Nashville offers great music, history and much more for families
I was primed for a short getaway recently. Nashville seemed like an obvious and long-overdue choice for my family of music lovers.
From the vibrant and eclectic historic downtown area to the numerous venues scattered throughout the city, visitors are never too far from the music that Nashville is famous for. And you never know when you might pop in on the next Kenny Chesney or Alan Jackson.
Close enough from Atlanta for a two- or three-night getaway, Nashville certainly has enough family fun to merit longer stays. We made our trip before the devastating flood that hit in early May, but the city has recovered as nearly all major attractions are back in business.
Our two must-see attractions were the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
We were fortunate to be able to tour the Grand Ole Opry, hard hit by the flood and now closed until October. But all events for the Opry have been re-routed to other venues, including the historic Ryman Auditorium. The nearby Gaylord Opryland Hotel is scheduled to reopen in mid-November.
I took the Opry tour with my two oldest daughters. The modern façade on the outside of the building didn’t prepare me for the step-back-in-time feeling I got when I entered the venue. After a short video history of the Opry, the tour takes you backstage to the dressing rooms and then on stage. The guides make the tour special by telling stories and intimate details about country stars from Porter Wagoner and Minnie Pearl to Carrie Underwood. My 17-year-old daughter admitted that setting foot on stage gave her chills. It was a great experience for us all.
The Hall of Fame and Museum takes the curious from the roots of country music through modern day with artifacts, photos, original recordings and video. A colorful menagerie of stage costumes, instruments and even Elvis Presley’s Cadillac with gold flakes in the paint are on display. The museum houses more than 800 costumes and 600 instruments, and the displays are interchanged from time to time.
The Ryman Auditorium downtown, which was home to the Opry until 1974, also is full of history and a wonderful tour for the whole family.
We even ventured downtown and the kids enjoyed browsing wide-eyed at the variety of restaurants, shops and music venues. My wife was especially excited to come across Dolly Parton’s new store called Treasures & Trinkets but disappointed that we missed the grand opening by three weeks.
We stopped for lunch at the Hard Rock Café on our first day, then returned that night and made a stop at an ice cream shop and a couple of other stores. We kept the kids out of the honky tonks, but there are a few all-ages venues in the district.
Music may be the reason most people come to Nashville, but there are plenty of other family attractions to keep the good times rolling. Be sure to check out these popular Music City family attractions:
The Parthenon: This breathtaking structure was originally built for Tennessee’s 1897 Centennial Exposition. It is the world’s only full-sized replica of the Greek Parthenon and houses Athena, the tallest indoor structure in the Western world. The venue also serves as the city’s art museum. If your kids are skeptical, you can let them know that the movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians was filmed there.
The Hermitage: (home of President Andrew Jackson): If the kids are into history, this majestic home is well worth a quick visit. While being led by guides in period costumes, you will learn about Jackson’s life. All ages will enjoy a ride on a horse-drawn carriage around the grounds.
Adventure Science Center: This place proves that science can be fun for kids of all ages. The hands-on museum teaches visitors about the environment, physics and technology as they cruise through colorful and senses-stimulating exhibits.
Outdoor fun: The Nashville Shores water park gives families the perfect place to cut loose and have some fun in the sun. A new wave pool and lazy river adds to attractions that include five waterslides and a beach with banana boat rides, kayaking and swimming. Another worthwhile break from the city’s rich music and history is Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. Introduced at the zoo this past spring were seven zebras, all of which were pregnant, a pair of white tiger cubs and two giant anteaters. The animal shows and zookeeper talks are informative and entertaining.
To find out more about family attractions in the Music City, go to www.visitmusiccity.com