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Nashville is perhaps best known as the home of country music, but it is hardly necessary to be a fan of the genre in order to enjoy the city — which offers a wide variety of tastes and activities. In fact, Nashville’s music scene also includes pop, rock, jazz, bluegrass and other musical styles.
With a skyline dominated by the 33-story AT&T building, Nashville’s urban landscape is home to many museums, restaurants and cultural attractions. For a more rural experience, nearby farms offer various seasonal activities. Wherever they go, visitors will encounter Southern hospitality — friendly locals welcome visitors and are often very helpful. It is not surprising that Travel & Leisure magazine named Nashville one of the best places to visit in 2014.
Many visits to the capital city of Tennessee begin at Lower Broadway, a hub of musical activity. Honky tonks, restaurants, bars and saloons offer live music from daylight hours until late at night. Children are welcome to enjoy music at Wildhorse Saloon and several other locations. Adults might opt to return to the area later in the evening to enjoy the live music at more than 50 different establishments.
Close to all of this activity is Ryman Auditorium, home of the original Grand Ole Opry. Tours of the historic building, where performances still take place, are available. The Ryman also offers a hands-on experience — visitors can make their own recording at the Ryman Recording Studio and take home a one-of-a-kind vocal performance.
Other well-known attractions designed to appeal to the younger set include the Adventure Science Center — which offers a large indoor play area, hands-on exploration and the Sudekum Planetarium — and the Kangaroo Kickabout, the newest addition to the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. While visitors tour the facility, 18 red kangaroos wander around freely. Other animal residents of the zoo include giraffes, elephants and zebras.
For an educational outing, the homes of two former U.S. presidents are open to the public. The Hermitage is a 1,000-acre plantation that was once the home of President Andrew Jackson. Visitors can see the log cabin where the seventh president first lived and his mansion that is now a museum. Admission includes an audio tour, and the kids’ version is narrated by President Jackson’s pet parrot, named “Poll.” In nearby Columbia, Tenn., the James Polk House was the family home of the 11th president. Attentive guides engage youngsters during a tour of the home.
Visitors should also take some time to explore the great outdoors in the area. Nashville’s Randor Lake State Park has an 85-acre lake surrounded by wilderness. Hiking trails range from easy to strenuous, and families may see owls, heron, deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife. Warner Park Nature Center is another option for enjoying the outdoors, where native plants are showcased along with an organic garden.
Mealtime is the best way to experience Southern culture. Those who enjoy macaroni and cheese and fried chicken are in for a treat, and the fluffy biscuits at Loveless Cafe are a scrumptious local specialty. Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant has a location in Nashville, Franklinand Columbia, Tenn., and menu offerings include fried green beans served with dipping sauce, turkey burgers, entree salads and steak dinners.
Another option for sampling local fare is Nashville Farmers’ Market, home to 11 restaurants that offer many options, including burritos, hamburgers and gluten-free baked goods. The complex also houses farmers and other local vendors who sell their crops, handmade food and other wares, including honey, soap and jam.
Nearly half of Tennessee is farmland, and many of the farms offer seasonal attractions, including strawberry picking, wagon rides and pumpkin patches. Lucky Ladd Farms has a petting zoo with more than 100 animals and, during the fall, a corn maze, which is open from daylight to after dark. A must-try treat is the chocolate milk from Hatcher Dairy Farms. If you don’t make it to the dairy, it’s available at some restaurants and stores.
Among the top accommodations for families in Nashville is the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. The hotel offers 2,882 rooms and family-friendly amenities, including an outdoor children’s swimming pool, a Delta River boat tour and, starting in November, DreamWorks Experience events and packages.
Your Guide to Nashville
What to Do
Adventure Science Centerwww.adventuresci.com
Lucky Ladd Farmswww.luckyladdfarms.com
Nashville Zoo at Grassmerewww.nashvillezoo.org
Radnor Lake State Natural Areawww.radnorlake.org
When to GoSpring and fall are the best times to visit Nashville. But if you wake up to a rainy day, just wait — it’s often raining in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. The warmest month is July (with high humidity), and January is the coldest month (snow does fall, but usually just a few inches).
Getting ThereNashville International Airport (BNA) has more than 380 daily arriving and departing flights. Special play areas for children may be found in three of the four terminals. Live music can often be heard — country, jazz or rock ‘n roll. Seating includes rocking chairs.www.flynashville.com
Where to Eat
Loveless Cafe8400 Tennessee 100Nashville, TN 37221615-646-9700www.lovelesscafe.com
Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant500 Church St.Nashville, TN 37219615-770-2772www.puckettsgrocery.com
Where to Stay
Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center2800 Opryland Dr.Nashville, TN 37214800-429-5673www.marriott.com