Nashville visitors and residents can enjoy a number of unique arts-centric events throughout the year, including several monthly art crawls and the annual Tomato Art Fest. The Nashville Symphony presents free concert series throughout the year, including a family-friendly outdoor concert series and interactive chamber music performances. The region is also home to a large number of beautiful public parks and greenways, which offer free ranger-led programming such as nature hikes and night sky watches. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.The Tennessee State Museum
© The Tennessee State Museum
The Tennessee State Museum is the official museum of the state of Tennessee, open to the public for free Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon hours. The museum, which traces its origins to an 1817 public square display by artist Ralph E.W. Earl, opened in its current 137,000-square-foot location in 2018 near Capitol Hill and the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park. Exhibits detail the state's history, including its participation in the American Civil War, its industrial and economic output, and its arts and culture. Six rotating galleries host temporary special exhibits, and a hands-on children's gallery allows young visitors to learn and explore using creative play.
1000 Rosa L Parks Blvd, Nashville, TN 37208, Phone: 615-741-2692
2.The Dyer Observatory
© The Dyer Observatory
The Dyer Observatory is the official astronomical observatory of Vanderbilt University, originally constructed in 1953 at a location in Nashville suburb Brentwood. The observatory is named for university donor Arthur J. Dyer and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Tours of the observatory are offered on Open House days, which are held monthly. Visitors can also use the observatory's 24-inch reflecting telescope and explore its outdoor Star Chamber and sundial garden during Open House events. Visitors should note that all Open House events require advance registration and are held rain or shine. Though visitors of all ages are permitted to attend, events are recommended for participants ages eight and older.
1000 Oman Drive, Brentwood TN 37027, Phone: 615-373-4897
3.Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
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Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park is a 19-acre urban park that was originally opened in 1996 to commemorate the state's bicentennial anniversary celebration. The park, which is located near the Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville's downtown district, showcases design elements that pay tribute to the state's history and culture, including a 1,400-foot Pathway of History with inscriptions detailing the state's chronology, and a Walkway of Counties, featuring planters of different native flora species around the state. Other attractions include a World War II memorial, a 200-foot map of the state etched in granite, and a 95-bell carillon, with one bell representing each of the state's counties and its musical legacy.
600 James Robertson Pkwy, Nashville, TN 37243, Phone: 615-741-5280
4.Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center
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Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center is a free-access nature center located within the 1,368-acre Radnor Lake State Park, which offers more than six miles of visitor hiking trails and a multitude of wildlife watching opportunities. The Center, which originally opened in 2015, is home to great horned owls, bald eagles, and other birds of prey along its 550-foot boardwalk and aviary complex. It is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays, which hours varying seasonally. Future additions at the Center include a netted eagle aviary, which is currently in the process of fundraising development. While at the park, visitors can also engage in ranger-led programming, including night hikes, canoe floats, and wildflower parks.
Hall Dr, Nashville, TN 37027, Phone: 615-373-3467
5.The Nashville Symphony's Outdoor Concert Series
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The Nashville Symphony's Outdoor Concert Series is held at six locations throughout the greater Nashville area each year, offering free family-friendly concerts for visitors to enjoy under the stars. Concerts are offered each year throughout June and July, with attendees invited to bring lawn chairs and picnic dinners. The renowned orchestra, which is noted as a recipient of several GRAMMY® Awards, performs a selection of classical and modern music, including an annual popular culture score or theme chosen each year by public voters to close out each concert performance. Concert locations include the city's Centennial Park, Two Rivers Mansion, Historic Rock Castle, and outdoor spaces at Cumberland University.
6.Stones River National Battlefield
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Stones River National Battlefield is a 570-acre battlefield area overseen by the National Park Service as a public park and historic site. The National Register of Historic Places-listed park is located approximately 28 miles south of Nashville, near the city of Murfreesboro, and memorializes the site of the American Civil War's Battle of Stones River in 1862-1863. Approximately one-fifth of the original battlefield site is preserved as part of the park, along with an intact section of Fortress Rosecrans, the Civil War's largest enclosed earthwork. The 20-acre Stones River National Cemetery is also preserved, which contains nearly 7,000 Civil War interments and the Hazen's Brigade Monument, the oldest surviving Civil War-era monument in the nation that has not been relocated.
3501 Old Nashville Highway, Murfreesboro, TN 37129, Phone: 615-893-9501
7.Nashville Flea Market
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Nashville Flea Market is one of the United States' top flea markets, housing a monthly average of 2,000 vendor booths showcasing the goods of over 1,000 dealers from 30 states throughout the country. The flea market was originally founded in 1969 and has been named as Tennessee's best flea market attraction today. More than half a million visitors attend the market each year, which is one of more than 1,100 flea markets located across the United States today. Visitors can explore the market and peruse vendors selling a wide range of goods, from antiques and furniture to boutique clothing, kitchen items, jewelry, and health and beauty items.
500 Wedgewood Ave, Nashville, TN 37203, Phone: 615-862-5016
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Fort Negley preserves the historic Union Army fortification of the same name, which was the United States' largest inland fort constructed during the American Civil War. Since 2004, its remains have been restored and opened to the public, with added interpretive signage and walkways to enhance visitor experience. The fort, which is located in southern Nashville approximately two miles from the city's downtown district, is overseen by the Nashville Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation, which also has maintained a public visitor center at the site since 2007. Exhibits at the visitor center detail information about Nashville's participation in the Civil War, including displays on the United States Colored Troops and the role of conscripted laborers in constructing the fort. A short documentary film, "The Fall of Nashville," is also played daily, and a Soldier and Sailor Database kiosk at the center allows visitors to learn about their ancestral connections to the war.
1100 Fort Negley Blvd, Nashville, TN 37203
9.The Nashville Public Library
© The Nashville Public Library
The Nashville Public Library is the official public library system of Nashville and Davidson County, offering a main library building in the city's downtown and 20 branches throughout the surrounding metropolitan region. The library has been the recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service and has been named as the Library of the Year in 2017 by the Gale/Library Journal. The system's main library, which was opened in 2001 and constructed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, offers a wide variety of public programming and resources throughout the year, including special collections related to Nashville's civic and cultural history and the Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee. Visitors to the library can watch puppet shows at its children's library, attend book club meetings, take computer classes, and utilize the library's Limitless Libraries system, which offers access to more than 1.5 million volumes for student use.
615 Church St, Nashville, TN 37219, Phone: 615-862-5800
10.Free Day of Music
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Free Day of Music! is an annual celebration in Nashville that brings classic and popular music performers to the city's Schermerhorn Symphony Center for a day of music, dancing, and family-friendly activities. The festival, which takes place every October, includes a concert performances from the GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony, followed by a public question-and-answer session with the orchestra and its conductor. Free music continues throughout the day on four stages, including performances by rock, jazz, country, and world music artists. Families can enjoy Day of the Dead-themed activities, including face painting and a costume contest, along with an Instrument Petting Zoo that lets amateur music lovers try their hand at a variety of instruments. Food trucks are hosted on site throughout the event, and an outdoor beer garden is available for guests ages 21 and older.
11.Nashville Symphony Chamber Music Series
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Nashville Symphony Chamber Music Series is an interactive free concert series presented by the GRAMMY® Award-winning Nashville Symphony, presented monthly at the city's Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Performances by regional chamber music groups are highlighted, with informal and interactive question-and-answer sessions available following performances with musicians. All programming is developed by the Symphony, striving to give music lovers a chance to experience the behind-the-scenes process of rehearsal and music creation. Though concerts are free to attend, advance tickets must be reserved on the Symphony's website. Tickets are limited to two tickets per household, with reservations taken on a first-come, first-served basis.
12.First Saturday Art Crawls
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First Saturday Art Crawls are one of downtown Nashville's liveliest regular events, held on the first Saturday of every month throughout the evening hours. Thousands of monthly art crawl participants explore the city's downtown art galleries, which are open to the public for free presenting exhibitions by regional and national artists. Venues are located along Nashville's Fifth Avenue of the Arts and within its Historic Arcade, with many serving complimentary wine and refreshments for visitors. A full list of participating galleries may be viewed as part of Nashville's Downtown Details weekly e-newsletter. Discounted parking is available at the Fifth Avenue of the Arts Garage, with Gray Line Trolley service provided throughout the event.
13.Franklin Art Scene
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Franklin Art Scene is a free monthly art crawl in Franklin, held on the first Friday of each month throughout the Nashville suburb's downtown district. Local Williamson County artisans are on display at galleries and working studios hosted within National Register of Historic Places-listed buildings, with many serving complimentary wine and refreshments and hosting live music performances throughout the evening. Art crawls last from 6:00pm to 9:00pm, with participating galleries each month listed on the event's website. Gallery maps are available for visitors, with free trolley service circulating throughout the evening, provided by Williamson Source.
14.Arts and Music at Wedgewood-Houston
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Arts and Music at Wedgewood-Houston has been named as Nashville's best renegade art crawl by the Nashville Scene, attracting thousands of the city's art aficionados to South Nashville for free exploration of the region's top art galleries, studios, maker spaces, collectives, and art pop-ups. The event has been held the first Saturday of each month since 2014, showcasing more than a dozen venues, including Zeitgeist, Channel to Channel, Mild Climate, and the Julia Martin Gallery. Many galleries offer free refreshments, wine, and live performances, open every month at 6:00pm and closing between 8:00pm and 11:00pm. Free parking is available throughout the area for the night of the event, including lots on Hagan Street and Fourth Avenue.
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Nashville Greenways are a system of linear trailway parks that connect the city's residential, business, and civic districts, developed by the city's Metro Parks and Recreation department and Greenways for Nashville nonprofit organization. The greenway system meanders along the city's natural landscape features, including rivers, streams, and ridges, and traverses former railroad corridors and scenic highway areas. More than 200 miles of walking and biking trails connect 185 city parks, seven golf courses, four nature centers, and a vast number of children's playgrounds and community centers. Through the initiative, the city strives to provide free access to recreational opportunities and natural areas for all citizens and visitors.
P.O. Box 196340, Nashville, TN 37219-6340, Phone: 615-862-8400
16.Beaman Park Nature Center
© Beaman Park Nature Center
Beaman Park Nature Center is a free-access public nature center that serves as the gateway for exploration of Nashville's 1,700-acre Beaman Park, located in the northwestern corner of Davidson County. The center is open to the public daily and showcases natural history displays and a nature-focused reference library. Environmental education programming is offered for school and community groups, including educator training programs and free guided outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors. A 300-foot ADA-accessible boardwalk showcases plantings of native flora. The center also serves as a trailhead for more than five miles of nature trails throughout the park.
5911 Old Hickory Blvd, Nashville, TN, 37015, Phone: 615-862-8580
17.Shelby Bottoms Nature Center
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Shelby Bottoms Nature Center serves as a visitor jumping-off point for exploration of the 950-acre Shelby Bottoms Greenway and the 336-acre Shelby Park, which are located in eastern Nashville approximately four miles from the city's center. The center hosts a wide variety of free environmentally-focused programming for visitors, including guided outdoor recreational opportunities, school field trips, and nature volunteering opportunities for Nashville citizens. Natural and cultural history exhibits are showcased at the center daily, along with rotating art and photography exhibitions. A nature reference library provides access to natural history volumes, field identification guides, and children's books, while several demonstration gardens and children's nature play areas offer outdoor exploration opportunities. The center also serves as the trailhead for 10 miles of hiking trails, including five miles of ADA-accessible trails.
1900 Davidson St, Nashville, TN 37206, Phone: 615-862-8539
18.The Tennessee Governor's Mansion
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The Tennessee Governor's Mansion is the official residence of the state's governor and family, located in the Nashville neighborhood of Oak Hill. The three-story mansion was originally constructed in the Georgian style of architecture in 1929 for William Ridley Wills and purchased by the state of Tennessee two decades later for use as an official governor's residence. Public tours of the mansion are offered each week on Tuesday and Thursday mornings with advance reservation, depending on home availability and schedule. Visitors can explore the home's 10-acre grounds and beautiful rooms, including its LEED-certified 14,000-square-foot underground Conservation Hall meeting room and ballroom. Displays of antiques and Tennessee artworks are showcased throughout the house, serving as a living history display of the state's heritage and culture.
882 Curtiswood Ln S, Nashville, TN 37204, Phone: 615-741-2784
19.Centennial Park Trail
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Centennial Park Trail spans through Nashville's Centennial Park, which spans 132 acres throughout the city's west side and was originally developed for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Visitors can explore the park via a one-mile jogging loop that traverses past many of its most iconic sites, including its full-scale replica of the ancient Greek Parthenon. Old-growth trees cover the beautiful park, which is also home to the scenic Lake Watauga. Cultural events are held at the park throughout the year, including the city's free Shakespeare in the Park series and annual Earth Day Festival. The park is conveniently located near Vanderbilt University's shopping and dining districts and offers free parking at more than a dozen lots throughout the park's campus. Free street parking is also available along nearby 25th Avenue North.
2500 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN, 37203
20.The Annual American Artisan Festival
© The Annual American Artisan Festival
The Annual American Artisan Festival is one of Nashville's biggest annual festivals, held over three weekend days in the middle of June near Father's Day each year at Centennial Park. The festival, which was founded over four decades ago, draws more than 150 fine arts and artisan vendors to the park, including representatives from more than 35 states around the nation. Family-friendly activities abound, including children's facepainting, crafting, and art activities. A full lineup of tasty local food trucks and vendors serve at the event, including regional craft beer, wine, and cocktail vendors. Live music performances are showcased throughout the day, presented by SESAC.
21.Tomato Art Fest
© Tomato Art Fest
Tomato Art Fest is a unique art festival that was originally founded in 2004 by Bret and Meg MacFayden, the owners of the Art and Invention Gallery in East Nashville, who were inspired to extend the success of a tomato-themed art gallery exhibition into a full annual festival. Today, the event serves as the signature annual festival of East Nashville's burgeoning, hip art scene, drawing more than 60,000 annual visitors. The festival, which has been voted as the city's best annual festival by Nashville Scene and featured in Southern Living and Oxford American, showcases a full lineup of live music performances over two days, with tomato-themed art and activities available throughout the festival. On Saturday morning, a quirky parade presents nightshade-themed floats and costumes. Other activities include cooking demonstrations, tomato bobbing events, and a Bloody Mary cocktail contest.
22.The Tennessee Agricultural Museum
© The Tennessee Agricultural Museum
The Tennessee Agricultural Museum is an historic and cultural museum showcasing a massive collection of agricultural and farm homesteading artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries, housed within a renovated plantation barn at the Ellington Agricultural Center in the Nashville suburb of Brentwood. The museum, which was opened in 1988 by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, is open to the public for free admission Mondays through Fridays during business hours, with the exception of major state holidays. Visitors can explore the museum as part of self-guided tours and view displays of farming equipment, woodworking, and textiles, along with a replica blacksmith shop. Outside, a reconstructed one-room schoolhouse and log cabins are showcased alongside nature trails and garden areas.
404 Hogan Rd, Nashville, TN 37220, Phone: 615-837-5197
© Cooter's Place
Cooter's Place is a unique pop culture museum dedicated to the 20th-century television series Dukes of Hazzard, offering free admission daily. The museum chain was founded by actor Ben Jones, best known as the series' sidekick Cooter, and also offers locations in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Luray, Virginia. Dukes of Hazzard artifacts are showcased throughout the museum, including original props, costumes, set pictures, and other official memorabilia. Major artifacts on display include the 1969 "General Lee" Dodge Charger used in the show, along with several other vehicles used in the production. Though the museum is free to enter, visitors should note that some aspects require an additional upcharge, including official photographs taken with memorabilia.
2613 McGavock Pk, Nashville, TN 37214, Phone: 615-872-8358
23 Best Free Things to Do in Nashville Year Round
- The Tennessee State Museum, Photo: The Tennessee State Museum
- The Dyer Observatory, Photo: The Dyer Observatory
- Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, Photo: Courtesy of spiritofamerica - Fotolia.com
- Barbara J. Mapp Aviary Education Center, Photo: Courtesy of Pavel Lysenko - Fotolia.com
- The Nashville Symphony's Outdoor Concert Series, Photo: Courtesy of kirvinic - Fotolia.com
- Stones River National Battlefield, Photo: Courtesy of Samuel - Fotolia.com
- Nashville Flea Market, Photo: Courtesy of STUDIO GRAND OUEST - Fotolia.com
- Fort Negley, Photo: Courtesy of vrabelpeter1 - Fotolia.com
- The Nashville Public Library, Photo: The Nashville Public Library
- Free Day of Music, Photo: Courtesy of Worawut - Fotolia.com
- Nashville Symphony Chamber Music Series, Photo: Courtesy of Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
- First Saturday Art Crawls, Photo: Courtesy of hookmedia - Fotolia.com
- Franklin Art Scene, Photo: Courtesy of Stanislaw - Fotolia.com
- Arts and Music at Wedgewood-Houston, Photo: Courtesy of onepony - Fotolia.com
- Nashville Greenways, Photo: Courtesy of davidmarx - Fotolia.com
- Beaman Park Nature Center, Photo: Beaman Park Nature Center
- Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, Photo: Courtesy of Pavel Lysenko - Fotolia.com
- The Tennessee Governor's Mansion, Photo: Courtesy of Maryana - Fotolia.com
- Centennial Park Trail, Photo: Courtesy of jbyard - Fotolia.com
- The Annual American Artisan Festival, Photo: The Annual American Artisan Festival
- Tomato Art Fest, Photo: Tomato Art Fest
- The Tennessee Agricultural Museum, Photo: The Tennessee Agricultural Museum
- Cooter's Place, Photo: Cooter's Place
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of pabrady63 - Fotolia.com