If you’re attending CMA Fest® in Nashville for the first time, the days leading up to the festival can be exciting and a bit overwhelming. Where exactly are the stages and which shows are free? What will the weather be like? Did I buy enough sunscreen? What happens if my phone dies?
Lucky for you, this is my first time experiencing Country Music’s Biggest Week, so I put together the Newbie’s Guide to CMA Fest® while prepping for the festival.
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WHAT TO PACK
Leave backpacks, camera bags, & fanny packs at home. To keep the safety of fans, artists, and staff a top priority, all official festival locations will follow the “Clear Bag Policy” previously adopted by Nissan Stadium.
Bags must be clear plastic, vinyl, or PVC and must not be larger than 12″x12″x6″. In addition to a clear bag, a small clutch bag or wallet no larger than 5.5″x8.5″ is allowed.
No Spray Sunscreen. One of the things on the list of prohibited items is aerosol cans, which includes aerosol sunscreen. If you are planning to re-apply sunblock throughout the day, you’ll need to toss some lotion sunscreen into your clear bag.
Pro Tip: Forget your sunscreen? Visit the First Aid tents at Riverfront Park & Walk of Fame Park
Hat + Sunglasses + Layers. Did you know your eyeballs can get sunburned? Shield them from the sun with a good pair of sunglasses and/or a hat. If you aren’t going to sport a hat, don’t forget to put sunscreen on your head and the tips of your ears! As of Monday, the forecast is calling for temperatures in the low to mid-90s with a small chance of rain on Sunday. It will be hot outside, but the AC will be cranked indoors – so dress in light, airy layers!
Poncho. As I mentioned above, there is a chance of scattered thunderstorms on Sunday. Make sure you come prepared, avoid scrambling around in the rain and pack a poncho.
Freshen Up with a Mini Makeover. Visit the Amp It Up powered by Avon booth for a 10-minute eyes, lips, or face makeover.
Power Bank. A full day of taking photos & videos, checking the schedule, and studying the map will surely drain your phone battery. Pack an extra power bank to charge your phone. You can even buy solar powered chargers.
Pro tip: Forget to pack your power bank? Visit Reser’s Fine Foods Oasis on Broadway at Second and charge up! (Plus make a custom bandana!)
Cool Down + Bathroom Breaks. The Music City Center (MCC) will become your best friend during the week. Not only is the large center the home of Fan Fair X, it has public restrooms and air conditioning! There is also a Fresh Pick market inside the MCC at the corner of 8th & Demonbreun where you can stock up on water, sodas, and snacks. On the opposite end of the MCC is a Dunkin’ Donuts & Al Taglio pizzeria at the corner of 5th & Korean Vets Blvd.
Pro Tip: Download the Music City Center Wayfinding App to pinpoint your location inside the building and receive precise, turn-by-turn directions to get you to where you need to go!
In 2018, more than 350 artists will play on 11 stages scattered around the Lower Broadway area of downtown Nashville.
FREE, Outdoor Stages. Free and open to the public, you’ll be able to find free country music all day and into the night at these stages.
The Budweiser Forever Country Stage is located on the green located between the Ascend Amphitheater and the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge. Each day from 11am to 4:45pm your favorite country stars of the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s will rock the stage. Artists include Restless Heart, Terri Clark, Lonestar, Tracy Lawrence, Jamie O’Neal, and more.
The Nashville Acoustic Corner Stage is located at the Nashville NCVC Visitors Center inside the spotlight-shaped glass tower at Bridgestone Arena. Artists including Lewis Brice, Haley & Michaels, Austin Jenckes, Jake Rose, Kendell Marvel, and Ruthie Collins will perform acoustic sets from 11am to 4:40pm each day.
The Chevy Riverfront Stage is located off 1st Street where Broadway meets the Cumberland River. With acts performing daily from 10am to 5:15pm, the stage will host country favorites like Lauren Alaina, Hunter Hayes, Craig Campbell, RaeLynn, Drake White, and more.
The Chevy Breakout Stage is located in the Walk of Fame Park, which is wedged between the Country Music Hall of Fame, Bridgestone Arena, and the Hilton Downtown. The music runs from 10:30am to 4:55pm each day and will feature acts like Charlie Worsham, Ashley McBryde, The Wild Feathers, Clare Dunn, Jerrod Niemann, Luke Pell, and more.
The Maui Jim Broadway Stage is located in front of the Hard Rock Café on Broadway. Music starts each day at 10:45am and is rocking until 6:30pm, giving everyone enough time to head to Nissan Stadium or Ascend Amphitheater for the nightly concerts.
The Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage is located at Ascend Amphitheater. These nighttime concerts run from 7pm to 11pm Thursday through Saturday and feature sets by Granger Smith, Cole Swindell, Cale Dodds, Runaway June, Maddie & Tae, Chase Rice, Lindsay Ell, and more.
PRO TIP: Want early access to the Country Roads Stage? Purchase a Nash Pass.
Shows at the 3,500-square-foot HGTV Lodge are free, but fans must register for Fan Access using the CMA Fest® App. There will be appearances by HGTV stars like Jonathan & Drew Scott (Property Brothers), Page Turner & DeRon Jenkins (Flip or Flop Nashville) and Dave & Kortney Wilson (Music City Fix) along with popular acts like Jordan Davis, Lee Brice, Lee Ann Womack, Lauren Alaina, Dustin Lynch, Trisha Yearwood, and more. The Lodge is located at the corner of 4th & Broadway.
To enhance your CMA Fest® experience, you can purchase a 4-Day Pass that will get you in to the nightly concerts at Nissan Stadium. A familiar face will kick off the evening with the National Anthem each night followed by country music’s hottest stars like Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Chris Stapleton, Florida Georgia Line, Kelsea Ballerini and more.
Fan Fair X is the convention component to CMA Fest®. For $10 a day (or $25 for all 4 days) fans get the Ultimate Country Music Experience with artist appearances, meet & greets, live performances on 3 stages, games, contests, swag, and more.
The CMA Close Up Stage kicks off each morning with an appearance by the Artist of the Day and follows it up with fun sessions like a Bluebird Café Songwriters Round, CMA Fest® Match Game with Chris Kirkpatrick, Morgan Willett, and Bill Anderson, “The Making of Words” with Sara Evans and “You Can Survive Anything” with Naomi Judd. The Close Up Stage is located in the back left corner of Fan Fair X inside the Music City Center.
The CMA Spotlight Stage spotlights emerging artists with meet & greets and acoustic performances. Featured artists include Joe Denim, Folk Soul Revival, The Young Fables, Jenny Leigh and more. The Spotlight Stage is located in the center of Fan Fair X inside the Music City Center.
The Radio Disney Country Stage hosts Q&A sessions and performances by some of the greatest RD Country stars. Cassadee Pope, Cam, Cale Dodds, LANCO, CB30, Walker Hayes, and so many more will be performing daily between 10am and 5pm. The RD stage is located in the back right corner of Fan Fair X inside the Music City Center.
Nash Pass. For under $70 fans can purchase a Nash Pass which will give them 4-day access to Fan Fair X, early VIP access into the Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage at Ascend Amphitheater, plus self-guided tours of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the Ryman Auditorium. Purchase a Nash Pass HERE
Schedule + Maps. The official CMA Fest® App will be your best friend, so download it now. You can build your own schedule, access festival and city maps, access the FAQs, and more.
Fan Access. Using the app, register to receive a unique QR Code to scan at stations scattered across the Festival for chances to win instant prizes. Check-in at Scan Stations and complete actions to win hats, prize packs, autographed guitars, and even a trip to the 2018 CMA Awards.
Ultimate Fan Experience Drawing. Submit your picks for meet & greets and exclusive performances by registering for Fan Access and entering the Ultimate Fan Experience Drawing by May 31. Emails will be sent to winners on June 1 with instructions on how to claim their prizes.