How to Still Have Fun in Nashville When It’s Stupidly Hot Outside

Here’s how to beat the heat in Music City.

Spring was lovely in Nashville this year. If we recall correctly, it fell on a Thursday, so maybe you weren’t able to get out and enjoy that temperate weather before it turned “hotter than the hinges of Hell,” as we say around these parts. That’s alright because there is still plenty to do around Music City when it’s blazing hot. Whether you take refuge in the water or stay inside out of the heat and humidity that feels like wearing a wet wool blanket, you can still have a hot time while keeping your cool.

Fort Negley
Even the evenings can be a tad muggy during a Middle Tennessee summer, so head to the Sudekum Planetarium at the Adventure Science feature for hi-tech star shows that will teach you all about the current night sky. Other special shows share stories about the celestial realm using a state-of-the-art projector and bumpin’ sound system.

Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center

Donelson
The sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort opened a new attraction a few years ago that added aquatic fun to the amenities at the hotel. Guests who purchase the special Water Experience at SoundWaves gain access to outdoor pool facilities plus a host of indoor, temperature-controlled activities like a lazy river, waterslides, private cabana rentals, and Nashville’s only FlowRider® system where you can bodysurf, boogie board, or try your hand (feet?) at hanging ten on a standing wave.

Madame Tussauds Nashville
Madame Tussauds Nashville

Take a selfie with a wax celebrity

Donelson
With locations around the globe, Madame Tussaud's is a legendary chain of attractions featuring lifelike wax figures of celebrities. At the Nashville outpost inside Opry Mills, there is a special emphasis on country music stars with opportunities to take backstage photos with a Carrie Underwood clone, an ersatz Elvis, or a mock Miley Cyrus. You can even add a wine tasting to your ticket, and that might make the figurines look even more realistic.

Virgin Hotels Nashville
Virgin Hotels Nashville

Swim like a tourist in your own town

Various
It can be depressing to walk the sidewalks of Nashville and think about all the tourists enjoying the rooftop pools atop all of those luxe hotels downtown. But do you know what? A lot of them are happy to welcome in anyone who’s willing to pay the equivalent of less than a monthly YMCA membership for a day pass to enjoy their amenities. Really, how many days are you really going to head to the Y during the hottest part of summer anyway? Instead, contact local hotels like the delightfully hipster The Dive Motel, the bachelorette haven Graduate Nashville, the Virgin, Bobby Hotel downtown or the W Nashville in the Gulch, and they’ll be happy to give you access to the same perks as their guests so you can lounge by the pool for a day.

Nashville Paddle Co.
Nashville Paddle Co.

Get out on the water

Hermitage
Swimming is a great way to stay cool, but not everyone is comfortable jumping in a lake, y’know… where all the fish and snakes are. If you want to enjoy Percy Priest from above the water instead of in it, rent a paddleboard or a kayak from Nashville Paddle Company, and enjoy the peaceful waters of the reservoir from atop an actual watercraft. They also offer lessons if you’re a beginner or you just want to increase your paddling proficiency.

Catch a classic flick

Hillsboro Village
If you’re looking for a way to save a little money on your air conditioning bill, head to the historic The Belcourt Theater to sit in a cool, dark room while watching first-run films, art flicks and classic movies. Two large theaters plus a small screening room make for lots of choices as they rotate the schedule frequently. Bonus: You can buy beer, wine, and cocktails at the concession stand, which is just damned civilized.

Game Terminal
Game Terminal

Prove you’re still a pinball wizard

South Nashville
Relive your misspent youth at Game Terminal, a warehouse-sized arcade, restaurant, and bar filled with vintage pinball machines and video games, most set for free play or at most a buck or two for some of the more popular pinball games. Think of what you could do with the quarters you spent on Galaga or the money you dropped on Xbox games. On second thought, don’t think about what your 401K might look like; just enjoy the fact that you can enjoy a blast from the past for next to nothing.

Take advantage of a free sprayground

Various
If all you want to do is to get a little damp, the Metro government has provided free sprayground parks around town in various neighborhoods. These small attractions feature fountains for frolicking that spray cool water in the air. The concrete pads can get a little slippery, so wear good shoes, and since it’s a family-friendly environment, you might want to leave your thong at home.

Chill out on ice

Antioch, Bellevue and Clarksville
As a way to introduce Nashville to hockey and ice skating and to give back to the community, the Nashville Predators of the NHL have built three Ford Ice Center skating complexes around the Mid-state. Stay cool on the ice while playing in a hockey rec league, enjoying free-skating sessions, taking figure skating lessons, or even trying the obscure Winter Olympic sport of curling.

Nashville Shores
Nashville Shores

Go jump in a lake

Hermitage
Since 1998, Nashville Shores has been a favorite local spot to get wet and wild in Music City. Situated on the waterline of Percy Priest Reservoir, this park offers a wave pool, 10 towering waterslides, a lazy river, an Aqua Park, and banana boat rides on the lake. It’s a great option for a lowdown dirty good time without actually getting dirty.

K1 Speed
K1 Speed

Feed your need for speed

East Nashville
If your memories of go-karts are from the tiny beachside tracks of your youth, Music City Carting will demonstrate that both you and the activity have grown up significantly. The cavernous indoor facility features a challenging track where you’ll drive souped-up electric karts in air-conditioned comfort. They can reach 45 mph in the straightaways, and at just inches from the ground, you’ll feel like you’re commanding a Ferrari.

Lane Motor Museum
Lane Motor Museum

Get lost in a museum

Various
Nashville has a bunch of fantastic museums where you can while away a sweltering afternoon looking at fine art, historic artifacts, or famous musical instruments, but there are also some more obscure cool museums worth seeking out. Check out the Jefferson Street Sound Museum to discover stories from back when that strip of North Nashville was the center of the jazz and R&B scene in Nashville. Or head a few miles out from downtown to the quirky Lane Motor Museum and its collection of hundreds of automobiles and motorcycles, including some really bizarre prototype vehicles.

Experience boozy brain freeze

Various
Many Nashville bars recognize that one of the best ways to chill off is to chill out with a frozen drink, so they stock spinning freezer machines offering a wide variety of frosty cocktails. The Co-op specializes in several delicious varieties of frosés, while The Band Box in right field of the home of the Nashville Sounds at First Horizon Park offers delightful frozen George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey and colas as well as the dangerous Field of Dreamsicle made with local distillery Pickers Blood Orange Vodka. Too many of those and you’ll never make the seventh-inning stretch! Speaking of dangerous, the boozy Bushwacker at Edley’s and the moonshine-based Mule Kicker at Acme Feed & Seed have both been known to lead to an early end to a hot day, so exercise caution.

Pontoon Saloon
Pontoon Saloon

Take a cruise on the Pontoon Saloon

Downtown
Like a pedal tavern on the water where you don’t actually have to do any pedaling, booze cruises on the Pontoon Saloon are all about having a good time. Either as a private cruise or part of a public tour, guests enjoy safe and fun voyages along the Cumberland River, including options for all-inclusive beer and seltzer parties to help cool off on the water. The dedicated deckhand is not only the bartender, but also the DJ spinning party tunes while you stay out of the heat.

Enjoy a beer with a view

Madison
One of Nashville’s best-hidden secrets is the fantastic patio at the city’s most beloved craft brewery, Yazoo. Tucked north of town on an idyllic slice of paradise overlooking the Cumberland River in Madison, there’s plenty of room to sip on a tasty brew while watching the water roll by from a shady table. Keep an eye out for wildlife, because Yazoo might as well be a state park considering all the birds, fish, and aquatic mammals that you can spot from the patio. It’s totally worth the cost for the rideshare to get you home after a long afternoon of enjoying beers and doing basically nothing else.

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Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee.