Updated: Jan 20, 2021
Nashville feels like a big little town to me. ~Ricky Schroder
Guest blog writer: RaeAnna Goss
Nashville is known to have many “transplants” living here. For many of us who are now considered seasoned (because we refuse to use the words “middle-aged,” that title is reserved for our parents,) moved here many moons ago.
I was that person in my early twenties, leaving Michigan to move to the South, with these fresh ideas and vigor to immerse myself in the culture and identity of the nation’s friendliest city, https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/tennessee/nashville/friendliest-city-nashville/
I have always had the travel bug. In college, I studied a semester in England in the late 90’s, I spent 6 weeks backpacking with my husband (then fiance) all throughout Europe in 2001, and also traveled around Italy with Natalie, of Thistles and Coos, in 2006. Since marriage and children, I spend more time traveling State-side and mostly all throughout middle Tennessee.
I’ve seen expansion and growth over the years in Nashville, yet it still holds the same charm for me even as local attractions have changed hands or shifted! Over the past 17 years I have been honored to take my family and visiting friends around the city to show off my favorite restaurants, honky-tonks, and parks! #nashvillepride
There are many sites that make Nashville beautiful and fun, but I have chosen my top all-time favorite family friendly jaunts that can all be done in a weekend. Enjoy!
TOP 10: IN NASHVILLE WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS:
1. The Sound and/or the Trolley
A successful songwriter takes you on a guided bus tour around the city on “The Sound”. Want to practice your vocal skills? How about being creative and writing your own group song? Nashville is known as the Music City, so now is your chance to be a part of it and brag to your friends that you got to sing and write music here. #countrymusicstar
*Side note: Not only do you have fun, you learn facts and history along the tour.
The Hop on Hop Off Trolley
Ideal for visiting the city at your own pace and experiencing different attractions in Nashville. The "Old Town Trolley Tours", an 8 hour journey, includes 15 stops, a route map, a video guide about the history of Nashville. It is the most convenient tour in my opinion of the city: a guide and your own transportation around town.
2. The Parthenon and Centennial Park
The Nashville Parthenon is my favorite Nashville attraction because of its unique history, architecture, and location! Not only is this the only other Parthenon (the original in Greece) to be built, it also contains a full-scale replica of the original statue of Athena. The Parthenon was constructed in 1897 for the Tennessee Centenary Exposition.
Fun Fact: Athena’s spear was constructed from a McDonald’s flagpole!
The Parthenon stands to be noticed in the midst of Centennial Park with its beautiful gardens throughout the year and a peaceful sidewalk around the pond. This fun park, located right across from the Parthenon, is perfect for a picnic, bringing the dogs for a walk, or playing a game of Frisbee. Check out their events calendar. Many international food, culture, and art festivals are held here throughout the year. #familyfun
3. Tennessee State Museum and Bicentennial Park
The State Museum is one of the newer attractions in Nashville. It opened in 2015 and has the most state-of-the-art interactive features within the exhibits! View specific historical maps, letters, treaties, and more as you learn about the state through the centuries.
There are informative and entertaining videos with special features for kids! Check their website for current (temporary) as well as permanent exhibits and featured events! Now, November 2019, the music exhibit is the favorite for my kids!
*Side note: I love how the museum is chronological in the main exhibits.
Right outside the museum you can walk around Bicentennial Park and see the timeline wall on the west side of the park grounds. I enjoy reading the quotes and historical significant happenings throughout the decades as I meander down the sidewalk. The huge marble map of Tennessee, on the south end of the park, is fun to walk across and find your hometown. #selfietime
*Side note: The fountains in the summer are a great place to cool off! Bathrooms are available to change clothes if you want to pack your swimsuit!
**Don't forget to stop by the Farmer's Market while you're there and get a treat! Try the Music City Crepes!!!! #yummmm
4. The State Capitol
If you're spending time at Bicentennial Park, walk up to the capitol and take a tour of this beautiful building built in 1859! #cardiotime
TWO HISTORICAL FACTS:
William Strickland, the State Capitol’s architect, considered this building his crowning achievement. When he died in 1854 (during the construction), he was buried in the north facade of the Capitol.
President James K. Polk is buried here on the grounds.
Tours are FREE and informative! We enjoy meeting with our State Representative and State Senator when we visit! If you go to the Tennessee State Museum website, you can see hours of tours and information. There are no tours on weekends or holidays and the tours are given during the daytime hours.
*Side note: if you are touring with a group of 10 or more, be sure to make reservations.
5. Country Music Hall of Fame
There is something for everyone within the informative exhibits of this great attraction! Trace the history of country music roots all the way back to the first settlers in America.
There are costumes worn by famous country stars and memorabilia throughout the decades to enjoy.
You can pair a tour of the Ryman Auditorium with the Country Music Hall of Fame if you are interested in seeing the original location of the Grand Ole' Opry. #patsycline
*Important note: The current Grand Ole Opry and WSM radio is now located on the grounds of Opryland Hotel, located near the Nashville airport. (See #10 on the list)
Ready to be famous for the day? Inside the Country Music Hall of Fame they have an interactive exhibit where you can actually record your own music album sample! #demotape
If you time your visit right, you can also see a free puppet show about the history of Country Music called "String City." #funwithkids
*Side note: I was really surprised at how much fun this museum is (since I'm not a big country music fan!)
6. Nashville nightlife: Broadway and 2nd Avenue
Leave the kids at home and put on a cute outfit to strut your stuff around the downtown nightlife! For me, I enjoy Broadway and 2nd Avenue more for the people watching. #souvenirsgalore
The safest honky-tonk and great music experience, in my opinion, is the Wildhorse Saloon where you can eat dinner, order drinks, and “partake” in country line dance lessons! #giddyup
“At the Wildhorse Saloon, our vision is to be THE Nashville experience. We are a true-to-our roots restaurant with downtown’s largest dance floor and an unparalleled stage for live entertainment. We are Nashville’s most iconic destination, providing all the city has to offer in one place.” https://wildhorsesaloon.com/
*Side note: Check their website for a schedule. Usually there are times that you can come in for free and enjoy the free dance lessons! All ages are also welcome for dance lessons before 6pm.
**The evenings can be varied due to concert schedules so always make sure you check the calendar!
7. Frist Art Museum
The Frist has become one of my favorite downtown attractions in the past several years.
If fine art from around the world is your “thing”, you’ll enjoy the changing exhibits throughout the year. There is also a large creator studio where people of all ages can sit and draw, watercolor, or experiment with mixed media inspired by the current exhibitions. We come as a family at least once a month to dive into the culture and arts education!
Stop in at the Frist cafe (open until 9:00pm). Homemade soups, desserts, salads and sandwiches. #feedmeseymour
*Side note: Children are always free and the annual membership is very affordable!
**There is a gift shop in the Frist: books, art prints, educational materials, art supplies. Fits every budget!
8. Live Music
Nashville “Music City” is the perfect melting pot for music styles. Relax and enjoy live jazz at Rudy's Jazz Club and the Nashville Jazz Workshop, mega concerts at Bridgestone Arena, and eclectic concert offerings at the Ryman Auditorium. My favorite music calendar has always been the Nashville Scene https://www.nashvillescene.com/music #mymusicmyway
I am a classical musician and there is also amazing opportunities to hear classical at the Schermerhorn Music Center or the local universities like Belmont and Vanderbilt!
Some of the other popular music venues are 3rd and Lindsley, The Basement, Exit/Inn, and City Winery.
*Side Note: If you have a specific genre or type of music you like and have a question, make sure to ask it in the Thistles and Coos Facebook Community to help you find the right kind of music performance to fit your tastes! #askaway
9. Hot Chicken
Nashville is known for the spicy fried chicken local specialty called "hot chicken!" #fingerlickingood
There are debates on who serves the best dish so you should plan on visiting both! Then tell us which one you like better.
Prince's https://www.princeshotchicken.com/ is known as the original spot.
Hattie B's https://hattieb.com/ has become the most popular spot with the long wait lines to prove it!
*Side Note: If you don’t want to wait in long lines, many other local restaurants and pubs will list a dish with hot chicken!
10. Opryland Hotel
I'm putting Opryland at the end of the list because of the location. If you only have one day to visit Nashville you won't have time to do both the downtown scene and the Opryland area.
The hotel is massive (759,000 square feet) with 15 restaurants, beautiful gardens full of diverse plant life with fountains and a 3.5 story waterfall.
The Delta area is the favorite place for my kids: the riverboat cruise and watching the huge synchronized music fountain show. There is an entire Santa village in the hotel as well as other Holiday festivities from November-January each year. #santascomingtotown
At Christmastime it is worth it to spend several hours from daylight to nighttime so you can see the range of lights and light shows around the hotel. https://www.visitmusiccity.com/events/a-country-christmas
Every year we look forward to our annual ICE! trip. Each year is a new theme and this year (2019) is A Christmas Story. After you pay and walk through the entrance, you will have a wonderful photo op and can purchase it at the end of the tour. Thousands of pounds of ice are sculpted and on display within a super cold building kept at a whopping 9 degrees. You are provided a heavy coat to wear during the exhibit. Wear your own hats and gloves along with a few pairs of socks! #babyitscoldoutside
Regardless if you come during the holidays or not, you might enjoy a show at the Grand Ole Opry! The original Opry was at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville (you can do tours at that location as well) but now you can find the Opry shows located next to the Opryland Hotel and Opry Mills mall. If you enjoy outlet shopping you will love the Opry Mills mall!
*Sidenote: When visiting Opryland hotel wear your comfy walking shoes!
There is so much to do in Nashville; even more than my 10 favorite places listed. Not only is the city great, but the surrounding towns are idyllic and postcard perfect. Stay tuned for more posts in the future about these cute family friendly towns.
What has been your favorite Nashville attraction? We would love to hear about more restaurants and other interesting places to visit on our next outing!