How to Celebrate the Fourth of July in Nashville This Year

Here’s how to watch fireworks, party, or get out of town on the Fourth of July in Nashville this year.

It’s almost like Nashville has spent the past decade getting ready to become a premier Fourth of July destination for the entire country, and it’s definitely been working because last year's fireworks extravaganza drew an estimated 350,000 fans of the big bang to downtown. Of course, the pyrotechnics are best viewed from altitude above the crowds, and just about every new club and hotel constructed in the last 10 years has installed rooftops for prime sightlines. There’s so much to do in Nashville, so check out just some of the best ways in and around Music City to celebrate Independence Day.

This is the big one in Nashville. We’re talking 40,000 pounds of explosives over the course of the 30+ minute fireworks shows, plus a thousand floating flares in the Cumberland River, all musically synchronized with patriotic tunes courtesy of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. It will actually be two days and nights of musical entertainment, with bands and DJs playing Sunday and Monday in Hall of Fame Park before the big show kicks off on the Riverfront Stage on Independence Night. Headliners include the aforementioned NSO plus Cassadee Pope, Gramps Morgan and Old Dominion. Get there early, and wear your fireproof hat and comfortable shoes.

If you want to avoid the crush at street level, multiple venues downtown are hosting rooftop parties for viewing the big show. At Ole Red, they’ll be passing out signature cocktails and serving scratch-made dishes inspired by the bar’s patron saint, Blake Shelton. Rare Bird atop the Noelle Hotel is hosting a “Free as a Bird” extravaganza, a $400 ticketed event with premium viewing, open bar, and upscale appetizers, plus food stations and live entertainment.

Zeppelin offers a different perspective from the north side of downtown, and their “Red, White and Booze” event will turn the rooftop into a huge dance party to celebrate kicking the Brits to the curb in 1776. Other downtown and downtown adjacent hotels opening their rooftops for viewing include Lou/Na’s at the Grand Hyatt, a barbecue cookout and pool access on top of Bobby, cabana rentals at the Westin’s L27 lounge and pool deck, private indoor and outdoor tables at the Moxy, rosé and live music at the Virgin’s pool club and premium cocktails from LA Jackson atop the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch.

Pinewood Nashville
Pinewood Nashville

Party at ground level, but still out of the throng

Pinewood Social doesn’t have a tall rooftop or anything, but they are on a hill with a sweeping unobstructed view of the river. They’re throwing a day-long family-friendly party by their backyard dipping pools with all-you-can-eat barbecue, classic movies on the big screen, a Kids’ Activity Zone, two drink tickets, and free parking. Even better, kids under 12 get in for free.

Speaking of families, the view from the front lawn of the Adventure Science Center was once one of the best-kept July 4 secrets in town where you could just bring a lawn chair or throw down a blanket and picnic basket for a chill viewing atmosphere. Well, it was a secret until the museum decided to monetize it as a “Red, White and Boom” event. But you get more than just free parking and a great view for your price of admission. They’ll be conducting science demonstrations throughout the evening, offering admission to the science center, music, and laser shows in the planetarium and lawn games. Some of your favorite food trucks will be on hand to provide the eats.

If you want to avoid the buzz kills of traffic, parking or super-surged rideshare pricing, consider taking the WeGo Star commuter train to the festivities. For just a $15 round-trip ticket, you can catch the train at stations from Lebanon to Donelson between 4:00 and 4:45 and be deposited right in the middle of the action at the Riverfront Station. The return trip leaves one hour after the fireworks show is over and will stop at each station on the route.

Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen
Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen

The popular Germantown sausage and beer emporium Von Elrod’s is rolling out a special Monday edition of their Bluegrass Brunch on July 4. From 10 am until 4 pm they’ll be serving brunchy favorites like hand-cranked breakfast sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and biscuits and their legendary B.A.M.s (big-ass mimosas) in huge steins. Dig on the groove of live bluegrass while you prep for the evening’s festivities.

Burn off some calories in advance at the Music City July 4th 5K

We don’t know where to find crazier people than runners who want to race on July 4, a day that is traditionally hotter than the hinges of hell in Nashville, but they’re out there. If you want to be a part of the crazy train, sign up for the 3.2-mile fun run that loops from E.S. Rose Park in the Edgehill neighborhood down to SoBro and back through the Gulch and Music Row. At least the last stretch is downhill.

Celebrate fiery fowl at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival

We take that last comment back. We did find somebody wackier than Fourth of July runners: people who gather to eat Nashville hot chicken in the middle of the day on the Fourth. But hot chicken lovers are a devoted lot, plus they’re used to sweating while eating the piquant poultry that Nashville made famous. The event is free, and some of the best hot chicken vendors in town will be handing out complimentary samples in addition to selling larger plates of their infernally hot chicken and cold beer from Yazoo at East Park.

Nashville Shores
Nashville Shores

The lakeside water park at Nashville Shores is celebrating Independence Day a little early on July 3 from 10 am until 8 pm. Your admission grants you a full day of fun on the water slides, rope swings, inflatables, pools and even a four-story water treehouse. Then you can stick around for a fireworks show over the waters of Percy Priest Reservoir starting at 8:45 pm.

For a celebration that might be a little cooler at altitude, head east toward the Smoky Mountains to the popular East Tennessee tourist destinations of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg claims the title of the “First July Fourth Parade in the Nation” because their big parade kicks off at the stroke of midnight on the Fourth. Since they’re in the Eastern Time Zone, it’s probably a legit brag. The floats traveling along the main drag celebrate America and recognize military heroes, and the big fireworks display over the Space Needle kicks off almost a day later at 11 pm on July 4. Pigeon Forge’s celebration is a little more conventional, with live music from the CCR-inspired Swamp River Revival taking the main stage in Patriot Park at 6:45 followed by basso profundo country music star Josh Turner and a pyro extravaganza at the oddly specific time of 9:50.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of Nashville, where he has lived his entire life -- except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene, Nashville Lifestyles, Local Palate, Edible, FoodRepublic.com, and Conde Nast Traveler. He likes beer, bourbon, and bacon but isn’t fanatical about any of them.