Music is certainly the heartbeat of Nashville. From honky tonks to the iconic Bluebird Cafe where famous songwriters perform before intimate crowds, Music City is constantly crooning. (Heck, even the city’s utility boxes play tunes).
While the music may be the siren that draws you to Nashville, the city’s arts and entertainment scene goes beyond the tunes. July is prime time to make a trip to Nashville, with the crowds from June’s CMA Music Festival and Bonnaroo long gone, but plenty of fun events on the city’s calendar. (Yes, Nashville’s famed hot chicken gets its own food festival in July).
After you’ve caught a show at the Grand Ole Opry, or enjoyed live music at one of the 150-some restaurants or bars that offer it up, here are seven other ways to enjoy Nashville to complement a memorable soundtrack.
01 of 07
Take Yourself Out to the Ballgame
First Tennessee Park is the home field for the Nashville Sounds. It’s also becoming one of the hottest hangouts. Once you’re at the park, you’ll want to head straight to The Band Box, which is near right field and feels like the coolest barbecue you’ve ever stumbled upon. Order up a peach-relish hot dog and wash it down with a Whiskey-and-Coke slushie. Join in on a cornhole, shuffleboard or foosball game, or play some tabletop Jenga. But, an absolute must-visit? The Band Box’s newly opened nine-hole putt-putt course dubbed “The Country Club.” The course begins at a retro camper where you’ll receive your “tee time” and select your ball and putter. Then, you’ll wind through nine holes, each of which have been created by a local artist. A server is on hand to take beverage orders while you play. A round of miniature golf at The Country Club is $5 per person and it’s open during regular ballpark hours, with extended hours following home games on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
02 of 07
Watch One of the Country’s Best Fireworks Shows
Nashville throws an epic Fourth of July celebration with an over-the-top fireworks show that lasts for 30 minutes as more than 1,000 fireworks are shot into the night sky near the Cumberland River. (It takes a dozen pyrotechnics more than a week to just set up the show). The two-day celebration that runs July 3-July 4 includes water slides, climbing walls and games. Of course, there’s music too at this free celebration. Sheryl Crow is headlining this year and the fireworks are synchronized with live performances from the Grammy-award winning Nashville Symphony. All events happen in downtown Nashville. Here’s a map to help you find stages, firework viewing areas and the “family fun zone.”
03 of 07
Eat (and Swim) at a Food Hall
The food hall trend is going strong. (For the uninitiated, think: Hip, grown-up food courts, typically in industrial-chic settings, that offer a little bit more, like games). Nashville’s Pinewood Social is in a league of it’s own, though. It has two outdoor dipping pools where you can cool off after you enjoy a meal. If you’re there for brunch, try the peanut butter and cranberry jelly toast dusted with rosemary. You can also go bowling, grab a coffee or order up a drink from an airstream bar.
04 of 07
Check Out a Rare Italian Car Exhibit
Car lovers, the newest exhibit at The Frist Center for The Visual Arts will rev up your heart. In all, 19 automobiles plus a trio of motorcycles from private collections and museums are a part of the exhibit, called Bellissima! The Italian Automotive Renaissance, 1945-1975. Among them? Vehicles by Bizzarrini, Ferrari, Ducati, Lamborghini, Lancia and Maserati. Superstars in the collection include rare Alfa Romeo BAT models 5, 7 and 9 from the 1950’s and a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. The exhibit, now open, runs through Oct. 9, 2016.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Enjoy the Hot Chicken Festival
The story of how hot chicken originated in Nashville is as juicy as the chicken itself. Thornton Prince began Prince’s Hot Chicken after his girlfriend suspected him of cheating and piled on the pepper in his fried chicken. Turns out he liked the spicy chicken so much he opened up his restaurant in the mid-1930’s. Nashville’s famous hot chicken gets its own festival in July. Defined, Nashville hot chicken is white bread, fried chicken coated in spicy seasonings topped with a few slices of dill pickles. While at the festival, sample hot chicken or try making it on your own at an amateur cooking competition (no scorn required).
06 of 07
Fly Like an Eagle
While mid-summer is always a great time to check out zoos because of adorable new animal babies (spring births at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere include a male white-cheeked gibbon and three red-ruffled lemur babies), the Nashville zoo adds another draw: a zipline. The Soaring Eagle, new in 2016, zips zoo visitors around the zoo at 60 feet above ground. Riders will get bird’s-eye views of exhibits like the “African Savannah” and “Gibbon Islands.” You can purchase ride tickets at the ticket booth and it shakes out to be $8.
07 of 07
Try a Seasonal Brew
If you came for the Tennessee whiskey, stick around for the beer. Breweries are flourishing in Nashville and the beer-infused food on menus at places like Tennessee Brew Works is delectable. (Try out the Baja Fish Tacos with an IPA beer batter and cabbage slaw or a Southern Grilled Cheese with basil butter). Also, save the milk and cookies for December and sample local beers at the Half Christmas Beer Fest on July 16. You’re encouraged to wear tacky T-shirts, Santa hats and elf ears at this quirky beer fest with Christmas karaoke.