There is always something special about visiting Nashville in the summer. We have been three summers in a row and every year it grows more vibrant and more engaging for our family of four. The color green surrounds you at every turn, the sun greets you every morning, and the sound of music can be heard around every corner. Regardless of season, if you are considering making the trek to Nashville, don't miss some of our favorite family destinations in Music City. We partnered (via sponsorship) with five top destinations for people traveling with kids to let you in on how you can fill your days with music, art, animals, and history.
For the Music Lover:
Country Music Hall of Fame
Nashville is synonymous with Country Music and a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame is almost like a rite of passage when visiting here. Even if you aren't that interested in country music and didn't grow up watching Hee-Haw like I did, there is no denying the incredible influence this type of music has had on the industry as a whole (think about the rise of pop music superstar Taylor Swift). Spend as little or as much time learning about the history depending on your interest level in the subject matter and the ages of your children. Then, dive right in to the interactive portion. Take a banjo lesson, watch a puppet show, participate in gallery games like a costume scavenger hunt, chase after and squish some electronic armadillos, express your inner artist by decorating music-themed coloring pages and album covers, collaborate with others to complete lyrics or record & mix your very own tune (yes, that means you get to sing in your very own recording booth!). When you are finally done, make your way to the beautiful rotunda to pay your respects to those who have worked hard enough to earn a place on the wall of this country music institution.
It's no secret that music is the common thread that binds this town together, and a visit to the Ryman Auditorium is a must to understand just why. Our family loved the video presentation at the beginning of our tour that told how this Mecca of Music came about. My four-year-old was on the edge of his seat as the whole room lit up to visually and musically represent the illustrious past of this venue. We recommend the self-guided tour if you are traveling with kids 6 or younger because there is so much history to cover (home to the Grand Ole Opry, host of country music faves like Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash along with other music greats like Louis Armstrong and Elvis). Either way, don't miss the opportunity to take center stage for a photograph in front of the microphone. And, if you have older kids, make sure to book tickets to catch an evening concert here. Listening to the sounds of music resonating throughout a hall that has been delighting audience members for over one hundred years is really an experience you just can't beat. For an in depth look at our self-guided tour with our four-year-old, click here.
For the Art Lover:
Frist Art Museum
Not normally the first idea to come to mind if traveling with kids, but make no mistake, the Frist Art Museum isn't your ordinary stuffy gallery. From the very moment you enter the property you begin your art experience and the visual displays are vibrant and poignant. After exploring the various exhibitions, don't miss the Martin ArtQuest on the second floor. The space is designed to bring out creativity with many varied stations that explore touch, sound, and motion. Exploring Exhibitions allows you to examine and connect the artwork from the main gallery space downstairs with your child. This isn't an afterthought to corral young kids, it is a place to introduce and involve the young and old in the beautiful and mystifying world of art. Take a look here for more on my experience with my four year old.
For the Animal Lover:
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
We want to raise our children to respect and protect the animal kingdom. So, when traveling, we look only to accredited zoos and aquariums by the AZA to help shed some light on how our family can do their part to live harmoniously with creatures big and small. One of our very favorite zoos in the country happens to be located right in Nashville, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. They have a little bit of everything here: attractions such as the Soaring Eagle Zip-Line & the animal-themed carousel, animal interactions at the Shell Station & Lorikeet Landing, modern animal exhibition spaces, healthy dining options with a focus on food allergies and animal conservation efforts that are making an impact worldwide. Some of our highlights included: watching the playful and energetic Luka from the Andean Bear Exhibit, crawling inside the world of the meerkats, watching the gibbons interact with their friends, family and surroundings, and discovering creepy crawly creatures like the Trinidad giant cockroaches, short-tailed leaf-nosed bats, and rhinoceros iguanas in the Unseen New World: Creatures of the Americas. And still, there is more! My four year old and I spent a whole day exploring the grounds. Read on here about our zoo discoveries and Zoofari Cafe eats.
For the Historian:
This is for those of you who feel touring historic sites with children is an important part of understanding any destination. Belle Meade was a plantation known for breeding some of the most successful thoroughbred racehorses in history (think along the lines of Seabiscuit and other Kentucky Derby winners). Of course, industrial success in the antebellum south has roots in the complicated history of the Confederate past. A look at the Belle Meade property sheds light on how a plantation was organized economically and tells the stories of all people that made this site their home (whether forced or of their own free will). Based upon the age of your children and your comfort level with the subject matter, there are several ways of presenting the past. If you are traveling with kids over 12, you can take a more in-depth tour examining the stories of those that lived here from slavery to freedom called Journey to Jubilee. For those of you with younger kids (like us), you can do a self-guided tour. Or, consider adding the BackPack experience for an additional fee that uses laminated cards, keys, and props to guide the discussion (one for under 6 and another for 7-12 years of age). We traveled with two additional families with kids ranging from one to nine years of age and this BackPack tool worked best for the older kids between 7-9 simply because the younger kids were short on attention span. Make sure to do the Mansion Tour only if you have kids about 4 years of age and over, as it is a full hour's worth of information and requires no touching, no eating/drinking and has no access to bathrooms. All Mansion Tours end at the Tasting Room, where you can sample Belle Meade Winery varietals gratis. Or, if wine isn't your thing, head across the lawn past the bocce ball, croquet and miniature golf areas for some ice cream.
Kid Allergy Travel received sponsored admission to all destinations listed in this post. Although this was part of a media visit, rest assured, the opinions provided in the post by Kid Allergy Travel remain our own. Photos both by Kid Allergy Travel and Courtesy of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation.