Sometimes the hardest visitors for me to entertain are family. My family’s budgets, preferences, and ideas of fun are all over the map – and my guess is yours are, too!
Fortunately for us, Nashville really does offer something for everyone! Below are 3 sample itineraries for the most common family visitors. Feel free to mix and match these for an itinerary as unique as your fam!
The Family on a Budget
In my twenties, I was always jealous of my friends who got treated to the fancy restaurants when their parents were in town; that was just not my reality. So, I learned how to entertain visitors on a budget – which is still super fun, if not quite as glamorous!
These free parks are a gift to the Nashville community. Both offer hikes of varying skill levels, and both are very Instagrammable (who hasn’t taken a picture of the lake at Radnor or the steps at Percy Warner).
Lunch: Thistle Farms Cafe
While there may be slightly less expensive lunch options in Nashville, Thistle Farms is the only spot where your funds do double-duty by supporting women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. It also happens to be delicious and charming; moms especially will love it.
Afternoon Activity: Mural Tour
Nashville is literally teaming with art – and so much of it is free (honestly, how lucky are we?). Show off some of that art and show your family around town by taking a mural tour. Within 12 South, you can see some of the best. 12 South Carriage House has the ultimate guide to a 12 South art crawl – and you can grab a budget friendly afternoon pick-me up at Portland Brew along the way.
If some of the other neighborhoods are calling your name, you can check out a full mural list on Nashville Guru.
Dinner: Butchertown Hall
One of the more affordable sit-down restaurants, Butchertown Hall has a more upscale aesthetic, good food, and it’s in trendy Germantown. If that’s still a little over-budget, the Pharmacy in East Nashville or Bringles in the Nations are some fun alternatives that offer a little more ambiance than your average fast-casual joint.
Of course no visit to Nashville is complete without live music! Both Nashville Palace and the Local offer some world-class musicians without the chaos (or drink prices!) of Broadway. And, free parking (street parking for the Local).
Neither place charges a cover, but if you’re feeling particularly adventureous, you can venture into the backroom of Nashville Palace on Fridays and Saturdays and line dance to your heart’s content for a mere $7 (cash only).
Putting on the Ritz
Whether your family is used to a certain lifestyle or you just want to show them the finer side of Nashville, here’s your key to avoiding Broadway (mostly…) and highlighting the bougier side of Music City.
Loaded with history, Geist impresses with its architecture, its decor, and most importantly, its food. You won’t find 2-4-1 specials here – and therefore not too many bachelorette parties, either. It’s a great space for even the bougiest family members.
Afternoon Activity: Arts and Culture
There is a tendancy for outsiders to see Nashville as the home of only low-brow, pop culture, but that is just not the case!
The Frist Art Museum located in the city’s historic post office boasts cutting-edge exhibits that change several times a year – so there’s always something new to see.
Belle Meade Historic Site and Winery is another impressive option. Tour the mansion and grounds (and learn its ties to the Kentucky Derby!), drink some wine or bourbon, and then take a side trip to look at properties for sale in Belle Meade (lol…)
Of course the crown jewel of the fine arts crowd is Cheekwood. The gardens are the main draw – no matter the season – but the mansion is also a beatiful tour, and the in-house art museum featuring the Cheek family’s private collection is quite impressive.
For something a little more subdued, take your family to Hathorne, the southern-inspired fine dining restaurant in a redesigned church fellowship hall in Sylvan Park. Cracking Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurant list in 2019, Hathorne continues to impress with it’s food and beverage menu (including mocktails).
For a more modern vibe, Rolf and Daughters in Germantown also delivers award-winning food (the chef is a 2022 James Beard finalist and the restaurant appeared in an episode of Somebody Feed Phil) in an exposed brick, industrial space.
Music: The Twelve Thirty Club
Okay, so it’s technically on Broadway, but everything about the Twelve Thirty Club is classy and bougie and the Supper Club level takes it up a notch with its Big Band-style cover bands. Plus, everyone is always impressed to know Justin Timberlake is an investor.
The Non-Drinking Family
As we all know, Nashville is a drinking town with a music problem…but it doesn’t have to be that way! If you or your family choose to abstain, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in our beloved town.
Brunch: Buttermilk Ranch
Buttermilk Ranch is the best way to have a very Nashville boozy brunch experience without booze! With several mocktails on their menu (in addition to a full coffee bar menu), they offer great food and great vibes. So great, in fact, that they’re always SUPER PACKED, so be sure to add your name to the online wait list well in advance of heading out.
While you’re in the area, stroll around 12 South for some non-alcoholic shopping and mural spotting!
Afternoon Activity: Museums
Nashville has some amazing museums that are sure to impress local and visitor alike. For the music aficionado, of course the Country Music Hall of Fame is the go-to, and the National Museum of African-American Music and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum fill out other parts of musical history.
For something totally unexpected, the Lane Motor Museum features the largest collection of European cars and and motorcycles in the US. It’s cool.
Dinner and a Show: the Listening Room
The Listening Room is one of my favorite things to do, so I’m always excited when visitors give me an excuse to go. In addition to the (affordable) tickets, they have a $15 food/drink requirement. But with a full food menu, it’s easy for non-drinkers to meet that requirement.
The Fox and Sid Gold’s are some of East Nashville’s finest. Both offer a cozy, cocktail bar vibe (Sid Gold’s with the added bonus of piano karaoke!), and they have several craft mocktail options so no one needs to feel left out. They’re close to each other so you can hop, if you feel so inclined. And be sure to check Sid Gold’s socials as they are always hosting some fun, creative sing-along event!
Sub in some of these other crowd-pleasers to craft the perfect itinerary for your fam.
Star Rover Sound – delicious food and drinks, great music, and a cozy, intimate setting that feels like you’re inside a recording studio. It’s a vibe.
Jane’s Hideaway – another great place to see some live music, Jane’s Hideaway has a limited but delicious food menu and some of the best bartenders in town.
The Parthenon – I’ve never quite understood why we have this replica of the Greek icon, but it’s worth seeing, as is the art museum inside and the beauty that is Centennial Park.
The Tennessee State Museum/Pathway of History at Bicentennial – free and open to the public, the State Museum tells the history of the entire state and the Pathway of History wall through Bicentennial Park gives a quick overview of the highlights.
The Hermitage – keeping with the history theme, Andrew Jackson’s home is a must-do for the history buff. The grounds and home are also beautiful for those who enjoy 19th century design.
Tour the Opry – I’ve not done this one personally, but I’ve heard good things. And what better excuse to try it than when family are visiting?
Entertaining visitors is always fun, but hopefully, these ideas help take out some of the stress of planning. If you use any of these suggestions, please let me know how they go! Or, if you’ve got another sure-fire family pleaser, leave it in the comments below!