Nashville with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

by Shellie Braeuner, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Aug 31st 2010 12:40 PM

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Nashville with Kids: A Family Vacation

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Nashville is a great place to spend the day with young children. From art to music to parks and plays, you'll have a blast when you come to Nashville with kids. Other than the downtown area, there is little in the way of public transportation, so be sure to get a map. The Nashville Convention and Visitor's Bureau has maps online to help with planning. Here is our suggested itinerary for the perfect family vacation day in Nashville with kids:

Morning


In Nashville with kids? Start out your day with good, old-fashioned Southern cuisine. Opened in 1951, the Loveless Cafe (8400 Hwy 100; 615-646-9700) is known, and loved, by natives and visitors alike. Their homemade biscuits are still made from the secret Loveless family recipe. Loveless serves made-from-scratch dishes that use local produce. Breakfast for adults will cost $7 to $13, while kids plates are offered at $4.95. Located on Hwy 100 near the head of the Natchez Trace parkway, the Loveless is a short distance from downtown, but definitely worth the drive.

Insider tip: Be sure to drive the first couple miles of the Trace. There is an overlook with a turnaround that offers a spectacular view of the Natchez. The award-winning bridge is a double-arched, concrete bridge that stands 150 feet over the wooded valley beneath.

With a full stomach, head over to the Nashville Zoo (3777 Nolensville Road; 615-833-1534). There the family will see Bengal tigers, elephants, meerkats and over 10,000 other animals. The Nashville Zoo is proud of its many interactive exhibits such as a petting zoo with goats, sheep, young llamas, donkeys and dromedaries. The zoo also boasts a bird exhibit that allows visitors to feed and interact with the friendly flying creatures. Be sure to leave time for young people to explore the 66,000-square-foot Jungle Gym. This play space has a three-story climbing tower and a fully padded tumble room for the smallest visitors. Tickets prices are $14 for adults, $9 for children aged 2 to12, and free for kids under 2.



Afternoon


For lunch on your family vacation day, head to the Pancake Pantry (1796 21st Ave. South;615-383-9333). Located in Hillsboro Village, between Vanderbilt University and Music row, the Pancake Pantry has a nice mix of college students and country music stars. As the name suggests, they serve pancakes and plenty of them. Traditional pancakes share the menu with more exotic fare such as Caribbean, raspberry, and my personal favorite, chocolate sin (three pancakes topped with chocolate and raspberry preserves!) The long lines at breakfast make this restaurant a difficult choice with small children in tow. But lunch lines are much shorter. Plus, the Pancake Pantry offers a full line of sandwiches and salads. All of their meals are under $10, with a kids menu that offers meals for under $5.

For a hands-on science experience in Nashville with kids, nothing beats the Adventure Science Center (800 Fort Negley Blvd.; 615-862-5160), hands down. The building, with its distinctive pyramid, has three floors of exhibits designed to allow children to explore the human body, physics, energy conservation and botany. The centerpiece of the building is a four-story adventure tower that actually goes through the roof of the building, giving a glass enclosed view of downtown Nashville, Greer Stadium and the surrounding hills.

The science museum's recently opened Space Chase gives everyone a chance to test their space-walking prowess with the moon walker and EVA wall. The moon walker used a harness and counterbalance system to simulate the sensation of walking in zero gravity. Participants need to be between 50 and 300 pounds and 45 to 78 inches tall to try the experience. The EVA or Extravehicular Activities Wall uses a similar system to allow potential space explorers a chance to climb almost two stories into the air. Slides, tools and buttons give users a realistic feel of what it must be like to repair things in outer space. Users must be between 75 and 250 pounds and 48 to 78 inches tall for the EVA experience.

Insider tip: Bring along (or wear) long pants if you are thinking about trying this exhibit. Long pants prevent the harness from chafing the legs.


Evening


For a dining experience that is as much fun for the adults as for the smaller members of the family, check out Chappy's on Church (1721 Church St.; 615-322-9932). When Hurricane Katrina demolished the Original Chappy's on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, John, "Chappy" Chapman brought his famous Creole cooking to Nashville. Located in the heart of downtown Nashville, Chappy's offers fish, chicken and beef, along with Gulf Coast delicacies such as shrimp, crab and frogs legs with some of the best local music in town. Children love the "alligator butter," a mildly spicy butter that is offered to every table with fresh home made bread. Meals run $17 to $35, with a kids menu priced at $6.

After you've dined, it's time to spend the evening partaking of a favorite local activity.
  • Nashville is a sports town. All spring and summer, families can enjoy a Sounds game at Greer Stadium. The Nashville Sounds are a minor league baseball team that has been playing in Nashville since 1978. Located on Chestnut Street, right behind the Adventure Science Center, The Sounds offer a fun evening for the entire family. With promotions such as hat night, bobble head night and even webkinz night, children walk away with something they can keep. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $14 for reserved seats.
  • Many are surprised to discover that the south is becoming a hockey mecca. The Predators have been a Nashville institution since 1998. They play at the Bridgestone Arena from pre-season games in September through April. Kids especially enjoy Gnash, the saber toothed tiger mascot of the team. Older children, (and even parents) can learn about hockey at Predator's University. Even very young children can play along with coloring pages at Gnash's Kid's Club. Single game tickets start at $10; but there are often family packs that include four tickets as well as food and drink vouchers. The Predator's website has more details.

By the time the fun is over, everyone will be ready to head back to your hotel for a much-deserved night's sleep -- and dreams of your perfect family vacation day in Nashville with kids!

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