Nashville in summer: best things to do and see

From partying on a floating honky-tonk to cruising on a vintage paddlewheel riverboat, there’s so much to do outdoors. Enjoy the 10 best things to do in Nashville in summer.

Summer is when Nashville is at its hottest, but it's also when the city is at its liveliest. Traveling with the kids? Take a helicopter tour for a bird's eye view of the mountains. Treating your partner to a romantic getaway? Then a paddleboat cruise will be sure to delight you both. From loud nights on a floating honky tonk to quiet days kayaking on the Cumberland River, you won't be stuck for entertainment.

Best outdoor activities

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1. Spend some time relaxing in Centennial Park

For over a century, Centennial Park has been providing locals with a wide open space to enjoy the summer weather. Created in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, you can find monuments to the event throughout the park. Take a stroll through the gardens, catch live entertainment at Musicians Corner, and don't forget to spend time in the magnificent Parthenon for some respite from the heat.

Highlights:

Uncover the musical secrets of Centennial Park with a private tour by a singer-songwriter.

Address and opening hours:

2500 West End Ave., Nashville, TN, 37203. Open 6:00 AM-8:00 PM daily.

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2. Indulge in one of Nashville's summer food festivals

Summer is a great opportunity for foodies to enjoy some of Nashville's best food festivals. Visit in July for the Music City Jerk Festival, Nashville Scene's Burger Week, and the Music City Hot Chicken Festival. Keep an eye on your calendar to see what delicious extravaganza catches your eye.

Highlights:

Take a secret food tour at any time to sample some of the best Southern cuisine Nashville has to offer.

Address and opening hours:

Meet at 974 Main St., Nashville, TN, 37206. Tour times vary.

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3. Segway through the city streets

There's a lot of ground to cover when sightseeing in Nashville, so why not take the strain off your legs and see Music City in style? Going by segway will take you to some of Nashville's most popular attractions, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, Bridgestone Arena, and Tennessee State Capitol.

Highlights:

Not only will you see the city up close, but you will be able to access areas other vehicles can't reach.

Address and opening hours:

Meet at 217 6th Ave. N, Nashville, TN, 37219. Tour times vary.

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4. Fly over Nashville in a helicopter

Take to the skies and enjoy sweeping ariel views of Music City on a Downtown helicopter tour. You'll see the sights of Nashville from above, from the city streets of Downtown to the surrounding hills of Tennessee.

Highlights:

You'll get a unique view of the massive Nissan Stadium, Ryman Auditorium, and the AT&T Building. Keep your camera handy.

Address and opening hours:

Meet at 110 Tune Airport Dr., Nashville, TN, 37209. Tour times vary.

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5. Dance all night on a party wagon

The party culture in Nashville is legendary, and summer nights, in particular, can get pretty wild. So why not celebrate your vacation in style by joining one of Nashville's exciting party wagons? For an unforgettable ride, join a tractor party. There really is no better way to get a taste of Music City's amazing nightlife.

Highlights:

The tractor offers music, drinks and even a light–up dancefloor.

Address and opening hours:

Meet at 160 2nd Ave. N, Nashville, TN, 37201. Tour times vary.

Best water activities

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6. Kayak on the Cumberland River

For a more relaxing view of the city, try grabbing a kayak for a tranquil day on the water. Paddle through Nashville's Cumberland River on a self-guided tour and enjoy a new and unique perspective on the city skyline. This is one of the best water activities to enjoy in Nashville in summer.

Highlights:

A kayak rental session lasts up to 90 minutes and will allow you to explore the beautiful natural environment around the Cumberland River.

Address and opening hours:

Meet at E Bank Greenway, Nashville, TN, 37213. Tour times vary.

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7. Party on a floating honky tonk

Honky tonk bars are a highlight that every visitor to Nashville should take the time for. However, if you truly want a one–of–a–kind honky tonk experience, why not try one on the water? A 2-hour pontoon party cruise makes for a radically different night on the town.

Highlights:

You may be there to party, but you'll still get amazing views. Perfect for taking unique photos of the skyline.

Address and opening hours:

Meeting Point: 2 Victory Ave., Nashville, TN, 37213. Tour times vary.

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8. Cruise the river on an old-fashioned paddlewheel riverboat

Once a fixture on the waterways of the South, paddlewheel riverboats are now an artifact from a different age. On a General Jackson showboat cruise you'll be onboard one of the largest riverboats in existence, offering you a truly memorable afternoon.

Highlights:

As you glide down the Cumberland River, you'll enjoy various live entertainments, including country artists and stand-up comedy.

Address and opening hours:

Meet at 2812 Opryland Dr., Nashville, TN, 37214. Tour times vary.

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9. Explore the rivers and mountains of the Natchez Trace Parkway

Stretching from Nashville to the Mississippi River far to the southwest, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a wonderful natural environment of breathtaking landscapes and unique wildlife. One of the best ways to see the beauty of the area is on a scenic helicopter tour which offers a bird's eye view of the parkway.

Highlights:

You'll be able to follow the mountains, valleys, and rivers that were once a travel route used by native tribes and European colonists.

Address and opening hours:

Meet at 110 Tune Airport Dr., Nashville, TN, 37209. Tour times vary.

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10. Enjoy a relaxing pedal boat ride

In terms of activities in summer, relaxing on a pedal boat on the water is probably one of the best. Take some time to float down the Cumberland River on a Hobie Fiesta pedal boat, catch views of the city skyline and natural wildlife, and even take a refreshing dip in the water.

Highlights:

Each session on a Downtown pedal boat lasts up to two hours and offers a great water activity for groups of friends or family members.

Address:

Meet at E Bank Greenway, Nashville, TN, 37213. Tour times vary.

FAQs

Where can I go swimming or relax by the water in Nashville?

There are several water activities available at the Cumberland River, including kayaking and paddle boating. Some great locations for swimming include Nashville Shores, Percy Priest Lake, and the Governor's Pool.

Are there any great summer festivals in Nashville?

Some of the biggest festivals in Nashville during the summer are the various Music City food festivals, the Jefferson Street Jazz and Blues Festival, and the CMA music fest. There is also the Bonnaroo Music and Art Festival just an hour's drive southwest of the city.

What are the must-visit outdoor attractions in Nashville?

Many of the parks in Nashville offer plenty of outdoor attractions to enjoy. Some of the best can be found in Centennial Park and the Bicentennial Capitol Mall.

What are some great day trips to take from Nashville in the summer?

For towns near Nashville, you can take a day trip to Franklin, Lynchburg, and Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. For those looking to get back to nature, there's the Natchez Trace Parkway, Mammoth Cave National Park, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What are some fun activities with kids in Nashville in summer?

A visit to Nashville Shores is great for kids looking for a fun water park. Other options include the Nashville Zoo, the Adventure Park at Nashville, and peddle boating on the Cumberland River.