Nashville

How to Celebrate the Fourth of July in Nashville this Year

Here's how to watch fireworks, party, or get out of town on the Fourth of July in Nashville this year.

Visit Music City
Visit Music City
Visit Music City

It’s almost like Nashville has spent the past decade getting ready to become a premier Fourth of July destination for the entire country, and it’s definitely been working because last year’s fireworks extravaganza drew an estimated 350,000 fans of the big bang to downtown. Of course, the pyrotechnics are best viewed from altitude above the crowds, and just about every new club and hotel constructed in the last 10 years has installed rooftops for prime sightlines. There’s so much to do in Nashville, so check out just some of the best ways in and around Music City to celebrate Independence Day.

Take in the rockets’ red glare at “Let Freedom Sing”

This is the big one in Nashville. We’re talking 40,000 pounds of explosives over the course of the 30+ minute fireworks shows, plus a thousand floating flares in the Cumberland River, all musically synchronized with patriotic tunes courtesy of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. It will actually be two days and nights of musical entertainment, with bands and DJs playing Sunday and Monday in Hall of Fame Park before the big show kicks off on the Riverfront Stage on Independence Night. Headliners include the aforementioned NSO plus Cassadee Pope, Gramps Morgan and Old Dominion. Get there early, and wear your fireproof hat and comfortable shoes.

Get up on a rooftop

If you want to avoid the crush at street level, multiple venues downtown are hosting rooftop parties for viewing the big show. At Ole Red, they’ll be passing out signature cocktails and serving scratch-made dishes inspired by the bar’s patron saint, Blake Shelton. Rare Bird atop the Noelle Hotel is hosting a “Free as a Bird” extravaganza, a $400 ticketed event with premium viewing, open bar, and upscale appetizers, plus food stations and live entertainment.

Zeppelin offers a different perspective from the north side of downtown, and their “Red, White and Booze” event will turn the rooftop into a huge dance party to celebrate kicking the Brits to the curb in 1776. Other downtown and downtown adjacent hotels opening their rooftops for viewing include Lou/Na’s at the Grand Hyatt, a barbecue cookout and pool access on top of Bobby, cabana rentals at the Westin’s L27 lounge and pool deck, private indoor and outdoor tables at the Moxy, ros√© and live music at the Virgin’s pool club and premium cocktails from LA Jackson atop the Thompson Hotel in the Gulch.

Pinewood Nashville
Pinewood Nashville
Pinewood Nashville

Party at ground level, but still out of the throng

Pinewood Social doesn’t have a tall rooftop or anything, but they are on a hill with a sweeping unobstructed view of the river. They’re throwing a day-long family-friendly party by their backyard dipping pools with all-you-can-eat barbecue, classic movies on the big screen, a Kids’ Activity Zone, two drink tickets, and free parking. Even better, kids under 12 get in for free.

Speaking of families, the view from the front lawn of the Adventure Science Center was once one of the best-kept July 4 secrets in town where you could just bring a lawn chair or throw down a blanket and picnic basket for a chill viewing atmosphere. Well, it was a secret until the museum decided to monetize it as a “Red, White and Boom” event. But you get more than just free parking and a great view for your price of admission. They’ll be conducting science demonstrations throughout the evening, offering admission to the science centre, music, and laser shows in the planetarium and lawn games. Some of your favourite food trucks will be on hand to provide the eats.

Take the Freedom Train to the big show

If you want to avoid the buzz kills of traffic, parking or super-surged rideshare pricing, consider taking the WeGo Star commuter train to the festivities. For just a $15 round-trip ticket, you can catch the train at stations from Lebanon to Donelson between 4:00 and 4:45 and be deposited right in the middle of the action at the Riverfront Station. The return trip leaves one hour after the fireworks show is over and will stop at each station on the route.

Von Elrod's Beer Hall & Kitchen
Von Elrod’s Beer Hall & Kitchen
Von Elrod’s Beer Hall & Kitchen

Brunch hard at Von Elrod’s

The popular Germantown sausage and beer emporium Von Elrod’s is rolling out a special Monday edition of their Bluegrass Brunch on July 4. From 10 am until 4 pm they’ll be serving brunchy favourites like hand-cranked breakfast sausage, biscuits and gravy, fried chicken and biscuits and their legendary B.A.M.s (big-ass mimosas) in huge steins. Dig on the groove of live bluegrass while you prep for the evening’s festivities.

Burn off some calories in advance at the Music City July 4th 5K

We don’t know where to find crazier people than runners who want to race on July 4, a day that is traditionally hotter than the hinges of hell in Nashville, but they’re out there. If you want to be a part of the crazy train, sign up for the 3.2-mile fun run that loops from E.S. Rose Park in the Edgehill neighbourhood down to SoBro and back through the Gulch and Music Row. At least the last stretch is downhill.

Celebrate fiery fowl at the Music City Hot Chicken Festival

We take that last comment back. We did find somebody wackier than Fourth of July runners: people who gather to eat Nashville hot chicken in the middle of the day on the Fourth. But hot chicken lovers are a devoted lot, plus they’re used to sweating while eating the piquant poultry that Nashville made famous. The event is free, and some of the best hot chicken vendors in town will be handing out complimentary samples in addition to selling larger plates of their infernally hot chicken and cold beer from Yazoo at East Park.

Nashville Shores
Nashville Shores
Nashville Shores

Get wet n’ wild at Nashville Shores

The lakeside water park at Nashville Shores is celebrating Independence Day a little early on July 3 from 10 am until 8 pm. Your admission grants you a full day of fun on the water slides, rope swings, inflatables, pools and even a four-story water treehouse. Then you can stick around for a fireworks show over the waters of Percy Priest Reservoir starting at 8:45 pm.

Get way out of town to celebrate early

For a celebration that might be a little cooler at altitude, head east toward the Smoky Mountains to the popular East Tennessee tourist destinations of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Gatlinburg claims the title of the “First July Fourth Parade in the Nation” because their big parade kicks off at the stroke of midnight on the Fourth. Since they’re in the Eastern Time Zone, it’s probably a legit brag. The floats travelling along the main drag celebrate America and recognize military heroes, and the big fireworks display over the Space Needle kicks off almost a day later at 11 pm on July 4. Pigeon Forge’s celebration is a little more conventional, with live music from the CCR-inspired Swamp River Revival taking the main stage in Patriot Park at 6:45 followed by basso profundo country music star Josh Turner and a pyro extravaganza at the oddly specific time of 9:50.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of Nashville, where he has lived his entire life — except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene, Nashville Lifestyles, Local Palate, Edible, FoodRepublic.com, and Conde Nast Traveler. He likes beer, bourbon, and bacon but isn’t fanatical about any of them.

Nashville

How to Get into Nashville’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Nashville's speakeasies have impeccable cocktails and even better vibes.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

It’s not like it’s difficult to find a spot for a proper cocktail in Nashville, except when it’s intentionally hard. Some of Nashville’s finest bars are a little more hidden away, to create a sense of exclusivity and limit crowds so that talented bartenders can offer the sort of individualized attention that their inventive drinks deserve. Besides, it’s nice to have a conversation at a bar where you don’t have to yell to be heard. Here are some of our favourite places to chill.

The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club

The Fox Bar and Cocktail Club

South InglewoodThe talented mixologists at The Fox are a big part of the attraction, and some of their novel takes on classic cocktails have actually won national awards in recipe contests. But even if all you want is a proper gin and tonic, you’ll be delighted by the cozy library vibe of the East Nashville emporium. The bar staff insists on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, so the drink menu changes frequently. Don’t worry if your favourite rolls off, because there’s sure to be something new to delight you.

Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins

Attaboy

East NashvilleAn outpost of the James Beard Award-nominated NYC cocktail bar, Nashville’s version of Attaboy is no slouch either. Well, the building is kindy slouchy, a cinderblock edifice hidden away in an alley where guests are invited to “knock gently” to gain entry. If the bar is full, you’ll have to wait outside, but once you gain entrance, the fun really begins. Bartenders interview patrons about their drink preferences and then compose cocktails on the fly to fulfil their wildest dreams. Sit at the bar or settle into a blue velvet booth to enjoy a completely crafty cocktail or two.

Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar

Hidden Bar

DowntownThis subterranean lair in the Noelle hotel downtown is intentionally difficult to find. The entrance is through a door you’d probably never pass through unless you work for the hotel cleaning staff, but it’s a passage to something wonderful. Hidden Bar often stages thematic pop-ups that extend to both the riotous decor and the drink list, and large-format drinks are designed for sharing, so bring a few friends.

Skull's Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room

Skull’s Rainbow Room

Printer’s AlleySkull’s has been a Printers Alley institution since the middle of the last century, except for the few years it was closed when notorious club owner David “Skull” Schulman was murdered, reportedly by someone that knew he always kept the evening’s cash receipts in the top pocket of his trademark overalls. Since reopening, the showroom has revived the old-school vibe with nightly jazz and burlesque shows, classic cocktails served from an elaborate wooden bar and a restaurant that features an excellent chophouse menu. It’s easy to forget the time during an evening at Skulls. Heck, it’s easy to forget what decade it is.

Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign

Bar Sovereign

SoBroTucked away in a nondescript strip mall among the towering hotel buildings of SoBro, Bar Sovereign’s entrance is marked only by a small golden plaque that is fortunately close to eye level. Inside is a wonderland of bold artwork covering the walls, a sculpture created from a disassembled piano behind the bar and a menu of interesting and affordable cocktails that is rare to find amongst the nearby tourist destinations. The atmosphere gets a little wilder late at night when DJs spin tunes for the party people and industry folks looking to blow off a little steam at the end of a shift.

Bay 6
Bay 6
Bay 6

Bay 6

East NashvilleThis microbar has a double punny name. First of all, it is, indeed, crammed into the sixth bay of what used to be a self-service car wash before the building was converted into an elevated food and drink court with international carryout restaurants occupying the other quintet of stalls. Secondly, the menu is intentionally basic, with simple, well-made cocktails designed to be served quickly so that guests can enjoy them in one of the very few seats in Bay 6 or carry them out to the lively outdoor patio where patrons enjoy their food from one of the options at The Wash.

Green Hour
Green Hour
Green Hour

Green Hour

GermantownBy day, Tempered Fine Chocolates occupies this space, but on Thursday through Saturday evenings, they unpack the bottles, build a bar and flick on the green light that lets tipplers know that Green Hour is now in session. Dedicated to the exotic “Green Fairy,” absinthe, the bar offers pours of more than a dozen versions of the anise-flavoured spirit. Enjoy a classic absinthe service with drops of water to open up the aromas and flavours or order a flight of three for comparison. The bartenders also employ absinthe in an array of exotic cocktails, but if you don’t like licorice, you might want to pass.

Never Never
Never Never
Never Never

Never Never

Wedgewood-HoustonIt’s not like they’re trying to hide Never Never. It’s just that the former welding shop is so non-descript and hidden away next to the railroad tracks, you might need someone to show you the way to the front door. It’s worth the hunt, though, because the cocktails are both clever and cheap. Enjoy small bites, beer, wine and cocktails at the amiable dimly-lit bar or discover the patio oasis out back that feels like being a guest at a friend’s house party.

Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue

Minerva Ave

North NashvilleDress to impress at this Tennessee State University neighbourhood cocktail lounge. A tall fence surrounds the compound to provide privacy, but once you knock for admission, you’ll encounter an expansive outdoor deck with cabanas, fire pits and an outdoor bar. Inside, it’s a little more vibey with plush booths, dramatic lighting accents as well as nostalgic music and artwork. Smokers can enjoy hookah service and cigars, and bottle service is available for high rollers.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

One More Cocktail Club

DowntownTucked away in the hallway outside of Level 3 South at the Assembly Food Hall, One More Cocktail Club feels like worlds away from the tourist throngs below. There’s only room for a couple of dozen guests in the chic lounge, so everyone is treated like a VIP. The menu is a mix of new craft cocktails and classics, with special attention paid to creating beautiful works of art including appropriate garnishes. A tight menu of red, white and bubbly wines is also available for those in the know.

Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas

Pushing Daisies

DowntownIf you park on the top deck of the garage below the Fifth + Broad retail/dining/entertainment complex across from the Bridgestone Arena, you’ll actually have to walk down to get to Pushing Daisies, home of “underground margaritas.” Named after the class of cocktails that feature citrus, sweet and sour, this hot new lounge concentrates on the tequila version of the whiskey sour or daiquiri. Margaritas are crafted using luxury ingredients and quaffed by a hip crowd of guests enjoying pumping music and dramatic lighting. It’s definitely a scene to be seen.

The Late Great
The Late Great
The Late Great

The Late Great

Demonbreun/Music RowFor the first year this cocktail lounge at the Virgin Nashville was open, it wasn’t really open. Instead, it was a private membership club with an entrance hidden away even from hotel guests. Now, we civilians can make reservations for a three-cocktail “experience” in this shrine to music and creativity, decorated like the writers’ lounge outside the legendary recording studios on nearby Music Row. Private memberships are still available if you’re so inclined and still flush with those songwriter royalty checks.

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Sarah Carter is a writer and country music lover living in Lebanon, Tennessee. Follow her (mostly southern) regional exploits and stories on Instagram.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee.

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