Top 10 places to experience in Nashville

Aerial of the Nashville skyline

Nashville is known for its music and entertainment, but it’s also a hub for a variety of other industries, including health care management, technology, printing and publishing, and tourism. Given its rich history and hospitality, and its diverse culture and rapid growth, it’s no surprise that so many people from across the world choose to call Music City home.

There are numerous things to do around Nashville, so we have narrowed down our top 10 recommendations for you to check out. Also, getting to these places is easier than ever now that Vanderbilt provides all full-time and part-time students, faculty, staff and postdocs free access to WeGo local and regional buses and WeGo Star when they swipe their physical Commodore Cards. This service is available for any place and time, not only when commuting to and from campus. 

  1. Nashville is home to numerous music venues, from small clubs to large amphitheaters. Many are devoted to music genres beyond country, including rock, jazz, pop, Americana and soul. There are even legendary venues within easy walking distance of Vanderbilt’s campus.

    Credit to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens
  2. In addition to its 55-acre grounds,Cheekwood Estate and Gardens houses a comprehensive collection of American art, including 600 paintings and more than 5,000 prints, drawings and photographs. They also host a number of activities and events year-round, including Songwriting Under the Stars, Cheekwood Harvest and even dog parties. 
  3. Nearby in The Gulch neighborhood, there are a number of trendy brunch restaurants and a growing range of vegetarian and health-forward food options. The city also offers casual favorites close to Vanderbilt’s campus, including spots in the Hillsboro Village neighborhood and 21st Avenue’s San Antonio Taco Company, a cherished Commodore gathering spot started by a pair of university alumni. 
  4. Closer to downtown, theBicentennial Capitol Mall State Parkis modeled after the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The park features several tributes to Tennessee history, including a 200-foot granite map of the state, the Rivers of Tennessee Fountains, and a carillon of 95 bells representing each of the 95 counties of Tennessee. Also nearby are the Nashville Farmers’ Market and the Nashville Sounds stadium.
  5. Other popular parks within 10 miles of Vanderbilt’s campus include Shelby Park, thePercy and Edwin Warner parks,Radnor Lake and Riverfront Park. The city has also developed an extensive greenway network for cyclists and joggers. The greenways connect key parks and make up many of Davidson County’s nearly 200 miles of trails.

    Rivers of Rhythm provides a pathway to each of the exhibit rooms at the National Museum of African Music.
  6. Just a few blocks away from the beloved Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is the National Museum of African American Music, the nation’s first institution dedicated to Black musicians’ innumerable contributions to our country’s soundtrack. Vanderbilt is proud to serve as an official partner to the museum, which is committed to education and spurring meaningful discussions across and beyond the Nashville community. 
  7. Nashville has a vibrant scene forart galleries, includingTinney Contemporary,Zeitgeist,Rymer Gallery,Red Arrow andOZ Arts Nashville, among many others. During the monthly First Saturday Art Crawl, dozens of venues have free open houses.
  8. A quick walk from campus is Hillsboro Village, a historic neighborhood and shopping and dining district that offers some of the city’s best options for gifts, home décor and other essentials. Given its placement between Vanderbilt and Belmont University, the four-block-long stretch has a laid-back college town feel and is home to theBelcourt Theatre, which has brought cinema and film programming to Nashville since 1925.  
  9. In addition to the destination shops across Hillsboro Village, 12 South, Germantown, The Gulch and East Nashville neighborhoods, the city also has several marketplaces and pop-up events. Check out The Marketplace Nashville for various nights of vendors, music and even movies.
  10. Last but not least, make the short trek across the street from Vanderbilt’s campus to visit Centennial Park. This park has 132 acres of green space and paved trails, a band shell, a dog park and other attractions. Centennial Park also has a rich history as the host site for theTennessee Centennial Expositionand home to Nashville’s Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the classical Greek temple.

    Blair Opera at The Parthenon George Frideric Handel’s “Semele” Blair School of Music Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Photo: Anne Rayner