Despite being pigeonholed as a music city—or the Music City—Nashville nonetheless has some serious culture in addition to the sonic variety. Let’s start with the textual. If you’re the bookish sort, you’d do well to check out the Gertrude & Harold Vanderbilt Visiting Writers Series at Vanderbilt University or the Salon@615 series, a partnership between Nashville Public Library, Nashville Public Library Foundation, Parnassus Books, and Humanities Tennessee. Both feature nationally-recognized authors throughout the spring and fall. Speaking of Parnassus, by all means check out Parnassus Books, the standalone store in Green Hills that was started by best-selling novelist Ann Patchett. The staff is super-knowledgeable, and the store hosts readings and events most every night of the week.
If film is more your thing, check out the Belcourt Theatre in Hillsboro Village. Opened in 1925 as the Hillsboro Theatre, the space even hosted the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930s. Bought and re-opened as an arthouse theatre by a group of investors in 2007, the Belcourt is the place to go to for anything film-related in Nashville. Many actors and directors (Nicole Kidman, Christopher Munch, Rob Trujillo) have done intimate screenings and Q&As here, so make sure to follow them on social media for upcoming events. For live theatre, check out the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, which is wonderful in the outdoors in summer. For another type of theatre, we’re partial to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival, as well.
Music without a drawl can be found at The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, home to the Nashville Symphony. Not only is it an architectural marvel, it also houses music more nights than not, including with-symphony performances that feature artists like Chick Corea and Phish’s Trey Anastasio alongside the usual symphonic fare.
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, housed in the former downtown post office, is a world-class art museum blending local and regional artists with national and international traveling shows. Works from the likes of Matisse, Picasso, and El Greco have graced its walls, and the exhibits change regularly thanks to the Center’s lack of a permanent collection. You can bring your artistic sensibilities outside, as well, to The Parthenon at Centennial Park, which is a full-size replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece. Built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the building contains a mammoth 42-foot recreation of Athena by artist Alan LeQuire. The structure also nominally serves as an art museum. Centennial Park itself, located across the road from Vanderbilt University, is a favorite haunt for Nashvillians of all sorts—dog-walkers, musicians, and anyone looking to catch a few rays in a sun-soaked university environment.
If all that’s too hifalutin for you, there’s the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, one of the largest music museums in the world. And when we say large, we mean you best set aside the better part of a day to see it. There are galleries (featuring music, video, legendary instruments, clothing, cars, and more), a recording studio, classrooms, tons of ever-rotating (and some permanent) exhibits, a 776-seat theatre, and loads more. We mean it! Make sure your boots are made for walkin’ if you’re considering this one.