The Nashville Locals Guide to CMA Music Festival

I'll admit it: I am a Nashvillian that loves attending CMA Music Festival! This year will mark my sixth time attending the festival, as a volunteer, member of the media, or a normal attendee and…

I’ll admit it: I am a Nashvillian that loves attending CMA Music Festival! This year will mark my sixth time attending the festival, as a volunteer, member of the media, or a normal attendee and fan. I’ve made great memories and seen some amazing performers on free stages. Even my boyfriend, Nick, who lacks the country fandom, looks forward to the free activities, free food and overall energy of the festival. Last year I met a fellow local that checks out the CMA festivities every year. We bonded, shared our CMA stories, and wondered why more locals don’t take advantage of the fun stages and activities. This year, I decided to do something about it. 

To help make sure other Nashville locals don’t miss out this year, I put together this quick guide to highlight what’s new, what’s free and what’s hot at this year’s CMA Music Festival.

NEW Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage
Don’t have tickets to the nightly shows at Nissan Stadium? No problem! CMA has announced the new Cracker Barrel Country Roads Stage packed with great lineups on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening! Best of all, this stage is FREE! The nightly lineups are below.

FREE Daytime Stages
The free daytime are packed with great lineups and a lot of fun! The following stages will be free and available to the public every day during CMA Music Festival

  • Chevrolet Riverfront Stage located on the Cumberland River Bank
  • Chevrolet Park Stage located in Walk of Fame Park
  • Budweiser Forever Country Park Stage located in the park area behind Ascend Amphitheater
  • Gildan Broadway Stage located in the parking lot of Hard Rock Cafe
  • Music City Stage located inside the Nashville Visitor Center in Bridgestone Arena

Visit CMA Music Festival’s website for the entire schedule of artists and stages.

hunter hayes at Fan Fair X
Hunter Hayes at Fan Fair X | Credit: CMAWorld

Fan Fair X
Fan Fair X provides the ultimate country music fan experience with artist interactions, celebrity Q&A sessions, autographs, shopping, games, crafts and more. As an added bonus, Fan Fair X is air conditioned and a great place to escape the heat! Tickets are still available and are only $10 for daily admission or $25 for a four day pass. As an added bonuses, Fan Fair X has three additional stages.

  • CMA Close Up Stage
  • Radio Disney Country Stage
  • Durango Music Spot

Food and Freebies
Free food lovers are in luck! There will be plenty of free food samples offered on Broadway and in the Music City Center. Some of the samples are generous portions, such as full slices of pizza. I filled up on so many delicious samples last year that I didn’t need to buy lunch. So far, we know the following sponsors will be providing free food samples:

  • KRAVE Jerky
  • Hunt Brothers Pizza
  • Papa John’s Pizza
  • Texas Pete
  • Tiny House of Sizzle
  • Skippy’s P.B. Bites
  • Pepsi
  • IZZE Fusions

Food isn’t the only thing that will be free. Sponsors will be providing several activities and freebies on Broadway and in the Music City Center. Here are just a few we know: 

  • Bumble – makeovers by Sephora and hairstyling by The Dry House
  • M&Ms – write a letter and/or send a personal video message to the troops
  • Firestone – get a flashy tattoo, take a “CountryGram”, get some Firestone swag
  • Gildan – get that perfect Instagram photo or video performing on the mock Gildan stage
  • Harley Davidson – unique giveaways and an interactive ride simulator

Speaking of food, check out some of Middle Tennessee’s best food trucks
Grilled Cheeserie, Hoss Loaded Burgers, and Cousins Maine Lobster will be among the many food trucks lined on 5th Avenue between the Music City Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum. You can feel good about your purchase, as food truck vendors will give donations to the CMA Foundation to benefit music education.

The Inaugural MuttNation March
This parade, led by Miranda Lambert, will travel from Nissan Stadium over the Nashville Pedestrian Bridge on Thursday, June 8 at 8:30 a.m. The purpose of the parade is to raise awareness for shelter pets that need homes. It is free for spectators. Fans can register to march in the parade with their dogs for $15.

HGTV Lodge featuring FREE meet & greets and performances
This 3500 sqft structure located in front of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center will feature exclusive musical performances and meet and greets all four days of the festival. Artists performing on the stage include Keith Urban, Maren Morris, Old Dominion, and Darius Rucker. There will also be a Q&A and Meet & Greet with HGTV’s Property Brothers on Saturday, June 10 from 3:30-4:30 p.m.

The City of Hope Celebrity Softball Challenge (Saturday, June 10 at 11am)
This softball game taking place is always a hit, and has been moved to Saturday this year! See music and sports stars step up to the plate to #StrikeOutCancer at Nashville’s beautiful First Tennessee ballpark. Reba McEntire will sing the National Anthem, and players include Jessie James Decker and NFL player Eric Decker, The Bachelorette’s Kaitlyn Bristowe and Shawn Booth, Property Brothers’ Drew Scott, Sara Evans, Kellie Pickler, Lauren Alaina, Bobby Bones and more! Tickets range from $12-$35 and 100 percent of event net profits benefit City of Hope.

Activities and Freebies

Want to see more? Check out our CMA Music Festival category page for a more comprehensive list of events happening during CMA Week.