Top 10 Free Things to Do in Nashville, TN

It’s no wonder that Nashville is considered Music City. The entire metropolis permeates with music and arts. If you are around or in town, be sure to stop by these top 10 free things to do in Nashville, Tennessee, put on a pair of boots, and go honky tonkin’! 

“So honky tonk means white people hitting it hard?” – Dev, Master of None

To those who have seen this episode, kudos, I love this show! Master of None was where I first saw clips of Nashville, it seemed fun! I’ll be the first to admit that country music/living is not my style, and was unsure of how I’d feel about Nashville! But.. you never know until you try, right?

Turns out, Dev (Aziz Ansari) was pretty on point. Nashville has many, many things to do during the day. That aside, the city really comes alive at night

We had so much fun discovering the quirks of our new home. As always, I’ve come up with a budget friendly list of things to do in this new city.

Things to Do:

#10: Opry Mills Shopping

If you’re into shopping, this beautiful mall has a huge inventory of places to shop. The store is definitely decked with Christmas decorations and music- point! Highlights are advertisement of leather boots for buy 1, get 2 free! Don’t forget to stop by the stalls, where they give out delicious free samples of chocolate fudge!

#9: Opry Hotel Gaylord Resort

Right across the parking lot from the Opry Mills Shopping Mall (or take the closest walk from the IMAX theater) is the Opryland Hotel. We were recommended this spot to check out from our AirBNB host.

The hotel features 3 magnificent domes, each one with their own special attribute. Upon walking in, we weren’t even sure we were allowed in there! The place was very beautiful, hotel rooms surround the artificial tropical environment.

 

  • Delta Dome – a manmade river, where you can pay to take a river ride through the hotel; a really cool water show fountain that comes every hour or two!
  • Magnolia – pool (outdoors) and bar
  • Conservatory – an indoor jungle; very cool exotic plants (I found this out when I poked at one that oozed sticky stuff on my hand)

This hotel is comparable to the majestic hotels in Vegas (just without the casino, hehe). If you’re in town, do check it out!

#8: Walk on the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

It is completely worth it to see Nashville lit up during the night. It takes about 30 minutes from one side to the other. We took fantastic photos of the opposing bridges and the Nashville skyline!

The nice thing about this bridge is that there are no cars allowed on it.​

When you get to the other side, keep an eye out for a mysterious elevator that takes you to the Cumberland Park, there was live music as well! This is an excellent place to go to take a break from the loud music downtown.

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#7: TN State Museum

Nashville’s Tennessee State Museum and Capitol Museum are free and pretty close to each other. This is a great place to learn more about Nashville’s culture and history. But look out, they’re shutting the state museum to relocate to a different location, so some of the artifacts are not in display.

While you walk around, also look out for this cool diagonal crosswalks, which were everywhere downtown! Reminded me of Shibuya Crossing in Japan.

#6: Parthenon in Centennial Park

Definitely come check out the full-sized replica of the Greek Parthenon. The closest thing to being in Athens itself!

#5: Radnor Lake State Park

After staying up an unhealthy amount the night before, you can recover the next day by taking a lovely stroll through Radnor Lake with its beautiful hikes.

Also a great opportunity for some photography!

#4: Bi-centennial Park

Don’t forget to visit this park in the middle of town, a beautiful stop for a day trip.

While you’re there, don’t forget to catch the bell towers as they go off! It rings every 15 minutes, but the hourly tunes are even more magnificent.

#3: Farmer’s Market

We loved the farmers market for its outdoors-y indoors feel. Visit to the Picnic Tap for the board games and a delicious Flight of Tennessee. There are also tons of other restaurants and an International Market, where I bought yummy persimmons.

#2: Nightlife: Live music!!

You can’t miss the Honky Tonk Highway/Music Mile/Downtown on your visit to Nashville.

It’s hard to imagine any other place like here, except for perhaps New Orleans, where bar after bar right next to each other plays live music through the night, every night. But there it is, on Honky Tonk Highway. The amazing thing is there are no cover fees anywhere! Let’s go honky tonk!

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You can’t miss the Honky Tonk Highway/Music Mile/Downtown on your visit to Nashville.

It’s hard to imagine any other place like here, except for perhaps New Orleans, where bar after bar right next to each other plays live music through the night, every night. But there it is, on Honky Tonk Highway. The amazing thing is there are no cover fees anywhere! Let’s go honky tonk!

  • The Big Bang Bar– this dueling piano bar is very popular among locals, and rightly so. We even got to hear some ragtime piano! The energy felt in the music is evident in the artists makes this top my list of favorite places on Honky Tonk highway.
  • AJ’s Good Time Bar – a 4 story bar karaoke spot with a rooftop bar! This place has great music and great energy. Love their karaoke DJ! <3 Do visit! 
  • Ms. Kelly’s – located off of the Printer’s Alley, but completely worth the visit (only several blocks away) for a night of fun karaoke. A lot of college students and locals come here to let off steam. 
  • Nudies Honky Tonk – frequently advertised as the longest bar in town. True to the fact, it is very long, with several floors of live music.

For a less touristy destination, visit the Printer’s Alley for some cool live music at night. For late nights, make sure to go with other people or take precautionary measures!

Literally every other person is a performer, a to-be performer, or incredibly musically talented.

#1: The Bluebird Cafe

If you’re in Nashville and skip everything else on the list, you must visit Bluebird! I have never cared too much for country music (though I’ve never hated it), but Bluebird had changed me. You’ll frequently hear that Bluebird was where a lot of singer/songwriters started off at.

The storytelling songs made me laugh, cry, and reflect upon life more than I’ve ever had while listening to music. These artists really knew how to tell a tale.

There is no cover fee to listen at Bluebird, however you must buy $10 in foods. We had a baked brie and a local dark beer, which were both delicious and completely worth it!

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Where to Eat:

True to our budget oriented selves, we cooked almost through our entire trip in Nashville. Because we were vegetarian, it is a little bit difficult to find a place that served us dishes that weren’t sides.

However, we found a vegetarian restaurant The Wild Cow, which had 5 star quality foods! The portions were very large for its price, and we were very happy customers. Be aware that it is very busy and you might have to wait 30 minutes to an hour without reservations.

Where to Stay:

We stayed at an Airbnb with our lovely hosts Shuo and Ron. It was a great location!! It was only $40, way cheaper than all other options we had. The room was very neat and cute. He had left us free granola bars and water bottles. The kitchen and living room were very homey. This is possibly the best Airbnb I’ve ever had! If you’re interested in booking with him, here is is page link! I 100% recommend. 🙂

Sign up here for your next Airbnb and get $40 on your trip!

Get Around:

We primarily used our car during the day. Parking is free for most everywhere except for downtown. Parking downtown is free after 6pm.

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While there, we found that even on a weeknight, bars were packed! Even more coincidentally, we were there during the CMA’s (Country Music Awards, as I found out). Streets were completely blocked, people pouring out, performers mingling with visitors in the glow of the night. It was a quite sight. 

Should you go to Nashville?

Well, it depends. Do you love listening to live music? Meeting nice people? Having a good time?

I think there’s something for everyone in Nashville. You should at least give it a try and you may find that you like it as much as we did. <3

Cheers!!

 

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Japan (for Beginners)

Whether you’re an avid manga reader, or lover of Japanese culture, or just fascinated about Japanese technology, there is always something mystifying and beautiful about Japan that draws millions of tourists in the past decade.

Today, I’m thrilled to share one of my three favorite cultures encountered while traveling: Japan. This is a three part series response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge, so please check out the rest of my responses!

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Japan for Beginners

Who is this Guide For? 

This guide is for anyone and everyone to peruse. Though, I am writing it specifically for:

  • People who have general knowledge of Japan and want to catch a glimpse of the magnificent country in 3 weeks.
  • People who like cool technology and want to see it in person.
  • People who like anime, but want to know what real life Japanese culture is like.
  • People who like adventures, because really is one big adventure.

When to Go

The timing of going to Japan is very important as it could change your itinerary completely. Japan is a very versatile country. On top of a million reasons to visit the country, here some highlights of seasonal activities in Japan.

  • Winter for the hot springs and skiing/snowboarding.
  • Spring for the famous and beautiful Cherry Blossoms.
  • Summer for the fireworks and climbing Mt. Fuji.
  • Autumn for the beautiful foliage amidst Japanese culture.

Japanese Festivals (Matsuri) occur year round, entailing large parades, floats, food, traditional clothing, and costumes. Each shrine has its own local festival, so you will encounter one unique to the location you are visit.

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Transportation

Japan is mostly accessible by plane, where tickets are typically quite expensive to buy, unless you could find the cheap off season ticket deal. Throughout the year, there are various Japan flight deals from theflightdeal.com, as little as $600 for a roundtrip ticket!

Once you’re in the country, there are railway systems everywhere. Tokyo Metro is the subway system of Tokyo, taking you anywhere you need with in 30 minutes. Be mindful of the time though, because unlike NYC subways, this one is not open 24/7. These are much more economical than taking a taxi, as those could run you a hundred dollars. We had to take the taxi on hour first night in Japan because our flight had arrived too late and the metro had closed.wp-image-1577289470

If you want to catch a good glimpse of Japan in a short amount of time, I highly recommend purchasing the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, which was by far the most expensive thing we bought (about $200/pass). However, it is entirely worth it to ride a bullet train (on my bucket list) and cruise through the country within hours. They also have an option for regional passes, which are more economical. 

Luckily, through Couchsurfing, we met our good friend Keisuke, who had a car and showed us around Yokohama for a couple of days.

Biking is a great way to explore the streets of Japan, especially while exploring architecture in the rural areas. Imagine riding around Kyoto on a beautiful afternoon by beautiful temples in the Autumn. /sigh

Useful Things to Bring

If you’re traveling with backpack, check out my comprehensive guide to what to pack! However, I just want to reiterate the importance of bringing:

  • Smartphone, with pre-installed:
    • Google Translate
    • Google Maps

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Walking down the streets of Tokyo, there are minimal amounts of English in writing or speaking. We heavily relied on our translation apps, including when we interacted with our Couchsurf friend.

Accommodations

Generally, accommodations in Japan are cheaper than the United States, but only by a smidge.

Airbnbs

For those who aren’t familiar with this site, it is a fantastic accommodation option for travelers to stay with hosts (though still like a hotel, because all bedding and linen are provided). We used Airbnb throughout our travel in Japan. Without knowing language or pricing in Japan, Airbnb provided us an authentic, cheap, and no nonsense stay with our hosts. Do get $40 off your first stay with Airbnb through our referral link here!

Capsule Hotel

Sleeping in a Japanese Capsule Hotel is exactly as it sounds, and has always been on my bucket list. I finally had my chance! Surprisingly, it not as cheap as you would expect, pricing around $30 to $50 per capsule. It features exciting amenities of a tiny door with blinds, a tiny TV, and a tiny desk to eat on!

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Manga Kissa

Have you slept in a manga book store before? It’s actually quite common in Japan! The pads in our private cubby makes a great bed for tired souls. This was our chance to take a break from wandering, and sit, read manga, cruise the internet, and sleep.

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Where to Go

Tokyo

Tokyo is the capital of Japan. One of the the most populated urban areas in the world, and a giant hub for technology, business, travel, culture, foods, weirdness, and much more. Tokyo is made up of several large districts with its own character.

  • Akihabara– electronic, anime, video games center.
  • Shibuya– temples, culture, foods. Don’t forget to check out the Shibuya Crossing (just a really busy pedestrian crossing that looks like a giant ant colony collision from above)
Kyoto-Osaka-Nara

Do visit the Kyoto-Osaka-Nara for the rich, authentic culture and traditions. The temples are beautiful and palaces magnanimous.

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Hiroshima

We were touched by the remnants of the Hiroshima bombing during World War II. Such a sad history for such a beautiful city. We were taken through a heart throbbing journey of recovery. History class lecture is nothing like being in the city itself.

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Things to Do

  • Check out the Tokyo Tower! It’s essentially a version of the Eiffel Tower, except it’s 13 meter taller!
Explore Culture and Temples

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  • Asakusa Temples – this area features a variety of beautiful temples. Traditional foods and souvenir items are bountiful here as well!

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Explore strange, but cool things in Japan
  • Cup Noodle Museum – We made our own cup noodles!!! I’ve been a huge fan of Ramen since my youth. Now, I finally made my own unique label and packaging (and eating it!), standing in front of the wall of ramen– feels amazing.

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  • Robot Restaurant – possibly the craziest dinner show I’ve ever been to. Our tickets were $40/person (includes dinner and drinks). No regrets, because this gave me just the experience of Japan that I expected. See my post on our adventures at the Robot Restaurant here!

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  • Vending Machines – Ramen vending machine? Yes, please!

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  • Who wants a black burger?

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  • Using the Toilet is an adventure in itself. No English to indicate whether or not there’s going to be water splashed up my butt. Awesome.
Feed your nerdy interests:
  • Ghibli Museum (anime fan) – Upon going to Japan, I knew I had to visit Studio Ghibli. I’m a huge fan of the animated films and their soundtracks. The studio is as amazing as I imagined!! Don’t forget to order your tickets early, as they are booked out veryyyy far back. <3 Let me know when you go!

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  • Manga Kissa – Rows on rows on rows of manga! *drools*

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  • Pokemon Center – My favorite starter Pokemon, Torchick!

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  • Hop on the Hogwarts Express at Harry Potter World!!!

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Feed your love for cute things:
  • Hello, Kitty!

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  • Maid Cafe

What to Eat

Great Tea Kit Kats – 258 yens ($2.30 dollars), whereas in the US could run up to $6/bag. If you’ve never heard of this, it may sound a little weird to you, but they are so delicious.

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Sushi – What’s Japan without Sushi? Even though we’re vegetarian, there were awesome options for us on the Sushi belt! 

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Soba Noodles, Ramen, and Tempura

Dango (Sweet Japanese Dumplings)- if you’ve seen Clannad, you’ll know what I’m talking about. wp-image-86198478

Onigiri (Rice balls) – sold across all 7/11, possibly one of  my favorite Japanese foods, it is so delicious. A perfect snack with all the ingredients I love.

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Fun Culture Facts

  • Walking and eating is frowned upon. We ate our home-cooked meal out of a grocery bag on the sidewalk.
  • Tokyo Metro rush hour in Japan is BAD, even comparable to NYC rush hour subway. The trains are so cramped! The best way to step into the cart is by facing the other direction and stepping in, so that no awkward looks pass as you shove yourself into the crowd. Very professional.

While there is an endless amount of things I could write about Japan, I would love to hear any questions, stories, and comments you all have! I would happy to write more or clarify, and especially to hear your thoughts! 

Thanks for reading! This is a response to the 21 Weeks of Travel Blogging Challenge!

Interested in participating in the Weekly Travel Blogging Challenge? Feel free to make your own today!

Week 1:  A favorite travel photo of you and intro
Week 2: Little known tips
Week 3: Funny story
Week 4: Misadventures
Week 5: Top three cultural foods
Week 6: Unusual travel activities/photos
Week 7: Inspiration for traveling
Week 8: Five favorite travel blogs
Week 9: Gross/disgusting stories
Week 10: Best adventures while traveling
Week 11: What’s in your backpack?
Week 12: Happy and sad stories
Week 13: Unique cultures encountered
Week 14: Top three favorite destinations
Week 15: Travel regrets
Week 16: Scary and cool travel stories
Week 17: Things to purge
Week 18: Humbling things learned from traveling
Week 19: Confessions
Week 20: Travel bucket list (countries/activities)
Week 21: Your challenge post highlights and what you’ve learned during this challenge

These awesome people are also doing the challenge!!! Click to see their stories!