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Nashville's Secrets: 25 Unforgettable Experiences

Nashville might be known as Music City, but it has more to offer behind the scenes. Whether you're an art enthusiast or a history lover, this southern city is brimming with activities for all interests. Nashville has played a pivotal role in U.S. history, and its lively attractions reflect that. Go beyond the tourist traps and discover the can't-miss attractions your next itinerary needs.

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01 Stop by Music Row and the Historic RCA Studio B

Explore Nashville's legendary "Home of 1,000 Hits" at Historic RCA Studio B. Built in 1957; it has hosted a slew of iconic artists through the decades, cementing Nashville's reputation as a music capital. Located in the heart of Music Row's studio district, this locale gave birth to hundreds of award-winning albums and chart-topping hits. Discover where top names such as Elvis Parton, Chet Atkins, and Dolly Parton recorded their best songs, along with modern artists such as Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride.

02 Explore the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

Home to over 3,000 animals from around the globe, Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is a family favorite. Over 325 unique species reside in carefully curated habitats, and backstage passes give you behind-the-scenes access to animals. Share treats with giraffes, give a rhino a backscratch, or just observe from afar — the choice is yours. Visit an animal show or keeper talk to learn more about your favorite species, or attend one of many events, such as Brew at the Zoo, which features unlimited beverage samples, food trucks, and live music.

03 See the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

Encompassing 55 scenic acres, Cheekwood Estate & Gardens is both a time capsule and an architectural marvel. Inside the mansion, you'll learn about everyday life in the American Country Place Era. Tour through rooms that have been gorgeously restored to their former glory, complete with original furnishings and decor. Dozens of artworks are exhibited, and the grounds feature a 1.5-mile sculpture trail through picturesque woodlands. 13 gardens delight the senses, whether you crave the meditative ambiance of the Blevins Japanese Garden or the splendor of Italian-themed Burr Terrace.

04 Take a step back in time at the Tennessee State Museum

Covering the period from the first settlers in 13,000 B.C.E. through the present day, it houses one-of-a-kind artifacts and fascinating stories. Find displays such as a rare 13-star American flag, a War of 1812 uniform coat, and even the hat worn by Jackson during his presidential inauguration. Tennessee Time Tunnel uses interactive displays and thought-provoking tales to bring the state's story to life, and you can even step inside a cutaway log cabin!

05 Cheer on the Nashville Predators

Experience the thrill of professional hockey with the Nashville Predators, a high-energy NHL team that has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike. Hosted at the impressive Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville, you'll find yourself immersed in a sea of gold and navy as fans come together to support their beloved team. Soak up the electric atmosphere as you watch the Predators take on rivals from across the country, and don't forget to keep an eye out for Gnash, the team's saber-toothed tiger mascot, as he entertains the crowd with antics and stunts. To enhance your game-day experience, explore the wide array of dining options and fan activities available within the arena, making this an unforgettable outing for the whole family.

06 Discover the gems of 12 South

Unwind in the trendy 12 South neighborhood, a bustling area known for its eclectic shops, delightful restaurants, and vibrant murals. Browse through unique boutiques, like White's Mercantile or Imogene + Willie, where you'll find a curated selection of clothing, accessories, and home goods. Treat yourself to gourmet popsicles at Las Paletas, or indulge in artisan chocolates from Tempered Cafe & Chocolate. Don't forget to snap a photo in front of the iconic "I Believe in Nashville" mural or other eye-catching street art adorning the walls of local establishments. After exploring, unwind at Sevier Park, a tranquil green space perfect for a picnic or leisurely stroll.

07 Indulge at the Nashville Farmers' Market

Open-air farm sheds feature over 150 local vendors, including dairy farmers, bakers, cheese-makers, and food artisans. Choose from mouth-watering produce picked at peak freshness, or browse the stalls for zesty cheeses, sweet honey, and fruity jam. Visit Gardens of Babylon — an 18,000-square-foot nursery brimming with plants, containers, and gardening accessories. The expansive indoor market house features restaurants serving worldwide cuisine, so your stomach will thank you if you're craving burgers, tacos, or bibimbap.

08 Talk politics at the Tennessee State Capitol Building

The Tennessee State Capitol Building is one of the oldest in the U.S., making it the ideal destination to learn about the state's history, politics, and important events. Opened in 1859, the building is still in operation today. It features artifacts honoring past presidents, including a statue of Andrew Jackson and the tomb of James K. Polk. 45-minute guided tours lead you through the building's main chambers, including the Tennessee General Assembly.

09 Check out the Nashville Public Library

Built as the Carnegie Library of Nashville, this building still helps educate the public. Books started circulating as early as 1899, but readers needed to purchase a card, and borrowing wasn't free. In 1901, that changed, and it became the first free library in the city. Today, you can find books of every genre with plenty of study space. Special features include a Civil Rights Room, Votes for Women exhibit, and Genealogy resources to uncover your family history.

10 Wander the Warner Parks and Nature Center

If you want to immerse yourself in nature, head over to this family-friendly attraction. Not only can you explore the surrounding park and trails on foot, but you can participate in immersive learning experiences through workshops, recreation programs, and special activities. Learn about native species that populate the landscape, take a morning meditation session in the wilderness, try hands-on activities for the kids, or take a closer look with a guided hike.

11 Enjoy a show at the Grand Ole Opry

Performers on stage at a music & arts festival Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

The Grand Ole Opry is famous even for those who aren't country music fans. It's an iconic venue that has a long tradition of hosting some of the most famous country music performers. The acoustics are unique, allowing every seat to have an immersive, unforgettable experience. Performers are invited into the Opry - it's a huge honor for musicians to be a part of the membership. Shows don't happen every night, but it's definitely worth the trip, even if it's just to take a self-guided tour.

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12 Take a Cumberland River Steamboat Cruise

Nashville skyline with river and sunset Jonathan Ross/ Getty Images

Discover the scenic Cumberland River as you take a cruise on a historic paddlewheel boat. Your three-hour tour takes you on one of the largest paddle-wheel boats in the US, with views from both the expansive outdoor deck and luxuriously appointed seats inside. It's not just scenery - there is also a show with live comedy and music in the boat's Victorian theater. You'll enjoy delicious homestyle cooking with a 3-course Southern-style lunch or dinner.

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13 Explore the Belle Meade Plantation

1830 slave cabin, Belle Meade Plantation Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Experience Southern hospitality and discover a history dating back to 1807 at Belle Meade. Interpretive tours are offered of the Greek Revival mansion and grounds providing insight into the lives of the powerful and the powerless who lived and worked on the plantation from enslavement through emancipation. Oh, and there's a winery on-site. Tours end with a complimentary tasting.

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14 Have fun at the Adventure Science Theatre

Tennessee's first planetarium and Nashville's first Children's Museum opened its doors in 1945. Since then, it's expanded beyond just making immersive science fun for kids - it's also an educational experience for adults. The Adventure Tower is a one-of-a-kind, 75-foot tower that demonstrates the most progressive example of hands-on instruction for the Museum, filled with exhibits that range from astronomy to geology and chemistry. Visitors especially enjoy the BodyQuest gallery- it's 9000 square feet devoted to every system of the body, complete with interactive displays.

15 Peruse the prestige at the Country Music Hall of Fame

The Country Music Hall of Fame houses over two million pieces of memorabilia, including both permanent exhibits and rotating exhibits. It sprawls over two large floors and is home to the iconic RCA Studio B as well as Hatch Show Print. There are several dining and shopping options for a taste of country and souvenirs to take home.

16 Wear black and visit the Johnny Cash Museum

Inside the Johnny Cash museum Stephen Chernin / Getty Images

Located downtown in historic 3rd Broadway, this must-see destination houses the most extensive collection of Johnny Cash memorabilia. If you enjoyed Walk the Line, then you'll thrill at seeing a lifetime's tribute to the Man in Black. Family-friendly, the museum features a collection of Johnny Cash artifacts and memorabilia. Follow the journey of a legend through decades of instruments, stage costumes, letters to and from the artist, as well as family photographs and interactive displays.

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17 Get to know Nashville on Broadway

Broadway is major thoroughfare in Nashville, Tennessee. © Nina Dietzel/ Getty Images

For the 21 and over, there's plenty of fun along Broadway. Visit one of the many bars that line Broadway, downtown Nashville's main thoroughfare. The Honky Tonk Highway features many bars that host live acts regularly. You'll be able to walk from club to bar to venue, enjoying line dancing, live music, and a great time with friends. Each bar is unique - many visitors spend several evenings here, getting to know the flavor of each establishment.

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18 Hike Shelby Bottoms Nature Center & Greenway

Minutes from downtown, Shelby Bottoms is named after the bottomland hardwood forest it's a part of on the Cumberland River banks. The nearly 1,000-acre site offers 10 miles of trails, half of which are paved for biking, skating, and ADA accessible, the rest primitive trails for walkers and joggers only. Adjacent Shelby Park contains a large fenced-in, off-leash dog area where your favorite fuzzy companion can romp and make new friends before or after a leashed greenway excursion.

19 Make a date with history at the Hermitage

The Hermitage building in Nashville

The Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson, is one of the largest and most visited presidential homes in the United States. Today, this 1,120-acre National Historic Landmark with over 30 outbuildings has been refurbished to give a taste of 18th-century life. The Hermitage welcomes 200,000 visitors annually, both from across the US and abroad. A new exhibit, called "The Duel: The Art of the Southern Gentleman," is a 30-minute interactive experience that answers viewer questions about the practice of dueling, followed by a live demonstration. This show is free with paid admission to The Hermitage.

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20 Explore Radnor Lake State Park

Head into the wilderness without leaving Nashville city limits. This 1,368-acre natural area south of downtown is lined with 7.75 miles of hiking trails with plenty of wildlife viewing opportunities. Trails around the lake are easy to navigate, with overlooks for birding and scenic water views. Other more-difficult trails ascend some of the highest hills in the Music City region.

21 Imbibe and tour Nelson's Green Briar Distillery

Wooden bucket used for whiskey fermentation in Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee whiskey is famous - or infamous - around the world. The tour takes you through the past, present, and future of this historic distillery. Begin by exploring the history of the distillery, followed by a tour of the production floor, including explanations of the selection of grains and the process of making the hand-crafted whiskey. The tour ends in the Tasting Room, with complimentary samples as well as products for purchase. Tours are $11 but limited to those 21 and over.

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22 Get artsy at the Frist Center For the Visual Arts

Facade of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee, USA

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is an art-deco building that is a former US Post Office. It now houses works of art from around the world - both permanent fixtures and rotating exhibits that typically last six to eight weeks. The Martin ArtQuest gallery inside the museum promotes learning through creation - with 30 different interactive stations, as well as experimental art spaces, Visitors are welcome to create their own unique expressions. There are plenty of kid-friendly experiences, including free wifi and a guided online tour with an audio narrative.

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23 The Parthenon

A full-size replica of the ancient Greek Parthenon stands as the jaw-dropping centerpiece of 132-acre Centennial Park. Unlike the original Parthenon, this one isn't in ruins. Like the original, it houses a giant statue of the goddess Athena. There's also an art museum featuring the Cowan Collection of American Art.

24 See the next country music superstar at the Ryman Auditorium

One of the most famous venues in the music world is the historic Ryman Auditorium. Exhibits are created by some of country music's biggest stars - many of whom got their start on this stage. Performances are limited, but the self-guided tour is open daily. It begins with a unique host - the Soul of Nashville, a state-of-the-art hologram and special effects experience to provide an immersive trip through the roots of country music and Ryman Auditorium's 125-year history.

25 Take the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

Connecting downtown to East Nashville across the Cumberland River, the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge is one of the world's longest pedestrian bridges. Built during the first decade of the 20th century, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Take a traffic-free stroll across the bridge to get an Instagram-worthy view of the downtown skyline and the river.

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