Nashville, Tennessee snuck up on me. My son attended music camp there, and I stuck around for a couple days. I loved the city so much that we made it our vacation destination the following year. We spent ten wonderful days on a fabulous road trip to Nashville over the July 4th holiday and would love to go back again one day!
Nashville throws a great party to celebrate our nation’s birth. The downtown street festival is tons of fun, offering family friendly games, street vendor food, and music. It is the Music City after all! The fireworks show and concert are breathtaking. We enjoyed the view of the fireworks from the top of a bridge and enjoyed the people watching as well.
Believe it or not, there’s a whole lot more to Nashville than country music! To maximize the value of your Nashville vacation, whether two days or ten days, consider purchasing the Music City Total Access Pass available through the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. We purchased passes during our vacation and saved close to 50% over paying regular admission.
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Planning your trip to Nashville
Where to stay in Nashville:
Because Nashville is a major tourist hotspot, vacation packages are popular at this destination. If you know what type of vacation you want — country music, civil war, museums, adventure — check for vacation packages first. If you want to do a little bit of everything, consider these hotels:
- Gaylord Opryland Hotels (Grand Ole Opry). This group of four hotels offers a Disney-esque experience, country style. The hotel itself is a destination worth experiencing. Convenient to the outlet malls and with several restaurants on site, you’ll always have something fun to do.
- Doubletree Guest Suites by Hilton. This hotel is conveniently located only two miles from the airport and near all the major highways that run through Nashville, providing quick access to any place you want to go. Offering large suites with separate sleeping areas and an indoor-outdoor pool, this hotel offers the amenities to make any vacation comfortable.
- Renaissance Nashville Hotel. This hotel is centrally located downtown and offers many onsite dining choices. Caught in a sudden downpour, we ducked into the Renaissance and made our way to “the Bridge,” an indoor dining area overlooking the city street below.
- The Hermitage Hotel. Looking for something different? Then the Hermitage Hotel (on my wishlist of places to stay) might meet your needs. This five star hotel offers 120 custom rooms and suites. For a fee, Fido can join you. The hotel provides dog beds, treats and nightly turndown service for your furry friend. It also provides dog sitting and other pet care services.
Cheesy grins at the Adventure Science Center
Things to do in Nashville with the kids:
Nashville has something for everyone! Some of our favorites are:
- Nashville Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Tours. Offering a narrated tours through historic Nashville trolley tours are fun for the whole family. Sites include the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and the Blue Bird Café to name just a few. Hop on, hop off whenever you want. Your ticket is good for one day! Buy online for savings and convenience.
- Nashville Homes of the Stars Tour. No trip to Nashville is complete without learning about the stars who live here. When we went, my daughter kept hoping Steven Curtis Chapman (who sings Cinderella) would show up wherever we went. While we never saw him, this popular tour gives you a chance to learn about Nashville’s famous residents. One of the most popular tours in Nashville, it’s a good idea to get your tickets in advance — they can be canceled up to 24 hours before the tour should your plans change.
- Nashville: Experience the city that inspired a show. Fans of the hit TV show Nashville will truly enjoy this tour, highlighting the many places featured in filming. I’ve done tours like this in other cities and loved seeing where all the action took place! This is a popular tour, as well, so book in advance.
- Adventure Science Center. This hands on science museum offers something for everyone. The Adventure Tower, which is approximately four stories tall, offers climbing and exploration fun to wear out the kids, particularly wonderful for rainy days! The space exploration programs are fun. The adults enjoyed the friendly competition of the space walk — experiencing weightlessness. Be warned: It’s harder than it looks!
- Grand Ole Opry Backstage Tour. We opted just to wander the public spaces at Gaylord’s Opryland Hotel because our daughter was so young. But on a return visit, I would certainly add this to our itinerary! The Grand Ole Opry is unique to Nashville. Don’t miss it!
- General Jackson Riverboat Tours. Cruising the Cumberland River with live music and a delicious dinner. Spectacular! We opted for a lunchtime cruise because our daughter was young, but the dinner cruise looks amazing! Riverboats lit up from stem to stern, music, dancing, city lights. Need I say more? The General Jackson offers a variety of cruise options.
- Nashville Shores Waterpark. This waterpark is fun. Of course! They offer slides for big and little kids, splash zones for the tiniest member of the family, large open pools, fountains, and food! Select nights in summer, mostly Fridays (check the special events webpage), they offer splash-in movie night. We “accidentally” went one movie night and had a blast!
- Music City Total Access Pass. Check out the Total Access Pass for money savings and information about many of these and more attractions in Nashville, like Historic RCA Studio B, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Where to Eat in Nashville:
- Burger-Up. Located about a mile from Belmont University and central to everything, this restaurant offers incredible burgers including a bison burger, lamb burger, citrus salmon and a quinoa/black bean burger – the “marathon,” not to mention beef and turkey burgers! I got the marathon and loved every single mouthwatering bite! The restaurant is on the small side and always packed, but lines move quickly. It’s worth the wait.
- Las Paletas. Featured on Food Network, Las Paletas offers Mexican style popsicles. This simple establishment, located conveniently next door to Burger Up, serves traditional popsicle flavors and some crazy choices as well like the cucumber chili paleta, the jamaica or the tamarind. Flavors change daily and once they’re gone for the day, they’re gone. By the way, they’re only open till 7:00 — it’s a family run business, folks — so go for an afternoon snack.
- Midtown Cafe. Great for seafood and pasta, Midtown Cafe offers “casual fine dining.” It’s delicious! Traditional dishes with a twist, or classic favorites, you won’t go wrong. My favorite dish of all time is chicken picatta, and theirs is fantastic!
- Pancake Pantry. In Hillsboro Village, Pancake Pantry, open 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (4:00 on weekends), is a Nashville legend! One cold, blustery morning, we decided to eat there before driving home. And we stood in line, outside, for more than an hour. Yes, we did! Sounds crazy, but you won’t find these dishes at your local Ihop! The staff welcomes those in line with fresh, free coffee and those waiting seem content to do so. You know the food’s good when people will freeze for it!
|Oh yes we did! When in Nashville, dress as a country music legend!
Where to Shop in Nashville:
- Opry Mills. Chain restaurants galore and shopping! Opry Mills is huge! Enjoy a day here, followed up with an evening river cruise. Perfect!
- Downtown Nashville. With dozens of shops to choose from, it’s easier to give you the complete list! Downtown Nashville is easy to navigate, just stroll the streets and soak it in. You’re bound to find the perfect gift or souvenir here. Make sure you get your “Elvis” photo too!