It’s the mecca of country music and the birth right trip of any country fan. CMA Music Festival, a four-day extravaganza in Nashville, Tenn., draws in country music enthusiasts from across the country and around the world. The face value of a ticket into the nightly shows on June 11 – 14 ranges from about $175 to upwards of $400. But despite the high prices, fans can still take part in country music’s biggest week on a budget.
The lineup for the sold-out nightly concerts at LP Field was just announced this morning. But if you missed out on snatching a ticket before they sold out, or you just want to find some affordable fun – look no further! During CMA week, festivalgoers can find a plethora of free and cheap events in Nashville. From music, to food, to dancing and shopping, fans can find it all in downtown Nashville during the Fest.
Miss out on tickets for the LP Field shows? Bummer. But no worries – you can find free live music every time you turn around (no exaggeration). CMA Fest’s Chevrolet Riverfront and Bud Light Plaza stages are some of the fans’ favorite spots to catch a show from their favorite artists or discover a new act. You can find a free show on nearly every block of downtown Nashville during CMA week.
In just four hours of sitting at the Chevy Riverfront stage in 2013, I saw back-to-back performances from Hunter Hayes, Brett Eldredge, Craig Campbell and Jo Dee Messina – all without moving a muscle or spending a dime (okay, I did move some muscles while I was dancing).
If you’re not into the steep prices of upscale resorts and swanky downtown hotels, you can get the real country treatment and lodge at one of the local campgrounds. You can set up camp at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park during CMA week for $53-$90 per night, depending on whether you are staying in a tent or RV. It’s a clean, affordable and family-friendly alternative to staying in a hotel, and you can even take a dip in the pool, do laundry or participate in one of the park’s events. Just across the street from the Gaylord Opryland Resort, you can take a shuttle into downtown Nashville every day and avoid the hassle of traffic and parking.
The CMT Awards
If you think award shows are just for celebrities, think again! You can attend the annual CMT Music Awards for free as a seat filler. The award show brings all of the biggest names in country music under the roof of the Bridgestone Arena for one evening. It’s a night packed with performances, award speeches and lasting memories. Seat fillers can sit in a variety of places in the arena, from the mosh pit, to the nosebleeds or even right next to their favorite stars. Those interested in being a seat filler for the show pick up wristbands on a first come first served basis outside of Bridgestone during CMA week. Check out last year’s wristband giveaway schedule and start making plans to be a seat filler for the 2015 awards this year!
Broadway in downtown Nashville is an attraction that tourists travel to see any time of the year. But Broadway really comes alive during the Fest. The Country Music Association transforms the street into a continuous block party with an attraction called The Buckle. With the legendary honky tonks of downtown Nashville as the backdrop, CMA sets up booths with free food samples, games, karaoke and giveaway contests. It’s a family friendly scene for all ages, and it won’t break the bank.
Robert’s Western World
There are two things that Nashville does really well: live music and food – and Broadway brings these two specialties together. If you’re in the mood for a cheap and filling meal with the ambiance of a traditional honky tonk, then Robert’s Western World in the heart of downtown Nashville is the place for you. Robert’s claim to fame is its $5 Pabst Blue Ribbon and fried bologna sandwich special. So for $5 you can treat yourself to a beer, a bologna sandwich and some live music. Try beating that price when you go to buy dinner at LP Field (spoiler alert: you can’t)! The atmosphere at Robert’s, and all the other honky tonks on Broadway, makes for the perfect place to try out your two-step and break in your boots.
A little window-shopping never hurt anyone, right? Be prepared to shop ‘til you drop when you come to Nashville. If you’re on a budget but want to take home a souvenir, try the Opry Mills mall. Next-door neighbor to the infamous Gaylord Opryland Resort and the Grand Ole Opry, this mall has high-end outlets – so you can dress like your favorite country stars without breaking the bank. You can find discounts at the Michael Kors, Fossil, Vera Bradley, Ann Taylor and Converse outlets, just to name a few. Taking a shopping break in the air-conditioned shopping center is also a great way to beat the Nashville heat.