The capital of Tennessee, Nashville is a city with no shortage of things to do. Often known as Music City because of its historic links with country and other forms of music, Nashville is a cultural hub of the South and a great destination for anyone that loves to explore music and other performing arts.
With so much to do, it's easy to spend more money than you mean to. Nashville has so many attractions to see that keeping to a budget can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are also plenty of free things to do in Nashville that will help keep costs down. Whether you want to enjoy live music, experience some of the best hikes in Nashville, or visit some of the city's fascinating museums, you can do it all without spending a penny.
To make things easier on yourself, make sure you drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Nashville before you go exploring. Traveling light will make it easier to navigate the city so you can focus on having fun.
The best free things to do in Nashville
Tennessee State Capitol
Located in Nashville, the Tennessee State Capitol is one of the city's most impressive buildings. The rich history of the state is very much on evidence here, and the capitol contains the tomb of James Polk, the 11th president of the United States. The building predates the Civil War, and remains the place where Tennessee's laws are made to this day. You can visit the capitol on a free guided tour that will explain the history and importance of this building and give you a deep insight into the story of Tennessee. This walking tour will take you through the building itself and around the grounds, so you'll get to see a lot in a short amount of time.
Of course, one of the best things to do in Music City is catch some live music. And if country music is your thing, you'll have no trouble finding it. Downtown Nashville is packed with bars and concert halls where you can see local and touring artists perform, and often, all it will cost you is the price of a beer or a coffee.
Additionally, the city holds several no-charge concerts where you can enjoy free music. Check out Musicians Corner, a free music festival held right through the summer in Centennial Park. With music, food, an artisan market, and a fun kid zone, it's not only one of the best free things to do in the city, it's also one of the best things to do with kids in Nashville.
There's more on offer than country music, too. Fans of classical music will be glad to know that the Nashville Symphony Orchestra holds free summer concerts in various locations around the city. Check out their website to see the schedule.
Centennial Park is one of Nashville's best and most beloved public parks. The park hosts many events through the year, including Musicians Corner and some of the Nashville Symphony's free concerts. But the park is also a great place to visit all by itself. For one thing, it's home to Nashville's iconic Parthenon, a replica of the ancient Greek original. The park also has a one-mile walking trail, a bandshell, a lake, and a kids' play area. The grassy lawns are the perfect place to take a break in the Tennessee sunshine and enjoy the tranquility and fresh air of this deservedly popular park.
Music City Walk of Fame
Celebrate iconic performers on the Music City Walk of Fame. Located on Nashville's Music Mile close to the Country Music Hall of Fame, this walk celebrates the careers of icons like Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Keith Urban, and others. Get your photo taken next to a tribute to your favorite artists, and enjoy the many street performers that entertain the crowds here, many of them hoping that one day, it'll be their name engraved on a plaque at this legendary spot.
Frist Art Museum
If you're looking to explore a different kind of art in Nashville, the Frist Art Museum is the place to go. Run by a nonprofit organization, this museum does not have a permanent collection, but instead hosts an ever-changing range of exhibitions from around the country and around the world. As a result, you never know exactly what you're going to see here, whether it's priceless paintings from the Renaissance or the latest cutting-edge art installations. But whatever the museum has when you choose to visit, it's bound to be a fascinating encounter with the art world.
Visiting the Frist cost $15 for adults. However, it's completely free for anyone under 18. It's also free for students with valid identification, so it can be a very affordable way to spend some time in Nashville. Plus, the gallery is home to Martin ArtQuest, an interactive creativity space that makes another fantastic thing for kids to do in Nashville.
Nashville Farmers Market
Nashville Farmers Market runs throughout the year, and is the perfect place to explore the city's culinary scene. You'll be able to see the best produce and foods from around Tennessee and get a sense of local delicacies. There are also often food trucks and musicians performing in and around the farmers market, making it a fun and lively place to explore. And you don't have to buy anything to enjoy the atmosphere. Just wandering through the stalls and seeing what's in season can be a fun adventure. And if you do decide to buy anything, at least you'll know that you're helping support local independent farmers and merchants.
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
Another of Nashville's impressive green spaces, Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park covers 19 acres. It holds a 2000 seat amphitheater where you can catch musical and theater performances in the summer, and it offers an impressive view of the Tennessee Capitol and the Nashville skyline.
The park is also great place to get in touch with the city's history. It houses a World War II memorial, the Pathway of History, and an impressive 200 foot map of the state made out of granite. As a result, it's a great place to wander and while away a few hours in a unique part of the city.
Tennessee State Museum
For more background on Tennessee's history, don't miss the Tennessee State Museum. This is the best place to learn more about the forces that have shaped the history and culture of the state, and the contributions Tennessee has made to the country and the world. You'll learn about the state's pioneer origins, Tennessee's role in the Civil War, the history of immigration to the state, and the civil rights struggle, among other topics. Best of all, Tennessee State Museum offers free entry to anyone who shows up. You could easily spend an afternoon or more enjoying the exhibits in this impressive museum, and with free admission, there's really no reason not to go.
The two parks that make up Nashville's Warner Parks, Percy and Edwin, are the ideal place to experience the natural side of Tennessee without straying too far from the city. These parks offer lots of hiking trails, including the popular Mossy Ridge Trail which provides a surprising challenge for an urban park. As you hike the four-and-a-half-mile loop of the trail, it's easy to forget that there is a huge city nearby. Instead, you'll feel as if you're deep in the heart of the Tennessee backcountry, making this a fantastic place not only to get some exercise but to recharge your batteries away from the hustle and bustle of Music City.
Nashville Public Library
Many people don't consider visiting a town's library while on vacation. But Nashville Public Library is housed in a beautiful building that is worth seeing for its architecture alone. Plus, the library often hosts free programs for kids and adults, so it's worth checking in to see if there's anything that appeals to you going on while you're there.
This is also one of those areas where it pays to know a local. If you know somebody with a Nashville library card, they can check out a Community Counts Passport, which will give you free admission to one of Nashville's top attractions, the Country Music Hall of Fame. But even if you don't have that option, the library is still worth visiting for everything else it has to offer.
As a Southern state, Tennessee was very often on the front lines of fighting during the American Civil War. During the war, Union troops constructed Fort Negly after the capture of Nashville to defend the territory they had taken. Following the war, the fort fell into disrepair, and was used for a while as a meeting place for the Ku Klux Klan. However, the site the fort occupied is now a public park, and the ruins of the fort have been preserved, making it a great place to wander and experience the history of Tennessee firsthand. Self-guided walking tours let you explore the area around the fort at your own pace, and you'll learn more about Tennessee's role in the Civil War and the way that bloody conflict shaped the state just as it shaped the history of the entire country.
The grounds of the fort are also home to the Adventure Science Center which, although not free, is a fun place to visit while you're in Tennessee, especially for kids. So whether you're into history or science, Fort Negley is definitely worth a visit.
Although it went off the air decades ago, famed TV show the Dukes of Hazzard is still fondly remembered by fans. At this quirky Nashville attraction, you can see props and costumes from the cult favorite, including some of the cars used in the series. It's a must visit for fans of the show while in Nashville, and even people who are less familiar with the program will get a better understanding of why the show has such enduring appeal. Admission is always free, and it's a good way to kill an hour or so in Nashville without spending anything.
With so much to do in the city, visiting Nashville can be an expensive proposition. After all, many of the city's top attractions charge hefty admission fees. Add in the price of eating and drinking in this major city, and you'll quickly find yourself wondering where your budget went.
Luckily, you can offset some of the cost of a trip to Nashville with these free attractions. Visiting some of these places can help stretch your budget further and make sure you can have fun without breaking the bank. And of course, it's always easier to explore a new city when you're not carrying more than you need to. Don't forget to drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage so you're free to explore these low-cost attractions.