Nashville, TN Arts and Festivals Overview

Nashville is known for its music scene, but also offers many museums, art galleries, theaters, festivals and events.

Jessica Mozo
On Sunday, May 8, 2011 - 10:20

Nashville may be known for its music scene, but it also offers a much larger cultural atmosphere. with world-class museums, galleries, theaters, festivals and events.

Performing Arts in Nashville

In the performing arts realm, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center downtown regularly hosts Broadway musicals, opera, ballet performances and concerts.

Completed in 2006 and also located downtown, the magnificent Schermerhorn Symphony Center is home to the prestigious Nashville Symphony. Inspired by some of the world’s great concert halls built in Europe in the late 19th century, the Schermerhorn hosts more than 100 classical, pops and special concert events every year.

Bridgestone Arena on Broadway is another hot spot in the local arts scene. The huge 20,000-seat, all-purpose venue hosts concerts, family shows and sporting events, including the Nashville Predators professional ice hockey team.

Those looking for a more refined evening of entertainment may be drawn to the Noah Liff Opera Center, where the Nashville Opera performs.

Specifically for youth, there's Rocketown, a nonprofit facility founded by Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith in 1994 . The facility, which has reopened in a new location on Fourth Avenue South in downtown Nashville, includes a skate park and music venue. 

Young people should also check out performances by Nashville Children's Theatre, which is the oldest professional children's theatre company in the United States.

Visual Arts 

Local highlights in the visual arts include the Frist Center for the Visual ArtsCheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, the Parthenon and a throng of independent art galleries around the city that showcase nearly every medium of art.

The first Saturday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m., between 15 and 20 independent downtown galleries open their doors to the public for the First Saturday Art Crawl, and spectators can be transported from gallery to gallery by two free shuttles provided by the Nashville Downtown Partnership.  

The Tennessee State Museum is another venue that celebrates the arts, often offering free admission to changing exhibits.

Fans of independent and foreign films love The Belcourt Theatre, which first opened its doors in 1925, playing silent films. Throughout its life, the theater has hosted live dramatic and musical performances. Even the Grand Ole Opry called the venue home from 1934-1936. Today, the theater presents a variety of movies on its two screens along with selected performances and other events, such as the 48-Hour Film Project.

Cultural Festivals


As diversity in the Nashville area has grown over the years‚ so has the number of festivals celebrating cultural heritage.

Oktoberfest, the city's oldest cultural event, has been held annually since it began in 1980 in Historic Germantown. Held on the second Saturday in October‚ Oktoberfest features a variety of artisans‚ children’s games and activities‚ music and dancing‚ and of course‚ plenty of traditional German food and beer. 

There also are the Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and the African American Street Festival at Hadley Park.

And then there is the festival that covers all cultures – the Celebration of Cultures festival co-hosted by the Scarritt-Bennett Center and Nashville Metro Parks. And there is the Celebrate Nashville Cultural festival held at Centennial Park on the first weekend of October.More than 30 cultures are represented at the free event.

Live Music and Music Festivals

True to its name – Music City – live music of all genres can be found most anywhere in Nashville, from the streets of Broadway to the stages of outdoor festivals. Music festivals of all types energize Nashville throughout the year, particularly during the warm-weather months from April through Labor Day. One of the first is the annual month-long Awesome April, which features multiple performances by songwriters of country, gospel, bluegrass and more.

Nashville is widely regarded as the mecca of songwriting, and Tin Pan South is a week-long songwriters’ festival produced by the Nashville Songwriters Association International. It honors the craft with approximately 80 live club shows in the downtown district, including more than 250 songwriters performing their original works. Other notable celebrations include the CMA Music Festival and the Rites of Spring (held at Vanderbilt University).

In the mid-summer, fireworks light up the sky and thousands of spectators turn out for Music City July 4th Weekend. The event, held along the Cumberland River, celebrates the music of America with a free, live downtown outdoor concert featuring the Nashville Symphony Orchestra performing with some of music’s greatest stars. 

Read about more fun things to do in Nashville, TN.


Jessica Mozo is a freelance writer who lives in Nashville, Tenn. with her husband, Manuel, and two sons, Bryce and Brett.