Newly revived Nashville has emerged from the May 2010 floods bigger and better, with the lights on at all the attractions that lure all ages to play, eat, and relax among Southern comforts.
In mild-mannered Nashville, newly abuzz after the May 2010 Cumberland River flood that damaged most of the city's infrastructure, you can sing yourself and your family to a Country Western vacation in summer, fall or any time of year.
Throughout this fun city there are wonderful hotels offering special rates to families and why not? In addition to the celebrated show hall, The Grand Ole Opry, there’s something for everyone, at any age, to see and do in town.
Nashville's musical roots are varied and each of the city's famed "sounds" is celebrated at its own festival, a great time to bring the kids. The Tin Pan South Festival is named for New York's Tin Pan Alley and celebrates songwriters; the CMA Music Festival (formerly Fan Fair) plays a little bit of everything and attracts more than 100,000 music fans from around the world. Riverfront Park has its own stages and hosts a three-day outdoors festival that also features many genres. Come early September, the Music City Jazz & Heritage Festival presents local and national jazz and blues bands to mark summer's end.
Nashville Can't Stop the Music
On a recent weekend visit, we asked our hotel when The Grand Ole Opry had performances and who could arrange tickets. Indeed, they checked our dates and the Box Office put tickets aside for us, to be picked up the night of the show.
The Grand Old Opry House is in Music City, about nine miles outside of Nashville city center and adjacent to a Disney-like marvel covering nine landscaped acres, the Gaylord-Opryland Resort and Convention Center. It’s a family must-see. At one level of the hotel, the dancing waters fountain had some 2- and 3-year-olds mesmerized; the older kids were boating on a canal cutting through the resort’s rain-forest, while some teen-agers were trying out the guitars and cowboy hats in one of the many shops, or stopping to sample the Cajun cooking at one of the restaurants.
Another family stop adjacent to the resort is the Opry Mills (615/514 1000), nearly 200 discount stores featuring everything from a rock climbing wall to haute couture to Nike in between.
Another tourist stop in Nashville itself is the famous Parthenon, up on a hill, a replica of the Athens original, albeit in living color (pictured at right, photo by Gary Layda). Surprisingly, it houses an art museum.
Taking second place to music is eating! The Nashville restaurants are great. One of our favorites was The Merchants, on downtown Broadway, lovely food and atmosphere but, while not too pricey, was not a McDonalds price menu.
After dinner, directly across the street, one saloon after another had the doors open with Country/Western music blaring into the street. We chose the famous Tootsies where a quartet was rocking on a little stage in the bar, jam packed with patrons from 8 to 80, drinking beer and stomping to the music. No cover charge here. Just the price of a beer, while you swing to the songs of Willie Nelson and Loretta Lynn.
The Adventure Science Museum, the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Art Quest at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts and the Valley Fair Amusement Park are just a few places with family friendly activities
The Grand Old Opry itself, the main raison d’etre for the visit, lived up to expectations. In the 4,300-seat auditorium (pictured at left, photo by Randy Piland), a mainly family audience enthusiastically applauded the guitar-twanging, Country/Western performers in the hallowed halls where all the music began. Tickets run from around $20 to $50, and can be ordered online or by phone at (615/871 OPRY or 800/SEE OPRY). There’s a parking lot adjacent and a Dave & Buster’s restaurant opposite for a quick bite before the show.
Nashville Trip Planning Details
Of course, Music City has lots of accommodation choices, and many offer seasonal specials for families. Union Station, a Wyndham Historic Hotel, Nashville (615/726 1001) was originally built as a railroad station in 1900. This massive Romanesque structure features a 65-foot-high domed ceiling made of Tiffany-style stained glass, dazzling gold-leaf mirrors and exquisite Victorian sculptures. The station served a role during World War II and with the decline of rail travel, opened as a luxury hotel in December 1986. With 125 unique guest rooms and 12 deluxe suites, guests are offered high-speed Internet access, cushioned work-chairs as well as complimentary weekday newspapers and luxe bath products. The hotel is conveniently located minutes from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and the historic Second Avenue District, making it the ideal venue for music industry parties. Recent celebrity sightings include actor/singers Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim McGraw and Garrett Hedlund, and "Gossip Girl" Leighton Meester, seen with Tobey Maguire.
The historic Millennium Maxwell House, Nashville (866/866 8086) is another good choice because of its central location. They offer a variety of packages, including a great $$ "Total Access" package which includes overnight accommodations, breakfast buffet for two adults and up to two children, Nashville souvenir, and free entry into 4 of 12 attractions including Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, discounts apply toadditional nights.
We mentioned the Gaylord-Opryland Resort and Convention Center (866/972 6779) because this hotel company also owns the Grand Ole Opry, so their property is the closest and certainly one of the most entertaining in the city. Since our visit, the largest non-casino hotel in the country with 2,881 rooms, received a $200 million restoration to repair flood damage and refresh its public spaces, so it will be even more spectacular when you pay a call.
The Opryland prides itself on Southern hospitality and all their overnight packages include a scenic river cruise aboard one of their Mississippi-style Delta River Flatboats. Basically, you’ll wind your way through the resort’s lush, 4.5-acre indoor garden or 44-foot waterfall, enjoying a perfect climate no matter what the season. Perfect for little ones! Kids also like having a choice between a hearty breakfast buffet or a home-style Southern buffet breakfast at the resort’s restaurant, and either one is included in the nightly room rate. Rooms run around $$ based on occupancy with 2 adults and 2 children.
No matter where you choose to stay (and there are many small B&Bs if that's your style), there are mild-mannered excursions the are pretty leisurely — good for seniors and little ones.
The Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau is located at 150 Fourth Ave. N., Ste. G-250 in Nashville; call them at 615/259 4700 with questions, or stop in for help obtaining tickets to the Grand Ole Opry and for lots of helpful maps and brochures. The Nashville Children's Theater also offers a variety of theatre and musical performances, with many special events over the holidays. Please visit www.nowplayingnashville.com or www.visitmusiccity.com for more information on year round events.
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