Nashville is a city big on respect, community and family. If yours is looking for some of that good old-fashioned southern hospitality you’ve heard so much about, look no further than this beautiful, southern city.
There’s plenty of family-friendly (and budget-friendly) fun to be had in Nashville, from the city’s Grand Ole Opry to its very own zoo. Read on for a foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’ good time!
Written by Maxwell Barna
Day One: Welcome to the South
Jump onto the Music City Trolley Hop and get to know the city. This interactive tour will take you to some of the city's most popular attractions, including Ryman Auditorium, the original Grand Ole Opry House. Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and the Great Harry Houdini all performed here.
The tour allows you to hop off, explore, and get back on at your convenience. Tickets are valid for 24 hours.
Less than 10 minutes away from the starting point of the trolley tour, you'll find Fort Negley, a partially restored Civil War fort. This beautiful piece of American History, located right on the edge of the city, is a perfect place to learn about Nashville's critical role during the Civil War and throughout American history.
You can't go wrong with a dinner cruise on the General Jackson Showboat. This 300-foot riverboat cruises up and down the Cumberland River while guests enjoy a delicious Southern meal prepared by General Jackson himself. Live music features some of Tennessee's most beloved genres -- country, bluegrass, soul and even a little gospel. Children can order chicken fingers and French fries. Dress code is casual.
Day Two: Music City
Start the day with a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The museum offers a fascinating look into the ever-evolving past and present of country music. You'll find exhibits highlighting legendary musicians, such as Marty Robbins and Willie Nelson, and newer stars, such as Jason Aldean and Shania Twain. You'll also see exhibits on artists who spent a great deal of time in Tennessee, including Elvis. On select days, family programs are offered.
After you've had your fill at the Hall of Fame, hop on a complimentary shuttle to the Historic RCA Studio B, an add-on tour, located less than 10 minutes away. Here, you'll get a tour of Nashville's only historic music studio; the place where Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Dottie West, Connie Smith, Roy Orbison, Don Gibson, "Gentleman" Jim Reeves and Dolly Parton laid down their classic hits.
Apply your newly learned factoids with a trip to the Grande Ole Opry. You can take a variety of pre- and post-show tours, or just take the kids out for a fun concert. If you're looking for dinner and a show, check out the Post-Tour Show Package. It comes with a ticket to the Opry, a Backstage Pass Tour and dinner at the Opry Backstage Grill. Kids under 4 aren't required to have a ticket if they sit on their parents' laps. Any child sitting in a chair must have a paid ticket.
Day Three: Kid-Friendly Fun
You can also consider a trip to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. Located roughly 6 miles outside downtown Nashville, the zoo is home to more than 2,500 animals. The zoo also hosts a variety of kids' programs, like Jr. Zookeeper, Pre-K iTRAILS, Zoo Tots and Zoo Careers. Visitors will also delight in various animal shows, the onsite jungle gym, the Wilderness Express Train and Wild Animal Carousel.
Where to Stay: Luxury Nashville Hotel
Where to Stay: Mid-Range Nashville Hotel
Where to Stay: Budget Nashville Hotel
Top 5 Restaurants Not to Miss
At this family-friendly restaurant, every table comes with a griddle. You order a batter, accouterments and sides, and take turns cooking your meals. Add your own toppings, pour your own batter, and cook your own eggs, bacon, potatoes and more.
2. Loveless Cafe
At Loveless Cafe, you'll enjoy traditional southern cuisine, including genuine southern fried chicken, hearty macaroni and cheese, fried catfish, smoked boneless pork chops, pit-smoked turkey breast and pork barbecue, a variety of char-grilled burgers and more. The Loveless is also famous for its biscuits and jam, and you'll love them so much, you won't be able to turn them down when the servers bring more to the table.
3. Peg Leg Porker
Peg Leg Porker is a quintessential Tennessee barbecue spot, smack dab in the middle of Nashville, and you'll know it as soon as you get within earshot. By the time you hear the blues wailing over the speakers, you'll smell that sweet mesquite aroma of homemade sauce and smoky barbecue. Menu items range from half and full racks of wet and dry ribs, to pulled pork sandwiches, BBQ plates, and half-chicken platters.
4. The Cupcake Collection
Nashville's favorite sweet shop and dessert place, The Cupcake Collection has been satisfying the city's sweet teeth since 2008. You'll find a delicious array of homemade cupcakes, with flavors like Red Velvet, Italian Wedding Cake, Butterfinger and Sweet Lemonade.
5. The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden
The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden is one of Nashville's premiere burger joints. The burgers are made from 100-percent Tennessee beef and sandwiched on a lightly toasted Provence bun. A kids' menu is available, as is a Soda Shop, with flavors like Creamsicle and Egg Cream (it's better than it sounds).
Planning & Tips
In Music City, there are a number of family-friendly events held annually, and many of them revolve around -- you guessed it -- music. In April, best known as "Awesome April," there are musical and theatrical performances every weekend. The Fourth of the July is a grand spectacle, with music, family activities and fireworks at The Lawn at Riverfront Park. The winter holidays are a great time to visit, too, with more musical entertainment on tap.
Additionally, this is where the CMA Music Festival and CMA Music Awards take place. You might just spot a celebrity if you're in town during one of these events!
It's easy to get around with a car in Nashville, and we actually suggest that over public transportation. You can easily find free and metered parking throughout the city, and many of the meters stop running at 6 p.m. anyway. Library Garage is another good parking option; it's only $8 on evenings (after 6 p.m.) and weekends, and is located near Ryman Auditorium.
Nashville's public transportation system mainly consists of buses, with one-way fares starting at $1.70. Children under age 4 ride free. Day and week passes are available. For families wanting to explore the area's major attractions, hop on the Music City Circuit. It's free and travels three routes, typically leaving every 15 minutes.