Family Vacations to Nashville, Tennessee

Country Music Hall of Fame Nashville, Tennessee
Country Music Hall of Fame (courtesy, TDTD)

Nashville may be enshrined as the home of country music, but the city soundscape also grooves to the beat of rock 'n' roll, blues, and soul. Nicknamed "Music City USA," Nashville has been home to the Grand Ole Opry, the world's longest-running live radio show, since 1925. At the Opry's museum kids can learn about Minnie Pearl and other legends, while more recognizable names such as Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, and Garth Brooks have all belted out their best during Grand Ole Opry performances. In 2006 the city adds another major concert center when the new Symphony Hall debuts in September.

Finding out about country music's roots in folk and gospel songs and how such instruments as the back porch banjo morphed into the ditties of the Dixie Chicks is standard fare for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A new exhibit honoring Ray Charles opened in spring 2006.

There's more to Nashville for kids than just music, however. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts' "The Quest for Immortality: The Treasures of Ancient Egypt" debuted in June 2006, showcasing gold coins, ornate coffins, and other riches of the pharaohs. Also check out the museum's ArtQuest Gallery, a hands-on center where parents and kids learn how to appreciate art as well as create their own watercolors, prints, and sculptures.

Inside Adventure Tower, the Adventure Science Center's signature exhibit, kids push, pull, press, and climb to learn about the dynamics behind everyday science. With BodyQuest, an interactive exploration of the human body, kids can follow food down a mega-sized mouth into the stomach and through the intestines, as well as see their "thoughts" by watching different areas of a huge brain light up.

In October 2005, the Nashville Zoo opened Lorikeet Landing, an aviary where scores of these rainbow-colored birds fly free. More zoo highlights include the Elephant Savannah and the Bamboo Trail, home to clouded leopards, red pandas, and ring-tailed lemurs.

Nashville's downtown, 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park captures kids' attention with 31 fountains and a 200-foot granite map of the state embedded in a plaza. Old Hickory Lake northeast of Nashville offers more running room. Join the locals who come for boating, strolling, and fishing.

Cool off at Nashville Shores, an outdoor water park bordering 14,000-acre J. Percy Priest Lake. There are beaches for family sandcastle building, a Wacky Pond for little kids, twisting slides to swirl down, plus a splash pool and a water-ski and stunt show. Turn lunch into an event by boarding the General Jackson Showboat, a riverboat-style paddlewheeler, for a 2.5-hour cruise on the green-banked Cumberland River set to a lively soundtrack of toe-tapping country tunes.

You can pay tribute to Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage, which, from 1804 on, served as a primary home to the seventh U.S. president. A film at the visitor center acquaints you with Jackson's life and costumed interpreters guide you through the mansion, restored to its 1837 appearance. The 30-minute horse-drawn wagon ride through the grounds, available April through October, makes history palatable for youngsters. On the Work Yard and Farm tour, available May through October, find out about the enslaved Africans who operated the farm.

Tip: Browse the Farmer's Market on Saturdays, at 900 Eighth Avenue near the Bicentennial Mall.

Recommended Side Trips: Chattanooga, Bowling Green (Kentucky)'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 7 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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