Visiting Nashville with the kids in tow? You’re likely to visit all of the popular local sweet spots but if you’re looking for a hidden gem (or ten) check out our editor’s picks below.
1. Carter Vintage Guitars
Home to one of the best collections of guitars for sale, including the oldest Rickenbacker in the world, Carter Vintage Guitars is surprisingly unpretentious. While kids aren’t encouraged to go crazy and touch everything, any budding young musician can ask politely to play a guitar in the collection. There’s also a selection of amps, ukuleles, strings, sheet music and souvenirs.
Tip: Grab some delectable Southern food at Arnold’s Country Kitchen, which shares a parking lot with the guitar haven. The fried green tomatoes are unparalleled.
2. The Museum at the Parthenon
Most people who come to Nashville make it a point to stop by and see the Parthenon, the famous replica of the Parthenon in Greece. But don’t just snap a selfie in front of it and leave. The interior of the building houses an impressive museum that offers a glimpse into how and why the Parthenon was built, rebuilt and restored. In addition, you'll find 63 paintings by well-known 19th and 20th century American artists, donated to the city by James M. Cowan. And, of course, there’s the 42-ft. tall golden statue of Athena to gawk at.
Fun fact: Athena’s spear is made from a flagpole from McDonalds.
3. The Treasure Hunt at Belle Meade
The Belle Meade Plantation might surprise you. It’s forward-thinking approach to history provides an inclusive narrative about African-American history on the property. Anyone 12 and up can learn about the history of enslaved people there with Journey to Jubilee tour.The house tour teaches families about race in America with inclusive narratives about Black history on the property. You’ll also learn about the horse breeding, grab an ice cream or handmade fudge from the Coop n' Scoop, play a lawn game, and explore the serene acres. But what makes this a perfect place to visit with kids? Children receive Adventure Backpacks upon checking in that contain a treasure map and keys. Along the tour, they’ll find spots to use their keys to discover hidden gems.
4. Biscuits at Kitchen Notes
Biscuits in the South are a point of pride but it’s hard to beat the oversized, fluffy delights at the Kitchen Notes. Located in the lobby of the Omni Nashville, it’s the perfect place to grab breakfast or lunch before visiting Hatch Show Print or the Country Music Hall of Fame, both of which are adjacent to the hotel. As an added bonus, by eating at Kitchen Notes you’ll get validated parking for 24 hours!
5. Kid-Friendly Honky-Tonks
Anyone who goes to Nashville knows that hitting Broadway’s honky tonks is a tourist rite of passage. But what you might not know is that kids can hang out, too. All of the honky tonks have live music throughout the day—when it's significantly less crowded—and nearly all of them allow kids before 6 p.m. Just note that means you need to have them out by 6 p.m., too!
6. Play Games at the Downtown Sporting Club
Just opened in April of 2019, the Downtown Sporting Club is the latest project of the Goldberg brothers who are known in Nashville for several other successful restaurants. Right in the heart of the honky-tonks of Broadway, you'll find an utterly unique experience at Downtown Sporting Club. The main floor is a fine-dining restaurant but upstairs on the 2nd floor is where you’ll want to be. Essentially, it’s like a rec room you can eat in, with board games, croquet, two lanes of axe throwing, mini-golf and more.
7. Hatch Show Print 1st Sundays
If you’re in town the first weekend of the month, you’ll find out that the first Saturday is Hatch Show Print’s Block Party, where you can get hands-on with letterpress art. But what you might not know is that first Sunday of every month is a free family event, which is way more low-key and perfect for creative kids to get a taste of what printmaking is all about. Check their calendar here.
8. The Animal Hospital at the Nashville Zoo
The Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is a can't-miss attraction when you're visiting the area with kids. There's Tiger Crossroads, a new Sumatran tiger exhibit, kangaroos you can actually pet (if the 'roos let you) and acres and acres of beautiful land (which you can see from a zip line!). But the real gem, which just opened in March of 2019, is the Nashville Zoo’s HCA Healthcare Veterinary Clinic, a state-of-the-art animal hospital with a very special feature. Guests of the zoo can visit the viewing area where they can watch animal procedures, a view enhanced by in-operating room cameras. Wander away from the animal exhibits and check it out.
9. A Glass of Little Ansley's at Diskin Cider
When it comes to breweries that welcome kids, they don’t get any friendlier than Diskin. This Nashville-based, family-owned public tasting area and restaurant, The Cidery, is off the beaten path in the WeHo district, but well worth a visit. Languish over brunch with the kids, grab some board games and have some sips (there’s a non-alcoholic variety named for the owner’s daughter: Little Ansley’s). Dogs are welcome on the patio and there are tours every Saturday & Sunday to learn about the cider-making process.
Tip: Dash around the corner for a salted caramel croissant at Dozen Bakery.
10. The Impressive Art Collection at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens
Once the estate of Leslie Cheek & Mabel Wood, the Cheekwood Estate and Garden’s ows it’s impressive size to the Cheek family’s wealth—largely from Maxwell House Coffee & Tea (which eventually became the Maxwell House empire). This gorgeous botanical garden is nothing short of magnificent, with everything from stone cottages to winding paths to an entire education center dedicated to kids activities. But the real hidden gem here just might be the on-site art museum, located upstairs in the historic Downton Abbey-style home. Once you’ve done the rounds on the historically preserved first floor, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the modern approach on the second floor where you’ll find an array of art, including sculptures, form both the permanent collection and new exhibits. Check out their calendar of delights before you visit.
Tip: Don’t forget to visit the fairy-tale train area for kids.