Nashville with Kids
Nashville, TN is not exactly a city that conjures up images of kids running around. When people think of Music City they think of bars and loud music, party buses taking to the streets, bachelorette bashes – basically one big party! Which it is. But, let’s face it, even in the most adult-centric cities, there are kids everywhere. I like to have a laugh at this thought because it’s not like there aren’t any kids in Nashville!
In the last couple of years I’ve found myself writing about cities that tend to have a “grown-up” vibe and reputation, such as New Orleans and Miami, and have been showing just how family-friendly they can actually be. We don’t have anyone to watch the kids while we’re away, so where we go, they go. We wanted to visit Nashville, so the kids came too.
And with that we discovered just how wonderful Nashville is for families. There are a lot of fun things to do with kids in Nashville. I will put out a full disclaimer that we had grandparents in tow (who live in the South) who were able to watch the kids while we went out at night. But even without them, we would have still had a blast, because Nashville is so much fun, and for all ages. Below is my list of things to do with kids in Nashville.
Things to do with Kids in Nashville
Watch some live music on Broadway – at Night
Most of the bars with live music on Broadway in Downtown Nashville don’t allow kids after 6:00 p.m., but there is one that does – Rippy’s. A restaurant and bar with live music both downstairs and upstairs, Rippy’s serves large portions of BBQ style food and is a lot of fun. We ordered ribs, brisket, wings, baked beans, you name it, and the kids loved all of it. Great for groups, Rippy’s is bustling and the perfect way to immerse the kids in the goings-on of Broadway.
If you want to take the kids around to the venues during the day, many of them let you do so.
You may also enjoy: The Best of Downtown Nashville
Visit a Museum
The Country Music Hall of Fame
The Country Music Hall of Fame is a big museum, and all of it is very well done. I will be the first to say I think the kids enjoyed it more than I did. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but with so much country music factoids to take in – and not necessarily being a big country music listener myself – I found it a little overwhelming. Yet because both the temporary and permanent exhibitions have interactive and engaging displays for the kids, it was very much enjoyed by them.
The Taylor Swift Education Center, for starters, was a big hit. Here they had an art activity where the kids could make musical buttons. Other points of interest included seeing clothes and even cars from popular musicians – no doubt seeing some of T Swift’s clothes in person was great fun for my girls. There are also a lot of fun activities where kids can do things like lip sync a song in a “studio”, create images of themselves dressed as music stars on computers and more. There are a ton of fun kid-oriented programs, so I definitely recommend a visit.
The Johnny Cash Museum
I love The Johnny Cash Museum. And while it may have been more for me than the kids, they still had fun visiting this little gem of a museum. You can listen to all sorts of Johnny Cash songs, and I loved showing them some of my favorites. There are interactive programs, videos and films, enough to engage the kids for some time.
Adventure Science Center
We did not have time to see this science center, but by all accounts it’s supposed to be fabulous. Especially if it’s a rainy day, head here.
Run around at Centennial Park and discover the Parthenon
Yes, the Parthenon! Nashville’s Parthenon, that is. The history is interesting. In 1897, for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, an exact full size replica of the Greek Parthenon was built for the city. Everything is exactly the same – the columns and even the distance between the columns. Nashville has since been called the “Athens of the South”.
There is a museum inside with an impressive statue of Athena – or so they say – unfortunately for us we just missed the museum’s open hours. So check before you go. It didn’t matter though, because Centennial Park, with its wide expanse of green grass, was enough to keep the kids busy for a while and burn off some steam. There is a playground as well. Located 2 miles west of Downtown Nashville, this is a great spot to take the family and enjoy a picnic, with the Parthenon being its crown jewel.
Take a Tour or See a show at the Ryman Auditorium or Grand Ole Opry
In my opinion, you can’t take a family vacation to Nashville and not see at least one of these musical venues. The Ryman Auditorium is iconic – it’s the birth place of bluegrass and country music, and where scores of famed artists got their start. In fact, it’s where Johnny Cash met June Carter. We took a self guided tour of the Ryman, and the introductory video is fabulous – something all ages can appreciate. You can’t help but feel the soul of the place, and understand why it’s called the “Soul of Nashville”. This was one of my favorite things to do.
The Grand Ole Opry is a concert and radio show, and used to be located in the Ryman Auditorium for many years. So many musicians got their start performing with the Grand Ole Opry, and it was a sad day when it left the Ryman (which was in decay). But it moved to a newer, bigger space, which helped its every-growing audience. After a major Ryman renovation, the Grand Ole Opry now performs some nights at the Ryman in addition to its own venue.
Show the kids some fun street art
Nashville is known for its street art scene, and we did seek out some pieces of work, mainly in the 12th Avenue district and The Gulch. Beware, there are lines to take photos – but not at all of them. Some of the ones we loved were:
“I believe in Nashville” by Adrien Saporiti, located at 2702 12th Avenue South
Opposite I Believe in Nashville is a fun striped mural at Reese Witherspoon’s boutique Draper James.
I’m not sure of the exact title, but this fox by Mobe Oner was a huge hit with the girls – it’s on Paris Ave. just off of 12th Ave.
Nearby is the Nashville Peace Project Mural located in 12th Ave as well.
The lines were too long, but Kelsey Montague’s wings entitled #WhatLiftsYou is one of Nashville’s most popular murals..located in the Gulch.
You may also enjoy: The Hermitage: A Fascinating Visit to Andrew Jackson’s Plantation
Tour a Plantation
Nashville, or the outer part of Nashville, is home to several plantations. We decided on seeing The Hermitage, mainly because it was the home and estate of the 7th president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. We did a private tour and our tour guide was fabulous, making it engaging and fun for all the kids. Truly, my kids very much enjoyed visiting the Hermitage, where they learned about a by-gone era, and were able to run around the fields of the plantation.
Take a walk along the John Siegenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
Just south of Broadway, this Truss bridge crosses the Cumberland River and connects Downtown Nashville to the residential suburb of East Nashville. It’s a great place for the kids to blow off some steam, plus it has some of the best views of Downtown Nashville.
Eat Good Food
Nashville is known for its food scene, so pretty much anywhere you go you’re in luck, but some of the places we enjoyed were:
ACME Feed & Seed (huge space with multiple floors and fun rooms)
Pinewood Social (has a bowling alley!)
Rippy’s (see above)
Jeni’s Ice Cream (this hip scoops shop has inventive flavors and some of the best ice cream we’ve tried to date).
And those are my picks for things to do with kids in Nashville. If there’s anything you’d like to add, please leave in the comments.