If you’re like me, you’re obsessed with ’80s toys, video games, pop culture trivia, weird collectibles, cult films, comic books and other novelties. Pair that with craft beer, and your heart is content. If you live in or around Nashville (or are just visiting), here are 10-plus, must-see geek-friendly bars and venues for you fellow nerds out there! Fans of Frodo, Daenerys, Daryl, Kirk, Han, and The Doctor – come one, come all! Let’s eat, drink, and be merry. Huzzah!
01. Acme Feed & Seed, Nashville, TN
What: Pub, live music and trivia
Why: Wednesday Trivia Night, presented by Geeks Who Drink and local Fat Bottom Brewing Co., welcomes geeks just like you throughout the year for themed trivia nights (Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Disney, etc.) from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., for $5, winner-takes all.
Pro Tip: Acme Feed & Seed is located at the end of the famous Broadway strip of honky tonks in downtown Nashville, but it’s far from a country music venue. On Tuesday nights, the local No Country For New Nashville blog curates concerts featuring local and touring up-and-coming indie bands, which is worth a visit.
02. Attack Barcadium From Mars Theater, Murfreesboro, TN (about 30 miles from downtown Nashville)
What: Bar and arcade
Why: Although a bit of a drive, this unique, family-run bar-and-arcade combo serves domestic, craft and imported beers, as well as fat-kid snacks (nachos, hot dogs and chips), all alongside a large selection of rotating retro arcade games, video games and pinball machines. Gaming areas feature Star Wars, Star Trek and other themed machines.
Pro Tip: On Friday nights, they’re packed with high school students. “Family Saturday” features half-price admission from noon to 6 p.m., but they’re open until 2 a.m. if you want to avoid kids and would rather enjoy the 21+ “kid at heart” crowd. You can also rent the space for parties.
Update: Attack Barcadium From Mars Theater has since been shut down (2018).
03. Canvas Lounge, Nashville, TN
What: Monthly ’80s Dance Night
Why: Every second Saturday of the month, girls (and boys) just wanna have fun at Re:Wind ‘80s Video Dance Night! This gay bar near the heart of downtown Nashville hosts a monthly ’80s-themed dance party featuring New Wave and Alternative music from the era, including Depeche Mode, The Cure, Duran Duran, Siouxsie, Devo, New Order, INXS, Blondie, The Smiths, Billy Idol, Pet Shop Boys, David Bowie, Tears For Fears, Echo & the Bunnymen, Kraftwerk and much more!
Pro Tip: If you’re too shy to shake it, you can watch the ’80s music videos that play all night on the big screen. If you’re worried about parking, come early by 8 p.m. and snag a spot in the pay lot at the bank across the street. And if things get crazy and you want to bar hop to see a drag show, Play Dance Bar is within walking distance just a few blocks away.
04. The East Room, East Nashville, TN
What: Dark dance night
Why: Fascination Street is Nashville’s monthly off-the-beaten-path destination for current and classic Post-punk, Darkwave, Deathrock, and traditional Goth music. Indulge in a night of dancing, drinks and cult movies. You’ll hear B-sides from Christian Death, Killing Joke, Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy and a slew of other dark entities. Walking down the dark alley filled with a cloud of incense to the side entrance, and you’ll know you’re at home.
Pro Tip: Don’t expect any futurepop or upbeat industrial synthpop though. The DJs play much darker, cult classic tunes you can lounge, smoke and sway to. The biggest drawback to this converted house bar is their limited selection of beers. Most are heavier brews, and don’t expect to find any hard liquor or mixers. But at least they serve some local bottles from Yazoo Brewing Company. Bonus: Drive by earlier in the day to stop by the oddities shop right next door. Hail, Dark Aesthetics sells taxidermy, vintage medical supplies, jewelry, dark religious relics and other odds and ends.
05. The Green Dragon Public House, Murfreesboro, TN (about 30 miles from downtown Nashville)
What: Lord of the Rings-themed bar
Why: While you’re getting in touch with your inner pinball wizard at the Attack Barcadium in Murfreesboro, you should probably drop by The Green Dragon too. Where else can you dress up like Gandalf or Frodo and feel right at home with a roomful of strangers? This is the perfect place to share a bowl of hummus and play board games with your new friends from Middle Earth! Even hobbits are welcome.
Pro Tip: Don’t show up on Fridays if you want to find a seat! Tuesdays and Wednesdays after work are the best times to drop by.
06. M.L. Rose, Nashville, TN
What: Craft beer and burgers
Why: With two locations in Nashville, you’ve got two great options for Happy Hours and trivia nights! Order the nachos, dry-rub wings, giant burgers or loaded waffle fries with a local pint of The Rose by The Black Abbey Brewing Company, and test your wits against other trivia geeks every Monday or Tuesday (varies by location) from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. They’re also one of the Best Nashville Brunch Spots!
Pro Tip: M.L. Rose is open late on the weekends, so after hitting downtown, grab some drunk food here and sober up.
07. The Soda Parlor, East Nashville, TN
What: Ice cream, sodas and arcade games
Why: Okay, there’s no alcohol served here, but you can enjoy one hell of a root beer float, plus all the free arcade games you can handle—including some ‘80s retro classics! And they’re located right beside one of the best local burger restaurants in town (which does serve craft beer), Burger Up!
Pro Tip: One block away, you’ll find the heart of East Nashville, known as Five Points, home to several celebrity-frequented bars, live music venues, restaurants and local crafts shops. (Not that you care, but Lady Gaga and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith recently hung out in this popular hipster neighborhood.) Across the street, be sure to stop by Asphalt Beach Skate Shop for all your roller derby gear needs. Also, you’ll find a little gem called East Side Story, an eclectic bookstore that only sells work by local authors, right down the street.
Update: The 2020 Tornado in Nashville unfortunately leveled this special venue. R.I.P. Soda Parlor.
08. Two Bits, Nashville, TN
What: Bar and free arcade games
Why: Two Bits is a bar within walking distance of Music Row in downtown Nashville, which is full of free vintage arcade games and board games to enjoy with friends.
Pro Tip: During the summer, you’ll often find block parties or special concerts hosted nearby by Lightning 100, Nashville’s longest running independent radio station on 100.1 FM.
09. Vinyl Tap, East Nashville, TN
What: Draft house, lounge and record store
Why: For a casual, living room vibe, this joint caters to hipsters who love shopping for new and used vinyl, as well as drinking local and regional craft beer. Never been before? Check them out on Record Store Day on April 22, 2017, for some steals and deals! Or visit during any of their vinyl listening parties!
Pro Tip: Join Vinyl Me, Please (record of the month club) for special events and releases. Need extra gas money? Sell them your used vinyl.
10. Wild Wings Café, Franklin/Cool Springs, TN (about 16 miles from downtown Nashville)
What: Wings, live music and trivia
Why: On semi-regular Friday nights, local cover band Rubiks Groove (pictured above) brings an ’80s/’90s Dance Party to the restaurant. On Tuesdays, enjoy trivia night starting at 7 p.m. Happy Hour specials last from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., featuring 33 buffalo wing flavors made from scratch, as well as burgers from grass fed chuck.
Pro Tip: If you come to see Rubiks Groove, keep an open mind. You’ll hear a wide variety of music genres from the ’80s and ’90s as performed by a costumed cast of characters led by a singer who looks like a cross between Pee Wee Herman and George McFly. It’s a ton of fun! Next show: Friday, April 21 at 9:30 p.m. (Central). #FridayFlashback
Want More? Here Are 10 Geek-Friendly Meetups!
01. A Night of Free Speech
What: Monthly open mic night (poetry, prose, rants, etc.)
Why: Nashville’s renegade spoken word open mic night, presented by DNR Publishing, an independent local publisher, takes place once a month on a Wednesday. Performers can play music, read poetry or present other works in an uncensored and open environment from 7-10 p.m. at Bearded Iris Brewing in the Germantown neighborhood. Sign-up starting at 6:30 p.m. for a 5-7 minute slot.
Pro Tip: This is an artist’s safe haven, so bring your manifesto! The next event takes place on April 19, 2017.
02. Horror, Suspense, Sci-Fi & Fantasy Friends Meetup, Nashville, TN
What: Film geek meetup and more
Why: Doctor Who, Star Wars and Star Trek fans unite for this meetup, which includes over 1,000 local members. Events and dates vary but may include movie nights, book clubs, ghost tours, presentations, art shows and trips to sci-fi, horror and fantasy conventions.
Pro Tip: From classic horror film appreciation outings to day trips to events like the annual Full Moon Tattoo and Horror Festival, returning Oct. 27-29, 2017, this group has versatile interests.
03. Nashville Electronic Music & Synthesizer Group, Nashville, TN
What: Monthly synth club meetup
Why: The Nashville Electronic Music & Synthesizer Group welcomes anyone passionate about all types of vintage and current synthesizers and electronic music production. The group meets once a month at the SAE Institute to network, share and swap gear, demonstrate new technology, listen to synth experts in the industry (including the founder of Dave Smith Instruments) and more!
Pro Tip: This friendly group of synth geeks loves to collaborate. In 2016, they released their first free double volume compilation album on Bandcamp, featuring 30 tracks showcasing electronic music artists of all varieties and styles from the Nashville area.
04. Nashville Girl Geek Dinner, Nashville, TN
What: Technology Networking Events for Women
Why: The Nashville Chapter of Girl Geek Dinner meets regularly to eat, drink and network with fellow Nashville-based young women and girls pursuing professional technology careers.
Pro Tip: Meetups include freebies from sponsors and workshops on varying topics, including learning how to code.
05. Nashville Grown-up Geeks, Nashville, TN
What: Meetup for Geeks Over Age 25
Why: From tabletop gaming to anime club to bar trivia meetups, this group of over 500 members welcomes anyone over age 25 who shares their common love of geekery. Event dates and locations vary.
Pro Tip: The slant here seems to be people who are passionate about anime.
06. Nashville Mini Maker Faire, Nashville, TN
What: A gathering for do-it-yourself inventors
Why: Each fall, the Nashville Mini Maker Faire takes place at the Adventure Science Center — a special one day exhibition of creative projects by local grassroots makers, craftspeople and inventors. You’ll find exhibitors, vendors, workshop teachers, panelists and performers from around Tennessee.
Pro Tip: Learn a new skill or showcase your unique project at this one-of-a-kind event! Local maker and Star Wars‘ superfan Chris Lee, a frequent exhibitor and panelist, is certainly a shining example of the talented artists you may find at this event.
07. Poetry in the Brew, Nashville, TN
What: Open mic poetry reading and coffee
Why: The monthly Poetry in the Brew event, held on the second Saturday of each month, is a unique gathering of some of Nashville’s most talented creative minds including spoken word artists, poets and storytellers in an open mic forum. Located in the upstairs loft of the cozy Portland Brew East coffeehouse, this is a well-attended event featuring rotating featured poets in an intimate setting. Signup starts at 5:30 p.m. Reading takes place from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Pro Tip: Check out the featured poets and guest hosts on the event’s calendar. The next event takes place on Saturday, May 13, 2017.
08. TEDxNashville, Nashville, TN
What: TEDx speaking event
Why: This annual, independently organized TED speech event features community leaders and professional guest speakers who present their research and discoveries in the spirit of sharing ideas. The highly inspiring event showcases a variety of subjects every March, ranging from education to the environment to entertainment to healthcare and more.
Pro Tip: This event lasts all day for several days, so pace yourself! Do your research on the guest speakers in advance to decide which day you want to attend. Watch past speaker Chris Lee’s “Robots, Spaceships, and Greeblies: Build Your Dream” 2015 TEDxNashville presentation.
09. Way Late Play Date, Nashville, TN
What: 21+ themed science museum outings and beer
Why: This adults-only, pop culture-themed event gives working professionals the chance to experience the local Adventure Science Center without being bothered by screaming kids. Take part in cool science activities, tour the exhibits, and relive your youth!
Pro Tip: Past themed nights have focused on Doctor Who and Star Wars. The next event, Marvel vs. DC, will take place on Thursday, Apr. 27, 2017, from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Explore the science behind comic books – from high-tech gadgetry to super powers. The event includes admission to all exhibits and activities, beverage tickets and a planetarium show.
10. Zombie Run 5K, Nashville, TN
What: 5k race with “zombies” chasing you
Why: Tired of the same old boring 5K fundraisers? Are you fitness-minded but never felt inspired to get out and really get physical? Maybe you’ll feel better being chased by zombies! Zombie Run is a unique 5K race away from volunteers dressed as brain-eating, bloody zombies. The immersive experience will not only awaken your zombie geek nature, but also get your adrenaline pumping!
Pro Tip: All participants get a medal upon finishing the race, and kids can enjoy a special Kids Zombie Zone featuring foam machines and bubble soccer. Although this isn’t a beer-drinking event, running from zombies will surely make you thirsty for some ale by the time you’re done! The Nashville event takes pace on June 3, 2017. Register now at the link above!
Soak in the ‘Con Funk’: 4 Geek-Friendly Conventions
01. Con of Thrones, Nashville, TN
What: Game of Thrones fan convention
Why: Con of Thrones is the largest-ever convention for fans of Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice and Fire by fantasy author George R. R. Martin. Special guests will include the actors who portrayed Ramsay Bolton and others. Con of Thrones will take place at Nashville’s historic Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. Rally the realm and attend this con on June 30 to July 2, 2017.
Pro Tip: The con will feature a vendor marketplace where you can get all the Game of Thrones-themed collectibles you could ever want. Bring your friends!
02. GMX (Geek Media Expo), Nashville, TN
What: Multi-fandom convention
Why: While the next Geek Media Expo probably won’t be scheduled again until 2018, the annual event is the Nashville area’s next generation multi-fandom convention, representing all things pop culture.
Pro Tip: This is a celebration of fandom for tech-lovers, makers, tabletop gamers, pop culture enthusiasts, cosplayers and more!
03. The Walker Stalker Convention, Nashville, TN
What: Sci-fi and horror convention
Why: The Walker Stalker Convention, an annual event that tours the U.S., has its local podcast, The Walker Stalkers, headquarters on Main Street in nearby Franklin, TN. The con celebrates the best in horror, fantasy, and sci-fi books, TV and movies, featuring celebrity panels, meet-and-greets, costume contests and vendors. While this isn’t really a beer-centric event, you’re sure to find beer vendors nearby.
Pro Tip: On June 3 and 4, 2017, Nashville’s Walker Stalker Con will feature VIP photo ops with many members of The Walking Dead cast, including Daryl, Negan, Carl, Glenn, Morgan, Abraham, Eugene and more!
04. Wizard World, Nashville, TN
What: Comic convention
Why: This annual convention for comic, film, TV and anime fans features panels with artists, actors and creators, cosplay enthusiasts, VIP photo ops and tons of vendors to meet all your geeky needs. The next event takes place at Nashville’s Music City Center from Sep. 8 to 10, 2017.
Pro Tip: Past year’s celebrity guests have included the entire cast of Star Trek: Next Generation, except for Patrick Stewart. Luckily, that year also featured another very special captain – Kirk (played by William Shatner), who all spoke in guest panels and sat in for photos with fans. Who knows what this year will bring?
Alrighty, Nash-villains (and yes, I said villains), what other geek hotspots am I missing? List your faves in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: Since the Nashville tornado of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, many of these amazing events and venues have shut their doors. Call ahead to confirm their status before visiting.