Nashville's music scene has been shaped by various genres and influences over the years. Country music is often associated with the city, but Nashville has also been home to important figures in rock, pop, blues, and jazz, among others.
The city has a long history of musical innovation, dating back to the early days of country music. Nashville was home to the first commercial country music recording studio, and it is also the site of the Grand Ole Opry, the longest-running radio show in American history. You can see a show here and tour this iconic institution, which is a must for any country music lover.
Nashville's music scene continued to evolve in the second half of the 20th century. The city became a center for rock music in the 1960s and 1970s, thanks partly to influential record labels like Elektra and Mercury. Nashville also became a major hub for Christian music in the 1980s and 1990s.
Today, Nashville is known as a diverse and vibrant music city, with a thriving live music scene and a rich musical history. The city is home to numerous festivals and events that celebrate its musical heritage, and it remains an important center for the country music industry.
Before we get to our list of all the best Nashville music festivals, it's important to remind you to make sure you take the time to store your luggage properly. Music fests don't want you bringing your suitcases and large backpacks to their events, so visit a Bounce luggage storage in Nashville and let us take care of it all. And, if you need help getting from one festival to another, check out our guide on how to get around Nashville.
The Best Music Festivals in Nasville in 2022
Music in the Vines
About half an hour outside of Nashville in Arrington, the Music on the Vines Series starts out the music festivals in the area nicely. Set in a sprawling, picturesque vineyard, this event is one of a kind. You get a complimentary wine tasting with your admission, and if you can believe it, admission is free. Music on the Vines holds live music concerts throughout the year, and the weather from April to October is perfect to really appreciate this outdoor venue.
Since this is basically Nashville, all the performances skew towards jazz and bluegrass. This is the ideal place to find your next favorite, so check out their website for details on all the performances. The vineyard operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it's best to get here as early as possible.
CMA Music Festival
Held from June 9th to June 12th in 2022, the CMA Music Festival should be on the itinerary for every country music fan. Affectionately known as CMA Fest, this multi-stage festival provides access to all the best performers in the country genre. And, if you happen to miss this weekend party, you can even catch it on TV in early August. Ticket options range from one-day passes to weekend ones, and the next CMA Fest is scheduled for June 8 to 11, 2023, although tickets are not yet on sale.
The lineup for 2022 included Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban, along with about a hundred others. CMA Fest is a great opportunity to enjoy some country stars you already know and discover the new up-and-comers. The headliners and bigger names appear at the Nissan Stadium, and other, more intimate performances are held on various stages directly in front of the stadium in downtown Nashville.
Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
From June 16th to June 19th in 2022, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival took Nashville by storm. Well, not technically Nashville since it's an hour outside of town in nearby Manchester. The venue is Bonnaroo Camp, complete with camping opportunities, plenty of space to run around, and multiple stages.
Although it's slightly out of town, this festival gets a mention here solely for the amazing artists that perform here. This year, the likes of The Chicks, Machine Gun Kelly, and Stevie Nicks all played fantastic sets to the dazzled masses. Get your tickets for next year's event early; the prices increase the closer you get to the shows. Prepare to spend hundreds of dollars for a multi-day pass without any add-ons. But, this is one you won't soon forget!
Music City Freedom Festival
Held annually to commemorate the freeing of African American slaves, the Music City Freedom Festival is full of food trucks, local craft and food vendors, and, best of all, live music performances. The 2022 event was held on June 18th and 19th from noon to 8 pm on both days. Given that the festival is to celebrate Juneteenth, and it's a national holiday, you can expect it to always be at this time of year.
The event is held at the historic Hadley Park Regional Center, full of green spaces. Bring your lawn chair and plan to spend the whole day at this family-friendly party. There are games for the kids and great shopping for adults. Entrance is totally free, and you get to listen to DJs and some of the best local talent. Don't miss this one next year!
Nashville Pride Festival
In 2022, the Nashville Pride Festival was held on June 25th and 26th, and it occurs annually right around this time. You'll find all the lively festivities at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park in downtown Nashville. This urban park is the perfect place to take in a live show, see colorful costumes, and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. The event has three different stages where you can see everything from drag shows to live country and folk. There is no fee to attend and make sure you stay for the always fun parade.
Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival
Celebrating 21 years in 2022, the Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival combines all your favorites of jazz, blues, R&B, soul, funk, and gospel into one exciting community event. This year, the fest is held on July 23 and promises to be a good time. The blues festival takes place at Fisk University, northwest of downtown Nashville.
Aside from great music, attendees can view local art and sample everything from craft beer to food vendors while they roam around. This year's music lineup includes Higher Ground, The Manhattans, Mike Phillips, and Bobby Rush.
Bluebird on the Mountain
Perhaps the most famous live music venue in Nashville after the Grand Ole Opry, the Bluebird Cafe has had all the greatest country music artists on its stage at one time or another. Often toted as the place to discover new favorites and where record labels come to find the next big star, the Bluebird Cafe does things a little different in the summer. For two days, July 23 and August 20, the cafe takes to the highest vantage point in Nashville to offer memorable nightly concerts under the stars.
Artists perform on the Dyer Observatory's portico, and once the live music is finished, the observatory's telescope is available for concert-goers to use.
Tomato Art Fest
Not every festival in Nashville has to be a serious undertaking. For something a little quirky, attend the Tomato Art Fest held on August 12th and 13th in 2022. It celebrates everyone's favorite fruit (or is it a vegetable?), the tomato, with everything from tomato art, contests, tomato-themed food, tasty drinks, and lots of entertainment. Live music performances, marching bands in the parade, and DJs will have you tapping your foot almost immediately.
Only a few featured events require the purchase of a ticket, and everything else is free. The Tomato Art Fest runs from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday, and 9 am to 7 pm on Saturday. Since it celebrates something as wholesome as the tomato, you probably won't be surprised to learn that this one is definitely family-friendly.
Live on the Green
For the long weekend in early September, from the 1st to the 5th, Public Square Park in downtown Nashville comes alive with music performances, food, and fun. Live on the Green is great for families, and dogs are also welcome. The shows are totally free, and you can purchase drinks and food here too. Opt for one of the VIP passes if you want to combine refreshments with the perfect spot in front of the stage.
Previous years have had some well-known performers, like Sheryl Crow, Young The Giant, Ben Folds, and Cage The Elephant. Although this year's lineup hasn't been finalized yet, it's sure to be memorable.
AmericanaFest takes place from September 13th to 17th this year and is a unique event that includes both a conference for music professionals from across the country as well as a traditional music festival. Depending on your preference, you can opt for tickets to both or just the music festival.
For anyone who is really into music, the conference is a great choice. It's where fans, artists, and other music professionals mingle and learn from each other. There are networking opportunities, panels, and workshops to keep you entertained and learning at the same time.
As for the actual music, the venues are spread out across the city and feature hundreds of performers. Just make sure you get to your must-see concerts early; just because you have a pass doesn't guarantee entry if the venue is already at capacity.
Planning to stay some more days in Nashville?
Nashville, otherwise known as Music City, has so much to offer other than its music festivals, although music is so linked to its history that music of any genre is hard to escape here. Consider staying an additional three days in Nashville to experience all the exciting and informative sights here.
When in Nashville, you simply can't leave without visiting the Grand Ole Opry. The history and amazing music talent practically ooze from the walls. The Country Music Hall of Fame is one of the best museums in Nashville and should not be overlooked if you enjoy a little twang. During the day, you can also head to historic Broadway and stop in at some of the honky-tonks, explore the city's many parks, or sit down for a relaxing brunch in Nashville that may or may not include southern barbecue.
Don't fill your days too full, though, because Music City really comes alive at night. You can stumble into any live music bar and discover a new favorite artist, dance the night away at a Country & Western bar, or see a concert at the historic Ryman Theater. The unmissable things to do at night in Nashville are numerous, so you might consider adding more than three days to your trip.
You might even consider exploring a little further afield while you're here. Mammoth Cave National Park is the perfect day trip destination from Nashville, as are the many small and charming towns surrounding the sprawling city.
Music festivals are a great way to enjoy the best of Nashville's music scene. There are many different genres represented; from the iconic CMA Fest to informal concerts in the park, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Jazz, blues, pop, country, and folk are all readily available for your listening pleasure. The atmosphere is always electric, and the experience is one you won't soon forget. Besides, in a city known as the birthplace of country music, would you expect anything less?