Anticipation builds as the temperatures drop and the Christmas lights go up in Nashville, Tennessee. With tons of events to choose from, including high-energy concerts or shopping until you drop (or just window shopping), the best things to do in Nashville in December are endless.

What are the best things to do in Nashville in December?

When most people think nashville, a few things usually come to mind: country music, bright lights, spicy hot chicken, and bachelorette parties. While all of these things are certainly synonymous with the southern city I know and love, it’s only a small part of it, bounded by bustling Broadway Street.

I’m not here to discourage you from visiting Broadway, it’s a fun place to kick back and dance with friends, but I encourage you to explore Nashville beyond its famous downtown bars. I’ll let you in on a few local secrets that most people who come to the city for a short weekend December otherwise may not know about.

With plenty of restaurants on 12th Avenue S, quirky bars in Germantown, and quirky venues in East Nashville, the city is bigger and more diverse than you might think.

So, pull on your cowboy boots (although most Nashville locals will skip it) and let’s plan your winter getaway with these hottest things to do in Music City.

1. Catch the predators game.

Hockey is still growing in popularity in the US, but one city that has had no problem embracing the ice is Smashville. Yes, when the Predators play a home game, the city is affectionately called Smashville.

The fans are loud, the beer is cold, and frankly, watching a live game in Nashville is just plain fun. The Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators play, is right on Broadway, making it an easy walk during the evening to rest your feet from dance bar to bar.

No matter who the Predators play, our fan base is loyal, so the game is sure to be sold out. So if you want to check out the action, don’t wait buy tickets just before the puck drops.

2. Order tickets for live music at the Bluebird Cafe

Although most people think of Nashville as a city only for country music fans, the city is home to incredible bands, artists and songwriters of all genres. There’s no better chance to see up-and-comers than to catch a live performance Bluebird Cafe.

Tucked away in a small strip mall on Hillsborough Pike in the Green Hills neighborhood, this unassuming place is a place most people drive past without realizing its importance. A great way to spend a cool night in Nashville in December, you won’t soon forget the first time you saw someone play at The Bluebird.

While you may not know the artist or be familiar with the songs they play, you are guaranteed to hear incredible talent and who knows, you might just hear the next big hit before anyone else.

Don’t forget to book your tickets in advance as the venue is very small.

3. Browse the exhibits at the Frist Art Museum

Another of the best things to do in December in Nashville, Tennessee, and perfect for a cold December day, is to check out the exhibits at The first art museum. Located a few blocks from the bars of Broadway, a visit to Frist should be on any art lover’s list.

Exhibitions change frequently, so even if you’ve been before, it’s worth a second visit. It’s big enough that you could spend hours on it if you’re a true culture buff, but if you’re just looking through it while you stretch your legs, an hour is enough to walk around the museum.

Most days of the week have different hours, but keep in mind that Frist is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

4. Get some fresh air at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens

In true Southern style, some December days in Nashville will be below freezing, along with ice and snow, while other days will be relatively warm and sunny. On these sunny days, I recommend wearing tennis shoes and going for a walk Cheekwood.

Cheekwood is not just a park; it is a museum, botanical garden, event space and children’s learning center. For a quick visit to get some fresh air and peace, I recommend choosing one of the garden paths for a walk.

An alternative to Cheekwood is Percy Warner Park. The paths here are more wooded than the gardens, but the paths are paved and well maintained.

5. Make a reservation at Rolf and Daughters, the Optimist or Sinema

Nashville has some of my favorite restaurants in the world. Although I spend a lot of time moving around the worldtraveling from city to city, whenever I return home to Nashville, visiting my favorite restaurants is top of my agenda.

While I’m always trying new restaurants or ones I haven’t tried before, I have three that I just keep coming back to. Of course, I’m not the only one who loves these places to eat in Nashville, so it’s a good idea to reserve a table in advance, especially if you want to dine on a weekend with a large group. With a cozy interior, they’re also a great place to escape the winter chill and dine in comfort.

My favorite restaurants in Nashville are:

  • Cinema: Located on 8th Ave S, this trendy, intimate restaurant is housed in an old theater. You can’t go wrong with any of the entrees, although I love the scallops. Just remember to save room for the Skillet Cookie for dessert. When booking a table, I recommend you ask for a seat upstairs.
  • Rolf and daughters: Located in Germantown, I have never seen this tiny restaurant not fully booked. Seating at the bar is for patrons only, but you’ll need to line up long before opening to get a seat here. In the winter they have outdoor heaters and blankets to make the wait a little easier. However, fly right past the line with your reservation.
  • An optimist: Also in Germantown, The Optimist is the place to go if you want quality seafood this far from the coast. With great food, great cocktails and a great atmosphere, what’s not to love?

6. Go ice skating

If watching the Predators gives you confidence in your own skills on the ice, check out the Centennial Sportsplex. Here you can rent skates and show off your best Michelle Kwan moves, or if you’re like me, just shuffle around the ice as unfriendly as possible.

This is a a fun activity for everyone to enjoy in December in Nashville. Popular with children, couples, groups of friends and even individual travelersit’s a good way to exercise when the weather isn’t great outside.

7. Get into the Christmas spirit at the Grand Ole Opry

The Grand Ole Opry is one of Nashville’s icons, but it’s not actually in Nashville as you might think. Instead, it’s about a 20-minute drive northeast of the city, but as one of the best things to do in Nashville in December, that trip shouldn’t put you off.

The Grand Ole Opry is the place to go if you want to get into the Christmas spirit. Every year they outdo themselves with their indoor Christmas display. This is another fun for the whole family activity.

Along with the lights, it’s also a great place to catch a show. As the birthplace of country music, you’d be hard-pressed to find music without a jingle. People flock to the Grand Ole Opry to watch their signature show, where country legends and emerging voices share the stage for a 2-hour event you’re sure to enjoy. Get yours Grand Ole Opry ticket here.

The Grand Ole Opry also has a hotel, Opryland Resortif you want to stay a night or two before or after the show.

8. Eat, drink and listen to music at Fifth + Broadway

If you haven’t had your fill of music at the Grand Ole Opry, don’t worry, there’s no shortage of great live music in Nashville, and Fifth + Broadway is no exception. But as one of Broadway’s upstarts, Fifth + Broadway (aptly named for the intersection it sits on) is a glorified food court.

Some of Nashville’s most popular restaurants have stands next to signature dishes you won’t find anywhere else. With floors of food choices, deciding what to eat can be difficult, but since everyone dines together at one of the central tables, it also means that everyone in your group can get what they want. There are also several bars where you can have a drink and there is almost always live music to add to the atmosphere.

9. Embrace your inner child at the arcade

What better thing to do in Nashville in December than to warm up with a few drinks and some classic arcade games? Personally, I think that visiting an arcade bar is one of the most fun things you can do during the night outside, especially when it’s raining or cold outside.

There are a few arcade bars in Nashville that I really like:

  • Beercade HQ: Located in the heart of the city, this arcade bar is mine favorite simply because the game is free to play. It can get crowded because of its location, but it’s a good place if you want to go bar-hopping.
  • Up and down Nashville: Located across the river in East Nashville, this arcade isn’t usually as crowded as headquarters, but offers an equally great selection of games and drinks. The only thing worth noting is that the games are not free. However, pizza is served by the slice!
  • Game terminal: Located in south Nashville, Game Terminal isn’t exactly nearby, but it’s a huge venue. This place is much bigger than other arcade bars and they serve food. They even have some outside games and a heated igloo that you can rent for a little privacy on cold December days. You will need to pay to play the games here.

10. Book accommodation at the Hermitage hotel.

While Nashville has no shortage of hotels to choose from, for a truly iconic stay, book a stay at Hotel “Hermitage”.. Conveniently located just north of Broadway on the way to Germantown on 6th Avenue, you’ll be able to quickly walk to most places you’ll want to visit in Nashville without worrying about too much winter weather. Otherwise, Uber is easy to get to the area if needed.

As one of the icons of Nashville, the Hermitage has been one of the most famous hotels in the city for more than a century. But don’t worry, it has aged flawlessly and only gets better with time.

You’re ready for the perfect December in Nashville

When planning a trip to Nashville, you’ll quickly realize that there’s a lot more to this city than meets the eye. No matter what type of trip you’re going for, you’re sure to make it here.

Enjoy a night out on Broadway, dine at some of the best restaurants in the country, work out, and of course, sing along to your favorite songs. In Nashville in December, it’s safe to say that talented live music will be everywhere.

Kat Smith, Founder The way abroad, is a serial expat and nomad who has spent the last ten years living all over the world. When she’s back stateside, she spends time with her family in Nashville.

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