Music City is an Instagram moment waiting to happen — with Broadway’s neon lights, pulsing live music and a boom in splashy murals, there’s so much to see, experience and capture. (Instagram has a dedicated Nashville filter for a reason.)
An authentic travel experience is all in the details — from the rhinestone-clad boots onstage at the Grand Ole Opry to the intricate handiwork of the public-art installations — so keep an eye out for the little things that add to Nashville’s character.
Here are a few of our favorite places to take advantage of the city’s myriad sights and get an Insta-worthy shot while you’re at it.
The “I Believe in Nashville” Mural
Painted by local artist Adrien Saporiti, this mural has appeared on Instagram more than one million times and been captured by people from all seven continents. The mural spawned a line of T-shirts and two additional locations; follow our lead and visit the Marathon Village installation on a weekday to avoid dodging the crowds that populate 12South (the original mural’s location) on the weekends.
Instagram tip: Shoot straight on from across the street to capture the full breadth of this impressive mural. Download the free app A Color Story to help the colors in your image really pop.
Ghost Ballet on the Cumberland River
This 100-foot-high, 100-foot-wide red sculpture bears a striking resemblance to the Wabash Cannonball at Nashville’s beloved Opryland USA theme park, which shut down in 1997, and can be seen from the bustling riverfront of downtown near Nissan Stadium where the NFL team the Tennessee Titans play.
Like the name suggests, Ghost Ballet appears to move around as you change locations. Cross the Pedestrian Bridge to the eastern side of the Cumberland River to get up close to the sculpture and shoot it with the riverfront and Broadway as the backdrop.
Instagram tip: Place the focus on Ghost Ballet and blur out the background for an “only in Nashville” shot you’ll want to frame when you get home.
The Goo Goo Shop
Nashville’s own high-end chocolate brand has been satisfying many a sweet tooth for more than a century and now has its own drool-worthy brick-and-mortar location just off of Broadway that serves a bevy of desserts and freshly made Premium Goo Goos in rotating specialty flavors, like the PB&P (peanut butter, caramel and pretzels).
It also boasts the #GreatWallofGooGoo, constructed from nearly 2,000 Goo Goos (yes, actual Goo Goos!) and 8,000 straws. Pop in, try a few samples and put your food photography skills to the test.
For the ultimate shot, book a chocolate class where you’ll learn how make your own Premium Goo Goo, step by step, as well as a secret recipe from the Dessert Bar.
Instagram tip: If you’re shooting with an iPhone Plus model or an X, enable that dreamy portrait mode to give your Goo Goo all the depth (of field) it deserves.
Live Music on Broadway
You could throw a stone and hit a dozen live performers taking the stage at any of Nashville’s many venues, clubs and honky tonks. A few of our favorites include the historic Ryman Auditorium, where you’ll want to photograph that natural light filtering in through the stained glass windows in late afternoon; Station Inn, where the free Sunday night Bluegrass Jam has a certain kind of nostalgia to it; and the many live music venues of Broadway (aka “Honky Tonk Row”) like the Stage and Robert’s Western World.
Instagram tip: Watching a show live often means doing so in a dim setting. Get as close as possible to your subject to maximize light (and eliminate blur from a slow shutter speed) and reduce the need to zoom, which, if using a camera phone, will result in a loss of image quality. Always shoot in the camera app, as opposed to shooting in Instagram, for the best quality footage possible.
The Ladies’ Bathroom at Sinema
From the stunning staircase that spirals up to the bar to the art deco touches to the straight-on swank of Sinema, this theater turned restaurant in Melrose is a ‘Grammer’s dream. If you identify as female, steal away to the ladies’ room where a mirror imprinted with #SinemaSelfie and flanked by flattering dressing room lights encourages you to snap away.
Instagram tip: Due to the dark nature of this restaurant, you’ll want to light meter by tapping on your phone screen until it’s as bright as possible. Then use the Brightness and Shadows tools in Snapseed to touch up your image in post-processing.
The Circle at the Grand Ole Opry
The longest-running live broadcast of all time, the Grand Ole Opry is a bucket list item for travelers coming to Nashville, whether young or old.
Several days a week all year long a smattering of talented performers — both newcomers like Lauren Alaina and RaeLynn and industry veterans such as Vince Gill and Trisha Yearwood — take to the historic stage in a variety-show-style format that features between six and eight acts on any given night.
In the middle of the stage, a six-foot-wide circle houses a mic bearing the Opry’s logo and call number (WSM); it was removed from the Ryman floor when the Opry relocated to its now permanent home in 1974.
Take a post-show tour so you can enter the circle yourself (as opposed to photographing it from the audience) or opt for the Behind the Curtain VIP Tour, which will allow you to be standing on the stage when the curtain rises.
Instagram tip: Take the highlights all the way down in Instagram or the editing app of your choice to make the subject the central focus of the shot and create an even more dramatic, awe-inspiring, Insta-worthy moment.
Cheekwood Botanical Garden
One of the most brightly colored spots in Nashville, Cheekwood Botanical Garden spans a whopping 55 acres. Throughout spring months, Cheekwood is even more colorful than usual thanks to the arrival of 150,000 new blooms spilling out from every garden bed.
Any time of year is an excellent time for popping over to Cheekwood; it always has a special installation or two on display, as well as model trains in a garden-scale exhibition and permanent art in the indoor museum.
The middle of the day when the sun is high is usually the worst time for photographing the outdoors unless there is significant cloud coverage. Visit the gardens just as Cheekwood is opening for the day at 9 a.m. or swing by in the hour before it closes for the best natural lighting. Find a bed of flowers that is either all in the sun or completely shaded, get as close as possible, and snap that macro shot.
Instagram tip: To place an even sharper focus on a part of a flower, use Instagram’s handy tilt-shift function.