Plan your family vacation to Nashville with the help of our kid-friendly itinerary that will ensure a good time had by all.

By Katie Quine

Day 1: Get into the Rhythm

In Nashville, we like to start our country music fans young. Begin your day at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which is square one for anyone who either already loves the genre or wants to gain a greater appreciation for it. Adults will enjoy going down a rabbit hole as they explore country music since its inception while children get a hands-on introduction at the renowned Taylor Swift Education Center. The center offers interactive programs that teach kids and families how to make letterpress art, write songs, and more — all free with the price of museum admission.

Much of the heart and soul of Nashville can be found in the honky-tonks where aspiring musicians chase dreams. While they’re off-limits to those 21 and under at night, there are several honky-tonks where kids are more than welcome to tap their feet and dance to live bands in the daytime. Playing nothing but traditional country music and serving up fried bologna sandwiches and Moon Pies, Robert’s Western World is a classic for a reason. Live music begins as soon as the doors open at 11 a.m., and children are allowed until 6 p.m. At Wildhorse Saloon, the whole family can enjoy line-dancing lessons, which take place several times throughout the day. It’s the perfect way to burn off all that sugar you ate at the nearby Goo Goo Shop. All ages are welcome anytime Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at the Wildhorse.

Once you’ve spent an afternoon exploring Lower Broadway, discover “the show that made country music famous.” The Grand Ole Opry has thrived on what we like to call “organized chaos” for 92 years — there’s no shortage of singing and strumming, picking, and plugging that takes place backstage. With a mix of country legends and the contemporary chart-toppers performing each night, any music-loving kid will fit right in, and most show nights include an intermission, providing a chance to stretch those little legs. Don’t forget to take a post-show tour.

Day 2: Learn a Little, Love a Lot

Want to tell everyone back home that you trekked across the entire state of Tennessee on your vacation? You can make that happen at Nashville’s Bicentennial Mall (sort of). The sprawling park pays tribute to all 95 of the Volunteer State’s counties on a 200-foot-wide granite map that you can walk across and explore in greater detail. It makes for a fun geography lesson for kids, and in the summer, they’ll enjoy splashing around in the nearby fountains that symbolize the state’s river system. True history buffs should head to the Tennessee State Capitol  for a tour, but if everyone’s feeling hungry, fuel up at the Nashville Farmers’ Market, open daily year-round. With a wide array of international cuisine, the market’s indoor restaurant stalls appeal to all taste buds, even the pickiest of the bunch.

If you’re looking for a place to run wild, a visit to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere is in order. The zoo will be adding two new exhibits in 2018: "Expedition Peru: Trek of the Andean Bear" and a Sumatran tiger habitat. Don’t pass up "Kangaroo Kickabout" or "Lorikeet Landing," where you can interact with these beautiful Australian animals. To get up close to animals of the prehistoric persuasion, the Adventure Science Center will delight any budding paleontologist with its animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex and lifelike replica of the dinosaur’s skull. Experience weightlessness or travel down the wind pipe at two of the center’s other popular exhibits: "Space Chase" and "BodyQuest."

Day 3: Sample the Local Flavor

On your final day of exploration, get to know the distinct neighborhoods that make up Nashville. The walkable Hillsboro Village and 12South are great places to start with their sidewalk charm and surplus of eateries and boutiques. If you’re a family of early risers, The Pancake Pantry is a longtime favorite for its fluffy pancakes smothered in syrup and loaded with ingredients ranging from apricots to pecans to chocolate chips. After you spend time ducking into Hillsboro Village’s shops — including the adorable Arcade Kids — make your way to 12South, only a few minutes down the road and equally as charming. There’s a colorful mural on just about every street corner that makes for great family photo ops. As for lunch, it all comes down to cravings. Hungry for tacos? Bartaco lets you mix and match. Want a gourmet burger and truffle fries for yourself, but your kids prefer a classic, no-frills cheeseburger? Burger Up knows the drill and tucks kids’ menus into Dr. Seuss books. In the mood for barbecue? Edley’s Bar-B-Que has got it and then some. Plus, banana pudding counts as a vegetable side here, which will earn you cool-parent points. 

If you have teenagers, the Nashville B-cycle program has more than three dozen stations, including ones in Hillsboro Village and 12South, that make it easy to rent bikes for post-lunch sightseeing. If you prefer that a machine does the work for you as you explore Nashville’s landmarks and parks, the hop-on-and-off Old Town Trolley Tours allow you to sit back in your seat as you’re regaled with the stories of Nashville after a family vacation spent making a few of your own.