Actually Cool Things to Do in Nashville This Fall

You've earned some fun.

If you’ve been downtown on a weekend lately, you are aware that Nashville is officially open for business, and that business is having fun. Fortunately for locals, there’s plenty of summer entertainment spread around town where the crowds aren’t so densely packed, so make plans to get out of the house and experience the best that this town has to offer—namely, anything and everything listed below.

Root, root, root for the home team at First Horizon Park

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Germantown
After a year when the park was dark, your AAA Nashville Sounds are back in the ballgame, now as the top farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers. The beer is still cold, the Whiskey and Coke Icee at The Band Box bar in right field will still give you a delicious case of brain freeze and the nachos are still buried under a blanket of “cheese.” Oh yeah, and they’ll be playing baseball, too.

Get festive at some big music events

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Various
Nothing brings the residents of Music City together more than, well, music. Some of your favorite festivals return to live action after extended pauses, so welcome back big events like AMERICANAFEST that will stage shows in venues all over town September 22 through 25. Pilgrimage returns to Harlinsdale Farm in Franklin September 25 - 26 with a stacked talent lineup including Dave Matthews Band, Black Pumas, and The Black Keys. Nashville is, as always, a town of songwriters at its core, and Tin Pan South is the world’s largest musical festival dedicated to songsmiths. Those creative artists will take center stage from November 16 until November 19, and special tickets will be available that guarantee entry to all the performances on stages around Nashville.

Arrington Vineyards
Courtesy of Arrington Vineyards

Chill with some Jazz at the Pavilion or dig on Bluegrass at the Barn

Free
Arrington
The changing leaves are like a siren song drawing you to Arrington Estates, Kix Brooks’ winery just south of town. Give into the call and bring a picnic or buy some snacks and a bottle of wine while you listen to jazz combos and bluegrass bands playing at different locales around the estate. It’s a darned refined way to while away an afternoon.

Go on a mural walk

Free
Various locations
Music City has evolved into mural city over the past few years, and not just the famousones that tourists love to use as selfie backdrops. The walls of the city are dotted with all sorts of public art projects, including many with historical or cultural significance. Former Thrillist contributor Kristin Luna is the doyenne of local wall art, and she shares the stories behind many murals at her personal blog, Camels & Chocolate. Or if you don’t feel like leaving the couch to discover some fine art, you can always take a virtual tour instead.

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Courtesy of Love, TIto's

Make fresh food accessible; inspire healthy eating: That’s the idea behind Love, Tito’s Block to Block program, which aims to build community gardens and farms in neighborhoods across the US, one block at a time. In Nashville, that means working with Trap Garden to distribute GroBoxes, allowing people to grow their own food at home. Visit Trapgarden.org/lovetitos to learn more.

Nashville Sites
Nashville Sites

Take in some of Nashville’s most iconic sites

Free
Various locations
Solo walking is still a safe way to explore as long as you maintain social distance, and although Nashville is a hilly city, there are all sorts of great routes around town to discover some local history and get your exercise at the same time. Nashville Sites has gathered some thematic walking itineraries from 1-2 miles that highlight architecture, history, restaurants, and music. Lace up your shoes and head out on a hike!

Discover the OGs of Nashville Hot Chicken

Free
Various locations
Nashville’s iconic hometown specialty has enjoyed a second wave of popularity in recent years thanks to the national food media (even KFC did a version). But for a true taste of history, you should experience your fiery fowl cooked by the families that have been doing it for decades. Prince’s Hot Chicken is the undisputed king of the cluckers, but don’t miss out on a trip to Bolton’s or 400 Degrees to experience more masters of heat. If you’re still not up for dining out, you can also always place your order via delivery or pick them up to take home.

12 South Taproom & Grill Weekend Punch
12 South Taproom & Grill

Stroll 12 South

Free
12 South
Nashville’s most walkable commercial strip is a mile-long stretch of 12 Avenue. South where both sides of the street are lined with fun restaurants, bars, coffee shops and boutiques. There’s also the bucolic Sevier Park at the southern terminus, a perfect spot to enjoy a picnic lunch of your carryout from dining spots like the new Asian hotspot Locust, old reliable 12 South Taproom, or Taqueria del Sol.

Belcourt Theatre
Belcourt Theatre

Check out Nashville’s nonprofit film center, the Belcourt

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Hillsboro Village
Nashville’s oldest movie theater has been around since 1925, formerly housing the Grand Ole Opry from 1934 to 1936. After a major refurbishing a few years back, the theater has been modernized into one the best places to watch a movie in town. Offerings range from art house films to documentaries to new releases. They’ve reopened their two theaters, much to the delight of local cinephiles, so go sit in the dark with some strangers and remember what it was like in the before times.

Zip from tree to tree at The Nashville Adventure Park

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West Nashville
While the thrilling treetop zip lines are certainly a highlight at The Nashville Adventure Park, there’s actually a lot more to do here than just hang from a harness. There are also rope and cable bridges to cross, axe throwing stations and picnic areas to take a break from the action. It’s a self-guided experience where visitors buy a block of time to experience the thrills at their own pace, or you can hire a guide to lead you through the park.

Relearn all the science you forgot from school

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Wedgewood-Houston
While the Adventure Science Center is aimed at children, there’s plenty of educational entertainment for grownups, too. In addition to the star shows at the Sudekum Planetarium and permanent exhibits about earthquakes, the physics of light and flight, beekeeping, and virtual reality, where else in town can you ride a colorectal slide through a giant representation of the human digestive system?

Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium

See literally any performance at the Ryman Auditorium

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Downtown
They don’t call the Ryman Auditorium “The Mother Church of Country Music” for nothing. It is best known as the longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry, but through the years the Ryman has hosted eclectic musical acts ranging from Bill Monroe to Elvis (both Presley and Costello) to Widespread Panic and Foo Fighters. Currently, individual performers are dictating health protocols, but the concert calendar is again thankfully filling up.

Soak up some culture at The Frist

Free
SoBro
The Frist Art Museum is novel in that it doesn’t really maintain a permanent collection of artwork, choosing instead to showcase rotating exhibits of local, regional artists along with major US and international traveling exhibitions. There are some fun shows coming up, including a salute to art deco style and design, hyper-realistic sculptures by Johannesburg-based Mary Sibande and an exhibition of Medieval art from Bologna. The Frist’s YouTube channel also offers archives of lectures, instructional videos, short features and live performances.

Nelson's Green Brier Distillery
Nelson's Green Brier Distillery

Taste and tour at some local distilleries

$
Various locations
Instead of just hanging out in some bar somewhere, why not actually learn something with the chance to discover a new favorite spirit as part of a distillery tour? Nashville is blessed with some excellent artisan spirit producers who offer tours and tastings to small groups or individuals. The portions are just a sip or two, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about getting home safely after visiting spots like Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, Nashville Craft Distillery, or Corsair. Plus you can do a little bottle shopping and check a few names off your holiday gift list.

21C Hotel
21C Hotel

Check out some hotel art

Free
Downtown/SoBro
A nice byproduct of the recent downtown hotel construction boom is the fact that their lobbies are decorated with some amazing art open for public viewing. The 21C Museum Hotel features more than 10,000 square feet of public gallery space with both permanent and rotating exhibitions of modern art. The new Joseph Hotel integrates fine art into the hotel decor in unexpected places like the tooled leather front desk created by the famous Lucchese boot company and specially commissioned pieces of art like sculptured front door handles, a copper and glass chandelier hanging over the lobby bar and even the carpeting with fun little elements of Tennessee history hidden among the weave. Heck, even the Margaritaville Hotel has a chandelier made out of margarita glasses hanging over the lobby and a giant sculpture of a flip flop that could qualify as pop art.

Greenways for Nashville
Greenways for Nashville

Go take a hike

Free
Various locations
We could all use some fresh air every now and again, and the city is fortunate to feature some excellent hiking trails close to the urban center. Stroll along a flat paved path as part of Nashville’s extensive greenway system, choose one of the hiking paths around Radnor Lake, or wander around the one-mile loop at Centennial Park taking in changing perspectives of the scale-model of the Greek Parthenon and the newly remodeled Great Lawn that has been designed to carry less auto traffic to open up more space for walkers and bicycles.

Have your mind blown at the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit

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Downtown
Organizers are still keeping the exact location of this upcoming multi-media arts exhibit a secret, but you can guess it’ll be somewhere near the urban core. Multiple exhibitions of this innovative presentation of Van Gogh’s artwork have been popping up and traveling around the country, and they’ve all drawn big crowds to walk through the master’s famous pieces magnified using virtual reality technology. It should be delightfully trippy.

Celebrate the Dead with some fine beers at Touch of Brews

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12 South
This all-day family-friendly event will take over the quaint Sevier Park with six bands playing the music of the Grateful Dead. Some will recreate classic concerts while others concentrate on particular eras of the band’s expansive music catalog. There will be beer from Terrapin Beer Company (natch!) along with food from local restaurants and food trucks plus selection of vendors selling their hippie-dippie wares along Shakedown Street.

Help your Tennessee Titans stay on a roll

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East Nashville
After a long period of mediocrity, the Tennessee Titans have been on the upswing over the past few years. This year, they’re considered Super Bowl contenders again with an upgraded roster of veterans and newcomers, and they plan to put an exciting product on the field week after week. You’ll want to be there at Nissan Stadium so you can witness the possible next “Music City Miracle.”

Music City Brew Hop
Music City Brew Hop

Create your own beer crawl with Music City Brew Hop

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Various
Not to be confused with the numerous boozy “transportainment” options hauling drunk tourists around town, the Music City Brew Hop is actually a public service, operating an hour-long loop between several of Nashville’s best craft beer breweries. Pay one price and hop off and back on all day long with no fear of adding your name to the roster of the “overserved.” Intentionally avoiding the worst of downtown traffic, the route will show you more of the real character of the city.

Learn about your neighbors during Hispanic Heritage Month

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Nolensville Road
Since the gen pop has co-opted Cinco de Mayo as another excuse to drink and party, the Nashville Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce wants to show you the real contributions that their community makes to Nashville. Through a series of cultural demonstrations, educational roundtables, networking opportunities and community engagement events, this will be a great chance to learn about some of the important economic drivers of Music City.

The Big Drag Bus
The Big Drag Bus

Go lip syncing’ and day drinkin’ on The Big Drag Bus

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Downtown
This 90-minute tour of some of Nashville’s hot spots has quickly become a tough ticket, even though they offer multiple trips a day. Your acerbic drag queen tour guides keep the party pumping on the bus while lip synching to classic hits and narrating your trip through town. They also provide coolers and fresh ice for passengers, and the pickup spot happens to be right across the street from a beer and liquor store. (Remember, no glass on the bus, though!)

 

Get off your couch and go watch a movie in an actual theater at the Nashville Film Festival

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Green Hills
After months of streaming movies, it’s time to see them as intended on the big screen. The Nashville Film Festival has been screening fine films for more than fifty years, and many of their selections end up making waves come Oscars time. In addition to offering 160 titles over the course a week, the festival also hosts education programming as part of the accompanying Creators Conference. Budding filmmakers can learn from the experts at a series of panel discussions and find out about the musical side of the business through virtual events.

Musicians Corner
Musicians Corner

Party in the park at Musician’s Corner

Free
West End/Vanderbilt
Nashville’s favorite free music series returns to Centennial Park for its annual fall season. Local and regional artists will perform in the park every Thursday-Saturday through the end of September. Food, drink and craft vendors will keep patrons happy between sets, and weekly Kidsville sessions on Saturdays will offer fun fitness, crafting and educational activities for the little ones.


 

Support some local heroes, the new football coaches at TSU and Vandy

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East Nashville and West End/Vanderbilt
After some down years, the football programs at Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt have dipped into the local well for coaches committed to turning their ships around. Ex-Titans legend Eddie George will helm the Tigers team, and longtime fans know he never lacked for fire or enthusiasm. New Vandy coach Clark Lea is an alum of the school and is fresh off a stint running Notre Dame’s ferocious defense. So get to their stadiums to be a part of the renaissance of local college football!

Hip Zipper Vintage Clothing
Hip Zipper Vintage Clothing

Add some vintage to your closet

Free
East Nashville
Aside from the jokes about the “hipster uniform” of typical East Nashville denizens, the neighborhood is home to some of the city’s coolest vintage clothing stores, so it’s an ideal environment for adding some old school style to your wardrobe. Some of the best spots to dig through the clothing bins for concert t-shirts, distressed denim and leather jackets include The Hip Zipper, Good Buy Girls, and High Class Hillbilly. In no time, you’ll be blending in anywhere in Five Points.

Alison's Record Shop
Alison's Record Shop

Shop for some cool vinyl

Free
Various locations
A benefit of living in such a musical city is that many residents possess excellent record collections, and sometimes they have to sell a few to make rent. That means that local record stores are full of fantastic finds if you’re willing to flip through the stacks of vinyl. Jack White’s Third Man Records stocks the latest and greatest of analog music plus some cool guitar gear. For older music, frequent spots like Grimey’s, The Great Escape, Phonoluxe, Fond Objects, Alison’s Record Shop, and Vinyl Tap, where you can also grab a sixer of craft beer to-go.

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Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer. If Nashville was the Love Boat, he’d like to think he’d be Julie, your cruise director. In truth, he’s probably more of a Gopher. Join him on the Lido Deck on Twitter @CeeElCee.