After attending the festival for eight years, I consider myself a CMA Fest expert. Things change from year to year and learning the ins and outs can be very daunting, especially for first timers. Here is everything you need to know about CMA Fest!
Music City is no stranger to festivals, but the one that stands out among the rest is CMA Fest. This four-day celebration of country music takes over downtown Nashville each year, bringing with it some of the biggest names in country music and thousands of fans from all over the world. Read on to learn all you need to know about this incredible festival.
What is CMA Fest?
CMA Fest is a one-of-a kind, four day extravaganza in Music City. This June experience Nashville like never before as hundreds of your favorite country music stars light up the city with live performances.
From autograph sessions and meet & greets to more than 200K worldwide fans enjoying nonstop entertainment on every corner – CMA Fest has it all for diehard aficionados and newbies too!
When is CMA Fest?
CMA Fest 2023 will be June 8th to 11th.
Fun Fact: The Ultimate Country Music Fan Experience began in 1972. Known as Fan Fair, it gave country music fans a chance to meet some of their favorite performers. The festival is now called CMA Fest and has only grown in size since beginning.
Where is CMA Fest?
The CMA Fest takes place across multiple venues in downtown Nashville, including Nissan Stadium and Ascend Amphitheater. There are also multiple stages set up around the city for free performances from emerging artists, as well as a Riverfront Stage located near Broadway and 1st Avenue North.
Clarksville, TN, is less than an hour away. Consider stopping by this historic and charming town on your CMA travels.
How Do I Get Tickets to CMA Music Fest?
Tickets usually go on sale in January and can be purchased at Ticketmaster or through local outlets such as The Grand Ole Opry House or Bridgestone Arena box offices.
Prices vary depending on the day you choose to attend (Thursday tickets are usually cheaper than Sunday tickets) and if you want general admission or VIP seating (which includes access to an exclusive lounge). For all eight years, we bought the four day pass.
The most common question we get asked is if one needs tickets to CMA Fest. In short, no–you do not need a ticket to attend CMA Fest. All outdoor daytime concerts and activities at CMA Fest are free.
However, you will need a ticket for the “good stuff”, such as the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium, where all of the A-list concerts take place. Tickets also get you into Fan Fare X, but you can also buy separate tickets for this.
One other perk about having the four-day passes is that you are entitled to use the free shuttle service between CMA Fest’s main venues from early morning until the wee hours of the night.
Did you know that a portion of the proceeds from CMA Fest help support music education through the CMA Foundation? To date, more than $30 million has been donated as a result of this cherished event.
What is the Schedule for CMA Fest?
The schedule is always different each year, but generally speaking there will be performances at various venues throughout downtown Nashville starting Thursday evening and ending Sunday night.
This will be a huge concert at Nissan Stadium featuring many of the biggest stars in country music.
Some other highlights include a free Fan Fair X event at Music City Center where attendees can meet their favorite artists, visit autograph booths, get exclusive merchandise, and more!
For more specific information about this year’s lineup and schedule you can check out cmafest.com as tickets become available.
Where Should I Stay?
Are you looking for the perfect spot to stay while in town for CMA Fest? Good news! I’ve got some great information that will help make your Nashville trip a success.
Hotels in the downtown area tend to get pricey, with rates nearing $600/$700 per night! If you’re savvy and want something cheaper (and more spacious) Airbnb is an excellent option. We’ve used it twice in West Nashville and once closer to the 12 South area.
Neither location broke the bank, and we didn’t have to add on any additional time to get to the festivities.
How Will I Get Around?
To easily navigate all around Music City U.S.A., Lyft ride-sharing tends provide better options than Uber, but both are available and reliable options for getting around. Hop onto those apps before heading out on the town or catching one of many live shows going down at venues across the city center each day.
If all else fails, there will be plenty of taxis and the pick-up and drop-off locations are organized nicely for CMA Fest.
For more hints, tips, and hacks, including our favorite place to park, read about our CMA Fest Hacks in this post.
Where Should I Eat in Nashville?
Looking for the best eats in Nashville? We’ve got your covered. To eat within steps of the CMA Fest fun, check out the food truck frenzy that offers a wide variety of eats. Prices are inflated, justifiably, but it will save time in the long run.
I can vouch for The Grilled Cheeserie – it is worth every minute of your wait time! And if you feel like venturing out to other parts of town, my favorites are Sun Diner Nashville, Biscuit Love (brunch galore!), Puckett’s 5th & Church or Merchants Restaurant, which will always be my top Nashville pick.
Driving a little further are Josephine in the 12 South neighborhood, Once Upon A Time In France, in East Nashville, Copper Kettle Cafe (not far from Dierks Bentley’s house (but how do I know that?), and the Loveless Cafe.
Loveless Cafe is quite a jaunt, but it is a dining experience and bucket list destination featuring traditional Southern comfort cuisine with aahhmazing biscuits and jams.
How Will I Spend My Days?
Are you ready for a music-filled adventure in Nashville? From the Riverfront to Music City Walk of Fame Park, there’s plenty waiting to be explored. And when it’s time for Nissan Stadium concerts, grab some shut eye – but don’t forget: with so much awesomeness around every corner, who has time sleep?!
Make the most of CMA Fest by customizing your experience any way you want! As a fan, maximize each day with back-to-back concerts starting early in the morning and going until nearly midnight.
Or head out to explore all that Nashville has to offer – Centennial Park, The Mall at Green Hills, Nashville Zoo, or even take a trip to the Hermitage. These are amazing alternatives away from the stadium atmosphere.
CMA Fest is a party that never sleeps and Downtown Nashville is full of bars that welcome you in all hours of the day. Stop in and have a cold beer, listen to live music, or just people watch.
Where are the CMA Fest Concerts?
CMA Fest concerts take place all over Downtown Nashville. Typically, the stages are:
- Budweiser Forever Country Stage: Behind the Ascend Amphitheater in Forever Country Park. (this is where you will hear all of your favorite throwback country music songs)
- Chevy Breakout Stage: In the Music City Walk of Fame Park.
- Chevy Riverfront Stage: On the Cumberland Riverbank. This stage’s lineups include new artists, as well as country music legends–making up the best daytime acts. The venue usually reaches capacity Saturday afternoon.
- CMA Close Up Stage *: Inside of Fan Fair X, where you can catch a show in the air condition.
- CMA Spotlight Stage *: Also in Fan Fair X. More than 50 emerging acts perform acoustic sets followed by meet-and-greet sessions.
- Firestone Country Roads Stage *: At the Ascend Amphitheater, this is a cheaper alternative than seeing the concerts at Nissan Stadium. You can purchase a reserved seat or sit on the lawn.
- HGTV Lodge: Inside of Fan Alley.
- Maui Jim Broadway Stage at Bridgestone Plaza: On the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway, in front of Bridgestone Arena, this stage features emerging country music stars.
- Nashville Acoustic Corner Stage: In the Nashville Visitor Center inside of the glass tower at the front of Bridgestone Arena. Performers range from newcomers to singer-songwriters.
- Nissan Stadium *: Home to the best concerts of CMA Fest. Each night is packed with a star-studded lineup that is sure to get you on your feet. These concerts are filmed for an ABC special that premiers on TV sometime August–Country’s Night To Rock.
- Radio Disney Country Stage *: Inside of Fan Fair X. Performances by some of today’s youngest country stars.
Who Will I See at CMA Fest?
We’ve literally seen hundreds of country music greats over the years, and several surprise guests that really upped the ante for this star-studded event.
The list includes Maren Morris, Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift, Little Big Town, Lenny Kravitz, Kenny Rogers, Carrie Underwood, Hunter Hayes, Florida Georgia Line, Brothers Osborne, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Stapleton, and many more.
Unfortunately, lineups are announced closer to the festival every year. I wish they were published sooner because I like having time to get excited ahead of time.
Other Things to Keep In Mind
Pro tip – download CMA Festival app before arriving and create your own custom schedule that you can share with friends!
Oh yeah… Heads up – Tennessee is HOT during summertime… Avoid sitting out in the heat all day by having an alternate plan handy if need be.
Finally, make sure not to miss The Buckle on Broadway (aka Honky Tonk Row) where booths serve snacks and offer freebies, plus pedestrians roam freely through them streets!
Escape the dreadful Nashville summer heat and head to Margaritaville for an unforgettable Music Row Happy Hour experience!
In association with SiriusXM’s The Highway, you’ll have a chance to see some of your favorite country music stars in surprise appearances or performances, like Brothers Osborne, Dierks Bentley, Ryan Hurd, Drake White—just to name a few.
So don’t miss out on this fabulous opportunity next time you’re strolling up Broadway.
Enjoy CMA Fest!
No matter what type of country fan you are–from classic country to modern hits–CMA Fest has something for everyone! With its mix of big-name headliners and up-and-coming acts playing both ticketed events at multiple venues throughout downtown Nashville, as well as free shows along Riverfront Park, it’s an incredible way to experience Music City like never before!
So mark your calendars for June—it’s sure to be an unforgettable weekend!