Thirty years ago, Nashville sightseeing tours focused on homes of the stars. Today most stars live in serious seclusion or in homes so ordinary that you might not even want to photo-bomb them. Sure, you can find your way to the grand old mansion owned by Kings of Leon, John Rich’s fortress, or the high-rise where Taylor Swift owns a condo but you won’t find much that’s funky, flashy or photogenic.
In recent years, the tour business has exploded to meet diverse interests. Some cater to special interests while others provide an overview of Nashville. A few tours are scholarly while others are for laugh-fests or rolling parties. NOTE: I’m not including tours of specific locations such as the Ryman, the Opry House, Belle Meade Plantation, State Capitol or Fort Nashborough in this post.
My friend, Captain Jim Hardaway, knows all about Nashville–country music stories, the Civil War and civil rights, train tales and plenty about old Nashville. Climb aboard his minivan for a highly personal and personable tour with some customization to match your interests. Plus, he’s the only guide I know who sat down to eat breakfast with Johnny and June in their Hendersonville home. He will rendezvous with you at a convenient location or pick you up at your hotel if you’ve got a vanful of friends.
Choose from a mind-blowing 35 custom tours with NHT. David Ewing, the company’s CEO and a seventh generation Nashvillian, is a walking encyclopedia of Nashville history including a wealth of knowledge about the roles African Americans played in shaping the city and nation. Tours include titles include “Rails and Rivers, “Insider Music Tour” and “Horses and Hats.”
Choose from three options, each priced at $997 and focused on aspects of local African American history: Nashville Black History Walking Tour (downtown), Nashville Civil Rights Walking Tour (downtown), Black Neighborhood Walking Tour (Jefferson Street). All are held rain or shine, hot or cold. They’ll gladly answer questions before you book your tour.
These companies give you the option of hopping on and off their vehicles at more than a dozen points of interest as many times as you like for a single flat fee. Both have trolleys traversing the central city; the latter also operates a double-decker bus. Because of the hop-on, hop-off features, they’re Nashville tours that double as short-range transportation. And in case you were wondering, the drivers double as tour guides.
Also see Nashville Sites under Walking Tours.
Clip-clop your way around downtown aboard one of their horsedrawn carriages for a narrated tour of local history. Prices range from $64.95 for a 20-minute ride to $174.95 for a 45-minute ride with 7-9 guests aboard. If you want something extra magical, reserve the Cinderella carriage.
Travel in style in these 19th century replicas of grand ole carriages with a sturdy team of draft horses as your power source. Rates start at $30 for four people with $5 more for each additional person.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be in a working recording studio? Here’s your chance to experience it first-hand. Three options: your basic tour, a VIP experience with “The Voice” contestant Meghan Linsey and secret acoustic shows performed by Meghan.
Specialists in Funny
We Nashvillians don’t take ourselves too seriously. We tell jokes about banjos, drawls, rhinestone and (with great respect) Dolly.
Among the veterans of Nashville tours, the sometimes-bawdy Jugg Sisters have been providing laughs-on-wheels aboard their impossible-to-miss hot pink bus for 20 years. If they weren’t doggone funny, they would have landed in a ditch years ago. They’ve recruited some entertaining friends to diversify so now pick your choice of three distinctive tours. Come sober and stay that way; they don’t want to waste their wit on drunkards.
It also offers a raucous ride around town aboard their equally impossible-to-miss camo-patterned bus bound for famous, infamous and historic locations. BYOC–that’s bring your own cooler for beverages including those with a kick. Might want to leave young’uns out of this trip into the tacky and sometimes-tawdry.
This category-defying tour company offers sightseeing, comedy…and singalongs! Who will love their tours? You should be: a) fun-loving because who wants to be stuck on a bus with a bunch of dullards, b) 21 or over due to adult humor, and c) sober because who wants to be on a bus with a bunch of drunk strangers. Bachelorette parties need not apply. See their website for details about on-board alcohol.
A few things set Tommy Garmon’s tours apart. First, he’s a comedian so laughter is guaranteed. Secondly, he’ll pick you up at your hotel and drop you back off again making him logistically superior to some of his competitors. Unlike some of his competitors, he likes to take his clients past the homes of the rich and famous.
Why Drive When You Can Walk
This series of self-guided walking tours works with smartphone connectivity so you can hear audio commentary about each site. Among the diverse tours: Early History, Early Black Life and Culture, Music in Music City, Historic Music Row, Music Row Neighborhood, New South Nashville, Women’s Suffrage, Women’s History Highlights, Downtown Schools and Education, Capitol and Church Architecture, Belmont-Hillsboro-Vanderbilt, South Broadway Architecture, Old Time Religion, Fort Negley, Seedy Side and Printers Alley, South Broadway Architecture, Hidden History and Haunts, Downtown Public Art and Murals, Civic and Public Spaces, Civil Rights Sit-Ins, Downtown Civil War, Tennessee State University, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College, Food for Thought, Family Fun, East Nashville, Gulch Highlights and WeHo Happy Hour. Each tour covers between 1-2 miles. FREE and cloud-based with nothing to download.
Local music history. Bill DeMain is a singer, songwriter, author and journalist who will take you deep into Nashville music history with a sense of humor during one of his mile-long Walkin’ Nashville tours. There’s even a potty stop at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Prices range from $15-30.
Call it a progressive dinner on foot as you and up to nine others graze from eatery to eatery with a tour guide who’ll give you both the abridged and unabridged version of East Nashville or Midtown. You’ll walk about a mile, stop in at 6-8 destinations to sample the fare, and enjoy unlimited conversation. You can also make reservations for a private group.
This walking tour operation in downtown offers two options. For $25, you can take the Live Nashville! Walking Tour which hits the historical and entertainment highlights. For $400, your group can cavort on the Nashville Bar Bash, hitting four honky tonks while getting a bit more boozy story of Nashville.
Their “Famous Footsteps” tour sets out from the front of Ernest Tubb Record Shop, You’ll walk only seven blocks but you’ll hear the tales of some of our most celebrated country artists including Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Keith Urban and Elvis Presley. Tour lasts approximately two hours. Cost: $30 for adults, $20 for seniors, $15 for children 12 and under, free to those in the military.
Can’t get much more self-explanatory than this. This 21-and-up tour hits 4-6 downtown bars and showers you with Nashville insights along the way. Cost is $20 for a 2 1/2 hour romp, plus drinks. Private groups welcome.
Your 90-minute stroll will take you by the Ryman Auditorium, down famous and infamous Printers Alley, past the War Memorial Auditorium. Your chatty tour guide will reveal the secrets of the city and give you the inside scoop on country music icons.
Don’t limit yourself to garden-variety vehicles when there’s a fleet of fun alternatives.
Segway anyone? Get a tutorial, then head out in a convoy of the little contraptions to tour the downtown entertainment district. Spend 2 1/2 hours tooling around town with your guide. Surely among the most novel of Nashville tours. Cost: $75, plus tax.
Not a lot of historic insight but a lot of fun as you go rollin’ on the river aboard a paddlewheeler. Feast on a fine meal and enjoy live entertainment in the Victorian theatre. The boat churns up the Cumberland to Riverfront Park before returning to the dock adjacent to Opry Mills.
Current offerings include a pair of Jack Daniels tour options (includes travel to Lynchburg, TN), a 3-hour Murals & Mimosas local tour, and a 4-hour Barbecue, Beer & Bourbon Nashville Foodie Experience. Custom tours also available.
In addition to custom rentals, these folks provide round-trip transportation to Jack Daniels Distillery in Lynchburg ($89) or Arrington Vineyard ($40). You can also purchases packages that include transportation and distillery and/or winery crawls with tours and tastings.
With the trolley captain as your designated driver, catch a ride in a circular route with stops at eight top-flight East Nashville and Germantown breweries. Hit them all or pass on any of them. Choose between one- and two-day passes.
With apologies to “Gilligan’s Island,” it’s “a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.” You hit some of the hottest hot spot for brews and spirits without getting behind the wheel or looking for parking. Currently priced at $89, you’ll get multiple samplings at each stop plus VIP transportation. Want something more budget-friendly? Their walking pub crawl starts at $59.
They go by a variety of names (Nashville Pedal Tavern, Sprocket Rocket Party Bike, Music City Crawler, Nashville Bar Bike and that’s just for starters) but all offer the same basic features. Bike your way around Lower Broadway drinking as you go; some tours include bar-hopping stops along the route. Unlike the first entries on my list, partying is the priority so don’t climb aboard if you a) don’t like the party-hearty crowd, b) have a really poor sense of balance, or c) really want to learn a good bit about Nashville. Wildly popular with bachelorette parties. Don’t wanna peddle?
Other Forms of Party Propulsion
The tours near the top are about information; these are more about intoxication. Most are akin to keg parties on wheels. You might be interested in knowing that there’s also:
Or maybe you’d like a bus: an open-air party bus with a dance floor, another that puts you in the spotlight, a partially enclosed party bus, an ultimate party bus, or a party bus hosted by drag queens.
Prefer a truck? A l-o-n-g bed party pick-up truck, a rolling hot tub party, a party barge that stays on the road, a pontoon saloon on the river and some new form of mobile debauchery seems to appear every weekend.
Or a limo.
What’s the best way to get around downtown Nashville? Here are your options.
And here’s a broader look at citywide transportation options.