15 Cool Things to Do in Nashville This Winter
If you’re looking to make the most out of Music City with live music, murals, and hot chicken, look no further.
It seems like everyone is coming to Nashville, whether to visit for a long weekend or to move here permanently. It’s understandable, because there is so much to do in Music City that decision paralysis can be a real problem. Live music? Great restaurants? Pro sports? Outdoor activities? Boozy bars? We’ve got ‘em all. Don’t let the abundance of entertainment riches baffle you. Just pick from this list of some of the best ways to squeeze the fun out of your time in Nashville.
East Nashville and Downtown
Ask a local, and you’ll probably hear that Nashville is a town best appreciated from street level instead of on top of some party trailer pulled by a tractor or on a pedal tavern. That’s why Walk, Eat Nashville is an ideal way to experience the culinary scene of Music City. Knowledgeable guides lead small groups on walking tours of downtown and East Nashville, 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 philosophy while offering samples of their creativity.
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.
Hit up three amazing music museums
Music is, of course, 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 is a must-visit, even if you aren’t particularly a fan of the genre. Exhibits tell the story of country’s heritage and how important it has been to the culture of the region. The Musicians’ Hall of Fame showcases 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 to be home to this museum that highlights the many contributions of Black musicians to almost every kind of music.
Spend a whole day in an upscale sports bar
There’s nothing like whiling away a day watching sports and noshing on bar food at a local watering hole, but it’s even nicer to do that someplace where your feet don’t stick to the floor. Nashville has several upscale sports bars where the food and drink is at least as important as the size of the television screens. The Ainsworth brings a Manhattan vibe to midtown with crafty cocktails, golf simulators, and over-the-top burgers. Jasper’s calls itself “the next generation of the sports bar” thanks to a menu created by one of the city’s most beloved chefs, Deb Paquette. Dine on seriously upscale snacks while enjoying access to a free game room and multiple screens. Almost Friday Sporting Club is a bar that grew out of an Instagram brand, and they’ve created the perfect bro-centric spot to watch games. Indulge in their tower of fried snacks like chicken tenders, corn dogs and tots or take on the ridiculous five-pound burger that is clearly meant for sharing.
Bud & Brews is Tennessee’s first cannabis-based restaurant and bar, and it offers a truly unique experience. Just about every item on the food and bev menu is infused with legal cannabis containing THC levels regulated by law. Servers describe all the possibilities to patrons before ordering, ranging from personal dab bar experiences at the table to CBD cocktails to pretty decent gastropub food that guests can torque up with infused condiments like hemp extract and THC ketchup, ranch, Cajun butter, or hot wing sauce. You might want to make plans for a rideshare home.
Bellevue and Antioch
For a Southern town, Nashville has certainly embraced the ice thanks to the popularity of the local NHL franchise. Residents can also thank the Predators for some new sheets of ice at the two Ford Ice Centers in Antioch and Bellevue. In addition to hosting multiple youth and “old guy” hockey leagues, they also offer ice time for public free skates throughout the week. Private and group skating lessons are also available if you’re not confident on blades yet.
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. The Assembly Food Hall at the 5th + Broadway retail and entertainment complex across from the Bridgestone Arena downtown. Much more than just your average food court, Assembly Food Hall features mostly local restaurants that might not otherwise be able to afford a larger space in the urban core. Your finicky friends can pick from Laotian/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.
Pore over a pour over at a terrific coffee shop
Nashvillians take their coffee dead seriously, and fortunately there are a plethora of great spots for a proper cup of java all around town. Barista Parlor has more than a half dozen locations around town, and each of them offers an almost maniacal attention to the scientific details of roasting and brewing to extract the perfect essence of the bean. 8th and Roast is a little more casual, but no less committed to offering great coffee and food at all three of their locations. Bongo Java, Fido, and Crema are a trio of long-time Nashville favorites that roast and brew their own beans and also offer retail sales by the bag.
As Nashville’s most iconic food, hot chicken, spreads across the country and around the world, it’s important to remember and recognize the family that actually invented the dish. Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack was the original and still champion of 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 XXXHot (which definitely is!) Drop in and pay homage to the progenitors of piquant poultry.
Just because your favorite team might have missed out of the College Football Playoffs doesn’t mean you have to give up the game until next season. Be a part of the festivities that surround the annual TransPerfect Music City Bowl, a multi-day event that matches up the University of Iowa and the University of Kentucky in the big game this year. From a Battle of the Bands downtown before the game to kickoff at Nissan Stadium, downtown Nashville will be a giant pep rally for days.
Listen to some songwriters in the round
SoBro and Green Hills
Country music and Americana are different from many other musical genres in that they often offer the opportunity to actually watch creative songwriters at work crafting lyrics and melodies that might become a future hit for some mega-star. The Bluebird Cafe is the legendary small music venue where songwriters perform sitting in small circles of folding chairs, swapping songs and sharing the stories behind the writing. It’s a notoriously tough ticket, so consider visiting The Listening Room Cafe on the outskirts of downtown that is a slightly less intimate music room, but still offers plenty of talented singer/songwriters sharing their creations on a larger stage.
In honor of the team’s sabretooth tiger mascot, fans of the Nashville Predators curl up their digits to make “Fang Fingers” to mock opponents headed to the penalty box. That’s just one of the traditions at a Preds game, where the raucous crowd is often as entertaining as the scrappy team. There’s never a dull moment when the puck hits the ice, so go show your gold.
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.
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 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 hauling drunk tourists around town, the Music City Brew Hop is actually a public service, operating two different hour-long loops 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 routes will show you more of the real character of the city.