They don't call Nashville "Music City" for nothing (photo: Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.)

What’s Fun and Free in Nashville this Summer

By Katie McPhee

Planning a trip to Nashville, Tennessee and wondering what to do on a budget? Not everyone in Music City has made it big (yet), so we’ve rounded up a few fun things to do that will leave enough money for other important items—you know, like cowboy boots, backstage passes to the Grand Ole Opry or Nashville’s mouthwatering (and eye-watering) hot chicken. Another way to keep more money in your pocket? Book your Nashville trip with AMA Travel. We’ll help you find great rates on WestJet’s twice-weekly non-stop flights between Calgary and Nashville, and we guarantee you’ll get the best possible price on your hotel booking.

Summertime means lots of free events at this urban park. Bring lawn chairs and blankets to Musicians Corner, a live music series held most Friday nights and Saturday afternoons in May, June, August and September. And on Saturday nights in June through August, you can enjoy old-fashioned fun with free group dance lessons and live music during Big Band Dances. 2500 West End Ave.

Daytime concerts are free and open to the public during the Country Music Association’s annual multi-day music fest, taking place this year from June 7 to 10. Multiple stages draw thousands of fans to downtown streets, and if you like what you hear, you can purchase tickets to the festival’s nighttime concerts, meet-and-greets and autograph sessions. Nissan Stadium, 116 S. 1st St.

Visit the legendary print shop that’s been making custom posters for artists since 1879. There’s no admission fee to browse the dozens of reproduction posters promoting past Nashville performances by Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Mumford & Sons and many more of music’s biggest names. Peek into the production area through designated viewing windows, or pony up a few bills of your own for a guided behind-the-scenes tour. 224 5th Ave. S.

Tens of thousands of music fans pack Public Square Park for concerts over a series of evenings in late August and early September. Organized by local independent radio station Lightning 100, the free event brings indie and alternative bands to its outdoor stage and is well-loved by locals and visitors alike. Dates and performers are yet to be confirmed for 2018, but last year’s headliners included Sheryl Crow, Spoon, Iron & Wine, and Future Islands. Bring a blanket or chair and arrive early to snag a good seat on the lawn. 1 Public Square

Nearly a quarter of a million people attend downtown Nashville’s annual Independence Day celebration. If you’re brave enough to join the holiday crowds, it’s an event not to be missed. Free concerts and family-friendly activities are offered in the afternoon and early evening, while nighttime festivities include a fireworks display choreographed to music performed by the Nashville Symphony. 1st Ave. N & Broadway

free in nashville tennessee state capitol building
Take a tour of the Tennessee State Capitol (photo: Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.)

Grab your photo ID and join suit-clad politicians and throngs of local school groups at Tennessee’s Greek Revival–style capitol building. Free tours are offered six times daily (Monday to Friday), allowing you to pay a visit to the House and Senate chambers, the governor’s reception room and other offices. Also on the grounds you’ll find the tombs of James K. Polk (the 11th President of the United States) and his wife, Sarah. 600 Charlotte Ave.

Open daily, year-round at a permanent site near Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, this market sees local producers set up shop in covered, open-air stalls, while an indoor space boasts more than a dozen restaurants, an international grocery store and a brewpub. Bring cash if you think you’ll want to do more than just browse. 900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.

Hunting for treasures is the main activity at this big flea market, held the fourth weekend of every month at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Pros know the best time to go is early in the morning—around 7 or 8 a.m.—when the vendors first set up. Even if you’re not planning a big purchase, there are still all sorts of things to see, from home decor and antiques to vintage curiosities and collectibles, and admission is free. (Bring $5 cash for parking, however, and more if you want to haggle for a good deal.) 500 Wedgewood Ave.

Stay up late and join this theatre’s toe-tapping studio audience for the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree, a live country music show that’s been airing on local AM radio since 1947. The jamboree takes place every Saturday at 10 p.m. and is broadcast after the Grand Ole Opry at midnight. Admission is free. 2416 Music Valley Dr.

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