Nashville has a reputation for being one of the most tourist-friendly destinations in the country. The Grand Ole Opry, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and the lively honky-tonks and bars of Broadway usually are the first images that come to mind when planning a trip to the Music City.
But visitors who are looking for activities that are a little off of the beaten path will also find a plethora of unique destinations. Starting with our top five picks, we’ve outlined a list of some of the weirdest and most outrageous sights and activities that Nashville has to offer.
Our Top Five Picks
1. The Caverns. The Caverns combines fantastic music with breathtaking geology in this one-of-a-kind venue.
2. Skull’s Rainbow Room. When you step into Skull’s Rainbow Room, you’ll step into another time when a night on the town meant fancy cocktails and dazzling burlesque shows.
3. Hatch Show Print. Visit this historic site that developed and popularized iconic show posters and has served as a fully-operational print shop for nearly two centuries.
4. Pinewood Social. Pinewood Social is more than a bar — it’s also a restaurant, coffee shop, bowling alley, and event space all in one fantastic location.
5. Lane Motor Museum. You won’t find a more bizarre collection of cars in any other place than the Lane Motor Museum.
Other Weird, Strange, & Outrageous Things To Do
Timothy Demonbreun's Cave
Timothy Demonbreun's Cave is another strange destination that isn’t fully accessible to the public but is completely worth the trip. This cave on the banks of the Cumberland River is the site where Nashville’s first non-Indigenous resident and fur trapper Timothy Demonbreun lived nearly 300 years ago.
The best way to view the cave is from the edge of the Cumberland River approximately one mile upriver from downtown, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can get a little closer by traveling the river by kayak, or on one of many boat tours offered by local adventure groups.
Hidden Heart of Music Row
Music Row is the perfect place to access talented museums, lively honkytonks, and world-class restaurants and if you make your way there on your trip to Nashville, take a detour to the Starstruck Entertainment building to view a secret heart lined in the stone wall that surrounds it for the perfect picture opportunity.
If you’re looking for a quirky but delicious breakfast spot in Nashville, there’s no better place than Pfunky Griddle. This unique restaurant incorporates all of the fun aspects of hibachi and applies them to breakfast foods such as pancakes, hashbrowns, omelets, and more.
You’ll be seated at a table with a flat-top griddle in the center and given a menu to choose from one or more of their fantastic dishes. Once you have your decision, your chef will cook your dishes right in front of you! Some meals, such as hashbrowns and pancakes, are even made available for the guests to cook themselves if they choose.
George Boedecker's Sculpture Garden
Entrepreneur George Boedecker is most well-known for founding Crocs, but few people know that the eccentric business owner is also the proprietor of a massive sculpture garden located at his estate in Nashville where you can find impressive animal sculptures erected on his front lawn.
Though the estate has plans to renovate the sculpture garden to allow visitors to view the pieces up close, it’s currently only viewable by tourists and locals from the street.
Fannie Mae Dees Park
Fannie Mae Dees Park, or Dragon Park as the locals refer to it, is a historic park and playground in Nashville. The park's most recognizable feature is the “dragon” (technically a sea serpent) sculpture installed by Peruvian artist Pedro Silva. But Fannie Mae Dees Park is also well-known for a bizarre story concerning its establishment as a park.
To make room for the extension of the Vanderbilt campus, the city began removing people from their homes in the neighborhood where Fannie Mae Dees Park now stands. This understandably created backlash towards the city from the neighborhood residents, particularly from a woman named Fannie Mae Dees.
Protests erupted resulting in some of the seized land being won back for residents, though the houses were already destroyed. In a vote, the city decided to turn the vacant lot into a park, naming it after the woman who fought so hard for the neighborhood and its residents.
President James K. Polk's Tomb
James K. Polk, the 11th president of the United States, led a historic presidency. He is often remembered for leading the country through the aftermath of the Mexican-American War.
The final resting places of President Polk and his wife reside at the Tennessee State Capitol. If you’re looking for an off-beat way to spend the afternoon, pay a visit to his historic tomb located in downtown Nashville. The Capitol building is also open to the public and is a great source of information on the history of this great state.
Almost any country fan alive will know the significance of The Ryman Auditorium, the original home of The Grand Ole Opry. However, visitors to Nashville may not be aware of the secret treasure that is Ryman Alley.
The best way to experience the alley is to incorporate two stops on your visit to downtown Nashville; after viewing the exhibits at The Ryman Auditorium, take a trip through the alley on your way to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a historic bar, and venue known for being the last stop for Opry performers before heading back to the hotel or back on the road.
It’s impossible to express how many country music legends have made this same trek, but once you get to Tootsie’s, a glance at the wall of fame will give you a good idea.
Downtown Presbyterian Church
Going to church might not be the first on everyone's list when they go on vacation, but even those who don’t consider themselves religious can appreciate the eccentric and unique architecture of Downtown Presbyterian Church.
Inside, you’ll find erected pillars, and ancient Egyptian-style engravings — remnants of a briefly popular architectural style known as Egyptian revival. You can easily access a view of this beautiful and strange parish during non-service church hours, and guided tours are available free of charge.
The Bowery Vault
If you’re in the market for a unique piece of vintage clothing and see an unforgettable performance during your trip to Nashville, you’re in luck! The Bowery Vault, one of the coolest vintage shops in the Nashville area also doubles as a music and event venue.
In the retail space, you can find things like vintage band t-shirts, Western wear, belts, and hats. Pick out a unique piece before stepping into the venue where they book all of the hottest local bands in Nashville, as well as stand-up comedians. They also host an open mic night every Thursday.
Edgehill Polar Bears
Nashville is in no short supply of strange art installations, but the Edghill polar bears are little more than just an art installation, they’re also a unique piece of Nashville history.
In 1930, a frozen custard shop on 4th Ave closed down leaving behind the polar bear statues in front of their shop that were commissioned to bring in customers. When the shop closed, a local funeral home director adopted them and placed them at his place of business.
Later on, they were purchased and placed at Polar Bear Plaza in Edgehill. If you’re looking for quick and free outdoor activity, a trip to view the snowball-wielding polar bears of Edgehill should be at the top of your list.
Welcome to 1979
For an off-beat activity in the expansive world of Nashville music history, take a tour of Welcome to 1979, a music recording studio with an off-color history.
The building that now holds Welcome to 1979 was purchased for the music recording studio, Tennessee Records in 1953. However, the proprietor of this music recording studio would later become infamous for recording cheap knock-offs of then-popular hits and sending the pirated versions through the mail, a federal offense.
After getting busted, Motown Records moved into the building and ownership changed several times to many well-known labels including Chess Records and GRT Records before eventually getting bought by Chris Mara and transformed into Welcome to 1979.
The studio tour is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, and you’ll be taken through multiple levels through a variety of bizarre rooms such as the rec room equipped with pinball machines, a foosball table, and a slide.
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum
As the music capital of the world, Nashville is well-known for its celebrity sightings due to how many musicians live and work here.
However, if you don’t happen to catch a celebrity sighting on your trip to Nashville, the second best option is to take a trip to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum where you can find bizarrely life-like wax likenesses of beloved musicians, actors, and celebrity staged on fantastic sets and backdrops for one-of-a-kind picture opportunities with your friends.
It’s been years since the popular show, The Dukes of Hazzard has been on the air, but there are plenty of fans of the show still out there. If you’re one of them, Cooter’s, a museum dedicated to the show, in Nashville is the perfect place for you.
You’ll see all the old artifacts from the show including Daisy Duke shorts, pieces from the set, and the original General Lee, the Duke boys' infamous ride. Admission is completely free so come for the exhibits and make some time for the gift shop!
Woodlawn Memorial Park
A cemetery isn’t on a typical tourist’s sight-seeing list, but you’re not the typical tourist, and Woodlawn Memorial Park isn’t a typical cemetery, it serves as a final resting place for some of the country’s most profound musicians, artists, civil rights leaders, and politicians.
Take a walk around the massive plot, get some fresh air, and pay your respects to the likes of George Jones, Miles Davis, and Robert Moses.
Nashville City Cemetary
If you didn’t get your fill of grave-spotting at Woodlawn Memorial Park, head back to downtown Nashville and take a tour of Nashville City Cemetary for a more historical focus.
Unlike the graves at Woodlawn Memorial Park, the Nashville City Cemetery is the oldest cemetery in Nashville and typically houses much older graves including both Union and Confederate soldiers, Nashville city politicians, and other important city residents. The Nashville City Cemetary also offers tours on Saturdays.
21C Museum Hotel
The 21C Museum Hotel is a great way to check out some of the more unique pieces that the Nashville area has to offer. The exhibits are available to the public 24 hours a day completely free of charge.
The trick is that they’re spread out at different locations, so you’ll have to check the 21C Museum Hotel exhibits page for more details on where you can see each listed piece. Within the hotel, there is also a bar and restaurant available so you don’t have to leave and come back if you want to spend most of the day there.
Hail, Dark Aesthetics
If you’re looking for a great place to pick up an off-beat souvenir, look no further than Hail, Dark Aesthetics. This unique store has a limitless supply of creepy and strange gifts including taxidermy, ritualistic masks, antique medical equipment, t-shirts, bone jewelry, pins, patches, and other bizarre trinkets. Stop in for a unique piece or just to kill some time!
No, it’s not a Christmas-themed bar, but you will see a man with a long white beard. Santa’s Pub is one of Nashville’s infamous dive bars located downtown. If you’re looking for an off-beat adventure, a place to sing karaoke, see a local band perform, or simply get a cold one amongst the real locals, put Santa’s Pub at the top of your list.
Music City Flow Arts
It can be hard for most people to find a comfortable place within the fitness and bodybuilding world, especially if you consider yourself to be a little outside the box. If you find yourself looking for a place that fits your style of fitness, Music City Flow Arts might be a good fit.
They offer fitness classes, alternative dance, fire-spinning classes, roller aerobics, hooping, fan dancing, and yoga classes all in one place! Sign up for a class today or take a look at the website for more information.
Phat Bites is one of many dive bars in Nashville that has a genuinely eclectic atmosphere.
From the graffiti paint job and neon signs to the black lights and cozy outdoor patio, you’re sure to feel right at home as a fan of the off-beat and strange. You can catch a great local show on their intimate stage, or simply come to have a drink and meet some cool people.
The food and drinks at Phat Bites need a mention too — they’re delicious. Grab a mouthwatering panini with your choice of protein, or a lush green salad. Most dishes can be made vegetarian.