Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee, is a famous street known for its live music venues, honky-tonks, and nightlife.
In the 1940s and 1950s, country music went mainstream, and Nashville became known as the “Music City.”
Broadway continues to be a popular destination for music fans, with honky-tonks and live music venues lining the street.
The most famous of these venues is Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, which opened in 1960 and became a popular spot for country music stars.
Today, Broadway has been revitalized with new developments, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues opening up alongside the traditional honky-tonks.
It's by far the most popular tourist destination with millions of music fans and locals enjoying the vibrant nightlife and culinary scene.
If we haven't met, hi, I'm Alex Hawker, a Nashville local with deep roots in the community. My family owns and operates the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown. I started this blog to be a helpful guide to visitors; feel free to reach out with any questions. I'm glad you're here, to learn more, click here.
Table of Contents
- Explore Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee
- History of Broadway
- Lower Broadway (Honky-Tonk Highway)
- Popular Points of Interest
- Restaurants on Broadway
- Shopping on Broadway
- Where to Stay
- How to Get Around
- Upper Broadway
- Commonly Asked Questions
- What is the Best Part of Broadway in Nashville?
- Is Broadway the Main Street in Nashville?
- Is Broadway in Nashville Called Music Row?
- What Part of Nashville is All the Bars?
- What Month is Best to Visit Nashville?
- Is Broadway the same as Downtown Nashville?
- Can You Drive Down Broadway In Nashville?
- What Time Do Nashville Broadway Bars Close?
Explore Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee
History of Broadway
Nashville sits on the Cumberland River, a 688-mile-long river that flows from the Appalachian Mountains. On 1st Avenue, where Broadway begins, there used to be shipping docks that fed the hardware stores, car dealerships, and feed stores that used to occupy the street in the 1800s. Today, we know lower Broadway as the “honky-tonk highway.” But, back then, it looked a lot different.
Today, the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge allows you to walk over the river, which connects to Cumberland Park and features fountains, climbing walls, walking trails, and the Riverfront Park, which includes a 1,200-seat amphitheater.
During the Civil War, many buildings on Lower Broadway were used as makeshift hospitals or warehouses to support the troops.
As early as the 1700s, Davy Crocket stepped out of the Cumberland River and became known as a fiddle player and storyteller.
In 1925 the Grand Ole Opry opened, and during the 1930s, the music scene started to grow as Jimmie Rodgers performed in bars along Broadway near the river. His celebrity attracted other performers.
Lower Broadway (Honky-Tonk Highway)
Lower Broadway, known as the “honky-tonk” highway is an exciting place to be.
Over half of the 32 bars are owned by country music stars and it's not unusual to find those stars performing in their bars.
Live music flows out onto the streets 24/7 (yes! even on Christmas Day and Sundays!).
Country Music is the dominant sound, but you'll also hear contemporary rock and hip-hop.
There are no cover charges to get in, but you are expected to tip the musicians.
A lot of the bars are famous. Tootsies Orchid Lounge is the most famous, having been a popular spot for aspiring musicians traveling to Nashville.
Roberts Western World constantly wins the award for the best country music on Broadway.
We've written extensive guides all about Lower Broadway. You may find the following posts helpful:
- Must-Visit Broadway Bars
- Can you wear shorts in Nashville bars?
- Are Nashville Bars Expensive?
- Will Nashville Bars Accept Paper ID's?
- Nashville Bars with the Best Live Music
- The Most Famous Bar in Nashville
- Do Nashville Bars only Play Country Music?
Popular Points of Interest
The following points of interest are worth exploring when on Broadway:
- Ryman Auditorium – The Ryman Auditorium is considered the “Mother Church of Country Music” and was the original home to the Grand Ole Opry. It was originally built as an actual church. Today it hosts shows every night of the week from country, rock, comedy, and more. It's a must-visit location to add to your itinerary. Learn more here.
- Johnny Cash Museum – The Johnny Cash museum is located a short walk up Broadway and provides a thrilling insight into the Man in Black's life with many artifacts, instruments, and costumes. It also has a place to eat and drink. This very popular museum is a must-visit for music fans. Check out this video walkthrough and get tickets here.
- Musicians Hall of Fame – The Musicians Hall of Fame has preserved the history of recorded music worldwide with stunning artifacts from stars like Jimmy Hendrix, Glen Campbell, Elvis, Roy Orbison, and more. The ticket price also includes access to the fabulous Grammy Museum Gallery. It's a short walk from Broadway. Click here for a walking map. Get your tickets here.
- Midtown – Lower Broadway is known as “Nash-Vegas,” but if you want to escape the people and noise, Midtown might be for you. Hop in a car, bus, or rideshare and head over to Division St. You'll find an array of bars and restaurants. We have written a complete guide to Midtown here.
- Union Station – The Union Station is a former railroad station on Broadway. It was built in 1900 and served as a hub for transportation in and out of Nashville. In 1986 it was renovated into a luxury hotel while preserving the historic architecture. There are 125 rooms, a restaurant, bar and event spaces. It is considered a landmark in Nashville and is a popular destination. Learn more here.
- Frist Center for the Visual Arts – The Frist Center is an art museum that formerly housed the U.S. Post Office building that was constructed in 1934. The building itself is considered a work of art. It houses a variety of exhibitions throughout the year. It also has an auditorium for concerts and performances. Learn more here.
- Hume-Fogg High School – As strange as it may sound, the Hume-Fogg High School is a popular tourist spot for photos in Nashville due to its beautiful and historic architecture. The building was constructed in the Gothic Revival style, featuring stained-glass windows and grand staircase. See a virtual tour here.
- Bridgestone Arena – The Bridgestone Arena is visible and easily walkable from lower Broadway. It's used to feature concerts, hocky, monster trucks and more. Chance are that if you're in town for a show, it's at the Bridgestone Arena.
- Tootsies Orchid Lounge – Tootsies Orchid Lounge is one of the most famous and oldest honky-tonks on Broadway. Today you can still find photo's on the wall of all the famous country stars who have played there. It backs up to the Ryman and has three floors of historic fun. I wrote a guide to Tootsies here.
- Roberts Western World – Roberts is similar to Tootsies and a must visit honky-tonk in Nashville. For real life country music, you can't miss Roberts. Check out this fantastic video walkthrough by The Scene Nashville.
- Ernest Tubb Record Shop – In 2022 the Ernest Tubb record store closed after 75 years. This was a massively popular store in the heart of lower Broadway. Some visitors came to just experience it. It specialized in country music and was founded by Tubb, a country music singer and songwriters. Today, it remains closed but the sign still remains. It remains to be seen what will happen.
- Riverfront Park – The Riverfront Park was established in the 1980;s to celebrate the first arrivals to Nashville up the Cumberland River. It has an amphitheater and several unique pieces of art on display. It's just a short walk from Broadway, across from First Avenue.
Restaurants on Broadway
Fifth & Broadway
Nashville got a major upgrade with a brand new development, Fifth & Broadway. It's located at the top of lower Broadway, an easy walk from the honky-tonks, Ryman Auditorium and across the street from the Bridgestone Arena. It also includes onsite parking.
Fifth and Broadway provides a nice spot to sit, eat, and/or drink to take a break of lower Broadway or wait for a show to start at the Ryman, Bridgestone Arena or Nissan Stadium.
Fifth and Broad includes an Assembly Food Hall. The hall includes a diverse set of eateries and bars including pizza, deserts, cocktails, salads, hot chicken, burgers, and Thai just to name a few.
Popular restaurants and eateries of note include Hattie B's and Princes (hot chicken) and CAVA (healthy salads).
For a full list of restaurants and bars, click here.
Lower Broadway is known as the honky-tonk highway and includes over 32 bars that stream live country music onto the streets all year. Most of the honky-tonks provide a great meal and drinks. For a full list of must-visit bars on Broadway that provide great food, click here. Some notable mentions include:
- Jack’s Bar-B-Que – A cross between Tennessee and Texas BBQ, it includes 6 different types of meat and lots of side items.
- Broadway Brewhouse Downtown – Craft beer, food, drinks and sports on Broadway.
- Margaritaville – A popular spot on Broadway. Try the fried pickles, cheese grits, and shrimp.
- Acme Feed & Seed – The most visited and Instagrammed restaurant in Nashville. The building was originally used for a feed and seed farm store. Enjoy cocktails, sushi and fresh fish from the rooftop bar.
This is just a small selection of places to eat on Broadway. For a guide to Nashville restaurants with live music, click here.
Shopping on Broadway
Without doubt, the best place to shop on Broadway is Fifth & Broadway, a brand new development with restaurants, bars, electronic, and clothing stores.
If you are shopping for souvenirs and gifts, here is a list of the best places on lower Broadway (honky-tonk highway):
- Nashville Gifts
- Legends Gifts
- It's A Nashville Thing Y'all
- Boot Country (near the Ryman)
- Boot Barn
- Big Time Boots
- Ariat Brand Shop
Where to Stay
There are several hotels within walking distance to lower Broadway. The beautiful thing about Nashville is that it's a very walkable and safe city. The following hotels are a short walk to Broadway. For a full list, here's our guide to hotels near Broadway in Nashville.
- JW Marriott Nashville
- Dream Nashville
- Hyatt Place Nashville
- Renaissance Nashville
- Cambria Hotel
How to Get Around
The great thing about Nashville is that you don't need a car to get around unless you prefer private transportation.
Nashville is only 20 mins from the airport, and most attractions are focused on downtown Nashville and lower Broadway.
If you want to check out other neighborhoods, Uber and Lift operate prolifically, and areas like the Gulch, Germantown, Hillsboro, or West End are walkable once you get there.
A popular option is the Hop On Hop Off Trolley bus. It provides unlimited free re-boarding, moving around all parts of Nashville with frequent pickup service. In addition, you can explore all the major attractions with stories and songs shared by the guides. Learn more here about the popular trolley.
As you move from 1st Avenue, up through the honky-tonk highway, past Fifth and Broadway, you'll head towards upper Broadway.
If you keep moving up Broadway, it turns into 21st Avenue, which will take you to West End past Vanderbilt University.
Commonly Asked Questions
What is the Best Part of Broadway in Nashville?
The best part of Broadway depends on your interests. Of course, the most popular area is the “honky-tonk” highway, a strip of 32+ bars on lower Broadway. This area is commonly known as “Nash-Vegas” and features many bars started by country artists. Other popular areas include lower Broadway and 2nd Avenue. It features a mix of restaurants, bars, and shops. Fifth and Broadway also provide good places to eat, drink and shop.
Is Broadway the Main Street in Nashville?
Yes, Broadway is the main street in Nashville. Although Broadway isn't all there is to Nashville. Broadway includes the famous honky-tonk highway and a lot of main attractions like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Ryman. Branching off Broadway, you'll find the Gulch, Music Row, Midtown, and eventually West End and Vanderbilt. It's an excellent place to start when visiting Nashville.
Is Broadway in Nashville Called Music Row?
No, Broadway and Music Row are different. Music Row is the business side of Nashville. It has recording studios and labels where songwriters and musicians create the next hits. Broadway houses all the honky-tonks and bars. Musicians pump country music into the streets daily, whereas Music Row is a quiet neighborhood. Downtown is known for its nightlife; Music row is for industry professionals.
What Part of Nashville is All the Bars?
The part of Nashville that has all the bars is lower Broadway. It contains over 32 bars, over half of which have been started by country music stars like Luke Bryan, Alan Jackson, and Blake Shelton, to name a few. Often referred to as the “Honky-Tonk Highway,” the section of Broadway between 4th and 5th Avenue is home to the most iconic and popular music venues in the city.
What Month is Best to Visit Nashville?
The best month to visit Nashville is between April and October. During this time, the city has mild temperatures, and visitors can enjoy the city's attractions, outdoor activities, and festivals. Many popular festivals like the CAM Fest, Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman, and Music City Eats are held during the year's warmer months. The colder months are slow but include popular Christmas and New Year events.
Is Broadway the same as Downtown Nashville?
Broadway runs through the heart of downtown Nashville. It is therefore considered part of downtown. However, downtown Nashville includes an area that is larger than just Broadway. Broadway runs from 21st Avenue South to First Avenue on the Riverfront and connects neighborhoods like the Gulch, Music Row, SoBro, and Midtown. Downtown also includes spots like the Country Music Hall and Musicians Hall of Fame.
Can You Drive Down Broadway In Nashville?
Yes, you can drive down Broadway. However, lower Broadway gets high pedestrian traffic around the bars and restaurants, making it challenging, especially during peak hours. There can be long wait times as crowds cross the street or police direct traffic. Parking can also be difficult and expensive. The parts of Broadway that don’t include the lower section are much easier to navigate with less pedestrian traffic.
What Time Do Nashville Broadway Bars Close?
Most Broadway bars are open daily until 2:30 – 3am, including weekends. However, some bars might have different closing times depending on the day of the week and the specific bar. Visitors should also be aware that some bars will have a last call for drinks before closing due to Tennessee restrictions on when alcohol can be served and to allow you to finish your drink and settle the bill.