15 Cool Things to Do in Nashville This Spring
If you’re looking to make the most out of Music City, look no further.
Ranked one of the U.S.’s top tourist destinations, Nashville sizzles year-round with activities to suit any state of mind. Whether you prefer hiking near lakes and immersive walking tours or sitting and sipping, Music City has you covered as the weather warms up this spring. The return of the Musicians Corner free concert series is just one more reason to get psyched about the turning of the seasons. It’s time to grab your allergy medicine and hit the town for some big fun!
Lighthouse Immersive Studios has converted a former grocery store into a wonderful world of Disney animation with massive projections on the walls and surround sound audio as visitors stroll through scenes inspired by Disney classics like The Lion King, Encanto, and Zootopia. Take a magic carpet ride with Aladdin and Jasmine or sing along with Elsa while you experience what it’s like on the set in an animated movie.
One of Nashville’s favorite free music events returns to the lawn at Centennial Park for five consecutive weekends of concrete from May 19 through June 17. Inspired by Speakers' Corner in London, the Music City version features local and regional acts performing on two stages along with food, drink, and crafts vendors. Bring a picnic or purchase tasty treats from the food trucks, and spread out a blanket for an afternoon of fun and music.
Take a trip along the Tennessee Whiskey Trail to tour and taste at more than two dozen distilleries ranging from giants of the industry like Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel to micro-distilleries creating unique versions of whiskey, gin, vodka, and other spirits. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Whiskey Trail descends on Nashville from May 18 through May 20 for four days of special events like a blend-your-own-bottle experience at Pennington Distilling Company, a barbecue party at Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg, a day of tastings at Ascend Amphitheater in honor of International Tennessee Whiskey Day, and the Women in Whiskey brunch event on Sunday.
Crafty Bastards, a juried exhibition of handmade goods that allows artists to sell their wares directly to attendees, takes over OneCity with great deals on jewelry, clothing, home goods, and gift items created by professional artists. The free spring fair, which takes place April 22 through April 23, also features food trucks, crafty cocktails, beer and wine, live music, and free giveaways.
The Nashville Comedy Festival is bringing local and national comedians to various venues around town the week of April 15 through April 23. Headliners like homegrown hero Nate Bargatze, plus Ali Wong, David Spade, and Fortune Feimster will appear at the big rooms like Bridgestone Arena, War Memorial Auditorium, and the Ryman Auditorium, while venerable Nashville comedy club Zanies will host some of the up-and-coming acts. Zanies will also celebrate its 30th anniversary with an All-Stars show at the Ryman on April 19.
Listen to music under the stars or under the ground
Franklin and Pelham
If you’re willing to drive a little way out of town, you can experience live music in some truly unique venues around Nashville. FirstBank Amphitheater in Franklin was cut out of an old rock quarry, offering a memorable viewing and listening experience as you stroll from the parking lot through a copse of trees to the seating area. Rock walls surround the audience, holding in the sound for a premium acoustic environment. About 90 minutes east of Nashville, The Caverns concert venue does an even better job capturing the sonic waves because it is actually located in a cave that stays 59 degrees year-round. Hosting everything from small acoustic acts that take advantage of the hushed rooms to large rock ‘n’ roll bands that revel in the trippy underground experience, a show at The Caverns is always a memorable one.
Less than 30 miles south of Nashville, Country star Kix Brooks’s Arrington Vineyards offers sweeping views of the surrounding countryside, and some of its wine is made from grapes grown on the property. Arrington Vineyards also has a variety of tasting rooms for sampling wines and learning about the winemaking process. In addition, there’s a picnic area where visitors can enjoy a meal or a snack while taking in the scenery at the beautiful property.
East Nashville and downtown
Ask a local, and you’ll probably hear that Nashville is a town best appreciated from street level. So skip the tractor-pulled party trailers and pedal taverns, and instead experience Music City’s culinary scene in the ideal way with Walk, Eat Nashville. Knowledgeable guides lead small groups on walking tours of downtown, East Nashville, and a brand new route through 12 South, showing off independent restaurants that aren’t necessarily featured in travel magazines. At each stop, managers or chefs meet the group and talk about their food philosophies while offering samples of their creativity. Come hungry!
Taste and tour at some local distilleries
Instead of just hanging out in a bar somewhere, why not take the chance to discover a new favorite spirit as part of a distillery tour? Nashville is blessed with some excellent artisan spirit producers that 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 overdoing it after visiting spots like Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, Nashville Craft Distillery or Corsair. Plus you can buy a bottle to take home with you.
Hit up three amazing music museums
Music, of course, is the heart and soul of Nashville, and three fantastic downtown museums tell the tales of the talents behind the songs. The Country Music Hall of Fame, a must-visit spot whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, showcases country music's heritage and how important it has been to the region’s culture. The Musicians Hall of Fame spotlights the sidemen behind the headliners who laid down the grooves and added emotion to famous songs throughout history. Many cities were in the running to house the new National Museum of African American Music, but Nashville won the battle. Highlighting the many contributions of Black musicians to almost every kind of music, there are lots of ways to experience what this museum has to offer.
There are few things more frustrating than trying to figure out where to take a large group of people with diverse opinions on food out to eat. Much more than just your average food court, Assembly Food Hall primarily features local restaurants that might not otherwise be able to afford a larger space in the urban core. Finicky friends can pick from Laotian and Thai cuisine from Thai Esane, burgers and sandwiches from The Pharmacy, Neapolitan pizza from DeSano, ice cream from Hattie Jane’s, or dumplings from Steam Boys. As a bonus, there are multiple bars and stages for live music acts on each floor of the massive food hall.
Nashville’s most iconic food, hot chicken, has spread across the country and around the world, so it’s important to remember and recognize the family that actually invented the dish. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack was the original hot chicken – and it’s still champion in the world of fiery fowl. The fourth generation works the fryers, pumping out plates of infernally spicy chicken that ranges from mild (which isn’t) to 'XXX Hot' (which definitely is!). Drop in and pay homage to the progenitors of piquant poultry.
Go on a mural walk
Music City has evolved into mural city over the past few years, and not just the famous ones 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. If you don’t feel like leaving the couch to discover some fine art, you can always take a virtual tour instead.
Take a hike along one of Nashville’s trails
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 remodeled Great Lawn that has been designed to carry less auto traffic to open up more space for walkers and bicycles.
Not to be confused with the numerous boozy “transportainment” options known for hauling drunk tourists around town, the Music City Brew Hop actually a provides a real service, operating two different hour-long loops between several of Nashville’s best craft beer breweries. Intentionally avoiding the worst of downtown traffic, the routes will show you more of the real character of the city. Pay one price and hop off and on all day long. Two-day passes are also available if you want to experience both circuits.