You’ll find something fun for everyone, from toddlers to teens, in Nashville. Take a showboat river cruise, step into a new pair of cowboy boots or step on stage at the Ryman Auditorium. Music City U.S.A. gives everyone the opportunity to embrace their inner country music star. And since it’s a quick, direct flight from Chicago, it makes for a great long weekend family trip. Here are my top 8 picks for Nashville with the kids:
A Discover Nashville Grayline guided bus tour will give you a good overview of the city’s history as you breeze past the State Capitol, Bicentennial Mall, Honky Tonk Row and Studio B, where Elvis recorded most of his records. Kids are encouraged to ask questions and the buses are roomy and comfy. Extreme country music fans won’t want to miss Grayline’s Home of the Stars tour, which will take you to the hidden enclaves of celebrities such as Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and more. Book your guided tour online at graylinetn.com.
Children are welcomed with open arms to Frist Center for the Visual Arts (919 Broadway; Tel. 615/244.3340; fristcenter.org), a stunning art center that hosts innovative exhibits and traveling collections from around the world. The Martin Art Quest Gallery invites children to engage with art and become artists themselves. Thirty hands-on stations invite kids to sketch, paint, create prints and collages, and explore color, pattern, texture, and perspective. Admission is free for kids under 18.
Host to the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Auditorium (116 5th Ave N, Nashville; Tel. 615/458.8700; ryman.com), a.k.a. the “Mother Church of Country Music,” has the second best acoustics in the world (after the Salt Lake Tabernacle in Utah). This auditorium has welcomed all the legends, from Loretta Lynn to Johnny Cash. Try to catch a live show here to hear the amazing acoustics in action (see ryman.com/events for concert listings). Die hard country music fans will want to take the backstage tour, where you’ll also have the chance to hit the stage with a guitar for an unforgettable photo op.
Bring the history of the South to life for your children at Belle Meade Plantation (5025 Harding Pike; Tel. 615/356.0501; bellemeadeplantation.com), a.k.a. the “Queen of the Tennessee Plantations.” Encourage your kids to imagine life as it was for the families living in the original log cabin, built in 1807, and the slave cabin, built in the 1830’s. The plantation also offers a fine selection of children’s programming, including a crafts program for toddlers. Check the museum’s outreach website for upcoming children’s classes and activities at bellemeadeplantation.com/index.php/Outreach/Outreach/.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Hotel (2800 Opryland Drive; Tel. 615/889.1000; gaylordhotels.com) is Nashville’s largest and best-rated hotel. It contains a whopping nine acres of indoor gardens, cascading waterfalls, a 20,000 square foot spa and fitness center and an indoor river with its very own Delta flatboat (be sure to go on a family “river” cruise). Give your kids at least an afternoon to soak up some fun at the huge outdoor and indoor pools.
Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles (2905 12th Ave South; Tel. 615/386.2101) offers a rainbow of handcrafted Mexican-style popsicles with a sweet, salty or spicy twist. Flavours change daily and range from Avocado to Raspberry Lime.
At Katy K’s Western Wear and Ranch Dressing (2407 12th Avenue South; Tel. 615/297.4242; katyk.com) you’ll find t-shirts, belt buckles and vintage-inspired dresses and accessories. You’ll also find a cute selection of onesies for babies and darling country star styles for your smallest ladies.
Cap off a day of fun with a cruise down the Cumberland River on the General Jackson Showboat (Tel. 866/567.5225; generaljackson.com). Its four massive decks and beautiful two-story Victorian Theater feature live country music and entertainment and fine Southern dining. The “Heart of Tennessee: A Musical Road Trip” show is especially popular with visitors and showcases music born in Tennessee.