28 Actually Cool Things to Do in Nashville This Winter
From holiday happenings to an outdoor mural walk.
While chillier weather might force some people inside, there are still plenty of outdoor activities to keep you occupied in Nashville over the next couple of months. And if you’re feeling a “boost” and want to get out among the masses, fun opportunities abound all over town. Whatever your pleasure, Music City has you covered with these activities and events.
Cheer on your hometown hockey team
The Nashville Predators have had a surprisingly successful start to the season, taking advantage of a combination of experienced veterans and motivated youngsters that are fun to watch and easy to root for. After a couple seasons of intentionally limited attendance, it’s wide open in Smashville, so show up in full throat to root on the boys in gold.
Take a jog down through Donelson at the Turkey Trot
The beloved annual Boulevard Bolt down Belle Meade Boulevard has gone virtual this year, so if you want to to get a little more active on Thanksgiving Day, head over to Wave Country for the start of these 8-K and 10-mile races where you can take a little out-and-back route along the greenway and help raise funds for Care Kitchen Outreach. As a bonus, there will be donuts waiting for you at the finish line!
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?
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit the Vatican in Rome and see Michaelango’s legendary paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you know that it can be a life-changing experience. Except it’s w-a-a-a-a-y up there to the ceiling and the crowds of tourists tend to shuffle you along before you can truly soak it in. This life-size version of the master’s work is re-created in a gallery at Opry Mills in a much more conducive viewing environment, and you can stick around and gawk as long as you’d like.
Get in the Xmas spirit at Saint Nicky’s
Beloved local Italian restaurant Nicky’s Coal Fired is putting on a costume for Halloweenmas this year, starting up the dining room with lights, garland, Christmas trees, and ornaments and offering special holiday-themed cocktails through the holiday season. Santa will even make an appearance on December 12 for your Instagramming pleasure.
Experience a winter wonderland at a local hotel
The latest trend among local hotels has been to convert some outdoor space into special winter-themed seasonal activations. Nashville has got enough options to fill Sanata’s bag, including Camp Bobby at the eponymous downtown hotel, complete with a rooftop "frozen pond", drinks and snacks around your own personal campfire, and a 70's camper-inspired lounge in Bobby's retrofitted 1956 Scenicruiser. The Virgin Hotel on Demonbreun has converted their rooftop Pool Club into an indoor/outdoor space named “The Lodge: with chalet decor, firepits, and après-ski-inspired food and drink. The Westin’s “Chalet 27” activation will transport you to the Alps on top of Nashville’s tallest rooftop bar.
Enjoy some special beers with hundreds of new friends at the Winter Warmer
The Winter Warmer returns to 12 South after a year in East Nashville, and organizers have slightly reduced the number of tickets to allow for both intimacy and social distancing at the same time as hundreds of craft beer lovers gather in Sevier Park to sample one-of-a-kind brews from more than 35 local and regional breweries. There will be food trucks to help soak up some of those high gravity beers and love entertainment to keep you moving to burn off some of those calories.
Enjoy the twinkles at Cheekwood’s Holiday LIGHTS
The grounds of the lovely botanical gardens at Cheekwood will be aglow with thousands of twinkling lights at their annual holiday installation running from November 20 through early January. Stroll the paths with your sweetie and marvel at real reindeer, stop by one of the firspits spread around the mile of lighted trails complete with all the makings for s’mores or grab a seasonal cocktail or hot toddy at one of the cash bars. Dress warmly and snuggle close.
Get turned on at Futurephobia
This the third in a series of exhibitions at Main Street Gallery in East Nashville, and they’ve all been edgy and fascinating. The theme of Futurephila revolves around combining sex and science fiction in the world of art, with more than a dozen artists fantasizing about the future through their artwork in the form of photography, painting, and sculpture. Is it a little weird? Hell yeah, but in the best way! It’s sure to spark a little conversation, if not something else.
Stay inside and play
Sometimes you need a little exertion but just don’t want to fight the elements. Book a couple hours to band some balls in the heated driving range bays at TopGolf, bowl a few games of duckpins at Pins Mechanical Co. or experience the latest local sporting option sliding the stones at Nashville first curling center, Tee Line. Who says you need to work up a sweat to call it exercise?
Go on a mural walk
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.
Discover the reason for the season at Gaylord Country Christmas
The expansive Gaylord Opryland Resort really embraces the Christmas season every year, with literally millions of holiday lights and a dinner show featuring the Oak Ridge boys singing their classics. Other legendary country performers have also scheduled holiday performances at the resort at the Grand Ole Opry House, so you can make an entire evening of it.
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.
Take in some of Nashville’s most iconic sites
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
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.
Stroll 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 Asian hotspot Locust, old reliable 12 South Taproom, or Taqueria del Sol. New spots like ButterMilk Ranch and Emery Wood Fired are also packing in the crowds.
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.
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
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.
Taste and tour at some local distilleries
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.
Check out some hotel art
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.
Go take a hike
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.
Organizers finally announced the exact location of this upcoming multi-media arts exhibit at Lighthouse ArtSpace in West Nashville. 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.
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.”
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.
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!)
Shop for some cool vinyl
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.
Add some vintage to your closet
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.