Family Road Trip Guide: Nashville, Tennessee

Hit the high notes when visiting the Music City with kids.

Nashville is hot, growing like crazy with 13 new hotels in 2022, 200+ restaurants and bars, 180 live music venues, plus topping many best places to travel to lists. Dubbed Music City and the Songwriting Capital of the World, you can hear live music around almost every corner. The history is deep and the honky tonks are buzzing with good times. There are also large parks, engaging museums, sporting events and tons of finger-licking food for families to rock out on their vacation days. 

Here’s our guide on how to maximize your family road trip to Nashville, Tennessee.

Getting to Nashville, Tennessee

From Detroit, expect an eight-hour drive via I-75S and I-65S. You’ll pass through Toledo and Dayton, Ohio, as well as Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky, in case you want to plan pit spots. Many families like to stop at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky on the way to Nashville. It’s the longest cave system in the world, with numerous family-friendly attractions in the area.

What Families Love about Nashville, Tennessee

Broadway Street is the heart of downtown Nashville, where you’ll hear live music streaming out of doorways. You’ll want to soak up the people watching. When traveling with kids, I’d suggest exploring Broadway during the day and popping into honky tonks and restaurants before the nighttime party scene heats up. 

There are also boot shops, museums such as the Patsy Cline Museum and the Johnny Cash Museum, as well as the famous Goo Goo Cluster candy shop where you can make your own gooey treat. Give your feet a rest and take a hop-on hop-off trolley tour for a full 90-minute narrated tour with multiple stops around the city.

Animal-loving families will want to visit Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, about 6 miles southeast of the city. The zoo won 2022 top honors in exhibit design by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear and Tiger Crossroads. It also has a very popular Jungle Gym playground where kids can swing like monkeys, some highly regarded bathrooms and an interactive tortoise exhibit where guests can feed them.

Photo credit: Cortney Fries

 

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is a must-see for music lovers. There are Taylor Swift and Chris Stapleton exhibits, among countless others. See Elvis’s gold-plated Cadillac encrusted with crushed diamonds and stroll the hall full of platinum records. Book a Hatch Show Print tour in advance and put your hands on a letterpress at this iconic poster shop. 

Blow little Einstein minds at Adventure Science Center, where kids can climb, play and interact with more than 175 hands-on exhibits. Tweens and teens get a kick out of the Max Flight: Full Motion Simulator that will virtually take them on rollercoaster rides and flights around the world. The Frist Art Museum is popular with families for the ArtQuest interactive art-making gallery. 

Learn more about Black music at the new, interactive and fun National Museum of African American Music. 

When it’s time to breathe some outdoor air, Nashville is filled with parks and playgrounds. Centennial Park is a large, urban park with a playground, sunken garden, walking trail and Parthenon replica. Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park provides a bit of history, geography and some fountains for kids to cool off in on hot days. Cheekwood Estate & Gardens is a sprawling botanic garden with world-class art on a historic estate. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, home and final resting place of the seventh president, is 10 miles east of downtown. Book a tour for a beautiful backdrop to a history lesson.

Photo credit: Cortney Fries

The Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and Bluebird Café are some famous places to catch shows — if you can score tickets in advance. Opry Mills Mall is right by the Opry concert hall and includes a Madame Tussauds wax museum. Gaylord Opryland Resort is huge with atrium gardens, waterfalls, restaurants and shops. It’s worth stopping by to take a boat ride inside and see the sights. 

Treetops Adventure Park is a great place to get your adrenaline going. Located at Nashville Shores Lakeside Resort, there’s also a big outdoor water park. Eastside Bowl, offers bowling, shows, a retro diner and an arcade with vintage pinball and 1980s video games. 

Where to stay in Nashville, Tennessee

We stayed at Placemakr, which offers apartment-style rentals in three locations across Nashville, and a few other cities, too. When traveling as a family, it’s really nice to have two separate bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a kitchen, living room and washer/dryer. You can spread out, enjoy some peace and quiet, and make a few meals of your own.

Photo credit: Cortney Fries

I’ve heard absolutely wonderful things about the Gaylord Opryland Resort, but it was booked for a convention when we visited. It is huge with almost 3,000 guest rooms. We strolled its atrium gardens, took the indoor boat ride, participated in a scavenger hunt, and stopped by the cute cafes and shops. Guests can soak up the good vibes at SoundWaves 4-acre indoor/outdoor water park that incorporates music into the attractions. 

Where to eat in Nashville, Tennessee

While in Nashville, you simply must devour good eats like barbecue, biscuits, pimento cheese and grits. 12South was our family’s favorite neighborhood to stroll around and try various restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries. Five Daughters Bakery serves doughnuts so delightful there’s often a line down the block. The cinnamon cream cheese was my favorite while my husband picked the King Kong maple with bacon. Our kids liked literally everything and ran off their sugar rush in the little play area while we finished our coffees. Five Daughters even serves paleo doughnuts. 

Edley’s Bar-B-Que, also in 12South, had lines out the door when we visited, too, but it was worth the wait. My son devoured his brisket platter with mac n’ cheese. My husband and I couldn’t get enough of the turkey topped with white and red barbecue sauces and the grit casserole was spicy, creamy, savory deliciousness. 

Photo credit: Cortney Fries

Acme Feed & Seed was our favorite lunch spot on Broadway. Live music lights up the stage while crispy chicken and waffles warm your belly. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken and Prince’s Hot Chicken are two can’t-miss Nashville hot chicken joints. Peg Leg Porker is a dynamite barbecue choice, and yes, the pitmaster stands on a peg leg. If your family can’t align on what to eat, go to the Assembly Food Hall. You can dine on pork and shrimp dumplings while your kids choose waffles piled with whipped cream and strawberries. Slurp up pho with lemongrass and cilantro, or dive into shawarma sandwiches or cheesy wood-fired pizza. There are so many tasty options, you’d couldn’t possibly leave hungry.

Biscuit Love is a trendy Gulch breakfast spot well worth its wait. At Monnell’s, you’ll be served plate after plate of juicy fried chicken and savory Southern sides family-style while sharing a table with others. Butter up those flaky biscuits and walk them off in the garden outside.

Goo Goo Cluster and Las Paletas Gourmet Popsicles are sweet spots for yummy treats. You can even make your own gooey chocolate creation at Goo Goo Cluster, home of America’s first combination candy bar. Elliston Place Soda Shop serves dinner classics like phosphates and sundaes along with Southern meat-and-three’s. 

Enjoy your vacation livin’ the Nashville life.


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Cortney Fries
Cortney Fries
An award-winning travel journalist, Cortney Fries (pronounced "freeze") has been writing about family travel for over a decade. She knows that parents planning trips are looking for all members to have fun and make lasting memories. Cortney believes that you should definitely try anything that makes you slightly nervous.

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