With a big-city vibe and small-town character, Nashville offers students an abundance of professional and social opportunities. Located on the Cumberland River and home to 16 colleges and universities, the state capital is a vibrant location to live, learn and grow. Affectionately known as Music City, with stages, clubs and recording studios throughout the area, Nashville is respected for a thriving arts scene that blends traditional perspectives with new ideas and fresh points of view. The Metropolitan Area’s parks, theaters, galleries, sports arenas and trendy neighborhood hot spots blend to create a culturally relevant and exciting community for students to experience and explore.


Hillsboro Village

Hillsboro Village, commonly known as “The Village,” offers a complete line of neighborhood services, retail stores, and entertainment. Specialty stores and restaurants — including Pancake Pantry (a Nashville breakfast tradition) as well as the French Provence Cafe — and the historic Belcourt Theatre make Hillsboro Village the perfect destination for a day’s stroll.

Music Row and West End

If you have any interest in the entertainment industry, this is a place where you should spend at least a day. Every major recording label in the United States has an office here. The nearby West End area is home to Centennial Park, The Parthenon, many dining choices and shopping and entertainment. Also located nearby is the “Elliston Place Rock Block,” a block-long section of Elliston Avenue that is home to some of the hottest music venues in town including  Exit/In and The End. This is not the place to go if you are interested in quiet conversation!

East Nashville

East Nashville offers an urban neighborhood with a small-town feel. Recently almost two-dozen restaurants and bars have opened, many in recycled architecture, exploiting the district’s funky character. An old gas station is now Café Margot, and a 1930s pharmacy houses Eastland Cafe. Bongo Java roasts coffee in a former electronics repair shop, and Family Wash serves pub food in an old laundromat. Turnip Truck—the auto-body-shop-turned-health-food-grocery—offers Provence bread and homemade soup. Crowds gather at the Garage Mahal, the former tow truck shed that’s home to the annual Tomato Art Festival. The side east of the Cumberland River is also home to Nashville’s first dog park.

Green Hills

Green Hills is one of Nashville’s shopping and entertainment destinations. The Mall at Green Hills featuring top-of-the-line department stores, Regal Theater, Whole Foods, the Hill Center shopping village, and the historic Bluebird Café are just some of the attractions you will find in this part of town.


Downtown Nashville is the hub of the entertainment that defines Music City. Within mere city blocks, visitors can experience world-class art at the Frist Center for Visual Arts, enjoy Nashville’s Grammy award-winning symphony at the beautifully designed Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and see world-class concerts and events at the Bridgestone Arena. And the history — the legendary Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Johnny Cash Museum are within walking distance of one another.

Enjoying some of the world’s greatest live music – offered free 24/7/365 – at one of the city’s many honky-tonks that line Lower Broadway, including Tootsie’s, Silver Dollar Saloon, Robert’s Western World, The Stage, and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn.

#1 – Best Music Scene

#3 – Friendliest City

#4 – Best Bar B Que

#6 – Best Vintage Stores and Flea Markets

#7 – Safety and Popularity

#8 – America’s Best Nightlife

#14 – Best City for Jobs

#16 – Best Sports City


Other rankings Nashville can boast about:

  • BusinessWeek.com ranked Nashville as #7 on its list of the “10 Best Places for Artists in America.” This “top 10” list includes Los Angeles (as #1), New York and San Francisco.
  • One of the “50 Best Cities to Live and Play” (National Geographic Adventure)
  • One of the “Top 10 Cities in the Nation for Live Music and Concerts” (Travel + Leisure)
  • No. 12, “List of Cities Where the Most People Would Like to Live” (Harris Poll)
  • One of the “Best Cities for Young Professionals” (Forbes.com)
  • One of the “Top 25 Big Cities Arts Destinations” (AmericanStyle)
  • One of the “Top 25 Places to Live and go to School” (RelocateAmerican.com)
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts

The Frist Center, Downtown

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, located in downtown Nashville, makes art interesting for everyone with exhibits from around the world, an interactive gallery and educational programs. The Parthenon, the center of the art and architecture in Nashville, focuses on a permanent collection of 19th and 20th century American artists and leading traveling exhibits. Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Fine Arts Center features a Japanese garden, regional flower gardens and a remarkable outdoor sculpture trail, as well as a contemporary gallery featuring the best of local, national, and international artists.

Art galleries thrive in Nashville’s creative setting and serve as an accessible venue for Watkins’ faculty and students to exhibit their work. Some of the local favorites include Tinney Contemporary, Coop, Twist Gallery, Cumberland Gallery, Rymer, The Arts Company and Zeitgeist. Every month, downtown Nashville comes to life with more than 1,000 visitors who participate in the First Saturday Art Crawl, an event that features exhibits and receptions at multiple local galleries.

On the performing arts scene, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center houses three stages which are booked nearly every day of the year with Broadway touring companies and local performing arts groups including the Nashville Opera and Nashville Ballet companies. The Schermerhorn Symphony Center opened in 2006 as the state-of-the-art home of the Nashville Symphony. Nashville also features multiple music venues presenting all kinds of sounds, from new artist showcases to top-level tours.