From its humble beginnings as a rural military fort in the 1700s to one of the top tourist spots in the United States today, Nashville, Tennessee, offers visitors a unique array of activities. Called “Music City,” Nashville is one of the best destinations for country music fans, as well as travelers interested in the fascinating and volatile history of early America.
One of the best reasons to travel to Nashville is the friendliness of the people. It’s easy to make friends out of the total strangers that you meet while traveling in Nashville, even if you’re only in the area for a few days. From the legendary Grand Ole Opry to the neon lights of Broadway, Nashville is an amazing city for travelers who enjoy music, good times, and entertainment.
Some of the best museums in the country are also in Nashville, like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Johnny Cash Museum, so it’s a great destination for learning about the history of the region, as well as touring beautifully preserved buildings. The only difficult thing about traveling to Nashville is trying to fit everything you want to do into your vacation. If you want an active and exciting vacation, Nashville will suit your needs amazingly well.
Let’s explore where to stay in Nashville whether you’re a seasoned traveler, first-time visitor, or traveling with kids.
Best Areas to Stay in Nashville
- Best area for first-timers/tourists – Downtown Nashville
- Best area for budget travelers – Wedgewood/Houston
- Best area for luxury travelers – The Gulch
- Best area for safety – Green Hills
- Best area for families – Opryland/Music Valley
- Best area for couples – East Nashville
- Best area for culture & history – SoBro
- Best area for young travelers – Midtown/Vanderbilt
- Best area for seasoned travelers – Marathon Village
- Best area for music & live entertainment – Music Row
Where to Stay in Nashville, Tennessee
1. Downtown Nashville: Best Area for First-Timers/Tourists
Downtown offers travelers some of the best hotels in Nashville, and its convenient city center location makes it the best option for where to stay in Nashville your first time. Not only will you find performances happening at just about every hour of the day, but you’ll also find some amazingly swanky downtown hotels and excellent restaurants.
However, it’s not just an area for glitz and glamour and the raucousness of musical performances. As with all the areas in Nashville, you’ll also find opportunities to expand your knowledge of history and important historical events.
On the second floor of the Nashville Public Library, you’ll find the Civil Rights Room, which shares the incredible story of the 1960s Civil Rights era. After taking in a dose of history at the library, consider catching a show at the Ryman Auditorium, which is known for its incredible acoustics.
The space features a wealth of different performers. In short, there’s more than plenty to do Downtown, and here’s a summary of the area’s top activities:
- Tour the National Museum of African American Music
- Take pictures at the Tennessee State Capitol
- Relax at the Nashville Public Square Park
- Explore the Musicians Hall of Fame & Museum
- Visit the stylish Twelve Thirty Club
- Explore the Civil Rights Room at the Nashville Public Library
- Take an Old Town Trolley Tour of Nashville
- Catch a show at the Ryman Auditorium
If your goal in visiting Nashville is for the city to dazzle you with its bright lights and big performances, Downtown Nashville is the place to stay, especially if you’ve never been to the city. Here are some of the best accommodations in the area:
See Related: Best Family Vacations on a Budget
2. Wedgewood/Houston: Best Area for Budget Travelers
Staying in the Wedgewood/Houston (WeHo) area of Nashville is ideal when you want to enjoy a budget-friendly itinerary and find some excellent free live music. The neighborhood is south of Downtown Nashville, and it’s within easy distance of everything you might want to see in the center of Nashville, but the accommodations are a little more affordable than many of the centrally located hotels and condos.
When you’re not hopping in a rideshare to visit nearby neighborhoods like SoBro, Downtown, and Music Row, WeHo does offer quite a few places for drinks, food, and fun, as well as educational tours and destinations. If you have kids along on the vacation, you might want to visit the Adventure Science Center. For an adults-only vacation, you might want to include trips to the Nashville Craft Distillery and Diskin Cider on your itinerary.
Depending on when you travel to Nashville, you might catch a film during the Nashville Film Festival or visit The Fairgrounds Nashville when an event or show is in town. You’ll also find opportunities to attend soccer games at GEODIS Park. Here are some of the best things to do in the WeHo area of Nashville:
- Tour Fort Negley
- Play at the Adventure Science Center
- Grab a drink at Diskin Cider
- See an event at The Fairgrounds Nashville
- Explore the Nashville Craft Distillery
- Attend the Nashville Film Festival
- Catch a game at GEODIS Park
- Relax at Dudley Park
If you’re looking for the best accommodations in the Wedgewood/Houston area, these are our top recommendations:
3. The Gulch: Best Area for Luxury Travelers
The Gulch is named because of an actual gulch that runs through the neighborhood where the railroad tracks run through town. The Gulch is an interesting mix of modern architecture, luxury hotels, high rises, and condos, so it’s one of the best places to stay in Nashville when you’re in search of a luxurious hotel or fancy condo for your stay in Music City.
The primary activities for visitors to The Gulch involve eating at trendy restaurants, shopping, and drinking, but the neighborhood is still within easy walking distance of nearby areas like Downtown Nashville and SoBro. After you stuff yourself at Biscuit Love Gulch, take a walk down the Gulch Greenway and spend some time relaxing at Frankie Pierce Park.
While staying in The Gulch, you’ll definitely want to walk past the WhatLiftsYou Wings Mural, as well as consider a brief tour through the Frist Art Museum. When you’ve had your fill of cultural landmarks and venues, spend an evening listening to the best bluegrass music at The Station Inn and end your evening with a few drinks on the rooftop bar at the Thompson Nashville hotel. These are some of the best things to do in The Gulch:
- Stroll along the Gulch Greenway toward Frankie Pierce Park
- Visit the rooftop bar of the Thompson Nashville hotel
- Listen to bluegrass music at The Station Inn
- Take pictures at the WhatLiftsYou Wings Mural
- Eat at Biscuit Love Gulch
- Stroll through the Frist Art Museum
If staying in The Gulch area of Nashville sounds like it’s for you, these are some of the best accommodations:
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Memphis, Tennessee
4. Green Hills: Best Area for Safety
Travelers who enjoy the calm pace of a suburban community but who still want to stay within easy driving distance to exciting areas like Downtown may want to check out the places to stay in Green Hills. Not only is the community one of the most desirable in Nashville, but it’s also a great place to stay when you’re interested in getting a full night of sleep each night and you’re not too keen on late-night clubbing.
Whether you stay in Green Hills or another Nashville neighborhood, make sure to put a visit to the Bluebird Café on your itinerary. The café resides within an unassuming strip mall, but it’s known as a key stop in the journey of any songwriter. You’ll also find a large, modern mall in Green Hills, which is an excellent stop when you need some retail therapy on your busy Nashville vacation.
Other spots to consider while you stay in Green Hills include a tour of the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory and a visit to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. If you’re interested in some wine tasting, consider stopping by the Belle Meade Historic Site & Winery, and follow it up with a round of golf at the beautiful and challenging Richland Country Club. These are the top activities in the Green Hills area:
- Visit the iconic Bluebird Café for legendary songwriters
- Tour the Belle Meade Historic Site & Winery
- Tour the Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory
- Visit the historic Travellers Rest Historic House Museum
- Stop by the Tennessee Agricultural Museum
- Play golf at the Richland Country Club
- Explore the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
Green Hills is where to stay in Nashville when you want a fun vacation but don’t want to go completely overboard with the nightlife. These are the best places to stay in the area:
5. Opryland/Music Valley: Best Area for Families
Opryland and the surrounding Music Valley feel very much like a theme park dedicated to country music, and the neighborhood is where to stay in Nashville with kids since you can enjoy plenty of family-friendly venues without having to travel too far from your accommodations. No visit to Nashville is complete without an afternoon spent at the Grand Ole Opry, as well as the restaurants and country-themed attractions throughout the area.
Opryland is located about ten miles northeast of Downtown, so you probably need to rent a car to visit the rest of Nashville, especially if you’re traveling with kids and car seats. Consider spending an afternoon Downtown with the kids at the museums and other educational venues and then return to Opryland in the evening for dinner at one of the fun family restaurants.
Some of the kid-friendly attractions near Opryland include Madame Tussauds Nashville, the Texas Troubadour Theater, and Cooter’s Nashville, which is a museum dedicated to the classic television series The Dukes of Hazzard. You can also fill your day with a tour of Two Rivers Mansion, which is an incredible home built in the Antebellum Period of the 19th century. Here’s a summary of the best things to do in the Opryland/Music Valley area:
- Visit the Grand Ole Opry
- Play golf at Gaylord Springs Golf Links
- Attend The Music of Nashville performance
- Ride a bike along the Greenway
- Attend a performance at the Texas Troubadour Theater
- Visit Madame Tussauds Nashville
- Tour Cooter’s Nashville Dukes of Hazzard Museum
Opryland is a fun area in Nashville, and it caters to much more than country music fans. If you’re looking to stay in the area, here are some of its top accommodations:
See Related: Best Things to do in Tennessee & Places to Visit
6. East Nashville: Best Area for Couples
East Nashville is a hip area filled with trendy boutiques, chef-owned eateries, and cozy dive bars. The neighborhood sits just east of the Downtown area, and it’s as easy to get dinner at a fine local restaurant as it is to spend an afternoon fishing at Shelby Park. East Nashville is also home to East Nashville Beer Works, which is an ideal spot to relax and drink good beer.
With the impressive density of cool restaurants and little bistros, it’s one of the best areas to stay in Nashville when you’re traveling with your significant other and want to sample fine food in cozy locales. Consider a visit to The 5 Spot on a Monday evening when the club invites locals for a night spent dancing to Western swing and Motown.
After getting your fill at one of the amazing local restaurants in East Nashville, you’ll find that the area also offers plenty of opportunities for strolling around and working off some of those calories you just ate. You’re within walking distance of the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge toward Downtown or a walk along the Cumberland River. These are some of the best things to do in the East Nashville area:
- Go on a food tour with Walk Eat Nashville
- Visit neighborhood brewery East Nashville Beer Works
- See live music at The 5 Spot
- Go fishing at Shelby Park
- Walk the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
- Explore the Nashville River Front
- Ride the Nashville Party Barge
East Nashville is an excellent place to stay for couples, and if you’re looking to spend a few nights in the area, these are the best places to stay:
7. SoBro: Best Area for Culture & History
SoBro gets its name from “South of Broadway,” and it’s the home of some of the biggest venues in Nashville, like the hockey arena and convention center. Like virtually every other neighborhood in Nashville, you’ll also find an amazing range of restaurants and very walkable streets.
Museums in the area include the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Patsy Cline Museum, which are excellent stops for the start of your Nashville visit. You can continue your journey into the history of country music in America by getting a ride to Music Row, which is just a few minutes away to the southwest. Don’t forget to take a stroll along the Honkey Tonk Highway, too, for some excellent beer and music.
Not only is it easy to get from SoBro to Downtown and Music Row, but you’ll also find several venues within walking distance of your hotel. You might time your stay in Nashville for a performance at the Riverfront Park & Ascend Amphitheater, or maybe you’ll see whether you have a future as a performer with a session at Nashvox Studios, which allows visitors to buy time at the studio to record a song. There’s plenty to do in the SoBro area of Nashville, and here’s a summary of the best activities:
- Explore the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- Eat at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
- Stroll through the Walk of Fame Park
- Listen to a concert at Riverfront Park & Ascend Amphitheater
- Grab a beer along the Honky Tonk Highway
- Visit the Johnny Cash Museum
- Get dessert at the Goo Goo Chocolate Co.
- Record a song at Nashvox Studios
SoBro is a great place to stay when you want to tour museums like the Johnny Cash Museum or attend major events. If you’re interested in staying in this part of Nashville, here are the area’s best accommodations:
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg, Tennessee
8. Midtown/Vanderbilt: Best Area for Young Travelers
Nashville is home to Vanderbilt University, a private research university located southwest of Downtown, and the college influences many of the venues and activities in the immediate vicinity. For college students or young travelers, the young vibe around the university, as well as its easy proximity to SoBro and Music Row, make it an ideal haunt for young travelers to Music City.
Like the Green Hills neighborhood, Vanderbilt or Midtown is also where to stay in Nashville on a budget, which is great for college students and young travelers of limited means who still want to see the amazing live music venues throughout Nashville. However, it’s also an ideal option for luxury stays with amazing hotels like the one-of-a-kind Kimpton Aertson Hotel, as well as several beautiful condominium towers with amazing views of the downtown Nashville skyline.
If you choose Midtown for your stay in Nashville, some of the destinations to include on your itinerary include an evening at Zanies Comedy Night Club or Play Dance Bar. You’ll also find the entertaining and brightly painted Big Drag Bus party bus, as well as options for tours with Joyride Nashville.
Don’t forget to insert a little history into your Nashville stay with a tour of the Belmont Mansion or an afternoon at Centennial Park. Here are some of the top things to do and see in the Midtown/Vanderbilt area:
- Attend a performance at Centennial Park, Nashville’s largest urban park
- Tour the Belmont Mansion
- Eat at Hattie B’s Hot Chicken
- Take a tour with Joyride Nashville
- See a performance at Zanies Comedy Night Club
- Have fun at the Play Dance Bar
- Ride the Big Drag Bus party bus
If you’re looking to stay in and around Midtown/Vanderbilt University, these are our top recommendations:
9. Marathon Village: Best Area for Seasoned Travelers
Marathon Village refers to an area to the northwest of Downtown, and it’s home to famous venues like Antique Archaeology, which is the home of the “American Pickers” television show, as well as a popular bourbon distillery.
The primary attraction in Marathon Village is the group of buildings that were once home to Marathon Motor Works a century ago. Today, the complex is where you’ll find a unique array of retail and entertainment venues. Visit Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery or Grinder’s Switch Winery and end the evening with a performance at Third Coast Comedy Club.
Many of the hotels in the Marathon Village area of Nashville are ideal for experienced travelers, as they’re upscale and modern, but the neighborhood is still within easy distance to the fun and hyperactivity of Nashville’s city center. Marathon Village is an excellent neighborhood to return to for a nightcap after you spend an afternoon seeing all the legendary country music venues Downtown. These are some of the best things to do in the Marathon Village area:
- Visit Antique Archaeology Nashville
- Enjoy a glass of wine at Grinder’s Switch Winery
- See a performance at Third Coast Comedy Club
- Explore Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
- Take a look at the historic Marathon Music Works building
Marathon Village is the ideal neighborhood for seasoned travelers who want to stay in an exciting area but who don’t need the all-night hustle of Music Row. Here are some of the best places to stay:
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Johnson City, Tennessee
10. Music Row: Best Area for Music & Live Entertainment
Music Row is located along two parallel streets near Downtown and features several old houses that were converted into famous recording studios several decades ago. Sprinkled throughout these studios are restaurants, places to stay, and venues for musical performances. For example, you’ll find The Catbird Seat restaurant in Music row, which offers diners a culinary performance while they eat.
In addition to many opportunities to see live performances and imbibe, Music Row is also home to kitschy little stores like Any Old Iron, which is an amazing clothing store dedicated to fancy sequined outfits often worn by the biggest country music and pop stars in the country. Here’s a summary of the best things to see and do in the Music Row area:
- Eat and attend a performance at The Catbird Seat
- See a performance at Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern
- Shop for clothing at Any Old Iron
- Tour Historic RCA Studio B
- See live recordings at Imagine Recordings
- Get drinks at Barcelona Wine Bar
While it’s true that Music Row is the best place to stay in Nashville when you want to find live entertainment just a few steps away from your hotel, bear in mind that you can actually stay just about anywhere in Nashville and reach Music Row with a taxi or rideshare.
However, if the idea of crawling into bed at 3 AM after a night spent listening to amazing live music is how you’d like to spend your vacation, Music Row is an ideal place to stay since you can walk just a few blocks to reach your hotel at the end of the night. If this is the experience you’re looking for, these are some great places to stay:
What is the best area to stay in Nashville?
The best area in Nashville for most travelers is somewhere near Downtown, but any of the neighborhoods that surround Downtown are fine, too. The Gulch, Music Row, and SoBro are all fine options, with loads of different hotels and places to stay, from luxury hotels to cozy boutique hotels.
How did Nashville become Music City?
The story goes that after the launch of radio station WSM in 1925, one of the announcers referred to the broadcast as originating from “Music City,” and the nickname stuck. The labeling of Nashville as Music City actually predates the music mecca that the city would become as the Grand Ole Opry grew in popularity.
What do I need to know before going to Nashville?
The summers are fairly warm in Nashville, so be prepared for 90-degree temperatures in months like August. The style of dress throughout the community is rather casual (think t-shirts and jeans), but the live music scene offers excellent opportunities to get dressed up.
What is the best month to visit Nashville?
The best time of the year to visit Nashville is between April and October when the weather is the most accommodating to travelers. The month of December is appropriate for a brief visit, too, if only because of the incredible Christmas decorations that cover many of the venues in Nashville, like the Opryland Hotel.
This story originally appeared on FeedBurner