What to Do for Free in Nashville

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. 

 

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TOP 10 FREE THINGS TO DO IN NASHVILLE 

There are plenty of free or affordable things to do in Nashville. 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. 


1) Free Music on Honky Tonk Highway

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.

 

Tootsies Nashville
 

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.


2) Sightseeing Tours

Downtown Nashville is walkable enough to take yourself on a self-guided tour, visit our Self Guided Tours of Nashville page for a few options.

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.

 


This photo of Fort Negley Park and Visitors Center is courtesy of TripAdvisor

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. 


3) Tennessee State Museum

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.

If you have younger children between the ages of 3 and 8, they’ll enjoy the interactive Children’s Gallery.

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. 

Tennesse State Museum Nashville
 

The museum is always free.

  • Tuesday through Saturday open from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Thursdays open late to 8:00 pm
  • Sunday open 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
  • Closed Monday

4) Discover the Many Free Parks

There are plenty of parks to explore in Nashville. The city is very proud of their green spaces and often utilize them for community events and live music.

Free parks include the Bicentennial Capitol Mall, Centennial Park, and Fort Negley.  

 

Dragon at Fannie Mae Dees Park Nashville

 

Fannie Mae Dees Park, often called the Dragon Park, is full of play areas and equipment, including a splash pad for cooling off in the summer.

The main feature is a display of large dragons covered in mosaic tiles, perfect for climbing on and around.

Riverfront Park is a grass-covered slope on the side of the Cumberland River that doubles as seating for large outdoor events.

Centennial Park has Big Band Dances on specific Saturdays in June, July, and August. The live music is the soundtrack for dancing, including dance lessons in specific ballroom dances.

We have more free, family-friendly ideas in the section below.


5) Attend the Midnite Jamboree

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.

 

 

Then you can hear it on the radio station AM 650 at midnight! We list even more free nighttime activities below. 


6) Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

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.

 

Savannahs Candy Kitchen Nashville
 

Other candy shops in Nashville include The Goo Goo Shop and Dessert Bar, Leon’s Candy, and Rocket Fizz


7) Check out a Neighborhood

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.

 

Germantown Nashville

 


8) Purchase a Tourist Pass

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


9) Parthenon at Centennial Park

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.

 

Parthenon Nashville

 

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.


10) Bluebird Cafe

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 is  a $10 minimum food and drink purchase on each person, so it’s only almost free.

 

Bluebird Cafe Nashville

 

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. Lines start forming early for these seats.

 


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MORE FREE MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS

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 above in our Top 10 has a great overview of the state’s history, and they’re open late on Thursdays.We also mention the Parthenon replica in Centennial Park above.


Attend a First Saturday Art Crawl

Across the city center, art galleries open their doors to host people on the first Saturday of every month. You can pick and choose which shops and vendors to check out. Most offer refreshments, including wine. Many of the galleries are at the Nashville Arcade Mall.

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.

The participating galleries for the First Saturday Art Crawl swap out and are easily accessible by walking and using the Gray Line Trolley.


The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge

One of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world, this unique bridge spans the Cumberland River. It is instantly recognizable for the trusses covering the walkway. You can also catch some beautiful views of the Nashville skyline from this bridge.

 

View from Pedestrian Bridge Nashville


Free Public Transit in Nashville

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 State Park

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.

You’ll also find a wall timeline of Tennesee History and a WWII Memorial.

 

Bicentennial Mall Nashville

 

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.


Cooter’s Place Museum

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.

 


This photo of Cooter’s Museum and Store Nashville is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

Cooter’s is open seven days a week from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm and always free.

 


Hatch Show Print

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. 


Tennessee State Capitol

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.

 


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FREE MUSIC IN NASHVILLE

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 Music Festival

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.

Other festivals that offer free music include Tomato Art Fest, Fisk Food and Music Fest, African Street Festival, and Celebrate Nashville Cultural Fest, to name a few. 


Take Your Picnic to a Winery

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.

 


This photo of Arrington Vineyards is courtesy of TripAdvisor
 

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! 


Concerts at Vanderbilt and Belmont

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. 


Big Band Dances

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.


Find a Restaurant with Live Music

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:

  • Acme Feed & Seed
  • B.B. King’s Nashville
  • Cafe Fontanella
  • Whiskey Row
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville
  • Puckett’s Grocery
  • Scoreboard

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN NASHVILLE

If you’re bringing your family with you, there are plenty of free things to do with them, too. Some of our Top 10 are family friendly like:

  • Fannie Mae Dees Park with large, colorful dragons coming out of the ground.
  • Go to Kidsville, a free, educational, and crafty weekly program at 11:00 on Saturdays at the art museum inside the Parthenon.
  • Listen to live music
  • Go on Sightseeing Tour
  • Tennessee State Museum Interactive Gallery & Story Time
  • Hatch Show Print
  • The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge

We detail many more free things to do with kids on our main post about Things to Do in Nashville with kids


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FREE THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT IN NASHVILLE

Music City always has shows and activities going at night, and our Top 10 Free Things To Do in Nashville has a few of them such as:

  • Bluebird Cafe songwriters nights
  • Visit Honky Tonk Highway
  • Stop by the Tennessee State Museum, open late on Thursdays.
  • Go to the Midnite Jamboree
  • Get a free sample at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

We go over many more free things to do at night on our main post about Things to Do at Night in Nashville

  • More venues for live music, such as Station Inn, Douglass Cafe and Big Bang Dueling Pianos
  • Dance the night away at Centennial Park
  • Watch the Titans or Predators practice

 

Things To Do at Night in Nashville

 

 


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ALMOST FREE THINGS TO DO IN NASHVILLE

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.


Frist Art Museum

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.

 

Frist Art Museum Nashville

 

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.


Rent a Bike to see Nashville

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!


Find Fresh Food or Souvenirs at a Market

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!

 


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