to Nashville for her dance competitions and school-related functions. Being only 3 1/2 hours aways from our home in Memphis, it is an easy weekend hop over. Like many tourist cities that are close by where you live, sometimes you never get around to really visiting and experiencing all that it has to offer.
Last year I spent a some time being a tourist in our home city of Memphis (read 3 Days in Memphis). This year, it was time to finally visit Nashville as a tourist. Rachel isn’t 21 (the legal drinking age in the USA), and I am not a night owl, so even though Nashville is the most popular city in the USA for bachelorette parties, you won’t find any references to the best bars. There are plenty of other blog posts out there for that. If you’d like to know how to spend 4 days in Nashville, Tennessee seeing the sights, listening to music, and shopping, keep on reading! Have an extra day? Visit nearby Franklin, Tennessee!
For a sneak peak, watch our 1-minute recap video:
How to Spend 4 Days in Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville Day 1
We arrived in Nashville around 11 a.m. on the morning of day one. Our first stop was to go downtown to get a feel for the city. Parking within a block of Broadway is super expensive. Park a couple of blocks away for 1/2 the price. We quickly learned to google “cheap parking in Nashville” to find spots within walking distance of our destination. This really helped lessen the hit to our wallets.
- Downtown Lunch
Tons of choices!
This is a great way to hear some local music before the nighttime crowds arrive. We happen to love Pancho & Lefty’s Cantina for fantastic Mexican!
- Nashville Tour
Take a guided Nashville city tour.
When I plan a trip, on the arrival day I always like to take a guided tour of the city. It helps me get my directional bearings and gives me some good background knowledge and fun trivia to keep in mind during the remainder of my vacation.
Based on Trip Advisor reviews, we booked a tour with Tommy’s Nashville Tours. The cost was $40 (cash or check only) and lasted 3 hours. We had a great time seeing celebrity homes, top tourist sites, and learning about the history of the city.
- The Gulch
Shop and take pictures in the Gulch district.
Located in the historical, old industrial area of Nashville, the Gulch is now filled with upscale boutiques, restaurants, and vibrant murals. We went mainly for some great Instagram shots (read The Best Instagram Spots in Nashville). If you like our blog pics, then we’d love for you to follow us on Instagram at instagram.com/packyourbaguios!
The Gulch is located a little south of downtown, and there is plenty of parking, but it is usually not free.
- Downtown Dinner
Eat dinner in downtown Nashville at Acme Feed & Seed.
We loved the location of the Acme Feed & Seed. It is right downtown which made it a great starting point for our nightly activities. When we arrived (around 6 pm), the place was already packed, which was surprising since it was a Tuesday night. I can’t imagine how crowded it gets on the weekend! There are 3 floors: 1st- music and street/southern food, 2nd- sushi and sport lounge, 3rd- private events, Rooftop- Bar with fantastic view. We ate on the first floor and enjoyed the live music. It was too loud to hear each other talk, but we enjoyed it anyway.
Address: 101 Broadway
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11am-2am, Saturday & Sunday 10 am-2am
- Pedestrian Bridge
Cross the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge.
Just a short walk away from Acme Feed & Seed is the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge crosses the Cumberland River and connects the downtown Nashville area to Nissan Stadium on the other side. On the bridge we saw joggers, families walking, street performers, and lots of people like us taking pictures.
- Downtown Nashville
Spending the evening wandering around downtown Nashville.
After strolling across the pedestrian bridge, make your way back to Broadway Street. Most bars are open until 2 am. We finished the evening people watching and shopping along the streets that surround Broadway. In fact, if you happen to be looking to buy some cowboy boots, Nashville is the place to get a great pair. The only other city I have visited that comes close to the selection of cowboy boots is Austin, Texas (read A Day in Austin).
Nashville Day 2
Day 2 of our trip was dedicated to what Nashville is most famous for–Country Music. After all, Nashville is also known as Music City USA! Even if you’re not a fan, the history behind the music and how country music has influenced other genres is fascinating. Being from Memphis which is birthplace of rock n’ roll and home of the blues (read 24 Hours in Memphis for Music Lovers), I was curious to see how the music museums in Nashville compared.
- Loveless Cafe
Eat Breakfast at the Loveless Cafe.
It is a bit of a drive from the downtown area of Nashville to the Loveless Cafe (about 30 minutes), but it is so famous, no trip to Nashville would be complete without a meal there. The history of the cafe dates back to 1951. Lon and Annie Loveless saw an opportunity to feed fried chicken and award winning biscuits to travelers making their way down Highway 100. Not long after, the couple converted their home into a restaurant and a 14-room motel was built. The motel is no longer in operation, but the buildings have been converted into cute little shops.
Now most little cafes that sprung up along highways in the 50s have long since disappeared with the emergence of interstates, but not the Loveless Cafe. That should give you an idea of how good the food is! Their food has received more awards than I have space to list, especially for their barbecue and biscuits. The biscuits are so good that they serve up to 10,000 every day! I loved the biscuits and blackberry jam so much that I bought some of their biscuit mix and several jars of their jam to enjoy at home.
Go early or late to avoid the long waits for a table.
Address: 8400 Highway 100
- Ryman Auditorium
Spend your morning touring the Ryman Auditorium.
Now when people think of the Grand Ole Opry, they usually mean the Ryman Auditorium. Built in 1892, it was originally a church called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. However, most people know it as home of the country music show “The Grand Ole Opry”. The show made its home at the Ryman for 31 years, first as a radio broadcast, then expanded to include a television show. The Grand Ole Opry is still on the radio making it the longest running radio program in US history. The Ryman Auditorium hosts live music events during the evening hours so you can experience the acoustics (and sitting in church pews) first hand.
You can take a self-guide tour of the Ryman for $20 a ticket. The tour begins will a very in-delpth, interesting video about the Ryman’s history. Then you are free to tour the auditorium at your own pace. There are also guided tours, but I thought the $20 for a self-guided tour was already a pretty steep price. There are plenty of pictures and information along the walls of the auditorium for you to easily learn everything you would ever want to know about the Grand Ole Opry. We spent a little over an hour touring the auditorium from the start of the intro movie to the finish of our tour. The only disappointment in the tour was not being able to take a picture on the stage. A photographer was stationed in the front for those willing to pay for a picture of yourself on stage with a microphone.
Address: 116 5th Ave. North
- Country Music Hall of Fame
Eat lunch then walk to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is only a 2 1/2 block walk from the Ryman Auditorium with several restaurants on the way. We weren’t too hungry, so we just grabbed some coffee and a sandwich at the café attached to the Ryman (eating your weight in biscuits earlier that morning will do that to you). You can’t miss the building, it’s huge and looks like a giant piano keyboard. If that doesn’t get your attention, then the long line of tour busses will.
This place is so, so big! There were tons of people, but it didn’t seem that crowded due to the organization of the museum. I wanted to do the audio tour, but Rachel said those were for old people (Boo!) so we bought general admission tickets for $26.95 per person (The audio tour was only $2 more. Ugh!). It was well worth the price, and I’m not a big country music fan.
The exhibits are very updated and interactive. We spent 2 hours here, but you can easily add an another hour to that if you take advantage to all of the interactive video and audio exhibits. The most fun we had all day was in the mini recording studio where we made a demo cover of “Rock Me Mama.” Let’s just sat there won’t be any record labels calling.
Warning: It was freezing in the museum, and since we went in late June, our outfits had not prepared us for the ice cold air conditioning temps we would endure. I would recommend bringing a jacket (or better yet, a parka).
Address: 222 5th Ave. South
- East Nashville
Take some selfies in East Nashville.
East Nashville is an old, historic neighborhood that has become the home to an array of artists, eclectic shops, and fantastic food choices. There are even guided walking tours that you can take. After our busy day, our feet weren’t up for anymore walking, so we took some fun selfies and enjoyed an iced coffee at the Barista Parlor.
- Family-style dinner
Enjoy the family atmosphere eating supper at Monell’s.
Monell’s has won handfuls of “best” awards, for their breakfast, soul & southern food. Patrons are told to turn off their phones upon being seated. You’re seated with a tableful of others (think: Hibachi-style seating meets Thanksgiving), then the food magic begins. Dishes are brought out on platters and big bowls and served “family-style.” In other words, you are sitting with strangers and as dishes are brought out, you take turns passing it around the big table. If you need more, just ask your newly made friends to pass it back to you. If your table runs out of a dish, just ask the server for more.
There is no menu, the main dishes change, but their famous fried chicken is served every day. The prices also vary depending on the meal. We paid $16 a piece which included: 3 meats, a variety of vegetables, biscuits, dessert, and a drink.
We loved our experience at Monell’s! At our table were a couple of locals who come every Wednesday when baked chicken and fried pork chops are served, a family from Europe wanting to experience real southern food, and a group of principals from Texas in Nashville for a convention. I learned that one of the principals had actually trained as a university student at the school where I currently teach. Talk about a small world! Knowing that my phone wasn’t allowed at the table, made conversation easy and light. The food? Amazing!
Rachel and I had planned on going to hear some live music after our supper, but we were so tired from our day and in a food-coma from our home-style meal, that we went back to our hotel and slept for about 11 hours straight!
Address: 1235 6th Ave. North
Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-3pm, Tuesday-Saturday 5pm-8:30pm, Saturday 8am-3pm, Sunday 8am-4pm
Nashville Day 3
After our previous tour packed days, we purposely planned a more laid-back day of strolling through boutiques and eating more delicious Nashville grub. We also wanted to explore the West End and 12th Avenue South neighborhoods.
Get a stack of Pancakes at the Pancake Pantry
Established in 1961, the Pancake Pantry has become a Nashville institution. If you visit on a weekend, expect a 30min-1 hour wait. We arrived mid-morning on a Wednesday and just had to wait about 10 minutes. We split the old fashioned buttermilk pancakes which included 5 fluffy pancakes made with flour milled in the Great Smokey Mountains. The pancakes are served with warm maple syrup and whipped butter. The pancakes are $6.95. I added a side of 3 sausage patties for additional $3.75.
Stick around the West End neighborhood for some great shopping and more murals!
Address: 1761 21st. Ave. South
Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-3pm, Saturday and Sunday 6am-4pm
- Farmer’s Market
Take a stroll through the many booths at the Nashville Farmer’s Market.
The Nashville Farmer’s Market has been around since the early 1800s when farmer’s would bring produce to sell at Nashville’s town square. In the current location, the market has two large covered open-air sections that house up to 150 vendors during peak hours and growing seasons. Inside the main building are 14 locally owned restaurants and shops (get the wood-fired pizzas). I’ve been to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings when it is usually crowded and bustling. Visiting on a hot Wednesday (around 11 am) is a much quieter experience. There were only a scattering of vendors outside and about half the shops inside were closed. Even though we missed the huge variety of booths you’ll experience on a weekend, we still enjoyed resting our feet while enjoying some cold drinks.
Address: 900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.
Hours: 8am-8pm, but individual merchant hours vary. Morning and weekends are more popular than other times.
- Lunch time!
Eat some lunch at Bartaco then stroll down 12th Avenue.
Bartaco is a new-comer to the trendy 12 South neighborhood. Drive down 12th Avenue, and you’ll see restaurant after restaurant, and all of them look new and busy. We chose Bartaco because we knew we would need a break from southern food, and it has a good location surrounded by other shops and restaurants. The prices were a little high, but not outrageous. The food was on point.
Address: 2526 12th Ave. South
Walk back north on 12th Ave. 3 blocks to take a some more Instagram shots in front of the famous “I Believe in Nashville” wall art.
Soak up the Nashville weather by visiting the Parthenon and Centennial Park.
About 2 miles west of downtown in the West End neighborhood is the large Centennial Park. The park totals 132 acres (1/2 square km) of quiet natural beauty. The park (and parking) is free and is open from sun-up to 11 pm daily.
The most prominent feature of the park is the full-sized replicate of the Greek Parthenon. It was built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Inside is a 42 ft (12m) tall statue of the goddesses Athena. The statue is the largest indoor statue in the Western Hemisphere. Admission to the Parthenon is $6.
Address: 2500 West End Ave.
Hours (Parthenon): Tuesday–Saturday 9am–4:30pm, Sunday 12:30pm–4:30pm
- Nashville Hot Chicken
Turn your mouth on fire while eating famous Nashville hot chicken at Hattie B’s.
Once you have your fill of southern & soul food, no trip to Nashville is complete without trying Nashville Hot Chicken. It is not just called “hot chicken.” You have to say the whole name: “Nashville Hot Chicken.”
Hattie B’s is one of the most popular restaurants that focuses primarily on serving the spicy bird. At Hattie B’s, you can order your level of spiciness ranging in from “Southern” which has no heat to “Shut the Cluck Up!” that includes a burn notice. We ordered the mild level which is loaded with cayenne pepper. I’m not a big lover of really spicy food, so I don’t think I could order Nashville hot chicken very often. The mild level of Hattie B’s had our nose running and eyes watering. Yes, we’re amateurs!
Nashville Day 4
Start you day with coffee and a pastry at Three Brothers Coffee.
Three Brothers Coffee is known for their cool vibe and Insta-worthy black & white outside coffee bar. It was opened a couple of years ago by the owners of the neighboring outdoor/bike shop. You can definitely sense the laid-back, outdoorsy vibe throughout the coffee shop.
Address: 2813 West End Ave
Hours: Monday-Friday 6am-7pm, Saturday & Sunday 8am-7pm
- Grand Ole Opry
Take a tour (or just pictures) of the Grand Ole Opry.
The Grand Ole Opry show moved from the Ryman Auditorium in 1974. The current building was built just for the show and continues to broadcast live country music performances with a mix of legends and contemporary performers. Prices to see a nightly live show start at $48. If visiting the Opry during the day, tours range from backstage tours to combination tours that include tours of the neighboring Opryland Resort.
Address: 2804 Opryland Dr.
Hours: Backstage tours run from 9:30am-8pm. Tours sometimes stop earlier in the day if there is an evening show.
Shop ’til you drop at the Opry Mills Mall
Opened in 2000, Opry Mills draws customers from all over the southeast USA. I have several friends in Memphis that make yearly pilgrimages to Nashville just to shop at this huge shopping complex. It is right next door to the Grand Ole Opry, so we only had to park once to visit both attractions.
With over 200 shops, there is a store for all tastes. Most of these shops are factory outlets, meaning you’ll pay a lot less than normal retail. Rachel and I were here for 3 solid hours with just a short break to grab a bite of lunch at the Food Court.
Address: 433 Opryland Dr.
Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am-9pm, Sunday 11am-7pm
When we were out of money in our wallets and room in the car, we headed back home. We can honestly report that we arrived back home with better clothes, bigger bellies, and a closer bond!
Have more time?
See our recent video from a weekend trip to Nashville!
- Johnny Cash Museum
While downtown check out the Johnny Cash Museum!
We didn’t have time to check out this this gem on our mother-daughter trip, but husband Joe and I are big Johnny Cash fans. You’ll love the interactive exhibits and all of the history behind the legendary sound!
Address: 119 3rd Ave S
Hours: Everyday 9am-7pm
- Patsy Cline Museum
Located right above the Johnny Cash Museum
Opened in 2017, this museum is located conveniently above the Johnny Cash Museum. Although she died in a tragic plane crash, way too young at the age of 30, Patsy Cline made a lasting mark on country music. Although the museum is small, each interactive station provides a wealth of history about Patsy and her music.
Address: 119 3rd Ave. S/Second Level
Hours: Everyday 9am-7pm
Have you been or want to go to Nashville, Tennessee? What Nashville spots did we leave off? Please share by commenting below! Any questions? Please ask!
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