For decades, Nashville, Tennesee has had the reputation for being the place to go if you want to catch some live music—particularly if you happen to be a fan of country, bluegrass, or the blues. And while the Music City has never lost touch with its roots, over the past decade or so it has expanded its repertoire in some exciting ways. As a result, the city has become one of the top travel destinations in the U.S., luring in visitors with its first-class hotels, upscale dining options, and vibrant nightlife. Here is everything you need to know when it comes to planning a night out in Nashville.
Whether you're looking for a quiet, laid-back atmosphere to enjoy cocktails and conversation or a raucous, rollicking affair, Nashville will almost certainly have a bar that can accommodate your needs. While the greatest concentration of those venues can be found in the downtown area, there are unique and unusual places to get your drink on throughout the entire city. Many of these bars—including smaller neighborhood pubs—feature live music throughout the week, allowing visitors to sample some of the many talented musicians that call Nashville home.
Here are a few of the standout bars to have on your list:
- Pinewood: Worth a visit anytime of the day, Pinewood comes alive at night with outstanding cocktails, an in-house bowling alley, and the option to sip your drinks poolside on the patio.
- City Winery: Enjoy a fine wine while listening to some fantastic live music. This bar attracts some surprisingly great musicians to perform on a regular basis, making it a top spot for a night out on the town.
- The Patterson House: With no sign to announce its location, the Patterson House can be a bit challenging to find for new campers. Its sophisticated atmosphere and outstanding cocktails make it worth the effort and once you're in the door you're going to want to stay awhile.
- The Lipstick Lounge: An institution on Nashville's funky east side, the Lipstick Lounge was started as a lesbian hangout but has evolved into a "bar for all humans." Its welcoming atmosphere makes it a hot spot on any given night, although the fun karaoke sessions only enhance its appeal.
- 16-Bit Bar+Arcade: There are plenty of places to enjoy an adult beverage or two in Nashville, but only one has more than 30 classic video games to play on-site. The 16-Bit Bar+Arcade serves up great cocktails and plenty of video games, making it a great stop on Nashville visit.
Nashville's legendary honky-tonks are so good that they deserve their own heading. These bars offer good beer, great music, and nonstop dancing just about every night of the week. The city's iconic South Broadway region is lined with honky-tonks, but they can be found in other areas of town too. You never know who might take to the stage in one of these venues, which have helped launch the career of countless country stars.
- Legend's Corner: With walls lined with album covers and country music memorabilia, Legend's Corner knows how to set the scene. But it is the nonstop music that will get your toes tapping and your hips swaying, with fantastic artists on stage nearly every night.
- Robert's Western World: Where else can you buy a pair of cowboy boots during the day and listen to live music at night? Robert's Western World is a must-visit, with excellent food, fun footwear, and a cavalcade of famous stars getting their start on its stage.
- Wildhorse Saloon: While many of Nashville's honky-tonks have been around for decades, the Wildhorse Saloon is a thoroughly modern joint. It features three levels, an amazing sound system, and a massive dance floor for a boot-scooting good time.
- Station Inn: Located in The Gultch—a trendy downtown neighborhood—the Station Inn has made a name for itself by serving up some of the best bluegrass, Americana, and classic country music that Nashville has to offer.
- The Bluebird Cafe: Another Nashville staple, the Bluebird Cafe features live, original music seven days a week. This venue celebrates not only the musician, but the songwriter too, making it a wonderful place to catch tomorrow's rising star before they make it big.
Other Live Music Venues
Nashville's musical heritage runs deep and the city is home to some legendary places to listen to live music. The Grand Old Opry has been a haven for country music for nearly a century and it remains as iconic and important as ever. However, Ryman Auditorium may be an even more revered destination, routinely featuring some of the biggest names in music regardless of the genre. The Ascent Amphitheater is rapidly becoming one of the top outdoor music venues in the entire south as well, while the Schermerhorn Symphony Center has acoustics that are practically unrivaled.
Unlike a honky-tonk, which usually doesn't require tickets of any kind, attending a show in these locations typically means booking your seats well in advance. That said, if you know when you'll be visiting Nashville, it is worth checking to see who will be playing in these places while you're there. You might be surprised to find a music superstar on the schedule.
Late Night Eateries
After you've finished dancing the night away, you may find yourself looking for some excellent food to help satisfy your late-night hunger. Thankfully, Nashville has plenty to offer in that department too, with a number of excellent eateries that stay open well after might night.
- Dino's: Quite possibly the best burger in town, Dino's stays open until 3 a.m. most nights. This dive bar is a great place to end the evening, enjoying a beer or two while munching on fries.
- Five Points Pizza: East Nashville's Five Points region is home to a number of great neighborhood bars and restaurants, though Five Points Pizza is a stand-out. Open until 3 a.m., it serves up some amazing options both by the slice or a full pie.
- The Diner: On weekends, this downtown restaurant stays open until 2 a.m., dishing out excellent American fare on six floors.
- Hermitage Cafe: Designed specifically with after-hours dining in mind, the Hermitage Cafe doesn't even open until 10 p.m. That alone says a lot about Nashville nightlife. Here, you'll find good burgers and chili, as well as all-day—or should we say all-night—breakfast.
- MAFIAoZA's: Another late-night pizzeria, MAFIAoZA's serves up a number of Italian dishes all the way up until 3 a.m. The food and ambiance are top-notch, making this a can't-miss last stop before turning in for the night.
Tips for Going Out in Nashville
- The busier Nashville bus lines—including those between East Nashville and Downtown— run until midnight. However, visitors and locals alike usually pass on the bus in favor of rideshare options instead. Drivers for both Uber and Lyft are plentiful and usually arrive very quickly.
- Nashville is a late-night town, with plenty to do until dawn. Usually, most of the bars stay open until 2 a.m., with a number of after-hours joints operating until 3 a.m. or even later. 24-hour diners keep things hopping until you've ready to tap out.
- Most of the honky-tonks on broadway never have a cover charge, making it easy to pass back and forth between them at any time. Occasionally, if a big-name act is playing, there may be a nominal fee to enter, so keep that in mind when visiting one of the more popular venues. Most of the other bars throughout the city operate in the same way.
- Tipping in Nashville is about the same as it is anywhere else in the U.S. Tips are expected in restaurants, bars, and clubs, as well as for drivers.
- It is illegal to have an open container of alcohol while wandering around in Nashville. Make sure you finish all of your drinks before leaving one establishment for the next.