The anticipation builds as the temperature plummets, and Christmas lights glow in Nashville, Tennessee. With a variety of events to choose from, including concerts with high-energy music or shopping ’til you drop (or just window shop), 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 of Nashville, a few things typically come to mind: country music, bright lights, spicy hot chicken, and Bachelorette parties. While all these things are certainly synonymous with the Southern city I know and love, this is just a small piece of it confined to rowdy Broadway Street.
I’m not here to deter you from visiting Broadway, it’s a fun place to let loose and dance with your 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 coming to town for a quick weekend in December might not otherwise know about.
With restaurants galore on 12th Ave S, quaint neighborhood bars in Germantown and quirky spots in East Nashville, the city is bigger and more diverse than you might think.
So, pull on your cowboy boots (although most Nashville locals would pass), and let’s plan your winter getaway with these top things to do in Music City.
1. Catch a Predators Game
Hockey is still catching on in the U.S., but one city that hasn’t had any trouble embracing the ice is Smashville. Yep, when the Predators have a home game, the city is affectionately known as Smashville.
The fans are loud, the beer is cold, and honestly, catching a live game is simply a really fun thing to do in Nashville. The Bridgestone Arena, where the Predators play, is located right on Broadway, making it an easy jaunt during your night out to rest your feet from dancing bar to bar.
Regardless of who the Predators are playing, our fan base is loyal, so the game is sure to sell out. So if you’re interested in checking the action, don’t wait to buy tickets right before puck drop.
2. Order Tickets To Live Music at the Bluebird Cafe
Although most people think of Nashville as a town for only country music fans, the city is home to incredible bands, artists, and songwriters from all genres. There’s no better chance of seeing up-and-comers than catching a live performance at The Bluebird Cafe.
Situated in a small shopping center on Hillsboro Pike in the Green Hills neighborhood, this unassuming spot is one most people drive right past without realizing its importance. A great way to spend a chilly night in Nashville in December, you won’t soon forget your first time seeing someone play at The Bluebird.
While you might not know the artist or be familiar with the songs they’re playing, you’re guaranteed to hear incredible talent, and who knows, you might just hear the next big hit before anyone else does.
Be sure to reserve your tickets with plenty of time in advance since the venue is so small.
3. Browse the Exhibitions at Frist Art Museum
Another one of the best things to do in December in Nashville, TN, and ideal for a cold December day, is to browse the exhibitions at the Frist Art Museum. Located a few blocks up from the bar scene on Broadway, a visit to the Frist should be on any art lover’s list.
The exhibitions change often, so even if you’ve been before, it’s worth checking out again. It’s big enough for you to spend hours if you’re a real culture fan, but if you’re simply browsing while you warm up your feet, an hour will be enough to stroll through the museum.
Most days of the week have varying opening hours but do note that the Frist is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
4. Get Some Fresh Air at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
In true Southern fashion, some December days in Nashville will be below freezing, complete with ice and snow, while other days will be relatively warm and full of sunshine. For those sunny days, I recommend putting on your tennis shoes and walking around Cheekwood.
Cheekwood isn’t just a park; it’s a museum, botanical garden, event space, and child’s learning center. For a quick visit to get some fresh air and tranquility, I recommend picking one of the garden trails to stroll through.
An alternative to Cheekwood is Percy Warner Park. The trails here are more wooded than gardens, but the paths are paved and well-maintained.
5. Make Reservations at Rolf and Daughters, the Optimist, or Sinema
Nashville has some of my favorite restaurants in the world. Although I spend much of my time moving around the world, traveling from city to city, whenever I go home to Nashville, the main task on my agenda is to visit my favorite restaurants.
While I constantly try and visit new restaurants or ones I haven’t tried before, I have three that I just keep going back to. Of course, I’m not the only one who loves these places to eat in Nashville, so you’ll want to make reservations well in advance, especially if you want to dine on a weekend with a larger party. With cozy interiors, they’re also great places to avoid the winter chill and dine in comfort.
My favorite restaurants in Nashville are:
- Sinema: Located on 8th Ave S, this trendy, intimate restaurant is set inside an old theater. You can’t go wrong with any of the entrees, although the scallops are my go-to. Just be sure to save room for the Skillet Cookie for dessert. When booking a table, I recommend you ask to sit upstairs.
- Rolf and Daughters: Located in Germantown, I’ve never seen this tiny restaurant not completely packed. Seating at the bar is walk-ins only but to grab a seat here, you’ll need to get in line well before opening. They have outdoor heaters and blankets in the winter to make the wait a little easier. Fly right past the line with a reservation, though.
- The Optimist: Also in Germantown, The Optimist is where to go if you want high-quality seafood so far from the coast. With great food, great cocktails, and great ambiance, what’s not to love?
6. Go Ice Skating
If watching the Predators gave you confidence in your own skills on the ice, visit Centennial Sportsplex. Here, you can rent skates and show off your best Michelle Kwan moves, or if you’re anything like me, simply shuffle around the ice as ungracefully as possible.
This is a fun activity for anyone to enjoy in December in Nashville. Popular with kids, couples, groups of friends, and even solo travelers, it’s a nice way to get some exercise in when the weather isn’t so pleasant outside.
7. Get Into the Christmas Spirit at Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry is one of Nashville’s icons, but it’s not actually located right 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 drive shouldn’t deter you.
The Grand Ole Opry is the place to go if you want to get into the Christmas spirit. Each year they outdo themselves with their indoor Christmas display. This is another fun for the whole family activity.
Along with its lights display, it’s also a great place to catch a show. As the home of country music, here you’ll be hard-pressed to find music that doesn’t have a twang. People flock to the Grand Ole Opry to catch their signature show, where country legends and new voices share the stage for a 2-hour event you’re sure to love. Get your Grand Ole Opry show ticket here.
The Grand Ole Opry also has a hotel, Opryland Resort, if you’d like to stay a night or two before or after the show.
8. Eat, Drink, & Listen to Music at Fifth + Broadway
If you didn’t get your fill of music at Grand Ole Opry, not to fret, Nashville doesn’t lack great live music, and Fifth + Broadway is no exception. But, as one of the newcomers to Broadway, Fifth + Broadway (aptly name for the intersection it sits on) is a glorified food court.
Some of Nashville’s hottest restaurants have stands here alongside signature places you can’t try anywhere else. With floors of food choices, deciding what to eat can be tough, but since everyone dines together at one of the center tables, it also means everyone in your group can get what they want. There are also a few bars to grab a drink and almost always a live music performance to add ambiance.
9. Embrace Your Inner Child at an Arcade
What’s a better thing to do in Nashville in December than warm up with a few drinks and some classic arcade games? Personally, I think visiting an arcade bar is one of the most fun things you can do during a night out, especially when it’s rainy or cold outside.
There are a few arcade bars in Nashville that I really enjoy:
- Headquarters Beercade: Located in the heart of downtown, this arcade bar is my favorite simply because the games are free to play. It can get crowded due to its location, but it’s a good spot if you want to bar hop.
- Up-Down Nashville: Located across the river in East Nashville, this arcade doesn’t typically get as crowded at Headquarters but has an equally great selection of games and drinks. The only thing to note, though, is the games are not free to play. They do serve pizza by the slice, though!
- Game Terminal: Located in South Nashville, Game Terminal isn’t near much else but is a huge venue. This place is much larger than the other arcade bars and serves food. They even have some outside games and heated igloos you can rent for some privacy on cold days in December. You’ll need to pay to play the games here.
10. Book Your Stay at the Hermitage Hotel
While Nashville has no shortage of hotels to choose from, for a truly iconic getaway, book your stay at The Hermitage Hotel. Conveniently placed just north of Broadway, on the way to Germantown, on 6th Ave., you’ll be able to quickly walk to most of the places you’ll want to visit in Nashville without having to worry about facing too much winter weather. Otherwise, Ubers are easy to get in this area if needed.
As one of Nashville’s icons, The Hermitage has been one of the most well-known hotels in the city for over a century. But, don’t worry, it has aged flawlessly and just keeps getting better with time.
You’re Ready for a Perfect December in Nashville
When planning your trip to Nashville, you’ll quickly realize there’s a lot more to this city than might meet the eye. Regardless of the type of trip you’re after, you’re sure to make it happen here.
Enjoy letting loose on Broadway, dining in some of the best restaurants in the country, getting some exercise in, and of course, singing along to all your favorite songs. If there’s one thing that’ll be certain in December in Nashville, it’s that talented live music will be everywhere you go.
Kat Smith, the founder of A Way Abroad, is a serial expat and nomad who has spent the last ten years living all around the world. When she is back stateside, she’s found spending time with her family in Nashville.