With so much happening in Music City, it’s nice to consolidate some of our favorite events as we head into the warmer months. And what better way to do so than to focus on the free ones. We’ve rounded up the best free things to do in Nashville, from music festivals to food celebrations to craft bazaars and everything in between. Here’s to breaking a sweat this summer, not the bank.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
First Saturday Art Crawl Downtown
Downtown Nashville has a vibrant art scene, and there’s no better way to experience it than at the First Saturday Art Crawl. Venues located on Fifth Avenue of the Arts and The Arcade showcase art genres of all kinds by world-renowned and local artists alike. Many serve free wine and refreshments and give you the opportunity to talk to the featured artists themselves. Mark your calendar for the next one and learn more at nashvilledowntown.com.
Arts & Music at Wedgewood-Houston
Double down on your dose of art at Arts & Music at Wedgewood-Houston beginning at 6 p.m. on the first Saturday of each month. Dozens of South Nashville galleries, artist collectives and pop-ups are involved each month. For a full gallery list and map, visit wehoartsnashville.com.
Shakespeare in the Park
Nashville Shakespeare Festival returns to ONEC1TY for this summer’s free performances of What You Will (Twelfth Night) and Pericles on August 13 through September 13 in Nashville and on September 17 through 20 in Franklin, TN, at Academy Park Performing Arts Center. This dog-friendly event offers more than free performances — there are talks on Shakespeare-related topics beginning at 6 p.m. before the shows. For all the info on this wonderful event, visit nashvilleshakes.org.
Big Band Dance
Dance to live, toe-tapping, big band-era tunes every Saturday in June, July and August from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Centennial Park. If you’ve got two left feet, there are free 30-minute dance lessons offered each Big Band Dance night at 7 p.m. and 8:30 pm. Stay up to speed about each week’s musical themes and weather updates at facebook.com.
Live On The Green
Live On The Green is quickly climbing the ranks of the most well-produced and well-attended free festivals in the Southeast. A rockin’ lineup of megastars and up-and-comers alike hit the stage at Public Square Park for some raucous Thursday nights of music, food trucks and local brews. This year’s shows will take place on August 20, August 27, and over Labor Day Weekend September 3 through September 6. Get up to speed about LOTG at liveonthegreen.com.
For a slightly more low-key live music option in Nashville, Musicians Corner is a fantastic multi-genre and all-ages event at Centennial Park every Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. in May and June (with acoustic nights on the Fridays before). Stay up-to-date on this year’s lineup and schedule at musicianscornernashville.com.
Music In The Vines at Arrington Vineyards
Arrington Vineyards marries two of our favorite things — music and wine — at their Music in the Vines concert series. Every Saturday and Sunday from April through October, grab your picnic, your friends and your wine tasting flight, and head to the pavilion by the main tasting lodge for jazz and check out live bluegrass bands by the Grand Barn. Both events are free, and you can see the full calendar at arringtonvineyards.com.
FOOD & BEV
Hot Chicken Festival
The Hot Chicken Festival has been celebrating this uniquely Nashville delicacy since 2007. Well-known chefs and chicken enthusiasts gather at East Park at 700 Woodland St. on July 4th each year. The fire truck parade begins at 10:30 a.m. and then the first 500 people in line receive free hot chicken samples. Gates open at 11:00 a.m., and the hot chicken (and other food options), cold beer and live music will be flowing until 3 p.m. The day wraps with an amateur hot chicken cooking competition and, of course, don’t miss the fireworks show downtown later that evening (more on that below). More chicken scoop at hot-chicken.com.
Tomato Art Fest
This is one of Nashville’s quirkiest and most beloved annual celebrations. This year on August 7 and 8, East Nashville and everyone who travels far and wide for the fest become completely and utterly obsessed with tomatoes. This wacky two-day party includes art, music, food, costumes, kids’ activities and so much more, and nearly every dining establishment in the area creates tomato-centric dishes. This is a not-to-be-missed Nashville freebie. Find out more at tomatoartfest.com
Nashville Farmers Market
The Nashville Farmers Market is so much more than just the farm sheds that we normally associate with farmers markets. This centrally located complex on Rosa Parks Boulevard is open 362 days a year and offers fresh produce, artisanal shops, delicious restaurants, educational classes and more. The central “food court” offers up everything from Chinese fare, barbecue and pizza to Jeni’s ice cream, coffee and local brews. After you fuel up, walk through the Bicentennial Mall and the (also free) Tennessee State Museum next door. Learn more at nashvillefarmersmarket.org. SB TIP: Take a walk through the lush and enchanting Gardens of Babylon attached to the end of the market on the Capitol side.
Leiper’s Fork Christmas Parade
Our favorite tiny town near Franklin packs a mighty fun punch in their yearly Christmas parade, held on December 12 this year. Join in on the good old-fashioned fun as you line the streets watching vintage cars, livestock and elaborate floats roll by. This is a sure-fire way to get the whole family in the holiday spirit. Take the opportunity to stop into the shops and galleries in The Fork while you’re at it. More info at visitfranklin.com.
Gaylord Opryland Resort Holiday Lights
There’s plenty of holiday activities to enjoy at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and best of all, there are some free offerings to take in. Enjoy the outdoor lights and the nativity display on the Magnolia Lawn, featuring large holiday displays from 4 p.m. to midnight daily. After checking out all of the lights outside, head to the Delta Atrium to enjoy nightly shows (at 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.) with choreographed music along with LED lights and water projections.
Earth Day Festival
Celebrate Earth Day in April each year with exhibits and activities in Centennial Park from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. With nearly 100 booths, there is always something for the whole family at this free festival. Enjoy live music and stop by the Green Market for locally grown produce, and escape the heat at the Beer Garden as you enjoy a local libation. Help protect our environment and help Nashville become the greenest city in the Southeast. Find out more at nashvilleearthday.org.
Fourth of July Downtown
Thousands of people flock to Nashville to celebrate Independence Day and take advantage of our free Let Freedom Ring festival downtown. Of course, don’t miss the Nashville Symphony’s incredible 30-minute performance that syncs up to one of our nation’s biggest public fireworks displays. More info at visitmusiccity.com.
Break out the lederhosen and get ready for a rowdy day at this Germantown street festival spanning 10 blocks. Oktoberfest has something for the whole family including delicious German foods from local, restaurants and vendors, world-class beer, lots of entertaining contests (like who can hold a beer stein the longest), arts and crafts vendors, live German music, a Dachshund Derby and a huge parade through downtown. Learn more at thenashvilleoktoberfest.com.
SPORTS & OUTDOORS
Hot Air Balloon Festival
This breathtaking and exhilarating festival is free for all at Fontanel. Guests have the opportunity to enjoy tethered rides (at a price) and a hot air balloon glow (weather permitting). Limited food and vendors will be set up and open on Friday night as well as live music and general admission viewing areas to marvel at the balloons. Find out more about the weekend’s festivities at facebook.com.
Preds Parties In The Park
Watch the beloved Nashville Predators make their way closer to the Stanley Cup finals at the city-sponsored free viewing parties for every home game. Bring your chairs or blanket to Music City Walk of Fame Park, and watch the Preds on a giant screen. Food trucks will be on site, and water and hot dogs are available at low, family-friendly prices. Learn more at visitmusiccity.com.
Titans Training Camp
Every July, the Tennessee Titans open up more than a dozen of their training practices to the general public. Most of the practices take place at the Saint Thomas Sports Park, the team’s home training facility located at 460 Great Circle Road in MetroCenter, Nashville. Get a glimpse of this year’s Titans from Saturday, July 17 to Thursday, August 15. For the specific dates and times, visit titansonline.com.
Shelby Bottoms Greenway & Nature Center
The Shelby Bottoms Nature Center is housed in a beautifully designed and “green” building at the trailhead of the 950 acres Shelby Bottoms Greenway and 336 acres of adjacent Shelby Park. They offer lots of educational programming and outdoor adventures for people of all ages interested in the area’s natural history, flora and fauna. Check out more at nashville.gov.
CRAFTS & SHOPPING
Nashville Flea Market
Nashville’s monthly Flea Market at the Nashville Fairgrounds is considered one of the top flea markets in the country. More than 1,000 dealers and vendors from around the country sell their treasures and wares — from furniture to clothing and every knick-knack in between — to the shopping public every month. They take place the last weekend of every month. Admission is free, but parking is $5. More info and schedule can be found at thefairgrounds.com.
Tennessee Spring Craft Fair
The Spring Tennessee Craft Fair takes place in Centennial Park each spring. Come support these juried, professional artisans, speak with the artists, learn what inspires them and how they craft their materials like glass, clay, metal and wood. In addition to the array of high-quality crafts, visitors can expect hands-on activities for kids, food from area vendors and educational demonstrations from craft makers. More info can be found at tennesseecraft.org.
Gulch Night Market
This super fun free night market occurs on select Thursdays from May to December at the corner of 11th Avenue South and Laurel Street, alongside the crazy colorful mural. From 5 to 9 p.m., local artisans, food and drink vendors, live entertainment are enjoyed under the night stars. Furry friends are welcome. Check out more on at gulchnightmarket.com.
Porter Flea’s Summer Market
Porter Flea’s Summer Market is at the Nashville Fairgrounds (yay air conditioning!) this year, and the free Main Market dates will be released soon! This highly lauded, well-curated, semi-annual market emphasizes the handmade art and design movement and connects hundreds of local and regional makers and businesses with thousands of shoppers. Get the scoop at porterflea.com.
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