This post covers free and cheap things to do in Nashville, including a top 10 list as well as tips for families and nighttime activities. This post is updated for 2019.
There are plenty of free or affordable things to do in Nashville, but not all of them are worth seeing. Here are our top 10 things you can do for free in Music City. And check out the other sections of this post for more details about attractions, museums, and kid-friendly activities.
Enjoying some music is a must when you’re in Music City. After all, live music is playing every day of the year. That means you can walk down Upper Broadway or Lower Broadway, known as the Honky Tonk Highway, and find a live music venue. It could be a restaurant, bar, or saloon with a dance floor at any time of day.
Some famous venues on Honky Tonk Highway:
There’s more free music in other parts of the city, too! Check out the free music section below to find more venues.
Downtown Nashville is walkable enough to take yourself on a self-guided tour.
For fans of the Nashville TV show, VisitMusicCity.com offers a detailed guide to see places that were featured, such as the Public Square Park where characters frequently walk on their way to the mayor’s office.
For a more historical walking tour, try the Fort Negley walking tour from GPS My City. Fort Negley was built for the American Civil War and the largest fort of its time. The rest of the tour will take you through important innovations throughout Nashville’s history.
The Tennessee State Museum is where you’ll find the most comprehensive look at the state’s history. From documenting the lives of the First Peoples of Tennessee to constructing a Time Tunnel, many of the exhibits take a fascinating deep dive into how our modern day was shaped.
Permanent exhibits include The Civil War and Reconstruction, a look into Natural History, and a focus on Change and Challenge from 1870 to 1945. You can find medals of honor and nurse uniforms from WWI, examples of late 1800’s fashion, and one of the first automobiles built in Tennessee.
The museum is always free.
Nashville is full of green spaces. From the Bicentennial Park to the Centennial Park with a full-scale replica of the Parthenon, you can enjoy the outdoors all over Nashville.
One of the most unique, family-oriented parks is Fannie Mae Dees Park. Locals call it the Dragon Park, for its prominent display of large, mosaic tile-covered dragons popping out of the ground.
Other features include play equipment, a covered picnic shelter, and a splash pad for keeping cool in the summer, all great options for kids.
We have more free, family-friendly ideas in the section below.
See a radio show in action before it goes on the air. Tickets are free for the taping of Midnite Jamboree every Saturday night at 10:00 pm. Musical guests range from up-and-coming artists to celebrities who have sung at the Grand Ole Opry.
Then you can hear it on the radio at midnight! We list even more free nighttime activities below.
Find the best handmade candy in the South at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. Their location on Broadway has an impressive selection of caramel apples, chocolates, gourmet popcorn, and pralines.
Shop employees will hand out free samples as you walk in the door.
Downtown Nashville is where most well-known venues and attractions are situated, including Upper and Lower Broadway. However, you can see some more of Nashville’s personality if you venture out into some other neighborhoods.
SoBro is right next to Downtown and home to interesting murals, markets, and local happy hours. You can walk into Hatch Show Print for free, one of the oldest letterpress shops in the nation still operating. They have posters from famous events and performers on the walls.
If you want to get immersed in a more historic neighborhood, head north to Germantown. Germantown boasts old industrial buildings, homes from the 1800s, and the hipster conversion of the old firehouse into a Neighborhood Resource Center.
While not free up front, if you purchase one of Nashville’s city passes you can visit multiple attractions for a bulk discount. These are perfect if you want to see and experience as much of the city as possible.
If you maximize your time efficiently, you will end up getting free entry to multiple attractions each day
Some passes include bus and trolley tours, museums, Madame Tussauds, the Country Music Hall of Fame, river cruises, and even the zoo.
Click here to see our comparison of Nashville Tourist Passes.
The Parthenon is an interesting building in the middle of an urban park in Nashville. It was built to commemorate Nashville’s Centennial anniversary and houses an art museum. The museum has an entry fee, but it is free to explore the outside of the Parthenon with its columns and the nearby statues.
If you have kids, check out Kidsville, a free, educational, and crafty weekly program at 11:00 on Saturdays. It’s the only way to see inside the Parthenon for free!
We have more free, family-friendly ideas in the section below.
The Bluebird Cafe is famous for its intimate shows with singers and songwriters. Their 6:00 pm evening shows are free, but require making reservations in advance. They also place a $10 minimum food and drink purchase on each person, so it’s kinda free.
The tickets generally go on sale the week before the performance and sell out quickly, so be sure to put your name on the list as close to one week out as possible.
If you can’t get tickets, check when the doors open at 5:00 pm to see if there are any spaces in their 10 pew seats or any no-shows at the reserved tables.
Nashville is full of history from the American Civil War, to the World Wars, to the happenings of the music world. The Tennessee State Museum has a great overview of the state’s history, and they’re open late on Thursdays.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get around the center of the city, try the free Music City Circuit bus. The bus serves two main routes with over 75 bus stops, and between them, you can find the Bridgestone Arena, Ryman Auditorium, Farmer’s Market, and the Gulch neighborhood bars and restaurants.
Buses should arrive at each stop every 15 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic, from 6:00 or 7:00 am until 11:00 pm. Check the transit website for details about each route.
The Bicentennial Capitol Mall is a 19-acre park with green space connected to the state capitol buildings. The Capitol Mall also holds an open-air atrium which features the engraved names of 3,400 Tennesseans who died in WWI on a few of the walls and was built during the state’s Bicentennial Celebration during the mid-1990s.
The state parks department offers a map so you don’t miss any of the native plants displayed in large planters throughout the park or the 200-foot long granite map of Tennessee.
Fans of the Dukes of Hazzard show can enjoy the display of original costumes, props, and even some of the original cars and trucks in Cooter’s Place. The actor who played Cooter, Ben Jones, is the owner and operator of the museum and shop.
Cooter’s is open seven days a week from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm and always free.
Enjoying Centennial Park and the outside of the Parthenon is always free. The full-scale replica of Athens’ Parthenon was built for the state’s Centennial celebration and exposition. The inside of the Parthenon is a working art museum.
Most days of the week you must purchase tickets to get into the museum. However, every Saturday at 11:00 am is Kidsville, an interactive arts and crafts time for kids within the museum. For that hour, you can enjoy the artwork for free!
We have more free, family-friendly ideas in the section below.
The oldest working letterpress shop in Tennessee, Hatch Show Print, is famous for their event, venue, and performance posters and handbills. Their work covered windows and buildings across the country with iconic type and style.
Their shop has iconic posters displayed from acts they have designed for in the past.
One Sunday every month, they host a free letterpress workshop at noon, 1:00 pm, and 2:00 pm for participants aged 6 and up. A limited number of passes are handed out at the Country Music Hall of Fame 30 minutes prior to each workshop.
The Tennessee State Capitol building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is open to the public on weekdays, excluding state holidays. The building was formerly home to several Catholic church congregations and is now occupied by the state government.
The Tennessee State Museum staff offer free guided tours of the building, starting at the first-floor Info Desk every hour from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, except for the 12:00 pm lunch hour.
We’ve talked about the Honky Tonk Highway, that famous street lined with restaurants, bars, and music venues. But there’s more to Music City Music.
Here we’ve listed the best places to find free music in other parts of Nashville. From traditional and modern country music to jazz, blues, or rock & roll, you’re bound to find a band, venue, or festival you’ll enjoy.
CMA Fest comes to Nashville in early June, with a crowd of the top performers in country music. If you can’t afford to buy tickets to the main stage show, go find one of the seven free stages scattered throughout downtown during the four-day festival. Acts generally perform between 10 am and 4:30 pm.
If you stick around long enough, you might even win some pizza from the free giveaways hosted from the stage.
Arrington Vineyards hosts Music in the Vines, a summertime live music series. From April to October, you can go out to Kix Brooks’ vineyard and listen to live jazz and bluegrass every weekend. Pavilion seating and picnic tables are available on a first come, first served basis, so you might want to bring a blanket.
Sumner Crest Winery holds twice-monthly outdoor concerts between May and September. Each concert has a theme, such as “Beach Bash” or a specific decade of music. Bring your own chairs and blankets, as seating isn’t provided.
Beachaven Winery has a Jazz on the Lawn concert series. The concerts are held from May through October on some Saturdays. If you want to enjoy some more lively dancing, games, and food trucks, you can go to their DJ on the Dock evening happy hour series on Thursday nights during June and July.
No outside alcohol is allowed at the wineries. Of course, feel free to purchase a bottle (or more) of wine to enjoy with the free concerts!
During the school year, Vanderbilt University’s music department hosts free concerts, including opera nights with the University Orchestra. Check their calendar for event dates.
Belmont University also hosts free music events with their symphony and choirs.
The almost-free way to find a high-quality free show in Nashville is to find a restaurant in Nashville. Plenty of pubs and restaurants within the city have a stage – or room on the floor – for a performer to come in and play during your meal.
Here are a few popular spots for food and music:
If you’re bringing your family with you, there are plenty of free things to do with them, too. Parks, such as Fannie Mae Dees Park with large, colorful dragons coming out of the ground, are everywhere throughout the city. For a full list of family-friendly things to do, check out our full list of where to go.
Here are our top free, family-friendly things to do.
And be sure to check out our things to do with kids post for more family-friendly things to do any time of day in Nashville.
GPS My City has free, downloadable walking tours around Fort Negley. The history of the South Nashville neighborhood goes back to the Civil War. If you head over to the Fort Negley Visitors Center, you can find interactive exhibits and an outdoor recreation center with hiking trails.
The Nashville Library has a beautiful main branch with a Children’s Theatre that holds Story Times and Puppet Shows on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and most Thursdays and Fridays. The online schedule will give you more information on exact programming with age recommendations for each show.
Children’s Theatre Schedule:
On specific Saturdays in June, July, and August, you can find Big Band music in Centennial Park. The live music is the soundtrack for dancing, including dance lessons in specific ballroom dances.
The museum is full of historic treasures from the First Peoples, natural history, and military history. Every Thursday and Saturday, the Tennessee State Museum holds storytimes for children ages 3 to 6. A staff member will read to the children, and free crafts are also supplied.
No reservations are necessary.
Story time is 30 minutes long and starts at 10:30 am.
Both the NHL Predators and the NFL Titans hold practices that are free and open to the public. If the family enjoys watching the players get warmed up and work on their skills, you can purchase single-game tickets later.
Regular open practices are held in the Centennial Sportsplex or Ford Ice Center during the winter and spring season.
During late July and early August, the Titans hold training camp open practices before regular football season starts.
Music City always has shows and activities going at night, such as Bluebird Cafe songwriters nights. Here is our list of the top free things to do in Nashville after dark.
We also have a post on things to do at night in Nashville whether free or not.
The Midnite Jamboree is a famous, long-running radio show in Nashville. They fill the Texas Troubadour Theatre studio with guests for the tapings at 10:00 pm on Saturdays. Guest stars range from up-and-coming singers and songwriters to big-name artists who just finished their Grand Ole Opry concerts.
Tickets are free, and the radio show is played on station AM 650 at midnight the same night.
Want to dance but don’t feel like going to a crowded line dance? June through August, most Saturday evenings at Centennial Park are filled with dancers and lawn chairs as a big band plays. There are dance lessons offered as the band is warming up.
Bring a blanket or a folding chair and some energy for dancing.
Whether you have your own music that you want others to hear, or you want to hear some soon-to-be-famous singers, there are plenty of venues that offer open mic and songwriter’s nights.
The Douglas Corner Cafe is one of the more well-known establishments for those wanting to start their music career. Starting Tuesdays at 8:00 pm, singers perform two songs each. The night doesn’t end until every registered singer has sung.
For a fun night of audience requests, head over to the Big Bang where improvisational dueling pianos are the main draw. You could hear anything from Billy Joel and the Beatles to Beyonce, depending on what the crowd is in the mood for.
Thursday nights are free. There is a cover charge of $6 on Fridays and Saturdays after 8:00 pm.
This interesting replica of an Italian arcade mall was built in 1903 and is still packed full of restaurants, cafes, art galleries, barbershops, and alteration services. The architecture of Nashville’s first covered mall has an old-world charm. The Arcade is worth exploring.
Every first Saturday from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm, the art galleries participate in downtown Nashville’s FirstBank First Saturday Art Crawl. You can stroll through, admire art, and even pick up some free refreshments.
What would a trip to Nashville be without seeing the historic bars and music venues? You can spend the night beneath the light of the neon signs as you walk up Broadway and find some live music.
Here are some of the most famous or popular free music venues:
Having a good time in Music City without spending too much is easy. In most gastropubs, diners, and restaurants, there is free musical entertainment to go along with your meal! But if you’re looking for something non-musical, we have a few suggestions on cheap things to do in Nashville.
The Frist Art Museum is open every day of the week in downtown Nashville. It is considered almost free if you have a family that includes any members aged 18 or younger, as they get in for free. You can see a selection of works from young Tennessee artists all the way to marriage chests from Renaissance Italy.
Docents are available in the museum to answer questions, and there are free architecture tours on Saturdays at 4:30 pm.
Adult tickets are $15 and senior and college student tickets are $10.
Note: They are open until 8:00 pm on Thursdays.
Nashville B-cycle, the city’s bike share program, promotes low-energy ways of getting around the city. Bike stands are available throughout Nashville that holds unoccupied bikes. All you need is a credit card to start a membership and unlock a bike. There are plenty of parks, trails, and greenways to ride through.
A 24-hour membership is $5, which includes the first hour of every ride. After that first 60 minutes, you will be charged $1.50 for each additional 30 minutes that you ride. It’s a really low-cost way to get from neighborhood to neighborhood!
The Farmer’s Market is located across the street from the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. The market is open, with vendors selling fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, and other goods most Wednesdays and Saturdays. They hold a Night Market one Thursday a month from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm.
The Nashville Flea Market is held at the fairgrounds on the last weekend of every month. Vendors sell antiques, furniture, specialty food, clothing, jewelry, and other goods. You might be able to find a unique souvenir while here!