While new arrivals will find that Nashville has plenty to see and do at any given time of year, there are also a number of annual events which shouldn’t be missed. Naturally, being the Music City, many of these are centred around music but that’s not to say other interests won’t be catered for. Whether it's sport, arts, culture or history that take a person’s fancy, there is sure to be something for everyone on Nashville’s exciting events calendar.
Here is a list of some of the most prominent events held in the Music City throughout the year.
Annual events in Nashville
Nashville Restaurant Week (January)
Foodies will delight in the fact that Nashville has quite the eclectic restaurant scene. There is no better time to get acquainted with the Music City’s exciting culinary offerings than during Restaurant Week when some of Nashville’s best locally-owned restaurants offer special deals and prix fixe menus to draw in diners. This is a fantastic opportunity for Nashville residents to indulge in some of the city’s top dining experiences for a fraction of the regular price.
Tin Pan South (March)
Every March, Nashville hosts the world’s largest gathering of songwriters at the Tin pan South Festival. A musical extravaganza with hundreds of live performances at various Music City venues, Tin Pan South presents a unique opportunity for music fans to get up-close-and-personal to their favourite musicians and enjoy the music they love.
St Jude’s Rock ’N’ Roll Marathon (April)
With over 20,000 runners taking part, this is one of the top sporting events on Nashville’s calendar. Participants can opt to run the full marathon or take it easy in the half marathon instead. Of course, with it being based in the Music City this won’t be your standard long run. With dozens of music stages set up along the route, spectators and runners alike will no doubt be entertained. The post-race party is an occasion for the runners and their fans to celebrate their achievements while indulging in a bit of Southern hospitality.
Iroquois Steeplechase (May)
For over 70 years, the month of May in Nashville has been about the Iroquois Steeplechase. Drawing in more than 25,000 spectators, this horse race is now a Nashville institution. Full of pomp and pageantry, the steeplechase sees jockeys from all over the globe travel to Nashville to take part, with the profits of the event being donated to charity. An incredibly fun and fast-paced day out that is not to be missed.
Tennessee Renaissance Festival (May)
Throughout the month of May, visitors and locals alike get to explore the medieval history of the city through music. The festival is held just outside the city, in a rural outpost equipped with its very own castle. With plenty of good food, stalls, and an array of entertainment options from jousting and falconry as well as live music stages, this is a wonderful opportunity to be transported back to a bygone era.
Country Music Awards Festival (June)
One can’t move to Nashville and expect to avoid country music. The popular Country Music Awards Festival takes place every year in June in the heart of downtown Nashville. It presents a great opportunity to catch some of the best names in country music as well as some up-and-coming acts. A main four-day event is held at the Nissan Stadium but a lot of smaller venues host free shows alongside it too. Even if one isn’t a huge country music fan, this event allows new arrivals to get a real insight into local Nashvillian culture.
Independence Day Celebrations (July)
Nashvillians go all out for the Fourth of July and the Let Freedom Sing event draws thousands of people onto the city’s streets. The downtown area near Broadway is cordoned off and becomes a pedestrian-only festival zone. Top country acts entertain crowds throughout the day and there are plenty of food stalls and family-friendly activities to keep everyone happy. As the sun goes down, the real party starts. The evening ends with a spectacular fireworks display.
Tomato Arts Festival (August)
What began as a quirky little festival in vibey East Nashville has now turned into a huge event, drawing over 60,000 people each year. The two-day Tomato Arts Festival is an extravaganza of music, food and art revolving around the event’s titular food. Guests are encouraged to come dressed in costume simply to add to the festive atmosphere. This is a really eclectic and memorable day out for the whole family.
Nashville Film Festival (October)
Even though Nashville is more famous for its music industry, film buffs will be pleased to find that the city is also home to a vibrant movie-making community. The Nashville Film Festival attracts over 40,000 people each year and dates back to 1969. From insightful documentaries to indie films and Hollywood releases, this is a great occasion to delve into the movie scene. Meet local directors, scriptwriters and producers who all use this event as a platform to showcase their talent.
Southern Festival of Books (October)
One for the bookworms: the Southern Festival of Books is a weekend-long literary celebration. Every October, hundreds of writers and over 30,000 literature fans descend on Nashville’s Main Public Library and the War Memorial Plaza, coming together to discuss their work. What’s more, admission to the festival is totally free of charge.
►For an overview of Nashville's top attractions read the See and Do in Nashville page
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