Nashville alone and on a budget is still Nashville. It's a city with a personality that shines regardless of how much or little you spend.
While the city is best known for its music, it is also known for having very expensive hotel rooms. Pre-pandemic, the city was the most expensive in the United States for hotel accommodation. This is not good news for budget travelers.
But that's accommodation. There are still many things that are free or cheap, including incredible honky-tonks, music, museums, food, and fun.
How does one make Nashville affordable?
With these 32 free and low-cost tips.
How to Travel Nashville Solo and on a Budget – Getting Around
- Tour with Nashville Transit. All bus fares are paid through QuickTicket. You can download the app before you go and load it with some cash.
- There are one-day passes for $4 and 7-day passes for $20.
- Find maps and schedules here.
- Take transit from the airport to downtown. The bus from the airport to town is $2. Take Line 18. It leaves hourly and takes less than half an hour.
- Walk. Nashville is an incredibly walkable city. Most of what you really want to see is in the downtown area, making your transit needs limited.
- Ride a bike. Nashville B-Cycle is the city's fee-based bike-share program. The Guest Pass is $25 and gives you unlimited 120-minute rides in a 3-day period. There's an additional rental fee of $3 per 30 minutes for rides longer than 120 minutes.
Things to Do in Nashville by Yourself: Focus on the Music
Want to know what's on in Nashville? Read the Nashville Guru. It's where you'll find out who is playing where, what events are taking place, restaurant reviews, and more. The list below provides more general information.
- Go to a honky-tonk. There's free music 365 days a year in Nashville. Go to a honky-tonk on Broadway or one of many other music venues. For the price of a drink and tips to both your server and the band, you'll have a great few hours.
- Take a free walking tour. Now, tours are not exactly free. It's important to tip the guide at the end. Try Free Nashville Walking Tours.
- Walk the length of Broadway. Walk both sides of the street. Listen at the doors and take in the country vibe.
- Dance like no one is watching. Few people actually dance at the honky-tonks but they do have space for a few people to get up and go for it.
- Save with a Music City Total Access Pass. For the price of this $119 pass you'll have lots of free and discounted options. I don't usually take advantage of these passes but, in the case of Nashville, they include what I want to do.
- Explore the Music City Walk of Fame Park. You'll find it on Nashville's Music Mile.
- Take in some theater. During the summer months, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville Shakes, offers free performances (with a suggested $10 donation) in Centennial Park Thursday through Sunday and Labor Day Monday.
- Go to the Country Music Hall of Fame. This museum is a must for any trip to Nashville. I could have spent hours more in it. It's not cheap, $27.95 for adults, but so worth it. I found a discount for the museum on Groupon. It's not currently available, but it's worth checking back when you're planning to go. You can also use your Music City Total Access pass to get in.
- Get discount coupons. While you're at the Hall of Fame, check to see what discount coupons they have for some of the smaller museums. I got one for $4 off the entrance fee to the Johnny Cash Museum. Every discount helps when you're exploring Nashville on a budget.
- Go to the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Located on Broadway, a visit to this shop will get you just about any country album (CD and vinyl) you're looking for as well as great information from the staff. While you're there, ask their opinion on where the best music will be playing on Broadway during your visit.
- Go to the Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman is the “mother church of country music.” You just may get a discount coupon at the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum.
- Cut a record. Yes, you can record in Nashville. Record a traditional song or bring your instruments and an original tune to the Air Castle Studio at the Ryman. You get one take with the help of a sound engineer. The experience is part of the tour price. If you want, you can walk away with a digital download for $15.
- Take the Redneck Comedy Bus Tour. Get your country on, learn how to talk redneck and see Nashville in a hilarious light. Don't forget to tip. It seems that anyone serving the public in Nashville doesn't get paid, so tipping more than just a couple of bucks is important. The tour is $35. This is another attraction on the Total Access pass.
- Take in a sporting event. There's nothing like going to a sports event to get into a local culture. The Nashville Predators is the home hockey team. It doesn't have to be a pro team to be fun.
- Free museums. The Tennessee State Museum, Tennessee State Capitol, and War Memorial Buildings are all free to the public.
More Things to Do Alone in Nashville – on a Budget
There is more than music to enjoy in Nashville.
- Ask an ambassador. Need help? Have a question? Ask a downtown ambassador. Look for the people in the yellow shirts and they'll have the answer to your question.
- Walk the bridge. The Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge crosses the Cumberland River and offers fantastic views of the Nashville skyline.
- Talk to a local. Is everyone in the south this friendly? I chatted with many people. I even met one woman on a local bus on a Wednesday and then met two of her co-workers on the Thursday. It's a small, big city.
- Support a musician. The musicians in all the honky-tonks on Broadway are playing for your tips and in hopes that you'll buy their CDs. For $10 this makes a great and inexpensive souvenir while giving a musician more of what they really need.
- Drink a local beer. Small local breweries reflect the communities they come from. There are many in Nashville. Just ask the bar for a local beer or put a brewery on your itinerary.
- Wander neighborhoods beyond downtown. The two that were recommended to me repeatedly were the Gulch and Germantown.
- Take a self-guided walking tour. Nashville Sites publishes a number of guides to download that give you free walking tours of the downtown and driving tours of greater Nashville.
- Eat a Goo Goo. A Nashville original, the Goo Goo Cluster is a candy bar. There is a store dedicated to all things Goo Goo at 116 3rd Avenue South.
- Take in the Gardens at Gaylord Opryland Resort. If you don't have the pleasure to stay there you can still go and enjoy the amazing indoor gardens in this resort.
Eat Alone on the Cheap in Nashville
From picnics to food trucks, there are many ways to save on food–good food–when you travel to Nashville on a budget.
- Food Truck Thursday. On Thursdays, the food trucks are located between 4th and 5th Avenues on Deaderick Street. When I was there, the longest line was at The Grill Cheeserie. My sandwich of smoked gouda, caramelized apples and onions, fig mustard, and crispy organic kale did not disappoint.
- The honky-tonks. They all have bar food, but don't expect to see a vegetable–unless it's deep-fried. Roberts has a decent vegetarian burger.
- Eater Nashville. Check out their list of the best cheap eats in the city. Here's another source for cheap meals.
- Visit wine country. If you fancy getting out of town, make your way to Arrington Vineyards where the visit, a picnic (bring your own), and tastings are free.
As for accommodation, as I said off the top, the city is know for expensive hotel rooms. Search well. Booking.com is the site on which I've had most success. Hopefully you'll have luck finding budget-friendly accommodation.