Last weekend our family made a quick trip to Nashville to visit friends and take in one of our absolute favorite cities and we found so many great free things to do in Nashville. The trip time from Atlanta is anywhere between 3.5 to 4 hours, plus you get to drive through the amazing state of Tennessee. There is a time change when you arrive in Nashville, gaining an hour on the way there and losing one on the return trip.
Nashville is perfect for adult getaways, or a fun filled weekend for the whole family. We love how much we’re able to do and see without breaking the bank. Nashville has so much natural beauty, along with a vibrant art and music scene, there’s no shortage of opportunities to create memories in Music City for free or cheap!
Parks, Parks and More Parks!
Fannie Mae Dees Park
The first of our favorites is Fannie Mae Dees Park; also known as the ‘Dragon Park’ to locals. The ‘dragon’ is currently undergoing a much-needed face-lift, but there’s still lots of fun to be had!
The sprawling playground is located far enough from the road that you feel comfortable letting your little ones take off and explore. There’s an area for younger ones, with a smaller slide, sand area and large see saw. For the hot summer days, there’s even a dragon that ‘breathes’ water to help stay cool!
Centennial Park is Nashville’s centerpiece. It houses the Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Greece. You can explore the exterior of the structure for free, but the art museum inside does charge a small fee for admission ($6/adults & $4/kids 4 and over).
The park sits on 132 acres; showcasing a fantastic green space that’s perfect for picnics or tossing the football. Centennial also has a one-mile loop for walking or running. Parking is free and this is such a great place to have a picnic, or let your kids burn off energy.
Cumberland Park is another one of Nashville’s unique parks that is open to the public year round. Nashville has begun the process of revitalizing their riverfront, and this park has been a perfect addition. It features four areas with different activities to entertain your little ones.
- The first area of the park is The Hollow, featuring a nature play area and splash pad.
- The Scoops is a perfect area to cool off with a step stone path and cooling mist.
- The Gorge will be a hit for those climbers in your life, as it has a climbing wall, ropes and nets. It also has a Corian material slide that stays cool in the hot sun.
- The Explorer Trail is made to attract butterflies; weaving through groves and meadows.
Cumberland Park is a 6.5 acre park and a welcome addition to Nashville’s burgeoning riverfront.
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
Located in the shadow of the Capitol in downtown Nashville, Bicentennial Capitol Mall gives visitors a taste of Tennessee’s history, natural wonders and serves as a lasting monument to Tennessee’s Bicentennial Celebration. Don’t miss the maps dotted along the park walk; they are a helpful and informative tool for those wishing to take a self-guided tour of the park.
Fort Negley Visitors Center and Park
Fort Negley is the largest inland stone fort built during the Civil War and the area is set-up to support self-guided walking tours.
The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge
OK, technically not a park…you still have to visit. It’s one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world, taking you right over the Cumberland River. Bring your camera; the views of the Nashville skyline can’t be beat!
Music City is also a short drive away from surrounding small towns that make great day trips from Nashville.
Tunes to Groove By
Arrington Vineyards hosts Music in the Vines in the summer, featuring live music from April thru October. Head out to Kix Brooks’ vineyard and listen to live jazz and bluegrass every weekend. Picnic tables or pavilion seats are available on a first come, first served basis, so you might want to bring a blanket or chairs.
Beachaven Winery offers free Jazz on the Lawn concert series, with free parking. The concerts are held from May thru October on various Saturdays. Another option? Their DJ on the Dock evening happy hour series on Thursday nights during June and July. It’s family friendly, with tons of fun for everyone.
Sumner Crest Winery holds outdoor concerts between 2x each month from May thru September. Bring your own chairs and blankets, as seating isn’t provided. Kids are welcome (no pets) and you’ll love their wines while taking in the tunes.
The famous Bluebird Cafe hosts an early show at 6 or 6:30 p.m. is almost always free (see their online calendar.) Also, most Sunday night writers nights, Sunday Spotlights and Monday Open Mic nights do not have cover charges. Just remember, almost every show has a $10 food/drink minimum per person, and there is a nominal fee to make online reservations.
One of the best things about Nashville is all the things you can see and experience for free! The Nashville Walls Project has set out to bring new life to Nashville’s skyline by bringing in renowned mural and graffiti artists. You can find several interesting ones in the Gulch, including the iconic large wings begging for your picture.
We meandered over to Barista Parlor on Magazine Street and found a brightly colored vector shapes wall, as well as a beautiful warrior princess. No mural tour in Nashville is complete without visiting the ‘I Believe in Nashville’ wall in the 21th Ave South neighborhood.
Another must-see is the Guido Van Helton’s silo project in the Nations. Its depiction of 91-year-old West Nashville resident Lee Estes is breathtaking.
Tennessee State Museum
This gem is tucked away beneath the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and admission is absolutely free! The museum was a welcome respite from the hot, humid day we were experiencing. We spent two hours exploring everything it had to offer.
The boys loved all the Native America arrowheads and artifacts they had on display. There was a large section devoted to President Andrew Jackson and his impact on the country. The museum also had strategically placed ‘Story Baskets’ throughout the exhibits. These contained hands on activates and books to further help little brains understand what they were seeing.
Tennessee has a rich history and its story is well told at this completely free Tennessee museum!
Frist Center for Visual Arts
This wonderful art museum offers free admission for anyone 18 and younger! Adults are only $12 too, so this is a very affordable option for families. If you’re looking for a completely free option, the Frist does offer Free Family Days throughout the year; so check their calendar for dates on those.
The Martin ArtQuest Gallery provides over 30 hands on activities to keep your little ones occupied and engaged. This award winning area is meant to encourage creativity through painting, sketching, collage or print making.
Country Music Hall of Fame
While there is an admission charge here, it pays to be in the know. If you are in town visiting a local, ask them to check out a Community Counts Passport from any Nashville Public Library. You just show the passport at the museum box office and it gets two people in for free.
Dukes of Hazzard Museum
Anyone else grow up watching this family constantly get into trouble? Cooter’s Place is home to Nashville’s one and only Dukes of Hazzard Museum and Shop, operated by Cooter himself — Ben Jones. See pictures, costumes, props and more. Also displayed are Cooter’s Tow Truck, Daisy’s Jeep, Rosco’s Patrol Car, and of course, a 1969 Dodge Charger General Lee.
Places To Visit
If you’ve spent any time in Nashville, or are a country music fan, you’ve seen one of Hatch Show Print’s iconic posters. HSP is a true original, founded in the 1800’s; it has continued to thrive in a changing digital world. Nashville’s identity is tied to Hatch Show. Children have the opportunity to learn how to make letterpress art from the experts at Hatch Show Print. Every attendee must have a Program Pass, which is distributed 30 minutes prior to each session, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Your child can take home their own, authentic print and a piece of Nashville.
Nashville Music Row
This is an especially exciting venture if you are a country music fan. Music Row is littered with record labels, songwriting houses and production studios. Almost all of them showcase their talent and achievements with giant signs and banners displayed on their front lawn.
It’s a truly fun street to walk or drive down and fan girl/fan boy your heart out!
Goo Goo Shop and Dessert Bar
The Goo Goo Cluster candy confection was created in Nashville in 1912. Whether you’ve tried a Goo Goo Cluster before or not, this is a great stop for all ages. It’s located just off Broadway, in an area known as SoBro.
In addition to sampling the featured treat, you can watch the clusters being made behind a glass wall. If chocolate and caramel isn’t your thing, they have retro candy, sodas and coffee available to purchase as well.
If you’re looking for a new book to take to the park with you, or something to watch for a movie night at home, this is the place to go! McKay’s is a large second hand store for books, movies and music. You can even find some gently loved electronics here too.
While the store is expansive, it’s very organized and well laid out, so you don’t have to spend hours sorting through bins. Their prices are so much better than retail. We gave our five year old a $5 bill and told him that he could select what he wanted to fit within his budget.
They even have audio books for those summer road trips. If you’re looking to make a little money, you can bring in your own items and McKay’s will give you an offer for anything they’d like to buy. They offer deals for trades too, what’s better than that??
Nashville Farmers Market
Located in north Nashville, this is another great place that the whole family will enjoy visiting. The market is open everyday, with a variety of special events happening throughout the week.
Be sure to check their calendar for community celebrations, cooking classes, or the Night Market. Night Market takes place on the third Friday of every month, offering live music, family activities, food trucks and adult beverages.
Admission is free, so anything you spend on food or drinks is up to you. The Market House Restaurants and Shops offer everything from Chinese, to bbq, to Jamaican fare. It’s a fun, affordable place to taste flavors from around the world.
Visiting Downtown Franklin is like going back in time. It’s located about 20 miles south of Nashville, but it is well worth the drive. The city has done a tremendous job of preserving its small-town feel, while opening its doors to trendy boutiques, upscale home décor stores and fun restaurants.
One of the best perks is that ALL of the parking in downtown Franklin is free! One of our favorite places to go is the Franklin Theater. It has resided in downtown Franklin since 1937. The theater now offers live theater performance, live music, first run movies, as well as classic films.
One of my favorite Christmas memories was going to see White Christmas at the Franklin Theater with my husband as newlyweds. It was the perfect venue to watch such a classic movie, and the audience all stood and gave applause at the end, having enjoyed the experience so much.
Movie tickets range from $5-$7; beer and wine is available for purchase as well. Franklin is a don’t miss experience for any trip to Nashville!
We loved our time in Nashville once again. The renaissance that’s happening in the city means that every time we visit, there’s something new to discover. If you visit with friends or another family, you can find plenty of Airbnb’s to accommodate your group and save even more money. It’s truly a budget friendly, bustling city that appeals to both young and old!
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