When people think of visiting Nashville, they probably think of it more as a get-away for adults – after all, the city is known for its nightlife.
But for those who can look beyond Broadway, Music City has plenty to offer families with kiddos! So, bookmark this page so that the next time friends with kids come to visit, your nephew comes to see his favorite Funcle, or you just want a staycation with your own kids, you’ll be completely prepared and ready to go.
Kick off your day with some kid (and adult!) friendly breakfast options in 12South. If your kids are early risers, you might even beat the crowds!
What is more fun as a kid than a heaping bowl of your favorite sugary cereal?! Wanna Spoon answers that call and is Nashville’s first cereal bar. With a great lineup of cereals, toppings, granolas, and yogurt, as well as a full coffee bar, Wanna Spoon offers something for everyone in the family.
If donuts are more your speed, right across from Wanna Spoon is Five Daughters Bakery, home of the legendary 100 layer donuts. They also offer paleo and gluten free options if not everyone in the family is excited about carb loading. Best of all, they have a small play area to burn off some of that sugar high!
Alternatively, head just down the road a little ways to Berry Hill where you’ll find a fun, interactive spot:
At the Pfunky Griddle, the customer is the cook! Kids can make their own pancakes (with their own supervision, of course), and those little Emeril’s and Julia’s can spread their culinary wings.
After breakfast, hang around 12South for a little while before heading to another part of the city for the next fun thing.
Take a stroll down to the end of the strip where you find the oasis that is Sevier Park. Not only is this park peaceful and scenic, it also has a full playground — burn off a little more of that sugar.
On the walk down, be sure to stop by the many murals dotting 12South’s architecture. Fun for kids and great for photo ops for parents!
After conquering 12South, head a couple miles down the road to Nashville Toys and Books, one of the few local toy stores still left in town. Parents, you can jump across the parking lot to Parnassus Books, owned by author Ann Patchett. There you can get a signed copy of Ann’s books (all of them are signed!) and find the independent bookstore of your dreams. Check their events calendar, too, as they often have story times on Saturday mornings.
If you’d rather not buy more stuff but are okay with more sugar…head downtown to GooGoo Cluster where you can participate in a chocolate experience, complete with a history lesson and making your own candy bar. Educational and delicious!
When those stomachs start to growl again, check out one of these family faves for a fun and budget-friendly lunch.
This Nashville institution is classic diner at its finest – complete with red vinyl bar seats. They offer a full soda fountain menu (phosphates, egg creams, and milk shakes!), as well diner classics and meat and three staples. Welcoming and nostalgic, it’s great for all ages.
Hugh Baby’s has a simple burger, hot dogs, and fries menu, but it was created by one of the most beloved BBQ pitmasters in Nashville, Pat Martin of Martin’s BBQ – so you know it’s good. The Sylvan Park location also a small play place to while the adults finish their food.
At this point, I personally would want a nap! But if that’s not in the cards, here are some great afternoon activities for all types of weather.
Not just a children’s science museum, Adventure Science Center also features a planetarium and an extensive lineup of exhibits that would impress even adults. Check out the website for current exhibits as well as those coming soon.
The pride of Nashville, Cheekwood’s gardens offer something for everyone. From a little culture and education in the historic mansion and art museum, to imaginative fun in the children’s garden and at the trains exhibit, Cheekwood is a great way to spend an afternoon outside. Check their events calendar for special activities!
A little extra: The Nashville Public Library recently started offering passes to Cheekwood via their Community Passport program! Simply check out the passes like you would a book, and save yourself the entry fee. (Note: passes may not be used for special events).
Nashville Children’s Theater boasts quite an impressive lineup of shows that are suitable for children of varying ages. Be sure to check their website for current shows, times, and ticket information.
Nashville does it right when it comes to the library, y’all – I’m obsessed. With lots of story times and other activities for kids, as well as a resident puppet troupe, be sure to check out their events page to see what is happening! And don’t knock the puppets – I saw one of their shows a few years ago (not even with children), and it remains one of my favorite memories.
Pins Mechanical has something for everyone! From arcade games to bowling to giant Jenga and more, everyone can find something they enjoy doing. And, they have a full bar. Just be sure to go early – they’re 21 and up starting at 8 pm.
Summer in Nashville is a fun time – and it’s hot. But, Nashville has several great options for cooling down in water, including SoundWaves, the indoor waterpark for guests at Opryland Hotel, and Nashville Shores, a traditional waterpark just off the highway in Hermitage. Check their websites for more details!
For the animal lovers in your life, don’t forget about the Nashville Zoo! In addition to the usual exhibits at the zoo, the Nashville Zoo also offers backstage passes to meet some of your favorite animals or learn about caring for zoo animals as a veterinarian.
The restaurants I have listed below have something to offer kids and adults alike. But, if you’re wanting to show your children a more sophisticated experience, I’d recommend checking out my guide to mocktails. Some of the restaurants on the list are quite nice and the kids can order something a little fancier than a Shirley Temple.
Great pizza for the kids and delicious beer for the adults – seems like a perfect combo. BoomBozz has a couple of locations in/around the city, but the East Nashville location features two patios and an enclosed playground.
Another beer and pizza place, East Nashville Beer Works intentionally strives to build community by welcoming families – and dogs! – to join in the fun. They also have a playground, as well as some outdoor picnic tables perfect for family seating.
If you don’t want to head to the east side or pizza isn’t your jam, Double Dogs may be a good option for you. Both the Hillsboro Village and Sylvan Heights locations have plenty of seating and feature a full menu with something for most every appetite. Most appealing of all, though – they serve their food in dog bowls, a novelty the kids are sure to love.
A little extra: On big game days, this sports bar can get pretty crowded, so be sure to get there early. The Sylvan Heights location might be your best bet.
And the party just keeps going! Here are some family-friendly ways to enjoy the nightlife of Music City that will appeal to both kids and parents.
Baseball may not be the nightlife most people think of when they think of Nashville. But, the minor league Sounds games are always a fun time, with activities for the kids and a full bar for the adults. Friday night games feature fireworks, and there are regular promotions throughout the season – check the schedule for details!
If the Sounds are not at home or it’s not baseball season, there are lots of other sporting options, including the Preds, the Nashville Soccer Club, the Titans (although not many of those games will be at night), and Division I collegiate athletics from Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb, Tennessee State, and MTSU.
Is it even a trip to Nashville without some live music? Of course not! The Grand Ole Opry shows are appropriate for all ages and feature a variety of acts besides country music – including gospel music, comedians, and the occasional square dancing.
If you don’t mind a bit of a drive and are visiting April-October, Arrington Vineyards just south of the city has live music on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. Children are welcome, but must be accompanied by an adult. This activity would also work well for early bedtimes, as the music ends at 8:30 pm on Fridays and 7 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Despite being Broadway-adjacent, Wildhorse Saloon is still a great place to bring the kids if you don’t mind them being in a bar setting. With live music and line dancing (including lessons), Wildhorse prides itself on being family friendly, although on Fridays and Saturday nights it switches to 21+ starting at 10 pm.
Whew, I’m exhausted! But, what a fun day around town! Did I miss any of your favorite hot spots to take the kids? Drop a tip below or send me an email!