21 Free Things to do in Nashville This Summer

Fireworks over Nashville
Fireworks over Nashville | © djgmix / Pixabay
Photo of Leena Kollar
6 June 2018

Looking for things to do this summer in Nashville without breaking the bank? Whether you’re into the great outdoors, live music or trying new foods and drinks, we’ve found 21 awesome ways to spend summer for the exact cost of free.

Sing along at Musicians Corner

Since 2010, Musicians Corner has been supporting emerging musical artists through its arts enrichment programs and free music events. In partnership with the City of Nashville, these free concerts are held at Centennial Park and are presented by the Conservancy For the Parthenon and Centennial Park. The concerts take place on Friday and Saturday afternoons and evenings during the months of May and June, rain or shine. Bring a blanket to lay out on the grass, sip on local brewed beers served at the “Musicians Corner Pub,” snack on food-truck favorites and explore goods created by local artisans.

Musicians Corner at Centennial Park | © Robert Claypool / Flickr

Toss down a blanket at Arrington Vineyards Music in the Vines

Country music artist Kix Brooks, along with winemaker Kip Summers and businessman John Russell, opened Arrington Vineyards in 2007. Located just outside of Nashville, the winery is a great place to enjoy a picnic and live music while sipping on wine. The “Music in the Vines” series is a free event held on the weekends from April through October that hosts live jazz and bluegrass music. Several wine tasting options are also available to all guests age 21 and over.

Enjoy free wine tasting at Arrington Vineyards | © Denise Mattox / Flickr

Sip on wine and catch some art at the First Saturday Art Crawl

Held the first Saturday of every month, this free event is hosted by several local art galleries. The participating venues are located along Fifth Avenue of the Arts and most serve free wine and refreshments to visitors. Each venue showcases artwork from local and world-renowed artists of every art genre.

Get out on the water at Smyrna Boat Day

Now in its 11th year, this day on the water takes place in June outside of Nashville in the town of Smyrna. Canoes and kayaks are provided at no cost and sports retailer Academy Sports & Outdoors will be giving away two kayaks at the event. The fun happens from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Jefferson Springs Recreational Area.

Tour the Tennessee State Capitol

The historic Tennessee State Capitol was designed by architect William Strickland, who is buried in the north facade of the building. He considered this structure, which acts as a tribute to the people and the state of Tennessee, his crowning achievement. Also on the capitol grounds are the tombs of President and Mrs. James K. Polk. Guided tours are offered by museum staff during the week, on the hour from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Tennessee State Capitol building | © Rob Shenk / Flickr

Toss a line at Tennessee’s Free Fishing Day

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) will be hosting its annual Free Fishing Day on June 9, 2018. The event allows anyone, including children, to fish recreationally without a license. Children ages 15 and younger may fish with no license beginning on Free Fishing Day, all the way through the following Friday, June 15.

A father and his sons fishing | © Pexels / Pixabay

Catch a flick at Nashville Scene’s Movies in the Park

This annual event is held at Elmington Park on four nights in May and June. Movies begin playing at sundown, but the event officially starts at 5 p.m. In addition to free movie screenings, there are also food trucks, vendors and games.

Take line-dance lessons at Wildhorse Saloon

Depending on the day and time you go, the Wildhorse Saloon offers free line-dance lessons. Enter the venue before 6 p.m. and there’s no charge to get in. After 6 p.m., you pay the cover charge for whichever band or artist is performing. However, line-dance lessons are still offered at no additional cost. Lessons are given by the venue’s staff and are done in groups on the large dance floor.

Learn some history with a guided tour of Fort Negley

At the Fort Negley Visitors Center, visitors can explore the history of Nashville and the city’s relationship with the federal government during the Civil War. The outdoor recreation center features interactive exhibits and education panels along paved paths for those who prefer self-guided walking tours. Staff and volunteers are available to answer questions and there are two 20-minute videos that cover the 1862 surrender of Nashville. Visitors can take tours from dawn to dusk all year round.

The entrance to Fort Negley | © Brent Moore / Flickr

Listen to local music at Crockett Park

Concerts at this free summer music series start on Sundays at 7 p.m. at the Eddy Arnold Amphitheater. In addition to live music, food trucks will be on site beginning at 5 p.m. Local radio station Mix 92.9 will also have a tent with games and prizes. One of the event’s most popular nights is the 4th of July, when the concert ends under a sky full of fireworks. This concert is held on the 4th, regardless of which day of the week it falls on.

Let loose at the Cumberland Park Sprayground

During the hot Nashville summer months, a little water fun is much needed. There are several free spray parks throughout the city that are open Memorial Day through Labor Day, including the Cumberland Park Sprayground. Hours of operation are Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. The Sprayground is closed from July 2–5. Also at the park are a rock climbing wall and a crushed stone trail; both of these are suitable for children.

Explore various shades of red at Tomato Art Fest

For 15 years, Tomato Art Fest has been held in East Nashville by founders Meg and Bret MacFayden. In 2018, the two-day festival will take place August 10 and 11 in the Historic Five Points area. Costumes are encouraged for this event, which is full of fun and games that pay tribute to the tomato. A few of the highlights include the Bloody Mary Contest, the Beautiful Tomato Pageant and Bobbing For Tomatoes. There will be a special area just for kids and of course, plenty of tomato-themed art to check out.

Tomato Art Festival | © brooke / Flickr

Explore some other natural colors at the Nashville Farmers’ Market

Stock up on groceries or just explore the beauty of fresh produce by hitting the farmers’ market this summer. The Nashville Farmers’ Market is actually open year-round, but summer is a great time to find ripe fruits like peaches, tomatoes and watermelon. Also for sale at the market are products by shop owners, crafters and food artisans. Special events and workshops are held periodically throughout the year as well. The Nashville Farmers’ Market is located at 900 Rosa L Parks Boulevard, next to the Bicentennial Mall State Park.

Farmers' markets are great places to find fresh fruits & vegetables | © paulbr75 / Pixabay

Take advantage of events at the Nashville Public Library

Libraries around Nashville have plenty of free events to check out. The Main Nashville Public Library location features a handful of fun summer programs for children and adults. On Mondays, a Yoga Alliance-certified instructor holds yoga classes for beginner to intermediate students. On Tuesdays in June and July there is a program for teens called School of Rock that teaches students how to collaborate on musical compositions. There are also ongoing story times and craft days for children all year long.

Dress up for Family Pirate and Princess Night at Charlie Daniels Park

On Saturday, June 23 from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Charlie Daniels Park hosts Family Pirate and Princess Night. Guests are encouraged to dress up for the event, which will have a scavenger hunt along with other fun and games. Each person is allowed up to two free adult tickets and five free children’s tickets. Donation tickets are also available, and any donations of $5 or more come with a goodie bag.

Spend the day hiking at Radnor Lake State Park

With 1,332 acres to explore, Radnor Lake State Park is an ideal place for nature enthusiasts. There are more than six miles of hiking trails, which offer plenty of opportunities for exploring the hundreds of species of plants and animals that exist in the park. Ranger-led programs are available throughout the year and include activities like nature hikes, wildflower walks, astronomy night hikes and snake programs.

There are several places to go hiking in Nashville | © Free-Photos / Pixabay

Let it burn at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival

Celebrate July 4th with some spicy chicken on your plate. Since 2007, Nashville has hosted the Music City Hot Chicken Festival, which is a free, family-friendly event held at East Park. Free hot chicken samples from local restaurants will be provided to the first 500 people. Other local food and drink vendors will also be at the event. A fire truck parade kicks off at 10:30 a.m. and the gates officially open at 11 a.m. The event ends at 3 p.m. with downtown fireworks to follow.

Spicy BBQ chicken | © Rebecca Withey / Pixabay

Take the kids to Kidsville at the Parthenon

What started as “Kids Corner” during Nashville’s Musicians Corner event is now a stand alone program that takes places inside the Nashville Parthenon at Centennial Park. The free weekly program features educational activities, arts & crafts, storytelling and more for kids ages 12 and under. All Kidsville events include free museum admission for the whole family. The mission of Kidsville is to support Nashville’s youth through arts and music and to enhance the development of their futures.

Roam Bicentennial Mall State Park

Also known as the Bicentennial Mall, this landmark sits in downtown Nashville, northwest of the Tennessee State Capitol. Opened in 1996 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the establishment of Tennessee’s statehood, the 19-acre park includes a 200-foot (61-meter) granite map of the state, a World War II Memorial, a walkway featuring the 95 counties of Tennessee and a 2,000-seat amphitheater. There are also 31 fountains representing the major rivers in Tennessee and a 95-bell carillon. Local rangers sometimes reenact characters in Tennessee’s history, like Davy Crockett or infamous war soldiers, at the park.

Explore Warner Park Nature Center

Located in west Nashville, the Warner Park Nature Center has several family-friendly offerings that highlight the outdoors and nature. There’s a natural history museum, an organic garden, a pond and 12 miles of hiking trails. The center also hosts environmental education programs, school field trips and other outdoor recreational activities.

Percy Warner Park | © Michael Brown / Flickr

Take in the sounds of Jazz on the Cumberland

This summer concert series is held once a month on Sundays from May through November. The free concert takes place at Cumberland Park from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and features local, regional and national jazz artists. Food trucks and concessions are available but alcohol is not permitted. Most people who attend bring along a blanket or lawn chairs to watch the show.