Vanderbilt Commodores: Top Things to Do in Nashville on Gameday

by Dustin Schutte
Photo by Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Outsider has teamed up with On3 to create the most in-depth Gameday Guides.

VU Gameday Guides: Restaurants | Bars | Activities | Parking | Tailgates | Watch Parties

Welcome to Nashville, SEC fans! The city has become synonymous with country music, great food and one heck of a nightlife. No, it’s not the most traditional college town in the country but it’s considered one of the best cities in America … and for good reason. The fact that it’s the home of Vanderbilt is an added bonus for college football fans.

Maybe Nashville doesn’t give off that traditional college-like vibe, but there’s still plenty to see and do across the “Music City.” When you head into town to see the Commodores in action, you might as well plan for an entire weekend. There’s plenty within the city limits to keep you occupied.

We’ve spoken with some of our Nashville-based Outsiders to find some of things you have to see and do if you’re heading into town for a Vanderbilt gameday.

Arriving Early?

Strum Through the Country Music Hall of Fame

  • Location: 222 Rep. John Lewis Way S.
  • Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM (every day)
  • Price: Adults (13+): $27.95/Youth (6-12): $17.95/Children (0-5): FREE
  • Website

Any country music fan heading to Nashville ahead of a Vanderbilt gameday will want to arrive early … or stay late. The Country Music Hall of Fame is at the top of the list of things to do in the “Music City.” Travel back in time when country music first got its start. Learn about some of the biggest names who began their careers in Nashville. See some of the most iconic wardrobes worn on stage during live performances.

The Country Music Hall of Fame has a little something for everyone. With rotating exhibits, you might learn about current country music stars, songs that changed the art form or pivotal moments in country music’s history.

See the Stars at Vanderbilt University Dyer Observatory

  • Location: 1000 Oman Dr., Brentwood
  • Price: Varies based on event (most start at $5)
  • Website

Stars aren’t just associated with Vanderbilt’s logo. The school offers the public an opportunity to do some gazing into the night sky throughout the year — although this will require some pre-planning and maybe a little luck.

Vanderbilt University Dyer Observatory isn’t open to the public daily. Instead, the observatory hosts ticketed events on a regular basis, typically at an affordable $5 price point. The primary events host include Live Telescope Night and Meet the Astronomer, and you’ll need a ticket to gain entry.

This one may not be everyone but it’s certainly a cool experience if you get the opportunity to visit.

Enjoy a Show/Backstage Tour at Grand Ole Opry House

  • Location: 2804 Opryland Dr.
  • Tour Hours: 9:30 AM – 4 PM (daily hours, but check calendar)
  • Price: Adult (12+): $35.70/ Youth (4-11): $32.95
  • Website

One of the reasons Nashville and country music have such a deep connection is because of the Grand Ole Opry. Started in 1925, it’s the longest-running radio broadcast in history. Just walking through the doors, you feel like you’re part of country music’s history.

Maybe it’s not technically a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but taking in a show is an unforgettable experience. If you’re a country-music lover, it’s something that should be on your Nashville bucket list. If you’re unable to see a show, you can also enjoy a backstage tour — offered almost daily (check the calendar). Maybe, just maybe, you can fit in both!

Take a Hike at Radnor Lake State Park

  • Location: 1160 Otter Creek Rd.
  • Hours: 6 AM – 20 minutes after sunset
  • Price: FREE
  • Website

Alright, Outsiders, you didn’t think we’d forget about hiking, did you? Even though Nashville offers plenty to do within city limits, sometimes it’s nice to get out into nature. If that’s what you’re hoping to enjoy while in town to see the Commodores on the field, Radnor Lake State Park is a great spot.

This state park opens early, has 10 hiking trails — ranging from easy to moderate lengths — and covers over 1,300 acres. Hiking at Radnor Lake State Park can be particularly beautiful during football season, when fall foliage is in full force. The change in colors along the lake present a picturesque outdoor adventure.

If you’re on the hunt for multiple hiking locations around Nashville, we’ve got a list of some of the best spots the city has to offer.

Enjoy Live, Local Music Across Broadway

Hey, this is the “Music City” for a reason! Whether you’re a Nashville native or a first-time visitor, checking out the local music scene is something you have to do. You can either meander around Broadway throughout the evening or find a bar, grab a table and stick around for a few years. Either way, enjoying local music in Nashville is something that makes the city so special.

There are plenty of options on Broadway, including Honky Tonk Central, Tin Roof, The Stage on Broadway, Bootleggers Inn and plenty more. Be sure to bring your requests, too, as plenty of local artists are willing to play some of your favorite tunes.

Visit the Top Breweries in Nashville

Like a lot of SEC cities and towns, Nashville has an excellent brewery scene. There are plenty of fantastic options located in and around the city, but here are some of our favorites:

Brewery and LocationHoursGo-To Beer

Jackalope Brewing Co.

429B Houston St.
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Thursday: 2 PM – 10 PM
Friday-Saturday: 12 PM – 10 PM
Sunday: 12 PM – 6 PM
New Heights Brewing Co.

928 Rep. John Lewis Way S.
Monday-Thursday: 2 PM – 9 PM
Friday: 2 PM – 10 PM
Saturday: 12 PM – 10 PM
Sunday: 12 PM – 7 PM
Coffee & Cream
Southern Grist Brewing

754 Douglas Ave. (Multiple locations)
Monday-Thursday: 11 AM – 10 PM
Friday-Saturday: 11 AM – 11 PM
Sunday: 11 AM – 8 PM
Hoppy Timbs
Bearded Iris Brewing

101 Van Buren St. (Multiple locations)
Monday-Thursday: 12 PM – 10 PM
Friday-Saturday: 12 PM – 11 PM
Sunday: 12 PM – 8 PM
Double IPA
Tennessee Brew Works

809 Ewing Ave.
Monday-Saturday: 11 AM – 10 PM
Sunday: 11 AM – 8 PM
Southern Wit 

The Black Abbey Brewing Co.

2952 Sidco Dr.
Sunday-Friday: 2 PM – 8 PM
Saturday: 12 – 8 PM
Grand Design

For A Saturday Gameday Experience in Nashville…

Check out the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

  • Location: 501 Broadway
  • Distance to FirstBank Stadium: 2.1 miles
  • Hours: Tuesday-Saturday: 10 AM – 4 PM/ Sunday-Monday: CLOSED
  • Price: Adults: $3/Children $2
  • Website

If you’re headed to a Vanderbilt gameday, you’re a sports fan anyway. Why not learn about some of the greatest athletes, coaches and other influencers in sports in the state’s history. Located right beside Bridgestone Arena and just two miles from FirstBank Stadium, a ticket only costs $3 for adults and $2 for children. It’s an affordable gameday option for every sports fan.

The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame has inducted over 500 individuals in its history, so there’s plenty to see before the Commodores take the field on Saturday afternoon.

See Your Favorite Players at the Star Walk

  • Location: Jess Neely Dr., Natchez Trace & Vandyville
  • When: Approx. 1 hour before kickoff

For the younger Commodore fans in the family, hitting the Star Walk before the Vandy game is something that will make their day. A tradition that began in the 1990s, the Star Walk allows fans to get a fist-bump or high-five from some of their favorite players as they head into the stadium.

The Star Walk typically starts about an hour before kickoff, but you might want to arrive early. The best spots at the front of the line can fill up quickly!

Stroll Through Vandyville Before Kickoff

  • Location: Corner of Jess Neely Drive and Natchez Trace
  • When: Opens between 7 AM & 10 AM (depends on kickoff) until halftime
  • Website

Looking for a family-friendly experience close to FirstBank Stadium on gameday? Hitting up Vandyville is a great option, especially with little ones who might be coming along. Located just outside the stadium, it’s one of the premier tailgating locations on campus and offers plenty of fun activities.

Along with the traditional tailgate scene, there are interactive games, inflatables and other fun things for younger Commodore fans to enjoy. For others, there’s usually live music happening before the game. It gives fans an opportunity to enjoy tailgating, football and the local music scene all in one area before kickoff.

Watch Vanderbilt’s Honorary Guest “Drop the Anchor”

  • Location: Inside FirstBank Stadium
  • When: Minutes before kickoff

Every school in the SEC has its own unique pre-game tradition. Vanderbilt’s dates back to 2004 and involves a giant anchor, which is planted at midfield before kickoff of every home game the Commodores play.

The university names an honorary guest to “drop the anchor” before kickoff. It excites the crowd and serves as one of those special college football traditions in Nashville.