Planning a family vacation is different from planning a trip involving just adults. For a family vacation to be successful, you have to pick a destination that has plenty of kid-friendly things to do and see. Whether you live in Tennessee or somewhere else, you needn’t look beyond Nashville for a great family-friendly vacation destination.
Family Adventures Are a Scratch Away
If you’re looking for ways to make the most of family time, look no further than “Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition.” Uncover a new challenge whenever you want to explore, enjoy some excitement, or just be together at home, in Nashville, or anywhere!
See Nashville on a Scavenger Hunt
When it comes to getting around Nashville to see all of the city’s amenities, there are several fun options available to you. Signing up for an app-led scavenger hunt is one of those options. Let’s Roam has pre-planned tours of Music City, three of which are great for families visiting the city with children.
Some kid-friendly scavenger hunts we’re put together include:
- Capitol Sights & Country Songs Scavenger Hunt
- Music Row & Vanderbilt Scavenger Hunt
- Murals in Nashville Art Walk: A Journey of History and Color
Must-See Kid-Friendly Attractions and Amenities
Nashville earned the nickname “Smashville” thanks to the dominance and sometimes rough-and-tumble nature of its professional hockey team, the Nashville Predators. The Predators play at Bridgestone Arena, which is one of the busiest multi-purpose venues in the world.
From NHL games to concerts, comedy shows, and more, there’s always something going on at the arena. To get your Nashville family vacation off to a good start, buy tickets to a family-friendly show during your stay in Music City. Just be sure you purchase your tickets in advance because shows and events at the arena often sell out quickly.
Of course, there are plenty of other things to do and see in Nashville. Music City is ripe for both indoor and outdoor sightseeing, and the city doesn’t have a shortage of amenities that will interest kids of all ages.
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry bills itself as “the platform that connects artists and fans to the music they love” and “the show that made country music famous,” and rightfully so. For nearly 100 years, the Grand Ole Opry has been home to country music’s humble beginnings, its evolving growth, and its bright future.
You can catch a live music radio concert in the gallant hall. The show is just 45 minutes long, which will prevent kids from getting impatient or bored. You’ll appreciate the venue’s church pew seating because it will allow your children to move around freely in their seats.
Before or after the show, you may want to sign up for a tour of the facility. Guided tours kick off with an immersive experience featuring husband and wife duo Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. You can hang out backstage, visit dressing rooms where world-famous musicians have prepared for upcoming performances, and even stand in the world-renowned circle.
Nashville Children’s Theatre
Established in 1931, the Nashville Children’s Theatre is the oldest kids’ theatre in the United States. The theatre has trained generations of aspiring kid actors and continues to put on a full calendar of live performances every year.
Acting classes culminate in fantastic performances that allow trained, professional child actors to demonstrate their skills to the delight of audience members. In addition to its performances and acting classes, the theatre offers programs to educate kids about the autism spectrum.
If your children get bitten by the “acting bug” when you visit NCT, don’t worry! You can sign them up for virtual acting classes year-round. The theatre also gives your children the chance to participate in some fun-filled activities virtually. From breaking codes to solving mysteries, saving a far-off galaxy, and more, your kids can do them all through the theatre’s digital programs.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Also referred to as the “Smithsonian of Country Music,” the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum pays homage to all things related to country music and its storied history. The facility has a large collection of county music memorabilia, state-of-the-art galleries, event halls, classrooms, and a fun-to-explore gift store.
The institution’s main exhibit is named “Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music.” This exhibit takes visitors on an odyssey that explores the history, voices, instrumental sounds, faces, and legendary tales related to country music and its ever-increasing popularity. In addition to other noteworthy exhibits, the museum has a CMA Theater and the Taylor Swift Education Center. The Museum is also home to CMF Records.
Honky Tonk Highway
If you’re making a list of the best family-friendly things to do in Nashville, you should put “visit Honky Tonk Highway” near or at the top of your list. Honky Tonk Highway is littered with a wide array of places where you and your family can enjoy some live music, including AJ’s Good Time Bar, Alan Jackson’s Bar, Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, and Whisky Row Gastropub.
While some establishments are adult-only at night, most of them welcome families with kids during the day. If you’re going to let your kids stay up past their bedtime, you and your children will still have a great time along Honky Tonk Highway after the sun goes down because some places let kids in after dark, and overflow tunes will keep you entertained as you stroll along the sidewalks.
Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort
It may seem strange to put a resort on a list of fun things to do in Music City, but it’ll be more understandable once you’re familiar with two of the property’s amenities. The first one is the Treetop Adventure Park and the second is Nashville’s largest waterpark.
Treetop Adventure Park
Treetop Adventure Park gives visitors the chance to explore the outdoors as they’ve never done before. The park features 100 challenging obstacles, which include:
- Tarzan swings
- Hanging cargo nets
- Wobbly suspended bridges
- And more!
Groups start their adventures every hour on the hour starting at 10 am. Since it takes a while for people to cover the four large courses in the park, the last daily group departs the starting point at 2 pm. The park asks visitors to fill out their virtual waivers before they arrive and requests that they arrive at the starting point at least 15 minutes before their scheduled start times.
After you work up a sweat at Treetop Adventure Park, you can cool off at the nearby waterpark. This park has multiple slides, including Mega Mayhem, which is a fun, thrilling family raft ride that’s over six stories high. The park also has a wave pool, Kowabunga Beach, and a huge treehouse and playground. If you want to relax at the park, consider renting one of the available cabanas.
Centennial Park and the Parthenon
Located near Nashville’s border on West End and 25th Avenue North, you may have to travel a bit to get to Centennial Park if you’re accommodations are on the other side of the city. Centennial Park is a large outdoor space that occupies 132 acres. The park has a slew of amenities, which include:
- A sunken garden
- An arts activity center
- An event shelter
- Sand volleyball courts
- Exercise and walking trails
- A bandshell
- Lake Watauga
- A dog park
- An arts center
In addition to those amenities, Centennial Park is home to the iconic Parthenon, which is a full-size replica of the Parthenon located in Athens, Greece. The Parthenon has a statue of the goddess Athena Parthenos that stands tall at 42 feet. Confederate veteran William Crawford designed the structure and it was constructed way back in 1897.
Today, the Parthenon is an art museum. The museum’s permanent collection is maintained on the lower floor and it includes paintings by American artists from the 19th and 20th centuries. During the summer, the Parthenon’s steps serve as the stage for various Greek-themed plays like “Medea” by Euripides and “Antigone” by Sophocles.
You have to pay a modest entry fee to go inside the Parthenon. Entering Centennial Park, enjoying its varied amenities, and watching the summertime plays reenacted on the Parthenon’s steps are all free.
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
Known as the people’s president, Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel once owned The Hermitage, which is located about 10 miles east of Nashville. While it’s outside of Music City, The Hermitage is worth the short ride it will take to reach the grounds if history, architecture, and beautiful landscaping are of interest to you.
Now a museum, The Hermitage offers an intimate look into the lives of its former residents. Exhibits and various displays offer glimpses into the history of the property and the former president’s lifestyle and interests.
When you visit the grounds, make sure you check out the monument where Rachel and Jackson are buried. Jackson had the monument built for his wife after she passed away suddenly in 1828, and he joined her there in eternal rest two days after he passed away on June 8, 1845. The tomb is located in the garden, which was Rachel’s favorite place, and it’s built to look like one of the Greek temples seen on the Telemachus wallpaper Jackson’s wife had selected for the home’s entrance hall.
The Hermitage offers several types of tours, including:
- The Hermitage by Wagon Tour
- Lantern Evening Tours
- Tulip Grove Tours
You can also participate in various programs and events that run throughout the year. Given the former president’s relationship with wine and whiskey, it should come as no surprise that tastings are regular events at the property. Vintage Baseball, Painting with the President, and Jackson’s Library Card Virtual Book Club are additional things you may want to sign up for.
Frist Art Museum
Like The Hermitage, the Frist Art Museum is a National Historic Landmark. Located at 919 Broadway in Nashville, the museum occupies what was once a U.S. post office building which shows off an unapologetic Art Deco style.
The non-collecting institution gives visitors the chance to see rotating art exhibits that display all sorts of artistic works. Similarly, the museum encourages kids to be hands-on in the interactive, art-making space known as the Martin ArtQuest Gallery.
While adults have to pay a modest fee to enter the museum, kids under 18 can experience the space for free. The Frist Museum has Free Family Days throughout the year and whole families can visit the museum for the price of just one adult on the second Monday of every month.
On Family Days, your kids can enjoy trilingual storytime in the Martin ArtQuest Gallery, where stories are told in English, Spanish, and sing language. Due to COVID, your kids will have to enjoy storytime online for now. Just like the museum’s website should be your destination for virtual storytime, you should also navigate to that site for how-to videos for art projects your kids can do at home.
There’s no reason to pack snacks before you visit the museum. The Frist Art Museum Café has a kid- and family-friendly menu that includes sandwiches, pizza, chicken fingers, salads, corn dogs, and yummy dessert items.
Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
Built as the residence of Leslie and Mabel Cheek back in 1929, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens became a museum and botanical garden that opened to the public in 1960. The estate is one of the most striking samples of the American Country Place Era that you’ll come across anywhere. Cheekwood Estate and Gardens occupies 55 acres that are landscaped to maintain an idyllic look and feel.
The 30,000 square-foot museum is home to a permanent art collection that includes about 600 paintings and around 5,000 prints, photos, and sketches. When you step into the gardens, you’ll see a vast array of local flora that will take your breath away. If you walk along the Carrell Woodland Sculpture Trail, you’ll see 15 sculptures crafted by artists from around the world.
Approximately 300,000 people visit Cheekwood Estate and Gardens every year, and the museum boasts a membership list of around 19,000 households. You may want to consider signing up for a membership because it will grant your kids access to the museum’s Tots! Program. With the on-site Tots! program currently suspended, the museum is sharing some fun things parents and kids can do, create, and explore at home on its website.
If you visit the museum on a Tuesday morning, your kids can participate in Storytime. Storytime is perfectly timed to keep everyone’s attention, with each session lasting just 15-20 minutes. Sessions start at 10 am, 10:45 am, and 11:30 am, and they’re held outside in the aptly named Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden. Storytime is weather permitting, so it will be canceled if it’s raining. Be sure you get to the site early because seats are occupied on a first-come, first-served basis.
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is for kids of any age who love animals. Nearly 3,000 animals from over 350 different specials live at the zoo, including amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, and arthropods.
Attractions aren’t in short supply at the zoo. Your family members can enjoy personal experiences with select animals by visiting Critter Encounters, Lorikeet Landing, or Kangaroo Kickabout. You can take a tour of the Grassmere Historic Home and learn some of the stories the historic home has hidden between its storied walls. The Soaring Eagle Zip Line, the Wilderness Express Train, and the Wild Animal Carousel are perennial favorites among the zoo’s visitors.
Do your kids have some extra energy to burn off? Take them over to the zoo’s Jungle Gym. The Jungle Gym has more than 66,000 square feet of excitement and fun for all your family members.
Before you visit the Nashville Zoo, you can arrange for your family to take a Backstage Pass Tour. Depending on the timing and length of your trip, you may also want to sign your kids up for a camp, class, or overnight experience at the zoo. In addition to its in-person programs, the Nashville Zoo has some online programming you can register your kids for, such as ZooTots-to-You and Zooniversity for At-Home Students.
Adventure Science Center
Adventure Science Center is designed to get kids interested in science. The facility is a non-profit museum that’s home to more than 175 interactive, themed exhibits. With 44,000 square feet of floor space, the museum also has the following attractions:
- 75-foot Adventure Tower
- The Sudekum Planetarium, which has a 63-foot dome
- 15,000-foot Space Chase
- BodyQuest a Mini-Med Center
- A farting slide
- Tinker Lab
With much to see, do, and experience at the Adventure Science Center, it’s advisable to reserve the better part of a full day to explore the museum. Even if it’s raining on the day you devote to visiting the Adventure Science Center, you should still make it a point to check out the museum’s Galactic Gardens. When you do, you can see the museum’s Rain Garden, the Galactic Gardens Mural, a Phases of the Moon Engraving, and the Cornerstone Financial Credit Union Amphitheater.
Percy Priest Lake
Percy Priest Lake should be your destination if you’re interested in doing some fun things outside. The 42-mile like is located just ten minutes from downtown Nashville. If you need to recharge, you can use the short car ride over to the man-made reservoir named for Congressman Percy Priest to do some of Let’s Roam’s suggested 20 short and effective meditations.
The reservoir has shorelines in three counties, including Wilson, Davidson, and Rutherford. More than 18,000 acres of land surround Percy Priest Lake. Most of that land is dedicated to preserving and managing local flora and fauna, but select spots allow for outdoor recreation. Here are some of the family-friendly activities you can engage in during a trip to Percy Priest Lake:
- Mountain biking
Tennessee Central Railway Museum
Named after the Tennessee Central Railway, which operated from 1902 until 1969, the Tennessee Central Railway Museum shows off multiple diesel-electric locomotives along with a sizeable collection of train cars, engines, and railroad-related memorabilia.
Occupying what used to be a freight depot, the museum allows visitors to take a ride on a train that traces its origins back to the 1950s. If you sign up for the ride, the train will take you through a portion of breathtaking Middle Tennessee.