Summer in Nashville: Vanderbilt’s guide to local events

Aerial image of downtown Nashville

Summer in Nashville is the perfect time to explore the city’s dynamic cultural scene. Vanderbilt University is proud to support numerous nonprofit and community organizations that provide activities and events throughout the season. From lively music festivals to bustling art markets, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. 

Experience Outdoor Concerts 

Bluebird on the Mountain at Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory (Vanderbilt University)

Summer is a great time to explore Vanderbilt’s Dyer Observatory. Music fans can bring a picnic and listen to local artists beneath the stars during the popular Bluebird on the Mountain summer series. Spots are limited, so reserve your tickets in advance.

For more outdoor evening entertainment, head to the Under the Stars concert series at Cheekwood on select Fridays—July through September. Enjoy the sounds of bluegrass at the Full Moon Pickin’ Party, a monthly bluegrass jam session at Percy Warner Park benefitting Friends of Warner Park. In East Nashville, the Cornelia Fort Concerts at Cornelia Fort Airpark highlight local artists, with proceeds benefitting Friends of Shelby Bottoms. 

Enjoy Free Live Music

Musicians Corner in Centennial Park (Musicians Corner)

Don’t miss the 15th annual Musicians Corner concert series in Centennial Park. This family-friendly event, hosted by the Centennial Park Conservancy, offers free live music on select weekends in June, August and September, showcasing Nashville’s diverse musical talent.

Jazz lovers, bring a blanket and enjoy outdoor shows along the Cumberland River on select Sundays with the award-winning Jazz on the Cumberland series. The Nashville Symphony offers a number of free classical concerts at public parks and community centers across the region. 

Discover Local Festivals 

Participants in the Tomato Art Fest parade gather on Russell Street Saturday, August 12, 2023. (Alan Poizner / The Tennessean)

Summer in Nashville is brimming with cultural festivals. Celebrate Juneteenth at the free Juneteenth615 Celebration at Fort Negley Park on June 19. Enjoy live music, food trucks, fireworks, African drumming, a proclamation ceremony and fun for the whole family. To kick off the festivities, Vanderbilt will host a special event unveiling a “First Family of Black Country” mural at 4 p.m. The mural, created by local artist Elisheba Israel Mrozik, is inspired by the stories of Black country music artists featured in Vanderbilt professor and award-winning songwriter Alice Randall’s latest book, My Black Country. 

Join the Nashville Pride Festival and parade at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park on June 22–23, featuring free kid-friendly activities, live music and some of the city’s best food trucks. 

Savor some of Nashville’s most famous cuisine at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival in East Park on July 4. Admission is free, and all proceeds from the festival benefit Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation. Activities include a fire truck parade, live music, an amateur cooking competition and tons of delicious hot chicken. 

Celebrate creativity at the Kindling Arts Festival, rated Nashville Scene’s Best Summer Ticket in 2023. This festival showcases local artists with diverse performances across West Nashville from July 18–21. 

On July 20, the Jefferson St. Jazz & Blues Festival celebrates the unique history of Jefferson Street as a mecca for African American jazz and blues musicians from the 1940s to the 1960s. 

August 9–10, head to Five Points for the Tomato Art Fest, which got its start in 2004. The vegetable-that’s-really-a-fruit is the star of the event, which includes music, art, vendors and a hilarious “Push, Pull & Wear” it parade.  

Explore Arts and Culture 

National Museum of African American Music (Joe Howell / Vanderbilt University)

Celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20 with an evening of storytelling that honors Nashville’s refugee neighbors. This annual celebration is hosted by Nashville International Center for Empowerment, the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, Catholic Charities, Inspiritus, Tennessee Resettlement Aid and Tenx9 Nashville. 

The National Museum of African American Music is celebrating Black Music Month throughout June with exclusive performances and events. Kick off Nashville Pride weekend on June 21 with a special ballroom competition, “The Message: The Revolutionary Power of Ballroom,” at NMAAM. Presented in partnership with Vanderbilt and Music City ACC, this event is a unique opportunity to celebrate ballroom culture and the contributions of the LGBTQ+ community to Black music and culture.

Make plans to attend a performance of Fame Jr. presented by youth participants of the Salama Urban Ministries summer camp. Performances are July 19–21. 

Catch the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s As You Like It on select dates August–September and experience one of Shakespeare’s most joyful romantic comedies. Entry is free with a suggested donation of $10. 

Connect with local artists and galleries with an art crawl in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. Join the WEHO Art Crawl on the first Saturday of every month, where art galleries and the Free Nashville Poetry Library open their doors for exhibitions and events. 

Visit the Frist Art Museum for world-class art exhibitions this summer. Fashion and photography are in focus with the exhibition Lee Alexander McQueen & Ann Ray: Rendez-Vous. And don’t miss Winter in Paradise, the largest solo museum exhibition to date by internationally renowned artist Shahpour Pouyan. 

Looking for even more cultural experiences in Nashville? Check out the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and Nashville Public Library. Both offer myriad activities throughout the summer. 

Watch Films Under the Stars 

Movies in the Park at Nashville’s Elmington Park. (Nashville Film Festival)

Movie lovers, bring your family to Elmington Park each Thursday in June for the Movies in the Park series, presented by the Nashville Film Festival and the Nashville Scene. Films begin at sundown, with food trucks and games to enjoy beforehand.  

For an adults-only night out, NightLight 615 offers an outdoor movie series with local food trucks, a pre-movie DJ and classic film favorites at Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park on select dates throughout the summer. These events often sell out, so book your spot in advance.  

As summer stretches on, Nashville offers a multitude of exciting events and activities that bring the community together—and provide a great opportunity for Vanderbilt community members to learn from and contribute to our city. Whether you’re attending a lively festival, relaxing at an outdoor concert or exploring local art, dive into the city’s rich culture and heritage. Enjoy all that summer in Nashville has to offer.