Family Fun in Nashville

By Wendy K. Leigh
It’s easy to think that Nashville is all about music— and in many ways, it really is. But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best cities in America’s South-land for family travel. So put aside the notion of rowdy music clubs, neon honky tonks, and moonshining whiskey bars; there’s a New South rolling along in Tennessee, and families are leading the way.

Traveling with kids in the Music City has never been easier, so get ready for some romping, stomping, singing, zip-lining and riverboating with these fab-fun kids activities in Nashville.

Country Music and Down-Home Dancing

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum ranks as one of Nashville’s premier attractions, but don’t think it’s a yawner for the kids just because it’s a museum. Families have their own little enclaves tucked away inside this massive exhibition space, so pick up a “Fun for Families” brochure from the Hall of Fame and make a beeline for the spots your kids will love. Trust me, you’ll get just as many kicks as your little budding tunemasters.

  • Listening Stations and workshops are everywhere, giving children the chance to design country-star stage costumes, write songs, dance to down-home country tunes, and learn the basics of guitar chords.
  • Head over to String City for reenactments of country music history by at least 100 stringed puppets and marionettes. Surprise puppet personalities include Taylor Swift, Dolly Parton and Alan Jackson starring in musical shadow shows and animation productions.
  • Take a break for snacks at Bajo Sexto Taco, named for an enormous mariachi-band guitar.

Jungle Romps, Floating Trampoline, and Water Treehouses

Forget about bucolic lake fishing or paddling when traveling with children in Nashville. At J. Percy Priest Lake, it’s nonstop action from the minute little feet hit the shoreline. We’re talking a massive lakefront waterpark, floating trampoline and Tarzan-style jungle jumping.

  • Get ready for wet and wild at Nashville Shores waterpark and beach, starring 385 acres of aqua fun. From twisty-turvy water slides to surf pools, tunnels, spray fountains, and the Big Kahuna family raft slide, you’ll think you’ve seen it all – until the jaw-dropping water treehouse comes into view. The littlest kiddies have their own spot at the Wacky Pond.
  • The lake isn’t just a backdrop at J. Percy Priest; it’s actually part of the family travel adventure. Start with sand castles and miniature volleyball on Kowabunga Beach, and then venture out to the enormous floating trampoline. You can also rent a pontoon boat for the whole family, go kayaking through the lake, or get pulled along in an inflatable banana boat.
  • Take a swing on the wild side at Treetop Adventure Park, which is also part of Nashville Shores. Tap your inner-Tarzan while jumping and zip-lining with the kids through dozens of obstacles, including wobbly suspension bridges, dangling cargo nets, ladders, and slippery cables. Choose from adult, junior and kid courses, based on age and inclination.

Nashville at night.  Photo courtesy of Waldron Creative.

Star-Chasing and Interactive Art

When traveling with kids, indoor activities can save many a rainy day. They also serve as much-needed cooling spots on humid summer days in Nashville. So check out some of the most innovative artsy and brainiac ways to keep the family active and engaged within four (or forty) walls.

  • Get starry-eyed and extraterrestrial at Adventure Science Center, where the universe seems accessible through solar system adventures, star-chasing, and simulated moonwalking expeditions. The intricacies of space illuminate little minds through laser and star shows at Sudekum Planetarium, and they can crawl through a simulated beating heart and glass pyramid.
  • Head to Broadway Street downtown for a deep-dive into the world of art at Frist Center for the Visual Arts. The Martin ArtQuest Gallery was designed just for budding creatives and is considered one of the best kids activities in Nashville. Using a hands-on approach to appreciating art, dozens of interactive stations overflow with art materials and projects such as printmaking, sculpting, and painting. Storytelling becomes a living art form in the Artful Tales section.

Lucky Farms and Goat-a-Coasters

With a short drive outside Nashville, you’ll get a true dose of country life at Lucky Lad Farms, a petting zoo where petting animals is just a tiny fraction of the fun. Sixty acres await with mazes, tractor swings, pony rides, tire climbs, old-fashioned games, and barn-loft racing slides.

  • Favorite kids activities include marveling at baby chicks in Henny Penny’s chicken coop and watching goofy goats scale the barn roof on the farm’s handmade Goat-a-Coaster.
  • Take an easy hike through nature trails, and then ride off into the sunset on a genuine horsedrawn wagon.

Foodie Fun for Families

The terms “foodie” has become part of travel vernacular these days, but how does it work when traveling with children? Foodie adventures are really just about engaging with food in interesting ways, and fortunately, the Nashville dining scene has a few spots that kids love as much as adults.

  • Start the day off with breakfast at Pfunky Griddle, where diners get to create their own pancake masterpieces. Using a tabletop griddle, each family member can toss in any number of toppings, add-ins and veggies, all of which are cut, cleaned and cubed – meaning no extra work for the grown-ups.
  • Dining out in nice restaurants can be a dicy affair with tired youngsters in tow. But you can avoid the crowds with an early arrival at The Aquarium restaurant, featuring a 200,000-gallon tank and breathtaking Mystic Mermaid shows. Eating will never be the same again.
  • For a special night out before wrapping up your family vacation, book a dinner cruise aboard the General Jackson Showboat, a 300-foot paddlewheeler that floats along the Cumberland River. Moonlit waters and hundreds of lights twinkle to the tunes of country music performers while you dine. Order kid-friendly food ahead of time, and don’t worry about the fancy tables – everyone will be mesmerized by the theatrics unfolding during the meal.

Traveling with kids in Nashville is a unique and worthwhile experience, from the family-friendly elements of the music scene to all of the outdoor and dining experiences Music City has to offer.  For tips on how to save and prepare for your vacation, read this powerful article on translating your travel intentions into actions.  So put on your favorite pair of cowboy boots and head on down to Tennessee.

Wendy K. Leigh

Freelance Writer

Wendy is a travel journalist and photographer from Seattle. She’s also the owner of Delta Media Seattle and the Islands America travel blog.