Ah, CMA Fest week. Easily one of the busiest weeks of the year here in the 615. People from all over the world come to our pretty little Music City to hear all of their favorite artists in the capital of country music. I never went to CMA Fest until I moved back to Tennessee in 2017, but since then, I've made it a point to go as many days as I can during the festival weekend. I mean seriously- who can pass up an opportunity like CMA Fest? You get to see a ton of your favorite artists & there are activities galore to do, most of them being free!
However, after going for the past couple of years, I have learned a few things. Below are my "Do's & Don'ts" of CMA Fest-ing.
1. DO plan ahead.
Seriously. If you don't plan even just a few things ahead of time, you will be running around like crazy trying to catch all of the artists that you want to see. Keep in mind that most of these artists, especially the newer ones, are playing multiple shows that week (that are all more than likely free), so if you don't make it to one of their shows, you'll be able to catch them at a later date/time! My suggestion for this is to make a list of all the artists that you want to see before heading over to the festival. You can find the performance schedule on the website. The CMA Fest app has a feature where you can make your own itinerary with the artists that you want to see, so that can also be a quick & easy start!
2. DON'T just go to the stages that CMA Fest has announced.
Y'all- you are in MUSIC CITY for crying out loud! There is talent oozing out of every single bar, restaurant, & venue in town. PLEASE don't just go to the stages that CMA Fest offers! For example, Blake Shelton's restaurant, Ole Red, has a mix of radio-played & newer/undiscovered artists playing on their stage throughout CMA Fest. Its right in the heart of downtown off of Broadway, so it's easy to access! If you're looking for music in the evening, I HIGHLY suggest Belcourt Taps off of 21st Avenue or The Listening Room right down the road from the hub of downtown Nashville. Both of those places have excellent food & incredible talent that needs to be heard.
3. DO buy your Fan Fair X ticket before the first day of CMA Fest.
I made the mistake of NOT doing this my first year...please learn from my mistake. If you buy your ticket ahead of time, all you have to do is scan your ticket when you walk in the doors. However, if you wait until day-of to purchase your Fan Fair X ticket, you may have to wait over an hour in line (like I had to do the first year) to get your ticket. It wastes time to stand in line & then you may miss an artist's set or a meet & greet that you were wanting to attend. Also, if you are going to all 4 days of the festival, just go ahead & buy the $25 4-day pass. It's cheaper than buying 4 single-day passes & will save you around $15!
4. DON'T dress just to be "cute."
This may sound weird, but I've seen people do it. Y'all- CMA Fest is no joke. It's mainly all outside so whatever the weather is, please plan accordingly. Last year, it was extremely hot. I saw girls in outfits that I would have cried in had I been the one wearing them. They looked miserably hot, itchy, & uncomfortable. This year, the forecast is currently saying that it's supposed to rain all weekend. Don't be stupid; dress according to the weather, not just according to your Instagram theme.
5. DO drink water!
Like I said in the last point, CMA Fest is mainly all outside, so HYDRATE! l witnessed someone pass out on the grass mid-Love & Theft set last year & I don't want that to happen to anyone else. CMA Fest has water stations set up all around downtown for festival attendees to fill their water bottles or cups up with, so take advantage of it & make sure you take care of your body! (Speaking of taking care of your body, please put sunscreen on too. You don't want to get a sunburn on the first day & then be miserable the rest of the weekend!).
6. DON'T overpay for parking.
Downtown can be tricky with parking. When events go on, the parking lot people jack the prices up what seems like quadruple the normal price, minimum. CMA Fest's website has a feature that will help you find parking for wherever you need or want to be downtown. Take a look at it before you get stuck in downtown traffic! I have also heard of people just Ubering/ Lyfting into downtown. I know Lyft had coupon codes all over downtown for a free first ride last year & their drivers were everywhere so maybe you could even save some money that way! Just please, whatever you do, for all the things that are good & great & lovely in this world, do NOT rent a scooter for this weekend (or ever). They are dangerous & can seriously hurt you if you get in an accident. (Okay, I'll get off my soap box now. Thanks for listening to my TED Talk).
7. DO take advantage of the free/ cheap opportunities!
I know this may seem obvious, but seriously. Take advantage of those free/ cheap opportunities. There were multiple free things being handed out at the Walk of Fame Park across the street from the Country Music Hall of Fame. The Krispy Kreme truck there (I didn't know such a thing existed until then & it made me very excited) was selling donuts for only $1 each. Meet & Greets can also be free! Big Machine Label Group has a store right next to FGL House downtown & they have artist meet & greets for their artists all throughout the weekend. Pop-up events happen all weekend too, so be on the lookout for those!
8. DON'T forget to have fun!
It's CMA FEST! Don't get too caught up in logistics to where you you forget to have FUN! CMA Fest happens once a year & every year, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; no other year will have the exact same lineups, events, & memories- so take advantage of it while you can!
I hope this helped you with a few tips on how to tackle CMA Fest this upcoming weekend! This will be my first year going all 4 days, so I'm excited to see how this year's experience compares to the others! ALSO- if you see me at CMA Fest, please say hey! I'd love to meet y'all.
Thanks for reading!