KITC would like to welcome back guest blogger, Stephen Johnson. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel. During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival. During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.
If you like music, you will love Nashville, Tennessee. Often cited as the home of country music, Nashville is also home to a vibrant rock, blues and folk scene. The good news is Nashville is also a great place to visit with kids. After a recent trip to the Music City, here are a few of my suggestions.
Things to do - Country Music Hall of Fame - A great place to start any visit to Nashville is at the Country Music Hall of Fame. As one would expect, the Hall of Fame traces the history of country music. A few of my favourite displays included seeing Elvis’s gold car and more guitars from famous singers than I could count.
The kids will be happy at the Hall of Fame as well. The Taylor Swift Educational Centre has plenty of interactive displays and kids activities. The day I visited the museum was jam-packed with school groups.
As one of the add-ons to your Hall of Fame ticket, a person can do the RCA Studio B tour. A short ten minute bus ride from the Hall of Fame, Studio B is where Elvis recorded many of his greatest hits. Other recording artists at Studio B included Dolly Parton and the Everly Brothers. Our guide explained the history of the studio and why it was world renowned for the sound achieved in the studio. The tour was very interesting but might be more geared towards older kids.
Another addition you can choose to do is the Hatch Show Print Tour. Hatch Show Print has been a letterpress print since 1879. Today, the print shop is housed within the Country Music Hall of Fame building. The tour covers the history of the print shop, how posters are made and perhaps best for kids, you get a chance to make your own poster. Some of the famous artists who have had their concerts promoted by Hatch posters include Elvis Presley, Hank Williams and Duke Ellington.
Old Town Trolley Tour Nashville - One of the best ways to get an overview of Nashville is to take a trolley tour. The tour is a hop on hop off service with fifteen possible stops. I found the tour to be a great introduction to the history of Nashville. Our guide was very knowledgeable and had a good sense of humor. The entire tour was about an hour and forty minutes. It was very kid-friendly and many of the stops would appeal to kids including several large parks.
I also chose to do the evening Soul in the City music tour. Our guide brought along his piano keyboard to play a few tunes on the bus. We were introduced to the musical history of Nashville including studios where some of the best known hits have been written and recorded. We also made a stop at a cafe where we got to see a song-writing circle. A trio of three musicians were sharing their songs.
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum - Nashville - I love Madame Tussauds because it is a very passive way for kids to learn about history. I got to take my photo with almost lifelike wax figures including Justin Timberlake, Bono and Beyonce. None of the above have ever invited me to their house so my photos at Tussauds are the closest I will ever get to the stars. There was also a large section about the history of country music. As mentioned, the museum is a great place to learn history and have fun at the same time.
Soundwaves Water Experience - This may be the favourite attraction for any kid visiting Nashville. Set in the impressive Gaylord Opryland Resort, this indoor/outdoor water park features multiple waterslides, a lazy river and rapids river, a younger kids area and a crowd surfer.
I appreciated the water experience also offered an adults only area where one could rest and relax.
During the summer, the outdoor area features more waterslides and even a huge LED screen.
Where to Eat
Barbecue is almost considered a food group in Nashville. Jack’s Bar-B-Que, found along the main entertainment strip, Broadway Avenue, was one of my favourites. The place wasn’t fancy but served up delicious smoked chicken, pulled pork and brisket. It is tradition to order a meat and three, meaning three side dishes. I loved the mac n cheese and the cornbread.
The Peanut Shop - The Peanut Shop is like taking a trip back in time. The shop has been at the same location since 1927. It originally was a Planters Peanuts store. The day I visited, I was greeted by the friendly owner Kathy. The smell of freshly roasted nuts filled the shop. The walls were decorated as if it was still 1927. Every type of nut was on sale along with items like licorice and gum balls.
I ordered a bag of sweetened cashews and roasted peanuts. They were the most delicious nuts I have tasted in my life. Before I left Nashville, I made several trips back to the Peanut Shop and would have brought home half the store if it was not for import food regulations!
Where to Stay Nashville is booming right now and it is a tourist city so it is a good idea to book ahead. I had an enjoyable stay at several hotel properties.
Drury Plaza Hotel Nashville Downtown - This hotel was so new, it took awhile for my taxi driver to find it. The day I checked in, the 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm free happy hour was just starting for guests of the hotel. We were offered buffet style finger foods like nachos and sliders. Of course, there were juices and pops for the kids and adults are offered two free adult beverages if they so choose. It was the perfect bridge between supper and going out to explore the city.
The hotel is located within easy walking distance of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Broadway and all downtown attractions.
The following morning, the breakfast buffet was delicious. My room was very clean and the hotel comes with free WiFi.
Hotel Preston - Hotel Preston was quirky in the best sense of the word. In true Nashville spirit, guests are able to borrow guitars from the front desk. Perhaps the next great hit will be composed with a Hotel Preston guitar.
The hotel staff were very friendly, including the front desk staff who offered me an umbrella on a rainy Nashville day.
The hotel also has a regular-changing art exhibition featuring local artists.
The standout for me at Hotel Preston was the on-site restaurant, Blackwood. I had excellent Southern food including fried chicken and waffles for breakfast and a yummy burger for supper. Prices were very affordable and the taste was far beyond standard hotel fare. There is also live music there certain nights of the week.
The hotel is located very close to the airport and is a short Uber ride from downtown. The hotel also offers a shuttle to the airport.
Gaylord Opryland Resort - This hotel could be worth an entire article on it’s own. Listed as the largest non-casino hotel in the United States, this hotel is an architectural marvel. As previously mentioned, it is home to an indoor/outdoor waterpark, a nine-acre indoor garden and an artificial river that offers boat tours and even has waterfalls. There is a free fountain light show that would be worthy of anything found in Vegas.
The resort is so huge, guests are given a map to navigate the property. Part of the fun is getting lost and exploring all the nooks and crannies of the hotel.
The resort is conveniently located within walking distance of the Grand Ole Opry. The resort offers a shuttle bus downtown and to the Grand Ole Opry and Opry Mills shopping mall.
If you go - The only problem visitors to Nashville will have is finding enough time to do all the activities. You can literally find venues playing music from breakfast until the wee hours of the morning. A great place to find information about everything going on is www.visitmusiccity.com.
I found Uber to be a great way to get around the city. All the drivers were very friendly and offered local tips that were useful. I also found all the local residents to be polite and friendly as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions or just chat. There is a good chance the person working at the coffee shop or front desk at your hotel is also working on the next hit record or is the lead guitarist for your favorite musical group.