7 Must-See Nashville Sights for a Scavenger Hunt

Welcome to Nashville. This Tennessee town is full of music, sights and scrumptious food. Not sure where to go? This fun scavenger hunt covers must-see and -do attractions all over Nashville. Whether you opt to visit all or just a few of these family-friendly spots, let this gamified guide help you enjoy the ride.

Sing Along at the Grand Ole Opry

  • Drive 12 miles east of downtown

Begin your adventure in true Nashville style at the Grand Ole Opry, where some of country music’s biggest stars — from Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Dolly Parton to Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts — have graced the stage.

  • Do This: Catch a show Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday night; or book a backstage daytime tour.

  • Fun Fact: The weekly country music stage concert is America’s longest-running radio broadcast and has been aired since 1925.

With more than 6,000 songs performed annually at the Grand Ole Opry, it’s easy to find seats to hear a few of them. Photo by Cliff, Flickr.

 

Explore the Parthenon in Centennial Park

  • Drive less than 3 miles southwest of downtown

Don’t let your eyes deceive you: You’re not in Greece, but you may feel like it when you gaze upon the Parthenon in Centennial Park. Built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exhibition, this full-size replica of the Parthenon in Athens is also home to Nashville’s art museum.

  • Do This: Count the structure’s outdoor pillars, browse art exhibits inside and behold the giant golden sculpture of Athena on the second floor.

  • Fun Fact: Nashville’s Parthenon Marbles replicas — found in the east hall — were directly cast from the original Athenian sculptures that date back to 438 B.C.

Grab a frame-worthy photo in front of the “I Believe in Nashville” mural by Adrien Saporiti, an artist’s whose work can also be found and purchased as a souvenir in the form of prints and t-shirts around town.

 

Play “I Spy ... a Wall Mural”

  • Drive about half a mile south of downtown to NoBro (North Broadway) or less than 2 miles southwest of downtown to the Gulch neighborhood to find many of the city’s murals

Keep your eyes peeled while driving around town because the walls of Music City are exploding with colorful and cultural murals, which express a variety of messages from “I Believe in Nashville” to “Make Music Not War.”

  • Do This: Get yourself a set of wings by standing in front of the “Nashville What Lifts You” mural in the Gulch District, or play your air saxophone next to some music legends — Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Tony Williams and Ella Fitzgerald — at the mural titled “A Soul Break” on Jefferson Street.

  • Fun Fact: You can discover new murals and mural artists’ events by using this map and by following Nashville Walls Project — the organization behind the walls — on social media.

Savor Nashville’s Hot Chicken

  • This local specialty is available at many restaurants around town

Bite into Nashville’s signature dish: hot chicken — marinated in buttermilk, fried and coated with a cayenne paste. You’ll definitely feel the heat. For those who can’t take the fiery flavors, don’t worry. Where there’s hot chicken, there are also classic Southern sides like potato salad and baked beans.

  • Do This: Try Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in north Nashville for the original recipe, or get your fried chicken fix from Hattie B’s in midtown or west Nashville. Tip: Hattie B’s is popular among tourists and locals alike, but you can skip to the front of the queue when ordering online in advance.

  • Fun Fact: Nashville’s hot chicken recipe stemmed from a jilted girlfriend’s revenge back in the 1930s. While some may think drowning a fried buttermilk chicken in cayenne pepper is punishment, others see it as a business opportunity. Such was the case for Thorton Prince III, whose family has served that revenge recipe at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack for almost 100 years.

At Hattie B’s, savor a half chicken plate, which includes a breast, thigh, wing and leg and comes with bread, pickles and two sides like pimento mac and cheese and baked beans.

 

Sing Along at the Country Music Hall of Fame

  • Drive 1 mile south of downtown

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum showcases the history of the genre, features world-class galleries filled with music memorabilia and houses the 800-seat CMA Theater.

  • Do This: Families should start at the Taylor Swift Education Center, where programs like banjo classes and puppet shows as well as workshops like songwriting take place daily.

  • Fun Fact: The Hall of Fame houses Elvis Presley’s 1960 Cadillac Series 75 Fleetwood limousine, which sports 24-karat gold-plated trim and highlights and is coated with 40 layers of paint comprised of crushed diamonds and fish scales.

Coated with more than three dozen layers of paint called “diamond dust pearl,” Elvis Presley’s Cadillac sparkles beneath display lights at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Photo by Rain0975, Flickr.

 

Roam the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

  • Drive about 10 miles southwest of downtown

With 55 acres of impeccable gardens — like the state-of-the-art rain garden — the historic Cheekwood Estate boasts a 36-room mansion and is home to rotating and permanent art exhibitions, from historic interiors to fine and decorative arts.

  • Do This: Take the kiddos to the Turner Seasons Garden, where you’ll discover TRAINS!, a dreamy, woodland-themed exhibit that features impressive model trains and is filled with fairies, waterfalls, a special children’s tunnel and dioramas showcasing miniature worlds inside.

  • Fun Fact: The Cheekwood Estate began with a story of love at first sight. On a train from Nashville to New York, Leslie Cheek is said to have bribed the porter with a box of cigars to learn the name of his future wife, the lovely Mabel Wood.

Skip, play, stroll or stop and smell the roses, daffodils, hydrangeas and other colorful flowers and vines at Cheekwood Gardens.

 

Search for the Cutest Critters at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

  • Drive about 9 miles southeast of downtown

Home to nearly 2,800 creatures, the Nashville Zoo can fill your family’s day with a variety of animal-themed activities, like visiting the Critter Encounters petting zoo, riding the Wilderness Express train, gliding above giraffes and rhinos on the treetop Soaring Eagle zip line or hopping aboard the Wild Animal Carousel.

  • Do This: You’ll get to meet two of the zoo’s clouded leopards, tour the rhinoceros barn or see North America’s largest collection of giant anteaters via the backstage pass — a 90-minute guided tour featuring behind-the-scenes experiences not available to the public.

  • Fun Fact: Born in 2017, two red pandas made their zoo debuts, but how did these adorable siblings get the names Kiaria and Misa? Members of the public donated to the red panda conservation effort to cast votes for their favorite names.

The original “pandas,” red pandas were discovered in the 1820s, nearly half a century before their more widely known black-and-white cousins. Other names for this fluffy red-and-white mammal include cat-bear, bear-cat and firefox. Photo by Rain0975, Flickr.

As you work through this Nashville checklist, keep this one-page scavenger hunt printout — featuring additional places to see in Nashville and fun things to do with kids — in your car for the ride. Along the way, keep your camera handy and hold onto keepsakes, like your admission tickets to the Country Music Hall of Fame. When you get home, put all your memories in one place by creating this easy DIY photo album so you can take a ride down memory lane long after your Nashville vacation ends.  

In between all the fun activities on this Nashville scavenger hunt, rest your head in the heart of the city at the Hilton Nashville Downtown. Larger families may also enjoy the spacious multibedroom suites at Wyndham Nashville, located just a mile from the Grand Ole Opry — your first stop on this Nashville scavenger hunt.


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About the Author

Lisa Zimmermann is a Washington, D.C.-based writer and has previously written for Boston magazine, Boston Home, Boston Weddings, The Dallas Morning News, The Jersey Journal, New England Travel and Atlas Magazine. On her first visit to Nashville, she got soaked en route to the Parthenon and loved every minute of the run, and the incredible beauty of the shelter the landmark provided. Follow her on Twitter @lisazimm or Instagram @lzloveslife.