Nashville, the capital of Tennessee and the heart of the American music industry, goes by many names. It’s most often called “Music City,” but has also been dubbed “The Hollywood of the South,” and “Nash-Vegas.” For us here at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series, this Tennessee capital mirrors our own mission to bring music and running together in a memorable way.
Whether you’re a longtime Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series Nashville participant or eyeing the race calendar for your next race-cation, read on for our favorite reasons to visit this dynamic city. As soon as you jump off your United flight, grab your running shoes and head downtown—get ready to discover a city made for not only music lovers, but history buffs, foodies, and outdoor adventurers, too.
Honky Tonk row.
The Ryman Auditorium
Music is of course Nashville’s biggest claim to fame. From rock to blues to country and everything in between, whatever your favorite flavor of tunes, you’ll find it here.
Kick off your music-lovers' tour of Nashville with a visit to the Johnny Cash Museum, a tribute to the life and music of one of Nashville's most iconic figures. The museum features exhibits on Cash's life and career, as well as artifacts such as his guitars and costumes. If you’re a fan of country music, don’t miss the Country Music Hall of Fame. In addition to exhibits on the history of country music and its most famous stars, the museum also hosts live performances and events throughout the year.
Nashville’s famous venues are also worth a visit. The Ryman Auditorium is one of the most celebrated venues in modern music, and has hosted the likes of Johnny Cash to Elvis Presley. The venue also hosts tours that take you backstage and behind the scenes of some of the most famous performances in music history. The Bluebird Café is another historic venue that hosts some of the biggest names in country music, as well as up-and-coming artists.
Synonymous with Nashville are its Honky Tonks, or live music bars. Get your fix on Honky Tonk Highway, located on Lower Broadway, a row of honky tonks pumping live music into the streets from 10 am to 3 am. One of the most famous Honky Tonks include Tootsies, which you can find across from the Ryman Auditorium, Robert’s, The Stage, Legend’s Corner, Rippy’s, Layla’s, Whiskey Bent, and Wildhorse Saloon. Each has its own unique flavor and spin on entertainment; take your chances or do your research to figure out which ones you want to visit.
Radnor Lake State Park
Beyond the grandstands, dives, and honky-tonks are acres of Tennessee nature to be explored. Radnor Lake State Park is a beautiful nature preserve located just a few miles south of downtown Nashville. The park offers several hiking trails that wind through wooded hills and along the shores of the lake. Pop on your trail runners and see if you can spot one of the deer, including deer, owls, or otters that call the park home.
Paddleboarding on the Cumberland River is the perfect way to relax pre- or post-run, and explore the city's skyline from a different perspective. Rent from River Queen Voyages or do one of their guided tours, taking in landmarks such as the Cumberland River Pedestrian Bridge and the Nissan Stadium. The Cumberland River is also known for its catfish and smallmouth bass.
Indulge your love of the fresh air from the comfort of town by going for a spin or run along The Shelby Bottoms Greenway, a 5.8-mile paved trail that runs along the Cumberland River. The trail is popular with cyclists, joggers, and walkers, and offers great views of the river and the Nashville skyline.
Looking for more of a thrill? Head to Adventureworks for a zipline course with nine ziplines that take you through the forest canopy and over a creek. The course is suitable for all ages and experience levels.
Cheekwood Estate gardens.
Nashville's downtown area is filled with historic buildings and landmarks that tell the story of the city's past. Take a walking tour with a local guide to learn about the history of Nashville and its most famous residents.
For art lovers, Frist Art Museum is a world-class museum that features rotating exhibits of contemporary and classical art. The museum is housed in a beautiful Art Deco building and offers a variety of programs and events for visitors of all ages.
Nashville is also home to a full-scale replica of the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. The Parthenon is located in Centennial Park and features a museum that showcases art and artifacts from ancient Greece.
The Belle Meade Plantation is a historic mansion that was once a thriving thoroughbred horse farm. The plantation offers tours that take you through the mansion and the grounds, and give you a glimpse into life on a Southern plantation in the 19th century.
Visit the Cheekwood Estate and Gardens, a 55-acre historic estate which features a permanent collection of American and European art, botanical gardens, a sculpture trail, and live performances.
Nashville Hot Chicken at Prince's
You can't go wrong with barbecue.
Whether you're in town to run, walk, or wander, Nashville caters to every cuisine and diet preference imaginable—all with a unique Southern spin. The city is known for dishes such as hot chicken, biscuits, and barbecue, but that’s by no means where the deliciousness ends. Here are some of our favorite places to refuel, raise a pint, and sip an espresso in Nashville.
Sample a tradition at Prince's Hot Chicken, considered the best of the lot serving up Nashville’s signature dish. Thornton Prince created the recipe during the Great Depression, and his great-niece Ms. Andre Prince Jeffries is making sure people can still enjoy the original version of the spicy staple today. The family-owned restaurant is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience Nashville's culinary traditions. (There are currently two locations at Prince’s. One in Assembly Food Hall downtown and one on Nolensville Pike.)
If barbecue is what you’re craving, head to Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint for a taste of authentic Tennessee barbecue. The restaurant is known for its slow-smoked meats, homemade sides, and laid-back atmosphere. Be sure to try the brisket, which is widely regarded as some of the best in the city. Edley’s Bar-B-Que is another welcoming barbecue joint known for its standout sides and banana pudding.
Want to sample some of the best food in Nashville without leaving Downtown Nashville? Then stop by Assembly Food Hall. This newly opened establishment at Fifth + Broadway is the largest food hall in the U.S. Try local favorites like Coco’s Fresh Italian, Hattie Jane’s Creamery, Prince’s Hot Chicken, Pharmacy Burger, and Steam Boys. Besides restaurants and bars, Assembly Food Hall also has three stages for live performances. The food hall is a perfect stop for lunch or dinner while sightseeing in Downtown Nashville or before a show. For a casual and budget-friendly lunch, locals love Five Points Pizza’s New York style slices.
For a more upscale experience, post-race celebration, or date night, try Husk, located in a historic mansion in the heart of downtown and known for its innovative take on Southern cuisine. The menu changes daily and features locally sourced ingredients. The Catbird Seat is a top pick for foodies looking for a culinary adventure. The restaurant in Downtown Nashville offers a chef’s tasting menu in an intimate environment. Plan to reserve well in advance. The Southern Steak & Oyster is another option in this category, and is the place to go for top-quality steaks and fresh seafood.
Americano Lounge is an upscale coffee and cocktail bar.
Head to Bearded Iris for serious refreshment.
If beer is on your list for a pre- or post-race libation, Nashville has made ample contributions to the American craft beer scene.
Bearded Iris Brewing is located on the Cumberland River Greenway recreational path just north of downtown. It’s known for its hazy IPAs and experimental brews. The taproom is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike, with a laid-back atmosphere and outdoor seating to enjoy the warm Tennessee nights.
Jackalope Brewing Company: In the Wedgewood-Houston area south of downtown, this beloved Nashville brewery is known for its flagship beer, the Thunder Ann American Pale Ale. The taproom also offers a rotating selection of seasonal and experimental brews, as well as food trucks and live music.
If you’re looking to grab some grub with your beer, head to Tennessee Brew Works in downtown Nashville. They offer a wide range of beers, from classic lagers to unique sour ales. The taproom serves food made with locally sourced ingredients, making it a great spot for lunch or dinner.
Drink for a cause at Black Abbey Brewing Company, which has a monastery-inspired atmosphere and specializes in Belgian-style ales and barrel-aged beers. Black Abbey Brewing Company is a brewery with a mission, using its beers to support local charities and non-profit organizations. The taproom offers a cozy atmosphere and a rotating selection of brews.
If coffee is more your cup of joe, Nashville boasts one of the best bean scenes in the country.
The gem of Mill Hill, Crema, is serious about its business, taking painstaking efforts to meticulously source its beans and offer various classes on the craft of coffee. And if you like an extra little pick-me-up with your morning joe, head over to Pinewood Social and order Crema's cortado with Fernet.
Americano Coffee Lounge is another downtown-based shop, located in the Houston Station complex. Owners Cody and Delana Pellerin are placing a focus on flying the “classically American” banner. Defined by the WWII-era emergence of the Americano, the lounge claims a 1940’s twist, and serves classic coffee drinks and a light food menu.
Headquarters is a tiny shop in West Nashville and is only 9 feet wide. It’s an ideal spot to grab a luxury bevvy after a shake-out run. The Charlotte Avenue shop’s brews lean toward the inspired with concoctions like their sorghum cinnamon latte and cherry refresho — combining espresso and Mexican Coca-Cola. The shop offers baked goods from local bakeries Brightside Bakery, Dozen Bakery, Sweet 16th and Vegan Vee. 4902 Charlotte Pike
We hope you enjoy your time exploring Nashville as we enjoy running through its colorful, history-filled streets.
United Airlines is the Official Airline of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series. Let United join you on your journey toward the finish line and check out the Rock 'n' Roll Running Series website to find out how you can receive exclusive flight discounts.
Keep an eye on the Rock 'n' Roll Nashville event page for other local discounts in our Runner Perks section.