If you’re looking to plan a trip to the Nashville area, I’ve got you covered with some cool stuff you can do.
Just a quick note, I won’t be talking about any of the country music stuff because that’s what most people associate Nashville with and there’s way more to it than that. Also, I’m trying to talk about locations that people from out of state or across the state may not know about, or maybe have heard but have never experienced. I will, for the most part, avoid talking about tourist destinations.
I will also be showing you around my hometown, Murfreesboro! It is about 35 minutes south of Nashville, and is growing rapidly. It has a lot of its own fun places but with a more suburban feel.
All information is current as of March 2019. All times listed are in Central Time. All photos were taken by Jackie of The Vibrant Dreamer unless otherwise stated.
Nashville only has one airport, BNA. It is located between all three major interstates in Tennessee. I would recommend renting a car or taking your own car.
Both Nashville and Murfreesboro have a bus transit system, but I’d still recommend driving yourself. The public transit system is… basically, not great unless you’re just going around downtown Nashville, in which case you can utilize the free Music City Circuit.
There are several lots in downtown Nashville that you can choose from; if you’re planning on visiting several different spots in a day I’d recommend figuring out which lot is best for you based on proximity to your hotel/AirBNB. Or, it may be cheaper for you to take an Uber. It’s really going to depend on what works for you. I am the type of person who prefers to just park once and be done with it, but I am also able-bodied and don’t have children.
Murfreesboro is a more suburban area, so most of the places that aren’t in the heart of downtown will have their own lots. If you are visiting the public square, most of the parking is free for 1-2 hours only. You can park for free all day in the public library parking garage located on Sevier Street, and there is also a parking garage at the Judicial Center located at 225 N. Maple Street.
Fun Activities in Nashville & Murfreesboro
(Open every day from 10am-5pm, except for some events)
The Adventure Science Center is a multi-level, interactive science and technology museum. They feature various science/technology exhibits and also several activities for all ages. Some events are adult-only but most of them are for all age groups.
They also feature a planetarium with a variety of its own events and showings. The planetarium has a separate event list that can be viewed here. Also, on Monday mornings before they officially open, they have an Early Explorers event geared towards children 6 and under! For more information and the event schedule, click here.
You can plan on spending a long time there, as there’s a lot to do and see! It’s possible to spend several hours there and still not see everything, so this is definitely not something you’d want to rush. They do have a Subway restaurant inside, and you are permitted to leave the center and come back, as long as you keep your ticket receipt for re-entry.
(Open 9am-6pm: March 8, 2019 – October 10, 2019
Open 9am-4pm: October 11, 2019 – March 2020)
I know zoos are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you and your family enjoy them the Nashville one is a good experience.
The food at the zoo is tasty, but it’s expensive. If you are on a budget, I recommend bringing your own food– there are plenty of tables/benches to sit at to eat. Save your money for something from the gift shop if you are looking to spend money at the zoo.
A must-see exhibit is the Kangaroo Kickabout! It’s a quite popular exhibit, but absolutely worth it. You can go through the exhibit on a path where the kangaroos are just out, so you get to be closer to them than you normally would (but you still have to stay on the path). There are usually crowds, and last time I went there was a line… but it’s worth the wait.
They recently added a cool thing called the Veterinary Center… that I haven’t even been to yet, that’s how new it is! You can see how the animals are taken care of at the zoo, and learn about animal conservation and care as well.
It usually takes around 2-3 hours to see everything, but possibly longer with children.
(Open Thursday-Sunday from 11am-6pm)
Nashville’s first cat cafe!!! If you aren’t familiar with cat cafes, basically they are a place where you can get some coffee/tea/pastries and play with some cute cats who are available for adoption. You can get some much-needed cat therapy!
They will only accept walk-ins if there is space, so if you need a specific time slot a reservation is your best bet. You can book online up to three months in advance. The cafe does recommend that you arrive approximately ten minutes before your appointment.
(open Tuesday-Sunday from 9am-5pm; hours may vary by event and season)
A gorgeous 1930s estate that now serves Nashville as a botanical garden and art museum.
They feature 55 acres of gardens for your viewing pleasure. Cheekwood also hosts several events throughout the year; their calendar is here in case you want to see if any of them coincide with your visit!
Honestly my favorite thing to do here is just… walk around and be in nature. This might be a good chance for you and your family / significant other to just unplug from technology and be outside.
(Open Sunday-Thursday 10am-10pm; Friday 10am-1am; Saturday 9am-1am)
There’s something here for everyone– Go karts, mini golf, driving range, batting cages, and a pretty big arcade. You can easily spend hourshere, and if you have kids they probably won’t want to leave… that’s how I was when I was a kid, anyway.
Insider Tip: Take the entrance from Robert Rose Drive to avoid a traffic nightmare!
(open 8am-5pm)One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War occurred here in 1862. Today, it showcases several walking trails, guided tours (May-October) and a visitor’s center. They do also offer self-guided audio tours year round. Across the street from the visitor’s center is the Stones River National Cemetery, where over 6,000 soldiers rest.
You can also visit the remnants of Fortress Rosecrans, which was the largest fortification built during the Civil War. There are walking trails there that are also connected to Murfreesboro’s public walkway system, called the Greenway. The Battlefield itself also has some trails you can walk.
(official hours vary by season; typically 9am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday)
Cannonsburgh is a historic village that represents what life was like in Tennessee in the 19th and early 20th Century. You can go on a self-guided tour for free and purchase souvenirs for your trip (such as post cards and t-shirts) in the on-site gift shop.
The official season is May-November; you can still visit the grounds in the off season but some of the buildings aren’t open. The grounds are occasionally rented out for private events, so if you’re concerned about that you may want to call ahead to be sure it’s available.
The Best Shopping & Entertainment Destinations in Nashville & Murfreesboro
Historic Printer’s Alley is one of Nashville’s smaller entertainment districts with a more relaxed nightlife/bar vibe. The nightlife isn’t as “bustling” as the more touristy areas; it’s more of an area where the city is trying to preserve history, but you still get a slice of the old-school Nashville culture.
If you prefer a more energetic vibe, head a few blocks over to Broadway!
Home to some trendy places and some iconic Nashville Murals. This is probably one of my favorite parts of Nashville. Plenty of great places to grab a meal (honestly… there’s enough options here for all three meals!), amazing coffee, cookies, and take pictures. It’s also the home of Reese Witherspoon’s clothing boutique, Draper James.
Super trendy neighborhood with a more urban feel. Home of the infamous “What Lifts You” mural… which, by the way, people wait in line to take pictures with! There is A LOT to see and do in The Gulch; from breweries to shopping… there’s something for everyone!
(Open Monday-Thursday 9am-9pm; Friday-Saturday 9am-10pm; Sunday 11am-7pm)
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson
You can literally spend HOURS in here. They sell all kinds of used media and entertainment ranging from books to comics to video games to CDs to instruments to games to… basically anything of that nature you can think of. It’s two levels and there is SO much to see. If you’re a lover of books and entertainment, you should absolutely check it out.Murfreesboro’s public square and the surrounding streets have quite a few fun little shops, boutiques, bakeries, and restaurants. You could probably spend a couple hours looking around here. If you like theatre, check out what’s showing at the Centre for the Arts; they also have a gallery featuring local artists that changes each month.
The best place to shop for unique gifts to take home to your friends and family, so they can have a slice of your trip as well! It’s near the public square, but slightly away from it so if you don’t know it’s there you might miss it! Don’t forget to pick something up for yourself, too.
Jackie is a mental health and lifestyle blogger who wants to inspire others and help break the stigma around mental health. She currently lives in Murfreesboro, TN with her boyfriend and two cats.
Jackie Tennessee sounds like an amazing place to visit! I like that you put so much in here that does not have much to do with country! While I do like country you are right everyone knows that there is country there. I totally want to go to the Kangaroo kickabout and cat café!