Visiting Nashville doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, the Music City has plenty of free things to offer visitors too. So if you're looking for ways to enjoy your stay there, without spending a lot of money, these are the very best activities that you can do that won't cost you a dime.
Visit the Parthenon in Centennial Park
Did you know that Nashville has an exact replica of the Parthenon, the famous Greek temple that was originally built more than 2400 years ago? The modern-day version even includes the famous statue of the goddess Athena, who the ancient temple was created to honor. Nashville's Parthenon was built in 1897 to celebrate the Centennial Expo that took place that year. Naturally, the building is located in the city's Centennial Park, which is well worth a visit in its own right.
Enjoy a Symphony in the Park
Nashville is well known for being the home of country music, but it has a fantastic classical symphony as well. Each summer, that symphony heads outdoors to local parks to play a series of free concerts. These Community Concerts are always fun and are usually offered several times a week. The score is always rousing and energetic, providing yet another excuse to head outside to enjoy warm Tennessee evenings.
Get a History Lesson at the Tennessee State Museum
Tennessee is state with plenty of rich history, which the locals are rightfully proud of. There is no better way to explore that history than at the Tennessee State Museum, where visitors can learn about the state's natural environment, the indigenous people that once roamed its forests, and its role in the American Civil War. The museum also houses plenty of art and even has special exhibits designed specifically to capture the imagination of children. The displays are rich and varied, spanning hundreds of years of culture and development. Best of all, its entirely free.
Catch the Early Show at Bluebird Cafe
The Bluebird Cafe is an institution in Nashville, often having some of the best music that you'll find anywhere. Usually there is a cover charge for those shows, but the cafe has a nightly early set — starting at 6 or 6:30 p.m. — that is absolutely free. That means you can catch some outstanding music in one of the most storied venues in the Music City without breaking the bank. You'll want to get there early however, as the place can fill up pretty quickly, but who knows, you could see the next big music star before they become famous.
Take a Hike at Beautiful Radnor Lake
Conveniently located not far from town, Radnor Lake State Park is a wonderful place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors will find more than 6 miles of hiking trail to explore, with scenic views of the titular waterway throughout. Those trails are not only perfect for spotting local birds and other wildlife, they are also completely accessible by all-terrain wheelchairs too. And while Radnor Lake is lovely all year round, it is especially beautiful in the fall when the leaves take on red, yellow, and orange hues.
Go Dancing on a Saturday Night
Every Saturday during the summer, the events pavilion at Centennial Park brings in Nashville musicians to play fantastic music from the big band era. This is a great occasion to go dancing, but even if you don't know your jitterbug from your waltz, you'll be just fine. The free dancing comes with free lessons too, helping newcomers to quickly get up to speed.
Visit the Dyer Observatory
Part of Vanderbilt University, the Dyer Observatory features a solar telescope built specifically for watching the sun. On most Tuesdays, the Observatory offers free tours from 9 a.m. to noon, allowing visitors to check out the telescope itself, as well as site's famous star chamber. If you're lucky, you may get a chance to take a peek at the sun. Be sure to book reservations ahead of time to ensure that you can get in.
Watch the Titans and Predators Play
The Music City is home to several professional sports teams, including the Tennessee Titans and the Nashville Predators. While buying a ticket to a game can obviously get expensive, that doesn't mean that you can't watch these two teams play for free. In July, the Titans hold their preseason training camps, with those practices open to the public and completely free. Similarly, during the NHL season the Predators allow the public to watch them practice at the Centennial Sportsplex. While not the same as watching a professional sporting event, these outings are still fun and exciting for sports fans.
Stroll Through Walk of Fame Park
Just as Hollywood offers its walk of fame dedicated to the stars of stage and screen, Nashville has a similar option for the legends of country music. Located in the heart of downtown — across from the Country Music Hall of Fame — the sidewalks found inside Walk of Fame Park features the names of some of the biggest musicians to ever take the stage. Visitors are sure to spot some of their favorites while discovering entirely new artists to check out.
Visit the Historic Fort Negley
History buffs will love visiting Fort Negley, which holds the distinction of being the largest inland stone fortification built during the Civil War. The site's visitor center offers up insightful information about this important location and is fun to stroll through as well. But self-guided tours of the remains of the fort are absolutely free, with the grounds being open and accessible during daylight hours. You'll even find an expansive fossil dig located at the site, which gives travelers the chance to discover their own fossil and take it home with them.
Go Honky Tonkin' on Broadway
Nashville's Broadway Street is home to the most famous honky tonk spots in the entire world. In fact, you can listen to great music every night of the week in these colorful, chaotic, local bars. There is almost never a cover charge on Broadway, which means that on any given night you're likely to hear an impressive line-up of local bands — and occasionally some surprise guests — as they put on a show.
Take a Walk or Ride on the Greenway
With more than 86 miles of paved greenway to explore, Nashville offers easy access to some surprisingly quiet and tranquil trails from just about anywhere in the city. Popular with locals, these greenways offer a great place to walk, run, skate, or ride a bike through the Music City without having to worry about motorized traffic. Even though this network of trails spiderwebs through the busy urban center, they often provide the impression that you are miles away from Nashville, providing a nice respite from the hectic city.
Cool Off in the Lake
Several of the state parks located close to Nashville offer access to Percy Priest Lake or other large lakes in the area. Many of these parks, such as Long Hunter and Montgomery Bell have free beaches that allow visitors safe and easy access to the cool, refreshing waters. The summers are long and hot in the Music City, so if you're looking for a way to beat the heat, consider visiting one of these locations.
Check Out the Opryland Hotel Gardens
The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center is one of the most popular places to stay when visiting Nashville. If staying at the upscale hotel isn't in your budget however, you and still drop by and explore the grounds for free. Of particular interest is the 9-acre indoor gardens, which feature an array of tropical plants, a meandering river, and even towering waterfalls. The garden's glass ceiling provides natural light throughout the day, making this an enjoyable stop, even when its raining outside. One of the more popular spots inside the garden is the Wishing Banyan Tree, where visitors silently make wishes when passing underneath it.
Visit Hatch Show Print
Hatch Show Print has been an institution in Nashville for more than 140 years, but it truly rose to fame alongside the city's country music stars. For decades, the company has been printing some of the most iconic posters, show bills, and prints that the music industry has ever seen. Many of those classic prints are on display inside the Hatch offices, located downtown. Visitors are encouraged to stop in and check out the place, which is one of the oldest letterpress shops in the entire U.S. The Print Production Shop inside the Hatch office even has a viewing area where travelers can watch its latest creation being made.