All About the NFL Draft in Nashville

We’re expecting 300,000 football fans to rush into Nashville for the ALL-FREE 2019 NFL Draft festivities Thursday, April 25-Saturday, April 27.
That’s in addition to the roughly 30,000 runners who will participate in the St. Jude Rock’n’Roll Marathon on Saturday. Plus, there’s a Jimmy Buffett concert Saturday night at the Bridgestone Arena where thousands of Parrotheads will flock together and the chance of an NHL play-off game.
Let’s work up a game plan for the activities.

SCHEDULE AND LOCATIONS

NFL Draft Red Carpet
Thursday

Details to be announced with festivities held on The Green at Riverfront Park, behind the stage on Broadway.

Draft Pick Announcements
Thursday evening, Friday evening, Saturday afternoon

The picks are made inside the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall which will be closed to the public. Public announcements will take place on a stage @ 1st and Broadway which will also host a Tim McGraw concert Friday night. Huge screens along Lower Broad will provide a close-up view of what’s happening onstage.

Saturday night brings Dierks Bentley to the main stage for a free concert.

Nashville Pedestrian bridge to NFL Fan Experience
Pedestrian bridge connects downtown Nashville to Nissan Stadium and NFL Draft Experience.

NFL Draft Experience
Thursday, noon-10pm; Friday, noon-10pm; Saturday, 9am-6pm

Fan engagement with all sorts of attractions: virtual reality exhibits, autograph signings, football clinics, interactive games, local food vendors, beer booths, an opportunity to have your photo made with the Vince Lombardi trophy, live music, merchandise booths. Held in parking lots adjoining Nissan Stadium.

There will also be an outdoor live music stage adjoining the NFL Draft Experience with performances by a diverse group of artists including Charles Esten, Striking Matches, Mikky Ekko and a dozen others.

STRATEGIES

I can’t make things easy for you in this massive swarm of people–but I may be able to make things easier with these tips.

Good to know

  • If you’re staying downtown, great! You’re within walking distance of everything related to the draft as well as some of the most popular tourist destinations.
  • Downtown will be clogged with people so expect to park or get dropped off about four blocks from downtown activities. Personally I wouldn’t bring a car downtown unless I was planning on leaving it in a garage most/all of the time. You might want to check out my Guide to Getting Around Downtown for more information.
  • Determined to drive in anyway? Look to the parking areas surrounding Nissan Stadium or park near the Bicentennial Mall and catch the free Music City Circuit bus that loops through the downtown area all day (but its last run is 11pm on Thursday and Friday–unless a special schedule is instituted). A great resource: ParkItDowntown interactive map.
  • It will be business-as-usual for thousands of downtown workers so take that into consideration during rush-hour traffic Thursday and Friday.
  • The St. Jude Rock’n’Roll Marathon takes place on Saturday with many runners arriving one or two days in advance. Registration and the exhibit hall will be in the Music City Center, thus bringing even more people downtown. Expect road closures and detours all along the race route.

Maximize your time

  • Once you’re downtown, stay put. Map out your daily flow without retracing your steps. Minimize navigating through the most crowded areas. Speaking of such, visitors with mobility issues should consult my blogpost Navigating Nashville with a Wheelchair.
  • Eat at non-standard hours: Look at the daily schedule and dodge the times you think everyone else will take a meal break. The Arcade, a lovely, century-old European-style mall, has nearly a dozen places to eat including a NY-style pizza joint, a meat-and-three, Ethiopian and Mexican restaurants, a burger joint and more–all locally owned. It’s accessible between 4th and 5th Avenue, N. and bordered by Church Street and Union Street. (Only a few of these are open on weekends.)
  • Investigate in advance nearby restaurants that have call-ahead take-out service. If you need a place to plop down and eat your to-go meal, try Riverfront Park, the area around Ascend Amphitheatre, the Music City Walk of Fame park between the Country Music Walk of Fame and Hilton or cross the Pedestrian Bridge to Cumberland Park.
  • To escape crowds, try visiting restaurants at least one block off Broadway. There are a few more options, particularly for fast food, to the north of Broadway than in SoBro (south of Broadway). You might also get lucky with the food vendors housed in the NFL Draft Experience.
  • There are 20+ honky tonks and music venues on Lower Broadway. Use my Complete Guide to Honky Tonks on Broadway to identify your best matches for food, drink and entertainment. If you want to be close to the action but away from the throngs, consult my Guide to Honky Tonks Beyond Broadway.
Lower Broadway--NFL Draft announcements here
Now imagine 300,000 people here on Lower Broadway.

Travel light

  • Keep only your essentials with you, ideally something that will fit in a fanny pack or see-through daypack.
  • What’s essential: ID, cash or credit cards, hotel key or card, car keys (if driving). Not essential but worth considering: cellphone, poncho or waterproof jacket, phone charger, snacks, water bottle, sunscreen.
  • Get tips from local police officers on how to stay smart and safe in downtown Nashville.

How to dress

    • Pay attention to local weather forecasts because Nashville is quite unpredictable in springtime. It can be clear and 28° or a humid 78° with thunderstorms.
    • If you are concerned about getting separated from your party in a crowd, dress with novelty in mind. My son and I have matching Dayglo orange long-sleeve t-shirts which work great. Keep in mind that you will be among a sea of ballcaps; you can wear team-gear like everyone else but a zebra-print hat will be easier to spot.
    • Wear comfortable shoes; you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Don’t try wearing just-bought cowboy boots; your feet will have their revenge. If you gotta buy boots, consult my Boot Buying Guide.
    • If the weather’s warm, keep in mind that there’s almost always a breeze on the Pedestrian Bridge over the Cumberland RIver which connects downtown events with activities at the NFL Experience. It’s also a great photo op.

The Tennessean, our daily newspaper, has released a round-up of additional information including road closures.

A few additional posts that might prove helpful:
♦ 
Transportation Tips Beyond the Downtown Area
Tours of All Sorts
What’s the Legal Age to…
 

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