Country music is the major draw for visitors heading to Nashville, Tennessee but there’s loads more that will keep both kids and parents busy on a vacation to Music City. Zip across a massive zip line, treat your taste buds to out-of-this-world paletas and BBQ and visit the Parthenon (or at least a very realistic replica of the Athens version). We’ve planned your next Nashville vacation below with the best things to see, eat and do while in town.
The best part? We even found the best hotels in the area that offer experiences for every type of traveler. Marriott Bonvoy™ Members enjoy enjoy exclusive savings and benefits when you book direct. What are you waiting for? Read on for the scoop!
Get Your Fill of Country Music History
The Grand Ole Opry is a must-visit for any family heading to Nashville. Whether you get tickets for a show or take a backstage tour, you'll get to learn the history of Music City and the history of performers who have taken the stage there from Minnie Pearl to Carrie Underwood.
Wave Pools and Ziplines for Everyone
Nashville Shores is where it's at for families heading to this part of the country. Boasting 385 acres, this first-class water park is more than just a water park. You'll also find aerial ropes and zip line courses, festival areas, group event sites, pontoon boat rentals and more. Kids will love spending the day in the giant wave pool or the lazy river, playing in the huge water treehouse and careening down multiple water slides.
Live the Suite Life
SpringHill Suites Nashville Vanderbilt/West End knows what it's like to travel with kids. Their suites have room for the whole crew to spread out, free breakfast and a shuttle that will get you to all the area attractions with ease. Plan to spend some time splashing in the indoor pool at the end of your day. Insider tip: Save yourself some time and book directly through the hotel's website; you won't find a better deal out there, guaranteed!
Play in the Park with the Parthenon
You may think you've traveled to a slightly greener version of Athens when you visit Nashville's Centennial Park. In addition to being one of Nashville's best outdoor spaces, you'll find the full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon, perfect for an impromptu history lesson. In the park's 132 acres you'll also find hiking trails, a band shell with seasonal live music and the Centennial Sportsplex.
Pancakes for Days
Don't let the line around the corner deter you from spending some time at the Pancake Pantry. It's worth it—we promise! From standard buttermilk to more unique options like sweet potato and Sante Fe cornmeal, Pancake Pantry has 23 pancake options to choose from. They've been serving up these circular treats since 1961 and their game is strong. They offer waffles, omelets and non-breakfast options, too.
Convenience Is King
With its prime location, Residence Inn Nashville Vanderbilt/West End is a no brainer for families heading to Nashville. In addition to complimentary breakfast offered daily, you can save some major dough and limit your eating out by cooking in your in-room kitchenette (they even offer a grocery delivery service!). Want to save on your room rate as well? Head to the hotel's website to book direct and you'll be guaranteed the best rate out there.
Expand Your Mind with Science
There's so much to do at the Adventure Science Center that you'll be able to fill a whole day (or more!). Packed to the gills with hands-on, interactive science exhibits, this destination is best for school-age kids though little ones will have a blast building with giant blocks in the Imagination Playground. Learn about the inner workings of the human body in the BodyQuest exhibit and then head over to the Innovation Incubator to see what's new in this high-tech maker space.
Mammals and Reptiles and Arthropods—Oh My!
The Nashville Zoo is full of unique experiences that make it a must-visit for families. There are exhibits inside a couple of the restrooms (the first men's restroom has a python exhibit and the women's restroom by the bear exhibit has monkeys) and you can pet a kangaroo if one approaches you. The veterinary center allows visitors to see animal care firsthand through the glass, which will surely inspire future zoologists. Don't leave without taking a ride on the Wilderness Express Train and Wild Animal Carousel.
Location Is Everything
For a view of the city and walking distance to fun spots like the Country Music Hall of Fame and Johnny Cash Museum, choose the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. Its upscale design and modern features will make you feel like you are really on vacation. The indoor pool will be a kid fave and the massive rooms a parent fave. Book a Club Level room for additional perks like breakfast and access to the Club Lounge (and it's snacks!).
Take a Hike
Known collectively as the "Warner Parks," Edwin and Percy Warner Parks are a favorite with locals. If you're looking to get some fresh air and experience nature, this is a great, woodsy place to take a hike. And if your kids aren't into hiking, never fear—there are trails specifically for kids. Stop by the Nature Center for a guide and you'll be on your way. There's also a "Nature Play" area with a small little wooden house and some hills, a rope climbing structure and some rocks for the kids to play on.
Cool Off with a Sweet Treat
Sisters Norma and Irma Paz brought their Mexican paletas or ice pops to Nashville in 2001 and it was love at first bite. Made in their store’s kitchen, Las Paletas offers cream paletas that have the texture of an ice cream bar and fruit paletas that have the texture of a traditional ice pop. Using fresh, ripe fruit, vegetables and other ingredients including grains, nuts, flowers and herbs from community gardens, they offer 20 or more flavors each day. Choose a full-size or the mini "chiquita" size that's perfect for little hands.
Brand-New Luxury for All
Music City's first luxury hotel is one that families will be talking about for years to come. The 33-story, elliptical-shaped JW Marriott Nashville offers floor-to-ceiling windows in every room so you can see always see the action. With a pool for the kids and full-service spa for the adults, everyone will leave relaxed and refreshed (which is sometimes hard to come by on family vacations!). Make sure you nab the best deal on your hotel stay by booking on the Marriott website.
See Tennessee on the Back of a Horse
After listening to endless country music and purchasing your own blinged-out cowboy hats (of course), Juro Stables is the perfect family adventure for your Nashville visit. Group rides through the woods are offered daily and kids as young as one can participate (ages 1-4 ride double with a parent). Relax as these majestic beasts guide your way.
Nashville BBQ at its Best
It's not a Nashville vacation until you feast on true Tennessean BBQ at Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint. You can experience whole-hog barbecue where a fresh hog goes on the pit at the end of each day to cook low and slow to be ready for customers the next day. Choose from ribs, chicken, pulled pork and more but don't forget to save room for dessert with southern classics such as coconut cake, pecan pie and fudge pie on the menu.
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