After eight years attending, I have made a list of the best CMA Fest hacks to prepare you for the week’s festivities. Whether you will be attending County Music Association (CMA) Music Festival for the first time this year or you are a pro, I hope that these tips will help you get the most out of your Nashville, Tennessee, trip.
Download the CMA Fest App
The first step to planning your trip to the CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee, is downloading the official CMA Fest app. This handy resource has everything from a schedule of events to directions and artist bios.
Plus, you can create your own custom itinerary so that you don’t miss any of your favorite artists at their scheduled performances.
Know Where to Sit at Riverfront Park
People like to walk into Riverfront Park and watch from there, as if there is nowhere else to go. Keep walking all the way to the end (sigh to the left) and go down the last staircase.
Typically, you will be able to find a spot here, and it is close to the exit.
Buy a Parking Pass
One way to make sure you won’t miss a beat is by purchasing one of the exclusive CMA Fest parking passes offered. These passes are good for all four days of the festival and allow access to preferred parking lots near Nissan Stadium and Riverfront Park.
They also come with exclusive discounts on food and beverages purchased within those areas. We always bought ours through Ticketmaster.
Carry a Refillable Water Bottle
Don’t forget to bring along a refillable water bottle. It’s important that you stay hydrated while taking in all the sights, sounds, and activities at CMA Fest. It will be scorching hot, rest assured.
There are several water filling stations located throughout Nissan Stadium and Riverfront Park so that visitors can easily stay hydrated without having to purchase bottled water each day, which is pricey.
Please note: Your bottle must be empty upon entertaining the gates.
Park at Music City Center of the Day
For a fee of $25, it is cheaper to pay at the Music City Center during the day, than most other downtown Nashville parking lots. It’s also right in the middle of the action. It is easy in, easy out, and you can run back to your car should you need something.
Use Fan Fair X as Home Base
Fan Fare X (or FFX) provides its ticket holders with access to some of the most exclusive experiences in town – think meet & greets with top country stars, as well as backstage tours at Nissan Stadium during CMA Fest weekend! And don’t forget…it’s air conditioned!
It’s a great way for fans looking for an unforgettable experience to get up close and personal with their favorite performers.
Pro Tip: Need to charge your devices? There are plenty of outlets at FFX.
Bring A Blanket To Sit On At The Riverfront
Bring a blanket that can fold into a bag – like those beach towels with handles – and stake out your spot at the Riverfront so you don’t miss any of the acts. It will be miserably hot, and the grass is itchy, so the blanket can make your day much more comfortable. It also allows you to claim your spot.
A beach towel will also work.
Follow Along on Social Media
Following the Country Music Association on social channels is the best way to keep up with what is going for your four-day music fest weekend. Plus, they make special announcements and have lots of giveaways.
Create a Packing List
Be prepared by creating a packing list before heading out on your road trip or flight down south. Some items we suggest bringing include sunscreen, comfortable walking shoes, rain gear (just in case!), snacks (because there’s nothing worse than being hangry), and cash or debit/credit cards.
Also, remember any tickets or credentials needed for entry into concerts or special events during CMA Fest weekend.
Our Best of the CMA Fest Hacks
Our favorite CMA Fest Hack is to arrive in Nashville a day or two early, because the festival unofficially kicks off on Wednesday with the CMT Awards. There is usually a live performance or two on Broadway, and the energy in Nashville gets you really excited for the days ahead.
It’s also a great time for celebrity spotting, meeting your favorite county music acts or singers, and getting autographs.
Enjoy all this incredible music waiting for ya’ in Nashville! We’ve been blessed over the eight years of attending to get into some VIP concerts and special events.
Wear Tennis Shoes (and Bring Flip Flops)
Since Nashville is HOT this time of year and you will be doing a lot of walking, tennis shoes are your best bet. But, bring a pair of flip flops or sandals to change into while sitting at the Amphitheater or Riverfront. It’ll help cool you down.
Stay at An Airbnb
My husband and I stayed at an Airbnb property during CMA Fest for three years and absolutely loved it. It was MUCH cheaper than a hotel room in Nashville and we had a lot more space.
In case you didn’t know, typical hotels raise their rates about four times greater than average room rates. We have paid as much as $3400 for 4 nights around Vanderbilt campus.
Skip the Restaurants on Broadway
Prepare your taste buds for a journey around Music City! During CMA Fest, the restaurants on Broadway will definitely be overcrowded with prices through the roof. To make sure you don’t miss out eating good local food, and save some cash in the process – venture off of Broadway to explore one-of-a kind places like The Grilled Cheeserie Food Truck outside Eats’N’Beats at Music City Center.
Bartaco, in the 12 South Neighborhood (home of iconic “I Believe In Nashville” mural), is one of our favorites.
Or how about McDougal’s famous fried chicken fingers & wings, that certainly won’t break the bank.
The food truck scene around downtown Nashville is pretty good, though a bit expensive. I will, however, splurge for a gourmet shaved ice with condensed milk. Yum!
Use Lyft To Get Around
Don’t worry – take a Lyft Downtown; it is much cheaper than parking and all payments are processed through their app avoiding the cash money hassle.
Expand Your Nashville Nightlife Knowledge
If you’re planning a trip to Nashville for CMA Fest, then make sure and check out the vibrant nightlife this city has to offer. From Winners Bar & Grill to 3 Crow Bar, there’s something just waiting for your discovery.
Kung Fu Saloon is great option if you want an upbeat atmosphere with exciting arcade games; while Rebar offers signature cocktails in its elegant space – perfect for those who crave ambiance combined with quality drinks.
And don’t forget about The Tin Roof on Demonbreun St., where music fans have been gathering since 1992! Whatever kind of nightlife experience you desire, rest assured it can be found here in Music City USA.
Enjoy CMA Music Festival!
I hope that these CMA Fest Hacks help to make your trip more enjoyable. If you have any additional hacks, please share them with us. Enjoy your time at CMA Fest!