Guide to CMA Fest 2018
Whether this is your first year going to CMA Fest or you’re returning, here are some tips about how to make the most out of country music’s biggest and best festival. CMA Fest is where the artists give back to their fans through meet and greet opportunities, fan club parties, free concerts and more.
Each year I learn more and more and my experience in Nashville gets better every time! I attend several different festivals throughout the year and if I had to pick only one festival to go to a year, it would hands down be CMA Fest.BOOTS:
A lot of people associate cowboy boots with country music. While they aren’t wrong, turns out, nobody really wears boots in Nashville. Shocking, I know. BUT the city is full of amazing deals on boots! Several stores offer the classic “buy one, get TWO free” deal. While this is a great deal, make sure to shop around! Other places offer tiered discounts based off of how many pairs you purchase which means sometimes you can snag a higher quality boot for close to the same price of the “buy one, get two free” deal!
As someone who owns a ton of boots and never finds a reason not to buy another pair, I recommend taking the time to shop around and see what everyone has to offer. I am a loyal boot shopper now and my go to place for boots is Betty’s Boots on Broadway. I’ve purchased over ten pairs of boots from them because they are that wonderful! They offer incredible customer service and have a great selection of women’s boots including brands like Old Gringo and Corral.
BRING COMFY SHOES:
You will be doing a ton of walking and standing so make sure to bring comfy shoes. My first year I assumed everyone wears boots and was so excited to wear mine until after the second day. It was hot, humid and the worst decision ever. Definitely bring a pair of shoes because the last thing you want to do is to spend time trying to buy a new pair or having your feet hurt the whole entire time.
RESEARCH, PRIORITIZE AND PLAN BECAUSE YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO DO EVERYTHING:
There are so many things going on during the week of CMA Fest. As much as you want to be able to do everything, you have to accept that you won’t be able to. I go to a lot of concerts throughout the year, so I prioritize meet and greets, fan club parties and unique experiences such as private shows over the daytime concerts. I am a member of a lot of fan clubs and I have met more artists during CMA Fest than I have through meet and greet opportunities through the fan clubs. A lot of up and coming artists are around and love to mingle with fans, so take advantage of the opportunity! When entering contests or purchasing tickets, make sure you aren’t already committed to another event. It’s easily to double book yourself and then you are forced to choose between two usually non-refundable and non-transferable events.
When planning your schedule make sure you factor in travel time. On a map the Riverfront Stage doesn’t look that far away from Fan Fair, but once you get there you’ll realize what you thought would only take you ten minutes may actually end up taking twenty minutes because of the crowds and events taking place. Definitely add extra time if your travel plans require an Uber.
Social media is one of the best ways to stay up to date on everything that is happening! Artists often use their Twitter accounts to announce pop up shows and events. If you’re on Facebook, I recommend joining the group “Going to CMA Fest 2018”. My friends Linda and Kat run the group and I consider them to be CMA Fest experts. It is a great forum and members post regularly about events and other useful information. If it is your first year going, take advantage of this resource, you won’t regret it!
Photo with Kat (middle) from Joe Nichol's 2016 fan club party
Check out www.musiccitymeetandgreets.com! This website offers a downloadable spreadsheet of every scheduled meet and greet opportunity during CMA Fest. They also are great about updating the site with information about various events that are going on. This website is probably the most useful non CMA ran sites around.
YOU'RE GOING TO BE EXHAUSTED:
CMA Fest is a four day adventure. Events start around 10am and end around midnight and if you’re up for the bars after you can easily be out until 4am. No matter how tired you are, get up and get out there! There are so many great events happening that you won’t want to miss them! Besides, you can always catch up on your sleep the next week!
WATER, WATER, WATER:
Nashville can be hot and ridiculously humid. Make sure you have water on you because you will definitely need it. If you do forget your water, make sure to bring cash since there are tons of hotdog carts that sell water for around $2-$3 a bottle.
PACK A SNACK:
Every year, no matter how hard I try to avoid it, I get busy running from event to event and the next thing I know it’s 5PM and I’m hangry. There’s not a whole lot of quick serve food places downtown so make sure you pack a snack. If you are like me and will still forget, make sure to bring cash so you can grab a hotdog or slice of pizza from one of the street vendors.
CARRY A SHARPIE:
You’ll never know who you are going to run into! During my first CMA Fest, I managed to get a few last minute meet and greets and fan club party tickets. Often the artists are willing to sign something for you so make sure you have a sharpie! I always have one on me, even when I go concerts outside of CMA Fest. If you don’t have a bag, clip it on the inside of your boot.
VENTURE OUTSIDE OF DOWNTOWN:
While the majority of events take place in the downtown area, I recommend venturing outside of the downtown and Broadway area bars. This essentially is a tourist trap and will be insanely crowded. I won’t deny that it is a lot of fun, but there are a lot of great bars just outside of downtown where a lot of the locals go. Losers is one of my personal favorites and artists such as Chris Young have been known to frequent here.
The CMT Awards will be taking place at the Bridgestone Arena this year. Make sure to head down to the arena to catch a glimpse of your favorite artists as they head inside for the awards. Artists like Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell and Dustin Lynch have all been known to stop and take photos with fans.
CHEAPER PARKING DOWNTOWN:
Parking can be insanely expensive in areas closer to Broadway. However, if you do a little research you’ll find that on the outskirts of downtown you can find parking for as little as $10 a day. It’s a little farther of a walk but getting out at night will be much easier.
NISSAN STADIUM POLICIES:
If you have a ticket for the nightly events inside of Nissian Stadium, make sure to check their policies before you go! They have strict bag requirements and you don’t want to be stuck having to take it back to the car, your hotel or even worse having to ditch your bag.
BONNAROO MUSIC FESTIVAL:
This festival takes place June 7th-10th, so keep that in mind if you’re flying out on Monday. Uber and Lyft prices will be much higher and the time it will take to get through airport security will be significantly longer. If you haven’t booked your flight yet, try to book a flight that leaves in the early morning or evening. If you already booked your flight and it happens to leave during the peak time on Monday, I guarantee you won’t make that same mistake again next year.
Hope these tips help and have a great time!