Budget Traveler's Guide to Nashville

Nashville welcomes visitors from across the world
Nashville welcomes visitors from across the world | © Denise Mattox/Flickr
Photo of Leena Kollar
28 May 2018

A hot spot for tourists, Nashville is a growing city with a lively music scene, delicious food and world-class attractions and entertainment. With so much to see and do, things can start to add up, even in an affordable place like Music City. If you’re thinking of checking out Nashville, but you’re concerned about the cost, here’s how to experience the city without breaking the bank.

What to do and see

It would take several days to even scratch the surface of everything there is to do in Nashville. Between the museums, live music venues and amazing restaurants, it’s hard to decide which spots to put on your itinerary. For those on a tight budget, here are a few places to add to the list.

Nashville Parthenon

Art Gallery, Museum
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The Parthenon, Nashville | The Parthenon, Nashville
A trip to Greece is expensive, but a trip to Nashville’s Centennial Park to explore the city’s 42-foot, full-scale replica of the Parthenon is not. Originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition, the building is considered the pinnacle of classical architecture. Once inside, visitors can feel like they’re passing through the British Museum or Athen’s Acropolis Museum by checking out plaster replicas of the Parthenon Marbles cast from the original sculptures. There’s also a collection of paintings by 19th- and 20th-century American artists and, standing out among the rest of the art, a 42-foot tall statue of Athena.

Radnor Lake State Park

Hiking Trail, Park, Natural Feature
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Radnor Lake State Park | Radnor Lake State Park

With hundreds of species of plants and animals, Radnor Lake State Park is a 1,332-acre playground perfect for nature enthusiasts. Here, locals and tourists enjoy over six miles of trails used strictly for hiking, photography and wildlife observation, while cyclists, runners and those with dogs are limited to the Otter Creek Road Trail. Throughout the year, park rangers lead programs centered around nature like canoe floats, astronomy night hikes, wildflower walks and nature hikes.

Stroll down Broadway

The essence of Nashville can be found downtown where people dance, sing karaoke, and drink cold beer all hours of the day and night. The most popular area, Lower Broadway, is chock-full of bars, restaurants, music venues, and retail shops perfect for any visitor, no matter their taste in music. Easily explored on foot, Broadway gives visitors a true taste of the Nashville lifestyle. Save a buck on here by listening to free live music, sipping on cheap beer, or by just taking the beautiful skyline from the Pedestrian bridge.

Downtown Nashville along Broadway | © Nicolas Henderson / Flickr

Where to eat and drink

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy Nashville’s dining scene. There are plenty of restaurants that offer traditional Southern dishes and Nashville specialties (we’re talking about hot chicken) at a reasonable price. These are the spots to go when you’re looking to fill up your stomach without draining your wallet.

Arnold’s Country Kitchen

Restaurant, American, $$$
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Arnold's Country Kitchen | Arnold's Country Kitchen

Opened by Jack and Rose Arnold in 1982, this beloved local eatery offers daily specials like roast beef, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, turnip greens and mashed potatoes. Local celebrities have been known to dine at the meat-and-three restaurant, and it’s even been featured on the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The family-style restaurant is a Nashville favorite among locals and tourists alike.

Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish

Food Truck, Restaurant, American, Street Food, $$$
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Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish food truck | Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish food truck

With affordable menu items like catfish, wings, ribs and seafood, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish is a great choice for those who enjoy a little kick to their food. Spicy, but not over the top, Bolton’s hot chicken is a Nashville staple. Easily accessible with multiple locations in Nashville, plus two food trucks that service the area, there’s probably not a better deal in the whole city.

Food trucks

There are plenty of delicious food trucks that service the Nashville area. Whether you’re in the mood for classic southern fare, sweets, or quintessential American food, many Nashville neighborhoods have food trucks with plenty of delicious grub to choose from. And since these mobile eateries offer fast and affordable service, you can grab a bite on the go or enjoy your food while resting your feet at a nearby park.

Street Provisions food truck in Nashville | © Lou Stejskal / Flickr

Where to stay

Instead of spending a ton of money on a hotel where you have to share space with other guests, enjoy a more personalized experience that is budget-friendly by staying in a local rental unit. Here are two of the best, with locations that are convenient and prices that can’t be beat.

Blue Bird Loft

Homestay, Apartment, Short-term Rental
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Blue Bird Loft in East Nashville | © Brigitte Lange

Within walking distance to many of the best East Nashville shops and restaurants, this 650-square-foot rental can sleep up to four guests. With a full bedroom and bathroom, as well as a seating area with a small desk, there’s plenty of room for everyone. A private entrance and nice kitchen appliances give this loft a high-end feel at an affordable price.

Downtown Nashville Condo

Budget Hotel, Short-term Rental, Homestay
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Downtown Nashville Condo | © Jon Perry / Home Away

Situated in downtown Nashville, this one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit has new hardwood floors, paint and furniture. The private balcony overlooks the Cumberland River, and some of Nashville’s most celebrated attractions like the Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame are within walking distance. Guests will enjoy a full-size, fully stocked kitchen and coffee bar in the apartment, meaning you can save money by cooking your own food.