My husband and I went to Nashville alone about 7 years ago and always wondered whether or not it would be a good place to share with our music and travel loving kids. We were passing through this past summer with my 16yr old and her friend en route to Space Camp in Alabama, so we decided to test it out. While we could have just gone the route of the Nashville Shores Water Park or the Nashville Zoo and other kid friendly entertainment, we wanted to try to enjoy the city for what made it famous – its MUSIC!
Obviously bars are not the ideal spot for the underage set, but we were surprised that we managed to have a very entertaining and musical 72 hours in Music City. Here are Torly Travels recommendations for enjoying Nashville in the way it’s meant to be enjoyed, but with teens in tow.
Timing. If you want to avoid the crazy bachelor/bachelorette partying crowd that is a) very drunk, b) very rowdy and c) singing loudly and hanging off of every moving vehicle in the city – usually with a drink in hand – then try to avoid the weekends. A visit to Nashville with teens during the week is lovely. On the weekends, a whole uber-party element is added.
Transportation. While downtown Nashville is pedestrian friendly, the sites are a bit spread out. You still don’t need a car, in my opinion, there are lots of great ways to get around. One way is to take the hop on and hop off Old Town Trolley Tour and disembark in the areas that pique yours or your teens interest. While it seems like the ultimate tourist trap, this bus tour takes you to all of the city highlights with live and entertaining banter along the way, that is fun for all ages. We recommend disembarking at stop #7 to explore the Bicentennial Park, the free and brand new Tennessee museum, and the farmers market. Also stop #8 is a lot of fun for the Marathon Motor Works and cool buildings with unique shopping. Pro tip: If your tour guide is not engaging you and your crew, get off at the first available stop and wait for the next bus. Most of the guides are really interesting and funny so its not worth staying on for someone who doesn’t keep your attention.
BCycle Nashville is a great way to explore town for very little money. For $5 for a 24 hour period, you can rent a bicycle from one of the many kiosks around the city and ride from one destination to the next as long as you check your bike back into any station within one hour. Minors (under 18) can ride as long as they are 5′ tall and are accompanied by an adult. We recommend a ride to the Gulch or to Five Points for a meal and some wandering. Two neighborhoods with great character as well as fun shops and restaurants. Another way to get around the city is by one of the seven dockless electric scooter companies. A word of caution, however. The city is grappling with how to handle the very popular scooters as a mode of transport,so their availability may change in the near future. We witnessed a fair amount of “scootering while intoxicated”, creating unsafe conditions.
Music. To really get the point of Nashville, you need a little time in the belly of the beast – Honky Tonk Row. While I love hopping from bar to bar and listening to the immense talent that resides in this town, it proved to be pretty boring for the underage teens. Pro tip: The under 21 set is allowed in many bars before 9pm – you can ask right at the front door to be sure. There are strict rules in the evening though, so start your music tour early. We recommend lunch or dinner at the Wild Horse Saloon for a combo of live music and entertainment. The bar/restaurant is set up around a stage and a dance floor. Line dancing lessons are given periodically and the staff frequently gets out on the dance floor during other times. Even if your teen doesn’t want to participate in the line dancing, they may stay off their phones for a few minutes, watching (laughing at) everyone else .
Our favorite night in Nashville was at the Listening Room Cafe which is a singer songwriter cafe with food and cocktails and is open to all ages. Songwriters sit on the stage and tell the stories of how their songs came to be before they play them. Frequently their stories end with something like, “then I sold my song to [insert famous country singer here]”. It’s a great mix of music and conversation and gives you a terrific appreciation for the songs.
Do. The Country Music Hall of Fame is an obvious choice in Nashville but if the kids aren’t into country music it might be a bit boring. A tour of Ryman Auditorium is an entertaining 90 minutes to two hours. While the entrance fee is a bit steep ($25pp), I think the self guided tour provides something interesting for all ages. The Auditorium itself is an amazing layout, and certainly the main attraction. If you can time your trip with a show you are interested in seeing at the Ryman, even better.
Food and Shop. Other recommended stops with kids:
- Goo Goo Shop for classic Goo Goo candy and ice cream (in downtown)
- Two Old Hippies is a very cool shop in the Gulch the kids will enjoy wandering.
- Woolworth on 5th – classic diner experience and the site of the famous lunch counter sit-in in 1960
- Hattie B’s Hot Chicken – super famous near Music Row – only go if you are prepared to wait in line
- Tour Vanderbilt University – because its never too early to start thinking about college!
Want more teen tips? Try: