Main Street Maury

Ms. Cheap’s 2023 guide for 23 FREE things to do this summer in Middle Tennessee

Big Band Dances will be held in Centennial Park on Saturday nights from June 3-Aug. 26. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Summer is finally here…and here are my picks of 23 free (and fun) things to do with families, friends and even by yourself — concerts, hikes, festivals, puppet shows, history offerings, outdoor movies, culture and more.

I do love summer and of course, all of my picks for summer fun are free!

  • Big Band Dances: Metro Parks Music and Creative Parks Nashville, with the support of Centennial Park, presents the 2023 Big Band Dance Series, where all ages are invited to dance and listen to over a dozen local swing and jazz Big Bands on Saturday nights between June 3-Aug. 26 in the Centennial Park Event Shelter.

The lineup includes: June 3, Rory Partin All-Star Band; June 10, Merchants of Cool; June 17, South Jackson St. Band; July 8, Radio Daze; July 15, J. Bradley Big Band; July 22, Debbie Bailes and Her Band; July 29, The Lynn Beal Big Band; Aug. 5, Jazz Alliance; Aug. 12, Music City Big Band; Aug. 19, Music City Swing; and Aug. 26, The Moonlighters.

Free dance lessons will be provided by Dynamic Ballroom and Performing Arts at 6:30 p.m. Dance styles covered include rhumba, cha-cha, swing, waltz, foxtrot, and two-step. The bands start at 7 p.m. and there will be water and food trucks on site. Follow on Facebook @metroparksmusic.

  • The Red Caboose Concert Series takes place from 7-8 p.m. at Red Caboose Park, 684 Colice Jeanne Rd. in Bellevue with live music and family friendly entertainment. Here is the lineup: June 2, Blue Masala Band; June 9, San Rafael Band; June 16, Les Kerr and his Bayou Band; June 23, Bryan Cumming Swing Quarter. Follow on Facebook MetroParks Music or call (615) 862-8440.
  • The Nashville Symphony’s Community Concerts return to regional parks June 7-11. This popular summer tradition of free outdoor concerts features Nashville Symphony Associate Conductor Nathan Aspinall conducting a program of American classics including Aaron Copland’s “Hoe Down,” Samuel Ward’s “America the Beautiful” and Bob Lowden’s “Armed Forces Salute,” John Williams’ “Flight to Neverland” from the score of the movie “Hook,” “Kum Ba Yah” from Adolphus Hailstork’s Three Spirituals for Orchestra.

Dates and locations are June 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Historic Rock Castle, 139 Rockcastle Lane in Hendersonville; June 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Musicians Corner in Centennial Park, 2500 West End Ave. Nashville; June 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Key Park Pavilion at 208 Church St. in Lafayette; June 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Cumberland University Memorial Lawn at 1 Cumberland Square, in Lebanon; and June 11 at 4 p.m. at Smith Springs Community Center at 2801 Smith Springs Rd., in Nashville.


  • National Trails Day is always the first Saturday in June (June 3 this year), and all 56 of our Tennessee state parks will offer guided hikes or other nature or history programs in celebration of the national day. The hikes, which range from easy, family-friendly walks to strenuous, challenging hikes are free, but most require a reservation. For information go to
  • The City of Brentwood’s 34th Summer Concert Series with music and food trucks at Crockett Park’s Eddy Arnold Amphitheater, is back with two live music concerts, plus a third annual more elaborate “Brentfest” festival, and its annual “Red White and Boom” Fourth of July music and fireworks show.

The concerts include the WannaBeatles (Beatles tribute band) from 6-8 p.m. on June 11 and The Music City Stones (Rolling Stones tribute band) from 6-8 p.m. on June 18. Brentfest, which will feature performances by Cruizin Keys Dueling Pianos and Rubiks Groove, as well as a beer garden, kids zone and more, is set for 5-8 p.m. on June 24.

Brentwood’s “Red White and Boom” is set for 7-10 p.m. on July 4 and will be headlined by The Smoking Section, with fireworks beginning at 9 p.m.

The address is 1500 Volunteer Parkway in Brentwood. Details:

  • Kidsville at the Parthenon is a free, weekly program that combines storytelling, educational activities, arts & crafts, musicians and special guests. Kidsville presents activities at the Parthenon on most Saturdays at 11 a.m. and at Musicians Corner events in Centennial Park. Details:
  • Check out the area’s Nature Centers for fun all-age programs. Metro Nashville Parks has Warner Parks Nature Center, Shelby Bottoms Nature Center, Bells Bend Nature Park and Beaman Nature Center and all have multiple summer programs including hikes, nature walks, creek explorations, bird programs, environmental education events, and other activities. 


Plus Wilderness Station in Murfreesboro ( the Bowie Nature Center in Fairview ( offer interesting programs for all ages.

  • Summer Shakespeare, the outdoor Nashville Shakespeare Festival, is set for Thursdays through Sundays, Aug. 31- Sept. 24, at OneCITY (at 8 City Blvd. off Charlotte Pike) and Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Academy Park (112 Everbright Ave. in Franklin).

This summer the festival will feature Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Patrons bring picnics, blankets and lawn chairs for these shows that usually kick off with a preshow lecture and concert series. The shows are free, but the Shakespeare Festival suggests a $10 donation, and it offers VIP packages as a way to support this local, professional theater, which is now in its 35th season.


  • Musicians Corner is back this summer with free lawn parties in Centennial Park on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons through June. These multi-genre kid- and dog-friendly concerts, where attendees bring chairs or blankets to sit on, feature food trucks, Kidsville activities and lots and lots of music.

Musicians Corner will take place every Friday from 5-9 p.m. and Saturday from noon-6 p.m. through June 17 and a special Thursday performance on June 8 by the Nashville Symphony as part of the Symphony’s summer concert series. Details:

  • “String City: Nashville’s Tradition of Music and Puppetry,” which is a sophisticated puppet program that chronicles the history of country music with an emphasis on Nashville, was created and is presented by the Nashville Public Library’s Wishing Chair Productions in collaboration with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

“String City” is an original show featuring more than 90 puppets and is designed for music lovers of all ages — definitely not just a children’s show. String City performances will take place in the Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m., June 26-July 1. No reservations required.


  • Hands On Nashville pairs volunteers of all ages with all kinds of charitable projects in the community — everything from cleanups to helping with senior programs, youth programs, disaster relief work, thrift store merchandising, food bank sorting, assisting in a community garden and more. Details: 615-298-1108 or
  • The Frist Art Museum at 919 Broadway is always free for anyone 18 years old or younger. Adults are $15. The museum and its Martin ArtQuest Gallery are open Thursdays through Mondays,  offering changing exhibits and hands-on opportunities to create art. Of particular interest is the  weekend-long Frist Arts Fest on June 3–4, spotlighting the exhibitions: Storied Strings: The Guitar in American ArtGuitar Town: Picturing Performance TodayRon Jude: 12 Hz, and Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature.

On both days, there will be a full lineup of live music performances in the auditorium and courtyard; exhibition tours; art-making activities in the Martin ArtQuest Gallery and in the studios with Hatch Show PrintShelby Bottoms Nature Center, and Turnip Green Creative Reuse; food trucks; games; and a photobooth. And on Sunday, there will be an instrument petting zoo.

Details:  or (615) 244-3340

  • The Tennessee State Museum at 1000 Rosa L. Parks Blvd., offers a unique look at Tennessee history, taking visitors from prehistory to modern-day times. The museum, which offers programs like lunch and learns and lectures to story times and gallery tours, has a permanent collection, temporary exhibits and a children’s gallery.

Museum admission and parking are free. There are special activities for the 227th Statehood Day on June 1 – family fun, a lecture, tours, and a scavenger hunt. The museum, which is next to the Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, is closed on Mondays. Details: or 615-741-2692

  • The Tennessee Agricultural Museum’s Farm Fun Day will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 15. The “fun day” includes live music, farm animals, local vendors, crafts and demonstrations. There will also be performances at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m. of “Puss in Boots” by the Nashville Public Library’s Puppet Truck. The museum is at the Ellington Agricultural Center at 404 Hogan Rd. Details:
  • Sign your children up for free summer bowling at The national program, which features many Midstate alleys, provides vouchers via email for two free bowling games every day all summer for kids 18 and under. More than 1,500 bowling centers around the globe offer this program, which has treated more than 35 million children to free bowling since 2007.

In addition, the Franklin Family Entertainment Center has a free deal for kids through its Incredabowl program. Youth who sign up get a free game of bowling every day through Aug. 31. Not valid after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The center is at 1200 Lakeview Dr. in Franklin. Details:

  • Several Middle Tennessee wineries host free concerts through the summer, where patrons bring picnics and lawn chairs to enjoy a night of outdoor music. No reservations are needed. The wineries do not allow outside alcoholic beverages.

Arrington Vineyards at 6211 Patton Rd. in Arrington has “Music in the Vines” outdoor jazz and bluegrass concerts 3-7 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday as well as Food Truck Fridays, also with live music, starting at 4:30 p.m. through October. Details:

Beachaven Winery at 1100 Dunlop Lane in Clarksville offers free live music and food trucks every weekend between 4-7 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2-5 p.m. on Sundays. The winery also has a popular “Jazz on the Lawn” series that runs on the last Saturday of the month May through October, but it now charges $5 admission for adults. 2023 Jazz on the Lawn summer dates include June 24, July 29, and Aug. 26. The bands play from 3-5 p.m. and 6:30-9:30 p.m. Details:

Sumner Crest Winery, 5306 Old Highway 52 in Portland, has 6-9 p.m. Music on the Lawn concerts. Dates include June 3, Four on the Floor, and June 17, Jeff Quillen. Details: or 615-325-4086

  • The Barnard Seyfert Astronomical Society hosts public star parties where all ages can explore the night sky and learn astronomy from amateur and professional astronomers who bring telescopes to share with newbies.

Summer star party dates include: 9-11 p.m. June 24, at Bowie Nature Park in Fairview; 9-11 p.m. at Bowie Nature Park; and 8:30-10:30 p.m. Aug. 19 p.m. at Warner Park Model Airplane Field. Details:

  • Outdoor movies. The 29th annual Movies in the Park features outdoor movies on Thursday nights in June at Elmington Park, 3531 West End Ave. Food trucks, games and other fun start at 5 p.m., and movies start at sundown. The lineup is June 1, “Minions: The Rise of Gru”; June 8, “Mean Girls”; June 15, “Top Gun: Maverick”; and June 22, “Lightyear.” Details: 

Murfreesboro’s annual Movies Under the Stars, which has been taking place every summer since 1947, offers outdoor movie fun at various Murfreesboro locations on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through July. Movie selections include “Vivo”, “Jumanji”, “Princess and the Frog”, “SuperPets”, “Top Gun”, “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile”, “Puss in Boots” and “Men in Black.” Details:

  • The “Let Freedom Sing! Music City July 4th” music and fireworks festival is in downtown Nashville and will include headliner Brad Paisley. This event will feature a Family Fun Zone and one of the largest fireworks shows in the country, with the pyrotechnics synchronized to a live performance by the GRAMMY-winning Nashville Symphony. The event has regularly drawn more than 200,000 and a record-breaking 350,000 in 2021. Details:
  • Check out local farmers’ markets. The outdoor portion of the downtown Farmers Market at 900 Rosa L. Parks Blvd. next to Bicentennial Mall State Park, is open 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. There are limited vendors during the week, but weekends are the time when the market is at its peak. The market hosts a number of events, including Peach Jam on June 17 and Tomat-O-Rama on July 15. Details:

Other markets include 12 South Farmer’s Market in Sevier Park, which is open Tuesday afternoons and often features live music as well as produce;  Richland Park Farmers Market in Richland Park on Charlotte Pike on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon; East Nashville Farmer’s Market at 511 Woodland St. from 3:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays; the St. George’s Farmers Market at 4715 Harding Pike from 3:30-6 p.m. on Thursdays; and Murfreesboro’s Saturday Market from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays through October around the Rutherford County Courthouse.

  • The 17th annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 4 at East Park, 700 Woodland St. in East Nashville. The festival features a firetruck parade and lots of hot chicken samples, as well as live music, kids activities, Yazoo beer and a cooking competition. Proceeds benefit Friends of Shelby Park and Bottoms. Details:
  • The 20th annual Tomato Art Festival is set for Aug. 11-12 in the Five Points area of East Nashville  with all things tomato — parade, art, food and other fun.  The art show features different mediums of art including paintings, sculptures, textiles, and more – all of which are for sale.  All art must include a tomato, or other fruits or vegetables. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Friday and 9-7 p.m. on Saturday. Details:
  • The 2023 CMA Festival, which will take place June 8-11, is known for its big-name ticketed nighttime performances, but the fest also offers free daytime activities and live music on five stages around downtown Nashville through the weekend. The free concerts and activities take place each day at Riverfront Park, behind Ascend Amphitheater, at Bridgestone Plaza, and at Walk of Fame Park. Details:

Hope this list helps you enjoy your summer.

Mary Hance, who has four decades of journalism experience in the Nashville area, writes a weekly Ms. Cheap column. She also appears on Thursdays on Talk of the Town on NewsChannel5. Reach her at and follow her on Facebook as

Summer Shakespeare will feature ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ in August, September and October in Nashville and Franklin.