The Ultimate Cheap Way See and Do Things Without Spending Money
Some things in life are indeed free. And in Nashville, TN, there’s a lot to see that doesn’t cause an achy breaky heart for even the most wallet-conscious tourist.
• THE STATE CAPITOL BUILDING
What’s a trip to Nashville without visiting the state capitol? The beautiful building and grounds are open to the public, either via a personal look (brochures provide information) or guided tours. See the Senate chambers and the House of Representatives room (when they are not in session) and roam the hallways looking at the portraits of past governors and ceiling frescos. The grounds around the capitol include a statue of Andrew Jackson and a replica of the Liberty Bell.
Guided tours are available on Monday through Friday at 9, 10 and 11 a.m., and 1, 2 and 3 p.m.
Location: Sixth Ave., at Charlotte.
Activity Time: 20-30 minutes, plus and additional 30 minutes to stroll the grounds.
• TENNESSEE STATE MUSEUM
After the capitol tour, a little taste of Tennessee history might be in order and the Tennessee State Museum has exhibits from the state’s prehistoric age, the Civil War and into the early 1900s. The Military Museum, a branch of the Tennessee State Museum, is across the street in the War Memorial Building. Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m.
Location: 505 Deaderick Street in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
Activity Time: 1 hour.
• THE CHARLIE DANIELS MUSEUM
More of a shrine than a museum, this look at Tennessee’s contribution to Southern Rock has several of his old tour posters, photos, a well-work tour travel case, wardrobe and memorabilia. It’s in the back of a souvenir store that sells rebel flag t-shirts and shorts, among other “The South’s Gonna Do it Again” items. True to Charlie Daniels’ loyalty, there’s even a small section on Tennessee football (he’s performed at halftime at Neyland Stadium a few times, including once in a driving rainstorm in which his beloved Vols were trounced 27-0 by Paul “Bear” Bryant’s #1-ranked Alabama team).
Location: 110 2nd Ave., a block from Broadway.
Activity Time: 20-30 minutes. A true CDB fan could easily spend an hour.
• ERNEST TUBB MUSEUM
Located in the Ernest Tubb Record Store, t’s not an official museum. A display in the back of the store is a recreation of the Grand Ole Opry stage, which can definitely cause one to pause. Old pictures on the walls blend nicely with the CDs of country music legends and local historic books on sale. Listen carefully, for Ernest may be walking the floor over you.
Location: Broadway between 4th and 5th avenues.
Activity Time: 20 minutes to one hour.
• WALK THE WATERFRONT & DOWNTOWN
For those who want to get their feet moving, downtown Nashville is a very pleasant area to simply walk and explore. The waterfront area across from the football stadium is scenic, Broadway has enough diversions to last half a day and the side streets eventually leading the capitol provide for a look at the downtown life. The traffic lights, though, do last a long time.
There are music statues ideal for photo ops, (a guitar of legends, Elvis, etc.).
Down from the honky tonks, Broadway has shops selling cowboys boots and hats, country music attire, and tacky tourist souvenirs such as a Redneck’s Top 10 pickup lines (#5, “You’re prettier than a beer truck pulling into the driveway.”)
Gruhn’s Guitars is worth a peek. The rustic store has guitars, fiddles and banjos for serious musicians. Be careful, though; it could ruin a free day for anyone who scratches the $8,500 violin or other such instrument.
For food, Jack’s BBQ is a long-time Nashville tradition. And, of course, all those honky tonks with their live local bands are the perfect place for a “hollar and a swallar” after a spirited walk. These live music venues are free, but since the bands play for tips, it’s common courtesy to put some dollars in the tip jar.
Location: Broadway between 1st and and 5th avenues, plus side streets up to 5th Ave. Much of the shopping is on Broadway while the live music clubs are on 2nd Ave., and on Broadway between 4th and 5th.
Activity Time: 1 hour to half a day.
• CENTENNIAL PARK
A great place to spend any nice day in Nashville is Centennial Park. A large gathering place, it has running trails, a cafe, paddleboats, people with pets and a screen that shows outdoor movies in the summer. Several city events take place here, many free to the public in the summer. Weekends are especially popular.
Its focal point is a replica of the Parthenon in Athens (helping to give Nashville it’s “Athens of the South” nickname). Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, the Parthenon serves as the city/s art museum and is open Tuesday – Saturday, 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., and Sundays in June, July & August: from 12:30-4:30 p.m. ($6).
Location: 2600 W End Ave, across from Vanderbilt University and the football stadium.
Activity Time: 1 hour to all day.
POPULAR PAID TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
As far as paid attractions downtown (despite this article primarily focusing on “free” Nashville a couple of popular tourist spots are included), there’s the Ryman Auditorium. Originally a church, it was converted into the longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry. It still has concerts to this day – the seats are hard church pews and can get uncomfortable, so bring padding on which to sit – but it’s main function is to serve as a memory hall for the past legends of its stage. It’s on 5th Ave., just around the corner from Broadway. Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m., seven days a week. Tour cost: $12.50, $16.25 guided tour which includes backstage and dressing rooms. (615) 458-8700.
The Country Music Hall of Fame is on 5th Ave., behind the Sommet Center. The adult GA is $19.99. It is open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Allow two hours for the tour. (615) 416-200.
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