I have been to Nashville three times – once in high school to look at Vanderbilt, once with my good friends for a girls weekend, and this past weekend with my family for a quick getaway from our hometown, which was frozen into a standstill for several days prior.
When people think of Nashville they think of the things that may not make Nashville the most family friendly location – bars, music, beer, did I mention bars? But the truth is, like any city we have been to (even Las Vegas!) there are things for families that make this a weekend destination worth considering.
While we normally tend to go for the vrbo type properties on the last two trips we have taken we have decided to stay in a hotel, given the short timeframe of our visits. Our go to hotel is always Embassy Suites, for several reasons but the main one being that you can separate the bedroom from the sitting room, and we don’t have to go to bed as soon as the sun sets! Breakfast is included, and drinks and snacks are provided in the lobby for a few hours at night (don’t go if you are a good beer fan, but hey after a day with kids a free drink is a free drink!).
The Embassy Suites in Nashville is located right next to Vanderbilt’s campus, which gives the area a breath of youth, albeit older than our kids. The area is definitely hopping and being in an area where you can walk is great to help get the energy out of two young ones who were cooped up in the car on the drive down.
So what is there to do with kids in Nashville? Well, lots! They have the usual family fare – the Nashville Zoo, Adventure Science Center, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, but there are also some distinctly Nashville-esque things that are fun for kids of all ages, including the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Musical Petting Zoo and The Grand Ole Opry.
After a drive that took 3 hours more than it should have we were ready to run, and being close to dinnertime we headed to Centennial Park, home of the Parthenon, and across the street from where we stayed. Yep, a Parthenon. It is also Nashville’s art museum, but we didn’t get to go in and visit while we were there. It does however provide an awesome backdrop for photos and great space for little legs to run off their pent up energy! Nearby are ponds with ducks, so bring some bread to feed them as well.
The area around Vanderbilt is full of restaurants that seem welcoming to families, from nicer choices to quick stops. We checked out the Mexican food at San Antonio Taco Company, which is an order at the counter and get served quickly type of place, perfect for us after a long day. With plenty of high chairs and kid friendly choices this is a place we would recommend – plus it is next to Ben and Jerry’s, which made the end of the meal more pleasant for both F and L!
The next morning we headed down Broadway to see what we could visit, and I imagine the way we saw it was drastically different than how it was several hours earlier! Finn checked out the back of some bars and declared the alley to be smelly, and we concurred.
Standing outside the back entrance to the famous Tootsie’s bar on Broadway.
Our next stop was the Ryman Auditorium, the original home to the Grand Ole Opry. You can do a self guided tour, a backstage tour (you need to book in advance) and you can even record your own song in this famous music hall. We briefly contemplated letting Finn record one of his “originals”, but didn’t think the $30 was worth the price of a recording about poop and lady butts. He is so 5.
Entrance fees: kids under 3 are free, 4-11 are $15 and adults $20.
Meeting Minnie Pearl, armed with their own cameras for picture taking.
We watched a brief video, and had a photo opp on the famous stage, and wandered around the rest of the theater, reading some of the history and taking it all in. We are not country music fans but there is something to be said to be in a place that has hosted so many of musics very best over the years.
Heading on down Broadway you have all your senses opened to just how musical and how country this city truly is. There are venues all around you with live music (some which welcome kids), boot stores, bbq places and more.
Look at this big cowboy boot!
At the end of Broadway is the Cumberland river, and the Nashville riverfront, which is host to many events throughout the year. It is also home to Fort Nashborough, which was closed for renovations but is a reconstructed fort that kids can wander around and explore. You can also walk across the Shelby Street Bridge, one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
Shelby Street Bridge in the background
We really wanted to eat at Puckett’s Grocery, a Nashville institution that is great for families, but the wait was too long for my hungry kids. Back by our hotel we walked to Noshville, a NY style deli that is also popular for families and can have a long wait as well, but well worth the wait. Their kids menu is expansive, and they were ready with crayons for our ready to go crazy children.
We debated what to do the rest of the day but with awesome weather and a long nap from L we decided to skip the science museum and do what we alway love to do when we travel – find a local playground. We ended up at Fannie Mae Dees park, or the dragon park, near Vanderbilt in Hillsboro/West End. A playground for the hipsters of this city and their children it did not disappoint, with huge climbing structures, slides and swings. F & L were in heaven!
Riding the dragon at the Dragon Park
Swinging at the Dragon Park
At the request of F we sought out a pizza place and found Bella Napoli, a hidden gem in Edgehill Village. It filled our tummies and, as our son declared, had the ‘best cheese on pizza he had ever tasted’. Whatever it was it hit the spot and was a great place to end our evening.
We left early the next morning to head home, but left without visiting a few areas that we would like to return to see – Downtown Franklin for sure, and some other outlying areas.
Have you been to Nashville? What would you recommend?
Finally, when in the Music City, well, act like it!
For more family friendly info on Nashville check out this list on Visit Music City!