These Nashville Hidden Gems may not get the publicity like the Downtown Honky Tonks or the Grand Ole Opry but you'll be glad you took the time to visit these secret attractions only locals know about.
We’ve been in Nashville for two years now and I’ve finally gotten a chance to get to know our new hometown. We’ve done all the standard tourist stuff like visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, touring the Grand Ole Opry, seeing a show at the Ryman Auditorium, and listening to amazing live music at the Broadway Honky Tonks. I even finally got to experience White Limozeen, the Dolly Parton-themed restaurant on the roof of the Graduate Hotel.
But some of the places we’ve enjoyed the most never seem to make the standard list of “things to do in Music City”. So today I want to share with you my favorite Nashville hidden gems, the places off the beaten track that Nashville locals like to visit. Consider adding at least of few of my suggestions to your next Nashville visit. I think your trip will be more enjoyable and unique if you do.
1. The Parthenon
The Parthenon, a full-size replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece was created as an exhibit for the 1897 World’s Fair. However, the Nashville citizens loved it so much, that it was later remade as a permanent structure in Centennial Park.
You might not think of the Parthenon as a hidden gem. It shows up frequently on various lists of the best things to do in Nashville. And it’s true that lots of visitors stop by the Parthenon for a quick photo. However, few people actually go inside the building and that’s a shame.
Because inside the building is a 42-foot statue of the Goddess Athena, the tallest indoor statue in the United States. Gilded in real gold, Athena stands regally holding the God Nike in one hand and a shield, sword, and snake in the other. Here’s a fun fact just to give you an idea of just how large this statue is: the statue of Nike that Athena holds in her hand is six feet tall.
Honestly, it’s breathtaking and you have to see it to truly experience just how impressive it is. You won’t regret taking the time to see this.
How To Visit The Parthenon
Location: The Parthenon is located inside Centennial Park at 2500 West End Avenue, Nashville, TN 37203.
Hours: Tues – Sat 9AM – 4:30 PM, Sunday 12:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Admission: Adults, $10.00. Youth (4-17), $8.00. Seniors (62+), $8.00. Babies and children under 4 are free.
2. Blue Moon Waterfront Grill
The Blue Moon Waterfront Grill is a truly hidden gem. It’s hidden down a road in a fairly industrial area in West Nashville and the path from the parking lot to the restaurant looks a little sketchy. The first time we came here, we kind of freaked out as we walked from our car to the restaurant.
But, have faith, because once you get to the restaurant, you’ll find a peaceful oasis right on the Cumberland River. You can sit out here enjoying the scenery and the nature around you while you sip on a cocktail or enjoy some fresh seafood. They don’t take reservations, but we’ve never had to wait for a table.
We like to come here for brunch. The river is so beautiful in the morning. The food is delicious and the mimosas are refreshing and the restaurant isn’t crowded and chaotic like most Nashville restaurants are at brunch time.
How To Visit the Blue Moon Waterfront Grill
Location: 525 Basswood Dr, Nashville, TN 37209
Hours: Open Spring – Fall, Closed for the Winter. Spring/Summer Hours (weather permitting), Monday – Thursday 3 pm – 10 pm, Friday – Saturday 11 am – 11 pm, Sunday 10 am – 10 pm
3. Lane Motor Museum
I don’t know why this museum isn’t on every list of the best things to do in Nashville, but it’s rarely mentioned. We only discovered it one day when we drove past it. Maybe it’s the location: it’s a few miles south of downtown Nashville so you’ll need a car or to spring for an Uber to visit.
The Lane Motor Museum offers an eclectic collection of cars, motorcycles, and bikes. Every vehicle is unique. We saw bikes with full-sized car engines, cars with propellers, futuristic cars you’ll be jealous we don’t have, and more than I can ever describe.
I’m not a huge car buff and I actually resisted visiting this museum because I was afraid I would be more. You guys, I was entranced from the moment we walked in the door. And if you are a car lover (like my husband), the museum is staffed by people who love cars as well and who want to tell you anything you want to know about the vehicles on display.
You won’t be sorry if you take an afternoon to check this place out and your friends will be amazed by your photos.
How To Visit the Lane Motor Museum
Location: 702 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN, 37210
Hours: Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm, Tuesday, Wednesday CLOSED
Admission: Adults (18-64), $12. Seniors (65+), $8. Youth (6-17), $3. Age 5 & Under, Free.
4. Culture + Co.
If you like cheese, charcuterie, and conveyor belts, you’ll love Culture + Co., a fun restaurant located in the L+ L market. This restaurant is a true local gem; it’s owned by a mother/daughter team and there’s only one location.
You can watch the staff prepare the food on the menu in the open kitchen. Then, they place the prepared dish on the conveyor belt and it circles around on the belt until some lucky customer grabs it. They also have a great selection of natural wines which pair beautifully with the cheeses and meats they’re serving.
This is one of my favorite restaurants in Nashville. The food is always amazing and the staff is helpful and friendly. This is a great place to pop into for a happy hour glass of wine and appetizers. Or you can do what we always seem to end up doing and grab enough plates for a full meal.
How To Visit Culture + Co.
Location: 3820 Charlotte Ave, Nashville TN 37209
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 12pm – 8pm, Friday – Saturday 12pm – 9pm, Sunday 12pm – 6pm.
5. Germantown Photo Backdrop and Polar Bears
If you’re looking for a fun place to take photos, skip the long lines at the What Lifts You mural in the Gulch and head to the neighborhood of Germantown, just north of downtown. There you’ll find an outdoor photo backdrop that nobody else seems to know about.
I don’t know who is responsible for this; I would assume that it’s the business that it’s attached to. The photo backdrop is available year-round and they switch it out for the seasons. This would be a wonderful place to take a group photo.
While you’re in Germantown, head a couple of streets over to check out the polar bears. There are two of these bears in Germantown and two in the Edgehill neighborhood. The bears were brought to Nashville in the 1930s to advertise a frozen custard stand. When the custard stand went out of business, all four bears were purchased by a local funeral parlor owner to add a “decorative touch.”
After the funeral parlor closed, the Germantown bears were lost for many years before finally being discovered covered by weeds in an abandoned Nashville yard. Now they’ve been lovingly restored and reside at 6th Avenue North, near Monel’s Restaurant.
How to Visit
Germantown Photo Backdrop: On Monroe Street, between 4th and 5th Ave
Germantown Polar Bears: 1225 6th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37208
Edgehill Polar Bears: 1125 Edgehill Ave, Nashville, TN 37203
6. Music Valley Antiques
Music Valley Antiques is located in Music Valley Village, a strip mall near the Grand Ole Opry and Opryland Hotel but hidden off on a side street. Music Valley Village looks a little rundown so it’s easy to assume that you wouldn’t find anything worth buying there. Not so! This place is packed with fun finds like vintage cookware, handmade home decor, offbeat musical instruments, and so many vintage books and magazines.
If you can leave here without a new treasure, you have a lot more discipline than I do.
While you’re at Music Valley Village, check out Dashwood Nashville for an amazing selection of Mid-Century Modern furniture and decor.
How to Visit Music Valley Antiques
Location: 2416 Music Valley Dr. Ste 126, Nashville, TN 37214
Hours: Sunday 1pm-5pm, Monday & Wednesday 10am-2pm, Thursday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Closed Tuesday
7. McKay’s Books
If you like books, you’ll want to stop by McKay’s Used Bookstore when you’re in Nashville. This huge store buys & sells used books, records, cds, games, puzzles, and musical equipment. The top floor is mostly music-related items and the huge bottom floor has everything else.
You never know what you’re going to find here and the prices are always reasonable. In fact, they have a large selection of free books outside the store. You could easily spend hours here going up and down each aisle – I know I have!
How to Visit McKay’s Books
Location: 636 Old Hickory Blvd, Nashville, TN 37209
Hours: Sunday 10am – 7pm, Monday – Thursday 9am – 9pm, Friday – Saturday 9am – 10pm
8. The Silo Mural in the Nations
Nashville is justifiably famous for its murals, but one of the most impressive murals in Music City is hidden off the beaten path in a Nashville neighborhood called The Nations. This is the neighborhood I live in and I love that every day I look out my window and see this fabulous mural painted on an abandoned silo that formerly held grain.
This mural is five stories high and shows Mr. Lee Estes, a resident of the Nations since 1920. Mr. Estes is still alive and you can often find him having breakfast in the nearby 51st deli, where he is happy to talk about his neighborhood and the mural.
The back of the mural depicts neighborhood children. Unfortunately, recent construction in the area has made it fairly difficult to see the back of the mural.
If you decide to visit, be sure and stop by the The Centennial Bar for one of their famous burgers and to visit my absolutely favorite Nashville mural: a giant painting of Patrick Swayze in all his Point Break Glory. Enjoy!
How to Visit
The best view of the Silo Mural can be seen from Centennial Blvd across the street from Daddy’s Dogs
The Centennial Bar Location: 5115 Centennial Blvd, Nashville, TN 37209
Hours: Monday – Friday 4pm – 3am, Saturday 11am – 3am, Sunday 11am – 11pm
9. Thistle Farms
Thistle Farms is a non-profit organization devoted to helping women recover from domestic violence, addiction, homelessness and other issues. They raise money for the efforts with their store and cafe which are staffed with some of the women they have helped.
I’d be a big fan of this organization no matter what, but as it turns out the store is full of cute items like t-shirts, candles, lotions, and jewelry. Many of the items they sell are made onsite by the women in their program.
The cafe is supercute and they even offer afternoon tea service every day. Visiting Thistle Farm is a delight, plus you’re helping other women. I really hope you can find the time to visit.
How to Visit Thistle Farms
Location: 5122 Charlotte Pike, Nashville, TN 37209
Store Hours: Mon-Fri 9AM-4PM, Sat 8AM-4PM
Cafe Hours: Monday 11am – 3pm, Tuesday – Saturday 7am – 3pm
10. Nashville Flea Market
Nashville is full of fun antique stores and flea markets, but the Grand Poobah of them all is the Nashville Flea Market. Held at the Nashville Fairgrounds on the 4th weekend of each month, the flea market typically has over 1000 vendors.
This flea market is huge. There are vendors in two large halls in the exhibition building, vendors in front of the buildings, to the side of the building, in the back of the building, and in two outdoor covered stalls. Just walking through everything that’s available would easily take over an hour.
I think you can probably find literally anything here. They have antique books, photographs, and scrapbooks. handmade purses, jewelry, collectible dolls and other vintage toys, and fun signs to commemorate your visit to Nashville.
The flea market was closed from March 2021 – May 2021 due to COVID and then operated on a reduced level until spring of 2022. The last time I visited, though, although the vendors (and then some!) had returned.
I try to visit every month and always come home with unique treasures.
How to Visit The Nashville Flea Market
Location: 401 Wingrove St, Nashville, TN 37203