27 Actually Cool Things to Do in Nashville This Summer

Now is the time for live music festivals, summer time activities, and rooftop bars in Nashville.

We hope you enjoyed spring in Nashville. It apparently fell on a Tuesday this year. Now that we’re in the grips of summer, there’s nothing to do but make the best of it. (It’s the heat AND the humidity, BTW.) No matter, Music City has plenty to offer in the way of both indoor and outdoor activities to take your mind off the clime, so get out there and enjoy all the food, drink, and things to do during summer in the city.

Assembly Food Hall
Assembly Food Hall

Eat your way around 5th + Broadway

Downtown
You might think the Assembly Food Hall at the 5th + Broadway retail complex is just a glorified food court, but among the 20+ dining options are independently-owned outlets of some of your favorite local restaurants. You can’t beat the convenience of sitting in any of the comfy seating areas and ordering from Assembly Food Hall’s app. Then just wait for the text response to know when to pick up a meal from outposts of Nashville icons like Prince’s Hot Chicken, Thai Esane, Pharmacy Burger, Coco’s Italian Market, DeSano Pizzeria, and more. Family can’t make up their mind on what to have for dinner? Take them to the Hall and let them pick!

Nashville BCycle
Nashville BCycle

Try out the latest e-bike craze

Various locations
Electric bicycles are quite the craze lately, and in an up-and-down town like Nashville, there’s no better way to get a little exercise in while still arriving at your destination without being covered in sweat. The Nashville B-Cycle program recently added e-bikes to their fleet of cycles docked in stations around town. Buy a single ride or a weekend, monthly or annual pass and pedal to your heart’s content without the need to take a shower when you get where you’re going.

Goo Goo Clusters
Goo Goo Clusters

Play like Willy Wonka for a day at the Goo Goo Shop

SoBro
Goo Goos are historic as America’s first cluster candy bar, chocolate covering a delicious mash-up of peanuts, caramel, and marshmallow nougat. After a recent multi-million dollar renovation, their downtown storefront is now a whimsical celebration of all things Goo Goo. In addition to a retail store where you can buy candy and Goo Goo swag, they also host candy-making classes, wine and spirit chocolate pairings, and kiosks where you can design your own custom Premium Goo Goo which the talented kitchen staff will whip up for you in a jiffy. They also serve baked goods and boozy milkshakes to put you in the mood to hit the honky tonks of Lower Broad right around the corner.

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?

Nashville
Wampa-One/Flickr

Go on a mural walk

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.

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.

Go take a hike

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.

The Adventure Park at Nashville
The Adventure Park at Nashville

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.

Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium

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 so you might want to check those out in advance, but the concert calendar is again thankfully filling up.

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.

Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Nashville
Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit Nashville

West Nashville
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.

Music City Brew Hop
Music City Brew Hop

Various Locations
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.

The Big Drag Bus
The Big Drag Bus

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!)

National Museum of African American Music
National Museum of African American Music

Celebrate Black Music Month at local landmarks

Various
June is Black Music Month, and it’s no surprise that Nashville has a deep connection to African Americans' contributions to many musical genres. Some of them are showcased at the amazing National Museum of African American Music downtown across the street from the Ryman Auditorium. Visit the museum to launch your historical journey, and you’ll learn about one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry, DeFord Bailey, an amazing Black harmonica player who actually performed at the Ryman. You’ll also learn about the Fisk Jubilee Singers who have been representing Fisk University by touring the world introducing audiences to traditional spiritual music since 1871.

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

Germantown
Your Nashville Sounds, the Triple-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, have kicked off the 2022 season with a scalding start. Some of these boys of summer will definitely be in the big leagues sooner than later, so check them out while you can still see them without taking out a loan for tickets and food for a family of four. The food and drink at The Band Box in right field makes an evening at the ole ball game even better.

Nashville Superspeedway
Nashville Superspeedway

Experience the Music City Racing Trifecta

Various
Music City becomes Motor City this summer with a trio of huge automotive events. First up is the inaugural Ally 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway on June 26, a full weekend of racing action including a NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. On July 9, a group of racing’s living legends will take to the track at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway for some bumper bashing short track action as part of the Superstar Racing Experience. Finally, the rolling rocket ships of the IndyCar circuit will return to the streets of downtown for the second annual Music CIty Grand Prix. Don’t blink or you’ll miss the action.

Cheer on the Boys in Gold with Nashville SC

Berry Hill
After starting the season on a two-month road trip while they waited for their new stadium to be completed, Nashville SC have returned home to their extraordinary home of Geodis Park, the largest soccer-specific stadium in the US and Canada. Not only is the team a whole helluva lot of fun to watch on the field, but the constantly cheering and singing crowd provides a basically unbeatable home field advantage. Every aspect of the modern stadium is top drawer, and the sightlines are superb. Go see what real football is all about.

CMA Country Music Association
CMA Country Music Association

Embrace the chaos that is CMA Fest

Downtown
The annual summer fan-demonium for country music fans is back with a vengeance this year from June 9 through June 12. The hordes will descend on downtown to pay homage to their favorite stars who will be putting on big stage shows at Nissan Stadium across the river. Headliners this year include Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Kane Brown, Thomas Rhett, Alan Jacson, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, and Luke Bryan. That’s a who’s who of country music royalty, so if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

Get down in the mud or the dust at Bonnaroo

Manchester
After multiple postponements and cancellations over the past couple of years, Bonnaroo was finally ready to return to the 650-acre farm last year to host tens of thousands of music fans who were headed there to camp and listen to music on multiple stages spread across the property. Then, the rains came, and organizers had to cancel the whole shebang again at the last minute. So performers and fans alike will be chomping at the bit to get back together and commune as one nation under a groove June 16 - 19. The lineup of more than 150 performers features a wide variety of talent ranging from headliners like Robert Plant, Billy Strings, and Herbie Hancock to up-and-comers like Japanese Breakfast and All Them Witches.

Let Freedom Sing on July Fourth

Downtown
Nashville loves some fireworks! On NYE or July Foruth, the skies over Music City are set aglow with thousands of fiery projectiles to the delight of tourists and locals alike. For the Fourth, crowds gather at the end of Broadway to listen to patriotic musical performances from the Grammy Award-winning Nashville Symphony Orchestra and special musical guests at an annual free concert. This year’s performers at Let Freedom Sing will include Gramps Morgan, Cassadee Pope and Levi Hummon who will warm up the crowd for the Symphony to accompany the pyrotechnics.

Musicians Corner
Musicians Corner

Party in the park at Musicians Corner

Vanderbilt/West End
Local singer/songwriters and bands take over the stage at Centennial Park at this annual rite of spring and summer, offering free concerts at this family-friendly music series. Thanks to beer, wine and cocktail stands, it’s one of the few times you can drink legally in the park, so take advantage of that novelty. Food trucks offer up comestibles and craft vendors showcase their wares from tents that ring the shaded performance area. It’s a great low-cost way to spend an afternoon.

Dig out your acid-washed jeans for the Stadium Tour at Nissan

East Nashville
Set the Wayback machine to 1982 as a quartet of legendary rock acts take over the stage at Nissan Stadium on Thursday, June 20. Picking a true headliner is difficult, because Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett and the Blackhawks all took their turns at the top of the charts over the course of the ‘80s, but why quibble over who goes on last in the bill? Just tease out your hair, put in your earplugs, stand up in your seat, and rock out to some shredding guitars.

Tomato Art Fest
Tomato Art Fest

Celebrate the veggie that’s actually a fruit at the Tomato Art Festival

East Nashville
East Nashvillians take a special pride in their own brand of weird quirkiness, and it’s never more on display than during this weekend celebration of all things tomato. Always held during the prime tomato-picking season, this year’s Tomato Art Fest will be August 12 - 13, so plan to dress accordingly. And by “accordingly,” we mean your red and green finery or a punny t-shirt that says something like “I love you from my head tomatoes,” or “legalize marinara” as you take part in the gala public parade that is a highlight of the fest. Cooking contests and a tomato art show are also popular events.

Heritage Fire Tour
Heritage Fire Tour

Enjoy everything but the oink at Heritage Fire

Midtown
The national Heritage Fire food and wine tour makes a stop in Nashville at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on June 26, and everyone (who isn’t a pig) should be excited that they’re coming. Local chefs will be paired with wineries and heritage breed hog farmers to utilize an entire animal to prepare a multi-course meal for a panel of judges to determine who’s the big pig. Unlike many cooking competitions, attendees will actually be able to sample the same dishes and wines that the chefs put forth for judgment, so you can pretend to be Tom Colicchio on Top Chef.

East Nashville
One Sunday a month, Nashville Cumberland park turns into the coolest jazz club in town. The free event features jazz groups from across the region playing classic tunes or original compositions in a family-friendly atmosphere with food trucks and other concessions available for purchase. Bring a lawn chair and let the smooth jazz get your mind right for another week of work. Or just forget about work completely. You know what they say, “Don’t let Monday ruin your Sunday!”

Friends Of Warner Parks
Friends Of Warner Parks

Revel in bluegrass under the stars at the Full Moon Pickin’ Party

West Nashville
This longtime music series is a fundraiser for the Friends of Warner Parks, a support group that helps care for the two huge urban parks that we’re lucky enough to enjoy. Under the full moon, professional bluegrass musicians perform from small stages, but even more enjoyable are the small groups of amateur pickers who bring a guitar or banjo from home and form impromptu jam bands. Bring a blanket, bring the family, bring the dog (on a leash), or bring your own instrument to join in the fun.

Cool off on the Roof at PROOF

SoBro
An al fresco brunch on a rooftop in the heat of summer might sound torturous to some, but not if you find refuge atop the tony W Hotel in the Gulch at their PROOF bar and lounge. Offering sweeping 360-degree views of downtown, a DJ keeps the energy up during their fun Saturday brunch, and fishbowl-sized drinks are made for sharing. Cool off with a Watermelon Margarita or avail yourself of bottomless Mimosas, Frosé, and Bloody Marys.

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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.