Nashville: Top Attractions
|Nashville guitars (Barry M. Winiker)|
Nashville is known as the home of country music, but the city's sounds include rock 'n' roll, blues, and soul. Come for the singing, but stay for the other attractions.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Here you can learn about country music's roots in folk and gospel songs, find out such things as how the back porch banjo morphed into the ditties of the Dixie Chicks, and listen to interviews and original recordings. The place is also stuffed with memorabilia, from photos of the genre's biggest stars to stage costumes to one of Elvis' Cadillacs.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum: 615.416.2001, www.countrymusichalloffame.com
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry, the world's longest-running live radio show, is an American classic that began in 1925. Along with such country music legends as Minnie Pearl and Roy Acuff, whom kids can learn more about at the Opry's museum, more recognizable names like Trisha Yearwood, Dolly Parton, and Garth Brooks have belted out their best from the stage. Performances are held on weekends; reserve tickets ahead of time.
Grand Ole Opry: 615.871.6779, www.opry.com
Frist Center for the Visual Arts
Offering an array of changing exhibits, this museum entices families with its permanent ArtQuest Gallery, a hands-on activity center. At interactive stations parents and kids learn how to look at artworks by focusing on color, line, and texture as well as create their own watercolors, prints, and sculptures. "The Splendid Palette: Painting in France from Monet to Bonnard," runs May 20, 2005, to April 30, 2006.
Frist Center for the Visual Arts: 615.344.3340, www.fristcenter.org
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere
The African Elephant Savannah debuted April 9, 2005, at the 200-acre Nashville Zoo. On these simulated African plains, Hadari, Sukari, and Kiba like to roll in the mud hole and splash themselves in the 150,000-gallon wading pool. Other zoo highlights include the Bamboo Trail, home to cloud leopards, red pandas, and ring-tail lemurs, and the jungle gym, where kids can climb like monkeys.
Nashville Zoo at Grassmere: 615.833.1534, www.nashville.org
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, with twisting slides, and a splash pool. At the park's Water Ski and Stunt Show, daredevil tricksters perform high-speed boat spins, flips, and long-distance jumps. Nashville Shores offers a nice change of pace from summer city tours, especially for young kids and grade-schoolers.
Nashville Shores: 615.889.7050, www.nashvilleshores.com
Adventure Science Center
This scientific playland for children is a remarkable way to blend learning with excitement. It's signature structure is Adventure Tower, where inside, kids push, pull, press, and climb to learn about science. A $1.3-million addition to BodyQuest, the popular hands-on exploration of the human body debuted in May 2005. Kids can manipulate a giant robotic hand and arm to catch food, follow it down a mega-sized mouth into the stomach and through the intestines, and see their "thoughts" by watching different areas of a huge brain light up.
Adventure Science Center: 615.862.5150, www.adventuresci.com
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park & Old Hickory Lake ,br / When in doubt, always go for the green spaces. The downtown 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park captures kids' attention with 31 fountains and a 200-foot granite map of the Tennessee embedded in a plaza. Old Hickory Lake lies northeast of Nashville and offers a bit more running room. Join the locals who come for boating, strolling, and fishing.
Bicenntenial Capitol Mall State Park: 651.741.5280, www.musiccityusa.com
Old Hickory Lake: 651.822.4846, www.musiccityusa.com
Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art
Even though its historic mansion presents some noted works by 19th- and 20th-century American artists, kids often prefer the 55 acres of groundsÂ—home to wildflowers and water and herb and Japanese gardens. Sculptures sit along the Carell Woodland Sculpture Trail. Seeing the giant "Crawling Lady Hare" and the branch-like patterns of "Tree Poem" set among the red cedar and black locust trees affords kids a new perspective on sculpture.
Cheekwood Botanical Garden & Museum of Art: 615.356.8000, www.cheekwood.org
General Jackson Showboat
Turn lunch into an event by boarding the General Jackson, a riverboat-style paddle-wheeler, for a 2.5-hour cruise on the Cumberland River. Lunch while gazing upon the greenery and toe-tapping along to country tunes. Gospel music takes over for brunch outings on the third Sunday of every month from April 17 to August 21. The showboat also offers more expensive dinner cruises, but lunch and a water view may be all your kids crave.
General Jackson Showboat: 615.458.3900, www.generaljackson.com
Pay tribute to Andrew Jackson at the Hermitage, home of the seventh president of the United States. 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 the youngsters. On the Work Yard and Farm Tour, available May through October, learn about the enslaved Africans who operated the farm.
The Hermitage: 615.889.2941, www.thehermitage.com
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication