Nashville has become a bachelorette bacchanal but it still has a kid friendly side. After all, once you get married and have children, you might want to relive parts of your youth, or see more of the daytime attractions of the Music City. From music institutions to a car museum, botanical gardens and a giant Athena, there are plenty of fun things to do here. Read on to discover our favorite family friendly attractions in Nashville Tennessee!
Fun Things to Do in Nashville with Kids
The first time I went to Nashville, all I did was see Vanderbilt University and try to avoid hot chicken. I’ve been a vegetarian for that long. But Nashville has grown, with a huge farm-to-table scene, party time for girls weekends and music everywhere. The family friendly attractions run the gamut, from historic sites like the Hermitage and Ryman Auditorium to new fun things like the National Museum of African American Music.
Whether you are taking a family vacation with young children or young adults, visiting Music City for the first time or 10th, you will find tons of fun things to do In Nashville with kids.
My 21-year-old niece is a Vanderbilt University, so we were able to stop at breweries and a speakeasy with her, for more mature family fun. When you are here with adult children, you can also see a show at Bluebird Cafe. This music venue allows any age, but requires patrons to be quiet.
Nashville, Tennessee has been known as the Music City since the 1800s. So it makes sense that the National Museum of African American Music opened here in 2021.
You start your tour with a short film about the evolution of different music genres: spiritual, blues, jazz, gospel, R&B and hip hop. Then you see instruments, costumes and interactive exhibits. You can even sing with a choir or rap along with others. Even though Covid concerns led me to keep my hands to myself, the immersive museum was fun and instructive.
Looking for free things to do in Nashville? Check out these free activities in Music City.
Despite the name, Lane Motor Museum is more than just cars. Though the car collection of mostly drool-worthy European models is spectacular! The family friendly museum has a play area for little ones, with toy cars, books and art supplies.
There are also special events where kids can ride a micro car or look under the hoods of different vehicles. And the museum collection includes motorcycles, vintage bicycles, airplanes and a few amphibious cars (though not the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).
Be sure to check out the gift shop. We got the neighbor’s son a model car here – he was watching our dog while we were away.
A full scale replica of the Parthenon, built in Centennial Park, was such a hit at the 1897 Centennial Exposition that it became a permanent fixture of Nashville. The Parthenon has been an art museum since the beginning but in 1990 added a giant statue of Athena.
Centennial Park, on the National Register for Historic Places, has a playground and plenty of open space for kids to run around.
Fun fact: Honey from the Centennial Park bees is sold in the Parthenon Museum Store.
Cheekwood Estate & Garden has an interactive children’s garden, with places to climb, run and touch. There are drop-in story times and art activities included with admission. An outdoor TRAINS! exhibit has a tunnel for kids to crawl through, a storybook trail, and dioramas of miniature homes, all in a wooded setting. The turtle pond lets everyone see rescued turtles in a water habitat. The large botanical garden has walking trails, wildflowers and native gardens, a Japanese garden and
At Christmas, Cheekwood Estate & Garden puts on Holiday Lights, a gorgeous Christmas lights display with a mile of music and twinkling lights, fire pits where you can make your own s’mores and live reindeer. The TRAINS! exhibit is spiffed up for this as well.
This 1881 factory housed the short-lived Marathon Motor Works from 1907-1910. Now the historic building is home to boutiques, two distilleries, a comedy club and a candy company. The antique machinery on display throughout the village serves as a free museum.
And if your kids, like mine, are fans of reality TV, they will want to see the Antique Archaeology shop, home for the History Channel’s American Pickers show.
The Belmont Mansion, on the National Register of Historic Places, offers guided tours by local college students. In fact, the elaborate antebellum home is on the campus of Belmont University, and you can tour the extensive gardens without paying admission.
Our house tour guide did not shy away from confronting Nashville’s racist and slave-owning past. This historic site would be an excellent place to take schoolchildren who are studying the Civil War.
The plantation home of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson, the Hermitage is an historic site where you can see Jackson’s mansion and the surrounding grounds, plus the tomb where Jackson and his wife Rachel are buried.
Don’t miss the walking tour “In Their Footsteps.” It focuses on where the enslaved men, women and children were born, lived, worked and died.
The Country Music Hall of Fame takes you from the beginning of country music to present day, with plenty of opportunity to listen to music, see original costumes worn by the performers and the instruments they played. You can watch video clips of different artists and use interactive panels to learn more. The Hall of Fame Rotunda has plaques commemorating every musician inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The Taylor Swift Education Center has interactive exhibits and programs.
Note: During Covid, most of the programming has moved online.
9. RCA Studio B
RCA Studio B popularized the “Nashville Sound” that included background vocals and strings. Tours of the recording studio, an add-on to the Country Music Hall of Fame, include transportation from the CMHF. Artists such as Chet Atkins, Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson recorded hits there. And Elvis Presley recorded more than 200 songs here.
Visitors are allowed to sit at the piano and pretend to play and sing. Who knows? You could start your kids on a musical career.
10. Hatch Show Print
The Hatch Show Print tours, another part of the Country Music Hall of Fame, should not be missed. In this fascinating tour, we learned how posters for concerts are made. The shop used to be in an area of Nashville called Printers Alley. Now, as an adjunct to the CMHF, you can see how posters for shows come to life. And you can create your own!
Even if you don’t see a show at The Ryman, you can tour backstage. And see all the posters created by Hatch Show Print for the concerts here. The historic site opened in 1892 and hosted the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974. The National Historic Landmark Ryman Auditorium presents more than 200 concerts a year, with rock, country, pop and rap, among other genres.
SheBuysTravel Tip: The charmless Bridgestone Arena, near Ryman Auditorium, also has concerts, as well as the NHL team, the Predators. But it you want to take the whole family to one of the famous music venues in Nashville, pick the Ryman.
My kids only know Johnny Cash from the movie “Walk the Line.” And really to them, that’s a Reese Witherspoon movie. Embarrassing! I set the record straight at the Johnny Cash Museum, where they learned about his life, music and costumes. Those costumes show why he was nicknamed the Man in Black.
The museum offers a wealth of memorabilia; a wall of gold and platinum records, school report cards and yearbook pages, Cash’s Air Force uniform and personal Bible, to name just a few. There are clips of Johnny Cash appearances in films, on TV and in cartoons. And as you walk through the compact Johnny Cash Museum, you hear his music throughout. It’s a great introduction to the man, or a great way to revisit his career and life.
The Sobro area, south of Broadway and part of downtown, is filled with live music venues, honky tonks, cowboy boots for sale and drunk people all day long. I’m not a prude, but I don’t find it particularly child friendly. Yet as we passed through to some of the museums, we saw plenty of families. Be forewarned.
SheBuysTravel Tip: We took the Old Town Trolley to get around Nashville. The first stop, and the only place to buy your tickets, is in the middle of this area, so you really can’t avoid it. And your teens, of course, will want to come here.
The Nashville Farmers’ Market, open daily, has an outdoor area where you can buy fresh produce and an indoor space with more than a dozen different types of food. We went specifically for Succulent Vegan Tacos, billed as Nashville’s first plant based taqueria. Sadly, they had run out of tacos, but we got plates of tasty black beans, rice and veggies, covered in salsa.
If you have time, pop over to the free Tennessee State Museum, right across the street.
The family friendly monthly Night Markets, held the third Friday of every month, include live entertainment and even more food offerings.
Budding foodies should head to this indoor food extravaganza, which also has free concerts and family friendly activities. Assembly Food Hall is loud, which means your kid can scream because her brother touched her napkin and no one will bat an eye. (That being said, if your child has sensory issues, this may be overwhelming).
You also get your food quickly, a bonus for children who can’t wait, and there are plenty of kid friendly options, from burgers to hot chicken (without the usual lines, at least when we visited), to dumplings, sushi, ice cream. Let’s put it this way. If someone in your family craves it, they likely make it fresh here.
The Goo Goo Chocolate Co., home to Goo Goo Clusters, is more than a place to pick up a box of the signature candy. Which you should definitely do. You can also make your own candy at an interactive class, while learning about the cluster’s history. Or you can watch the candy being made. The newly renovated space includes Design Your Own Confection Stations and new full-service Chocolate Bar offering milkshakes and other sweet treats.
The family-owned business, part of the downtown Nashville landscape since 1912, makes original Goo Goo Clusters with milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat. Personally, I say try the Peanut Butter Goo Goo, made with peanut butter, peanuts, and milk chocolate. And the Peanut Butter and Pretzel Premium, which is covered in dark chocolate. Of course, you can just conduct your own taste test of all the Goo Goo Clusters.
More to Things to Do in Nashville
Like any great family vacation, you want to have another list of things to do in case a venue is closed, it is too hot or too cold for what you planned, or a child has a sudden interest that you want to indulge. So consider the Grand Ole Opry, Belle Meade Plantation, Adventure Science Center and planetarium, the Frist Art Museum and the Nashville Zoo. See Christmas lights at Gaylord Opryland Resort, and walk around the Cumberland River riverfront and over the pedestrian bridge to the stadium where the Tennessee Titans play.
You may explore Nashville with a local guide on a low-speed vehicle (so you and your child won’t be bored). If you are an art lover, this guided tour is a perfect way to learn more about Nashville’s art! A wonderful family tour for donut lover. You will be able to eat delicious donuts in different times and even visit donut shops.
In warmer weather, check out Nashville Shores Lakeside resort, with a huge waterpark and Treetop Adventure Park zipline.
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