Travel

Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in Nashville Right Now

Even locals love this stuff.

Nashville is definitely waking up from its summerlong Coronanap, sometimes to the chagrin of locals as Lower Broad honky tonks feel a bit overcrowded with tourists who have a, shall we say, casual attitude toward safe party practices. Nonetheless, there are still plenty of activities to fill your social calendar, both virtual and in person, that don’t require the need to get elbow-to-elbow with a bevy of bachelorettes. In the great outdoors or on a breezy patio or from your couch, Music City offers plenty of reasons to skip that “Play Next Episode” option on Netflix.

Take in some of Nashville’s most iconic sites

Free
Solo walking is still a safeway 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
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. You’ll probably have to place your order via delivery or pick them up to take home, but being closer to your own facilities can be a nice added bonus, if you know what we mean…

Marvel at the amazing glass sculptures of Chihuly at Cheekwood

$$
Ten years after his first wildly popular installation of intricate glass sculptures on the verdant grounds of the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, Dale Chihuly has returned with a new exhibition of delicate art. Spread out across the estate and inside the botanical hall, this is a must-see spectacle between now and the end of the year. It’s especially striking in the evening during Chihuly Nights, when the sculptures are illuminated to show off even more nuances in the glass. It’s worth the few extra bucks to see it under the stars!

Help keep your local green space clean as part of the Warner Park Vol Call

Free
Once a month, the Friends of Warner Parks invite volunteers to join them for fun cleanup projects around the trails and fields of Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks in West Nashville. They’ll provide the gloves, water and snacks as you tackle fairly easy tasks to help make the parks even more beautiful. Limited to just 25 volunteers to ensure social distancing, it’s a safe and enjoyable way to make some new like-minded friends while doing some good for the community.

Check out Nashville’s nonprofit film center, the Belcourt

$
Nashville’s oldest movie theater has been around since 1925, formerly housing the Grand Ole Opry from 1934-1936. 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, but they’re still waiting until folks feel comfortable enough to sit in a crowd in a dark room to watch a movie. Until then, they’re offering inexpensive three-day home rentals of new releases and old classics, many of which are not yet available on regular streaming services.

Browse some legendary gee-tars at the Gallery of Iconic Guitars

Free
Belmont University is famous for being one of the top music and music business schools in the country, so it’s just logical that they should also house a collection of some of the greatest musical instruments ever crafted. The Gallery of Iconic Guitars (GIG) is the collection of guitars from a university benefactor who wanted them displayed and actually played after his death. From acoustic guitars to electric prototypes of famous axes, this is a gearhead’s dream. Until they open up again, the GIG is offering free videos of famous pickers telling the stories behind their instruments that are on display.

Go glamping at Bloomsbury Farm’s Pomelo Grove

$$$
If your idea of “roughing it” is a hotel room without HBO, this might just be your kind of outdoor experience. Situated on the gorgeous Bloomsbury Farm, located a little over 30 minutes southeast of downtown Nashville, Pomelo Grove is luxe living. Three cute-as-a-button chic little campers have been set up in a compound, and each one has been converted to offer the same sort of comforts and amenities of a boutique hotel room. From luxury linens to all the cooking gear you’ll need to board games, a turntable and LPs, you’ll be surprised by how quickly time can evaporate when you’re having fun. You can also rent all three campers to set up a completely private camp for you and your friends or family.

Discover the bounty of the season at a local farmers’ market

Free
We get it. You had the best intentions when you set up that pandemic garden. But once the days got hot and humid, toiling around in the dirt just wasn’t quite as much fun, was it? And those damn squirrels took one bite out of each of your green tomatoes weeks before harvest. Fear not, because the professional farmers of Middle Tennessee are really good at their jobs, and they haul their wares to markets every day of the week somewhere close to where you live. When you consider how much you spent at Home Depot to yield three Better Boy tomato plants, it’s a real bargain.

Get on pointe with the Nashville Ballet

$
The talented dancers of the Nashville Ballet have come up with an excellent way to supplement their income until they can trod the boards again by offering group and on-demand dance classes to the general public. A variety of individual classes are scheduled every day with options including floor barre, pilates, ballet and stretch and conditioning, or you can opt for live group classes via Zoom. If you just want to dip your toe into dancing, they’re offering a free class live-streamed each Monday through Saturday at 11am on School of Nashville's Instagram.

Experience some bizarre history at the Tennessee State Museum

Free
The modern new Tennessee State Museum fortunately upped their tech game when they moved into their new digs in Germantown, offering online tours of their permanent collections, videos of discussions by guest lecturers, a blog of personal stories told by colorful characters and even downloadable coloring pages for the kiddies. 

See the strangest vehicles ever driven at Lane Motor Museum

Free
The Lane Motor Museum is a little-known destination in a nondescript industrial neighborhood south of downtown, but it’s certainly worth seeking out. Their collection of 150 unique cars, motorcycles, amphibious vehicles, and military transports includes rare examples and prototypes that you’ll never find anywhere else under the same roof. Its owner Jeff Lane has been collecting and restoring vehicles since he was a teenager, so you’re actually viewing his life’s work. Lane has put stories online about each car and exhibit items in their collection, including some that may not even be on display on your next in-person visit.

Meet the original Wichita Lineman at the Glen Campbell Museum

$
If all you know about the late Glen Campbell is that he used to host The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS decades ago or your grandparents saw him on Hee Haw, you are seriously missing out. Campbell was a musician’s musician and an original member of The Wrecking Crew, the LA-based group of studio musicians that played on records from artists as diverse as The Beach Boys, Bing Crosby, and Elvis. Go down the rabbit hole of Glen Campbell performance YouTube videos and you’ll discover why there’s a whole new museum downtown dedicated to his life and music. If you want a preview before visiting, here’s a virtual tour on the museum website.

See literally any performance at the Ryman Auditorium

$$
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. Until the lights go up again, the auditorium is presenting a series of streaming concerts from the iconic stage featuring acts like Scotty McCreery, Brett Young and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Soak up some culture virtually at The Frist

Free
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. The Frist’s YouTube channel offers archives of lectures, instructional videos, short features and live performances. Their exhibit, We Count: First-Time Voters will be available online from May 1-December 31. They describe the exhibition as a way to honor “the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment and the importance of civic engagement by highlighting the history of voting in the United States and the first voting experiences of a diverse group of Nashvillians.”

Enjoy a seriously soigné picnic with Picnic PopUp

$$$
Dining al fresco is even more fun when somebody else does all the work setting up for you. At least that’s the idea behind Picnic PopUp, a service that will create the ultimate Instagrammable setting for you and your dining companions. From pillows to fairy lights to flowers, just tell them where and when and leave the details to their ingenious minds. Picnic PopUp doesn’t provide the food, but they’ll be happy to suggest and work with a caterer who will ensure that all you have to do is show up and eat. Thematic picnics like proposal parties, dining with dogs or perfect playdates are available to help stimulate your creativity.

Make a big splash at SoundWaves

$$
Once reserved strictly for guests of the massive Gaylord Opryland Resort, SoundWaves is an expansive indoor/outdoor waterpark that’s the perfect way to beat the heat. With lazy rivers, waterslides, a surfing simulator and plenty of space for lounging and relaxing, you can choose your own aquatic adventure. Plus, there are plenty of drinking and dining options so you’ll never have to leave your lounge chair (except to get wet.) For the first time, they’ve opened up the park to Tennessee residents thanks to a special deal, so go see what all the fuss is about.

Pass a “halfternoon” while meeting with a meerkat at the Nashville Zoo

$
Working from home means that it’s a lot easier to sneak out for a little R&R to clear your head in between Zoom calls. Or heck, knock off a little early and treat yourself to a trip to the Nashville Zoo, where they’re offering half-price “halfternoon” rates after 1:00. For less than 10 bucks, you can forget all about that endless morning team meeting while you stroll the grounds visiting with thousands of exotic animals spread across different habitat areas. Schedule your next meeting with a meerkat for a much more enjoyable afternoon.

Find your center with Kali Yuga Yoga

$
This popular East Nashville yoga studio was already expanding its online class offerings before social distancing made it mandatory. Now it’s livestreaming classes three times a day through its website and app. While it sounds like a contradiction in terms to Zoom some inner calmness, it really does work. Potential clients can also check out a few free lessons on the studio’s YouTube channel to see if it’s their style.

Join somebody’s house party from your own home with QuaranStream

$
Nashville’s music scene isn’t exclusively about country. The city is also blessed with some talented DJs who have been keeping the party pumping at clubs all over town for years. Many of them have actually expanded the artform by spinning sets from their own homes and inviting folks to listen in online and hopefully leave a little something in the virtual tip jar. Nashville-based QuaranStream compiles an ongoing schedule of these events, including some happening outside of Music City. But once you don your wireless Beats headphones and start dancing around the living room, do you really care where the music is coming from?

Honor the players who put the music in Music City

Free
Nashville’s Musicians Hall of Fame in the basement of Municipal Auditorium is the only museum in the world solely dedicated to telling the stories of the musicians who played on the greatest recordings of all time, regardless of the musical genre. Permanent exhibits showcase some of the most iconic musical instruments in history and recognize the talented musicians who played them. Actual inductees to the hall of fame range from legendary guitar pickers to groups that laid down the rhythm and the groove behind famous vocalists. They’ve collected a series of interviews with many of the past inductees on their YouTube channel along with a special “Musicians Hall of Fame Backstage” series that shares many of the behind-the-scenes stories of the museum.

Make up your own taproom tour

$
Unless they have a full kitchen serving meals, most taprooms around Nashville won’t be able to welcome in guests for a while yet, but they’re still selling beer to-go in growlers, crowlers, cans and bottles. Plot yourself a route and drop by several of them to pick up a potpourri of crafty treats. If you live in SoBro, hit up Tennessee Brew Works, Jackalope, and New Heights. If you’re in NoBro, get beer from Bearded Iris and Honky Tonk. East Nashvillians can support East Nashville Beer Works, Southern Grist, Smith & Lentz, and Little Harpeth. And spots worth the drive are Yazoo, Black Abbey, TailGate, Blackstone, and Fat Bottom.

Binge on some local podcasts

Free
This pandemic has been a boon for podcasters as folks hungrily crave entertainment and have a lot of time on their hands to listen to any sort of content. And Nashville podcasters definitely do offer their takes on a wide variety of subjects including: true crime, hockey, football, barbecue, obscure local history, music, whiskey, food and family. Plug in your earbuds and start listening. If you’re not careful, you might just learn something.

Watch the Opry play for nobody

Free
The Grand Ole Opry has been on quite a streak. They haven’t missed a weekly performance in almost 5000 consecutive Saturdays, and they’re not going to let a little pandemic mess with their success. Even though the broadcasts are being performed without a studio audience, the show must go on with live shows broadcast on the local NBC affiliate, satellite and terrestrial radio. They’ve pulled out all the stops with some amazing performances by country music legends including Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Marty Stewart, Trace Adkins, Duistin Lynch, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. (OK, that last one isn’t especially country, but she’s dating Blake.) It’s almost as good as the real thing.

See more of Nashville’s great musicians playing from their living rooms

Free
The Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp keeps a schedule of the many virtual concerts being put on by musicians from various musical genres on a nightly basis. You’re encouraged to toss a little something in the online tip jar to help support these talented performers while they’re forced offstage, but it’s a heckuva lot better than listening to your “Pandemic at the Disco” playlist again.

Escape your loneliness with a virtual Escape Game

$
While it seems like a perfect time to play one of the fun scenarios at The Escape Game, you normally would have to actually go somewhere to experience their hour-long puzzles that allow a group to work together to figure out how to get out of a locked room. Until you can lock yourself in someplace other than your own home, they’re offering remote games where you can put together a group of friends and solve the brainteasers together via Zoom. Bonus: you can drink whatever you’d like from your home bar to stimulate your creative problem solving or to dull the disappointment if you don’t make it out within the prescribed time limit.

Sign up here for our daily Nashville email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun the Music City has to offer.

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.