It's no secret that music is the common thread that binds Nashville together, and a visit to the Ryman Auditorium is a must to understand just why. This historic building from 1892 has hosted some of the most legendary names in music history, earning the title "Carnegie Hall of the South." You probably know it as the original home of the Grand Ole Opry radio show that showcased the careers of heavy hitters in country music like Hank Williams, Pasty Cline, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton. Even a young Elvis Presley had his time on the Ryman stage.
We had heard it was kid friendly and a top destination for families in Nashville, so Kid Allergy Travel partnered up (via sponsorship) with the Ryman Auditorium to see just why this is a must do for any family making the passage to Music City.
An engaging video tells the vibrant tale of how this mecca of music came about.
It all started with a rivalry that waged in early Nashville between two strong forces found in many a great city: the sinners and the sinned against.
Now you see the resemblance, right? The most famous building in Nashville music actually started as a church. The building went from being the Union Gospel Tabernacle to the entertainment powerhouse it is today via the efforts of a woman named Lula C. Naff.
I know you are thinking that a documentary film about the long history of a building perhaps isn't the most kid friendly activity. But honestly, my four year old was on the edge of his seat the whole time. They have done a really great job of creating a dimensional experience. The room lights up around all four corners to represent the illustrious past. The music is toe tapping. And, the video breaks the history down in a concise and kid friendly way. I can honestly say I never once had to deal with the wiggles or even the "when is this over" questions.
But, with 125 years of history, remember there will be a lot of memorabilia to view and history to cover. For this reason, we recommend the self-guided tour if you are traveling with kids under 6. You can go at your own pace and spend as little or as much time on the parts of history that matter most to you and your family.
For kids over 7, consider the guided tour especially if going backstage is important to you. We saw several kids around that age happily listening along. Remember others are there to fact gather. Make sure to gage your child's interest in content and attention span before signing up.
Either way, don't miss the opportunity to take center stage for a professional photo in front of the microphone. If you get lucky, there won't be much of a line and your fearless budding young child musician can get a kick out of humming a line or two on this iconic stage.
Some of our families highlights were as follows:
Clipping from the 1924 Tennessean newspaper: "Everybody Welcome-Everybody Come."
The music greats that have performed here.
The glamour and glitz of the instruments and outfits.
The Grand Ole Opry story and memorabilia.
Other tips to enhance your experience:
- Set your expectations before you come. Once we left the theater and made our way to the self guided part, my active four year old boy struggled with the urge to run from pew to pew like a headless chicken. Sometimes, the temptation was just too great and mom ended up having to expend the energy on a bunch of "not nows." Did that mean I didn't get to read every plaque and every fact. Yes. But, we had preset goals outside of data gathering. This was about standing in the shadow of history. Showing our children a physical representation of how community and music had built a city and kept it growing for over 100 years. Whether or not I saw it all, I felt I saw a lot. And, the lesson was valuable for both us and them.
- Don't forget to take a photo with Little Jimmy Dickens. This beloved bronze statue of a performer, member and ambassador of the Grand Ole Opry sits proudly before you make your way through the entrance and exit.
- The gift shop has plenty of Nashville and country music themed gifts. If you are looking for Music City souvenirs you will have plenty to choose from here.
- Hungry? Look no further than the beautiful space right next door called Cafe Lula at The Ryman. Although I'm not sure about their gluten free options for lunch and dinner, we did enjoy some fresh fruit and local artisan coffee for breakfast. The view is amazing and the space is modern. This was a great place to fuel up before hitting the sites and sounds of downtown Nashville.
- If you have older kids, make a point to grab a ticket to one of the shows playing in the concert hall. Seeing the beauty of the building is worth the trip but to hear the joys of music actually being performed in this historic space...well, that is a memory that just can't be replaced. Check the concert calendar here.
Kid Allergy Travel received sponsored admission to the Ryman Auditorium. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos by Kid Allergy Travel and Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation.