Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Our Adventures in Nashville, TN: Exploring the City for Free (or close to it) with Young Kids

Recently we were able to tag along with my husband while he spent a week in Nashville, TN for a work trip. Unfortunately, he had to spend his days in florescent lit conference rooms watching endless power point presentations and didn't get out with us to enjoy this beautiful city. So I took our four boys and went on an adventure each day we were there. It was exhausting and wonderful!

We stayed in a two bedroom condo out by Opryland. Since it was work related our visit took place during the week, so this let us experience the thrill (read: instant marital tension) of Nashville's daily Rush Hour traffic. This is by far the worst thing I could find about this city. However, after all the morning commuters arrive at work it is easy to navigate through the city. I didn't have any trouble getting around in my minivan and was even able to find a few free parking locations downtown. Although I discovered this is not common, and if you are planning a trip and plan on driving, budget for parking, or stay downtown and take the free intercity transportation. I was told it is user friendly and allows strollers, etc. But since I was already out numbered 4-to-1 and had the baby in my structured carrier (I use this one, and it's awesome!) and the toddler in the stroller and two running circles around me, I felt it best to just stick to our own vehicle and time frame.

Monday, after dropping Daddy off at work, we went to the Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park. This is located a few blocks away from the strip and is free to visit. It is BEAUTIFUL! There are large grassy areas with lots of room for little legs to run around. As you walk through the trees you can learn about the history of Tennessee and even play in the fountain areas (we did not do this as it was a little chilly, and we didn't have extra clothes/shoes with us) and on the giant map of the State.

From there we walked to the Farmer's Market which is open all week, but it was still early and only a few, of the many, vendors were open but I can imagine you would be able to find everything you need there as they even have grass fed meats and eggs, along with produce, arts and crafts, and greenhouses full of plants. After exploring the market we loaded back up to head to the grocery store to stock our condo for the week. We stopped in a Publix, compared to my small town Walmart, this place was stunning! I even got helped out to my car and all my bags loaded up for me! Talk about a vacation! (Yes, it's the little things that count!)

Tuesday we started out the day at the Main Public Library downtown. Another beautiful place! We went to Story Time (so very well put together and enjoyable for everyone) and because it was the week of Halloween the boys got to make bags for the craft time and Trick-or-Treat throughout the Children's Library. This was definitely one of their favorite places.

After the library we went back to the condo for lunch and rest then we headed to the Adventure Science Center.

This is a part of the ASTC Passport Program so we were able to get in free because of our membership to our local science center. This was another big hit with my boys. It has a huge three story area for kids to explore and have hands-on discovery. There is a Subway restaurant inside the building with a huge eating area, and a nice view of the City. I brought some snacks, but it was nice to have the option to get a meal or a drink without having to leave the fun. Most of the exhibits were in really good shape and all of them were a ton of fun. We spent several hours here and enjoyed every minute!

Wednesday was my favorite day of our trip. We dropped off my husband and found a place to park downtown. After a quick search online I discovered the Music City Center parking garage had the lowest priced parking, it started at $4 for the first 2 hours. Some lots start anywhere from $12-18! So do your homework and shop around! (This site is very helpful)

Then we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I couldn't visit Nashville without stopping here. And thankfully a lot of the attractions around the city are free for children under 5, including the Hall of Fame. So I was excited to see all the music history (and that I only had to pay for 1 ticket) but I was a little worried that the kids would be bored to tantrums. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover they had scavenger hunt papers for the kids to fill out and receive a prize! The boys had fun searching the exhibits for all the musical instruments and I was able to actually read the stories and spend time looking at everything. They even have a huge guitar themed slide and a lot of fun hands-on exhibits for kids to do, like record their own music in a sound booth! It was a fun time and worth the money, especially if you love country music.

(They do not allow flash photography, so my pictures aren't the best. Holding still with a 20lb infant strapped to your chest is pretty much impossible)
After the Hall of Fame we set off to explore the heart of Music City. We started at the Visitor Center to check in to see where the best place to eat would be and found out that all the bars are family friendly until 6pm. So we headed down Broadway and stopped at Legends Corner for some pizza and were close enough that my husband was able to walk down and join us on his lunch break. The food was awesome and the service was even better. And the live music truly completed our Nashville experience.

After lunch, Daddy returned to work and we returned to our adventure. We stopped at a candy shop for some fuel for our trek through downtown and over the pedestrian bridge. We walked over the river to Cumberland Park. It was a gorgeous day and the views were spectacular! Again we found ourselves in another beautiful location. It has artificial turf hills that double as slides and climbing areas, a sand pit, rock climbing walls and ropes courses. Along with a huge grassy area and amphitheater, trails through flower gardens and a splash pad in the summer months. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing and enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

Thursday we spent the day exploring the Opry Mills Mall. Complete with play areas and all the stores we rarely visit we had a full day of adventure. We had lunch at The Aquarium Restaurant located inside the mall. It was impressive. The food was good and the service was great. We spent two hours enjoying all the fish and our lunch. The boys were encouraged to walk around and look at all the huge tanks. The servers were educated in all the inhabitants and answered any questions we had. It was a little expensive (Kids meals were $5.99. Regular menu items averaged around $20) but considering the quality and portion size of the food and the fish tanks I think it was worth the money.

Friday was our last day. We checked out of the condo early in the morning and got Daddy dropped off at work. Since we just had a couple hours to wait we decided to head out to the Pancake Pantry and try out their famous fare. It was true to its reviews. This place was outstanding! It is a busy restaurant, especially at 9am but we got in just before the huge line formed around the building. I ordered the Sweet Potato Pancakes and the boys got strawberry topped silver dollar pancakes and Bears in the Snow (cute bear shaped pancakes with powdered sugar and mini chocolate chips.) The food was superb and the service was quick and friendly. None of the customers seemed to mind waiting. Everyone was caught up in friendly conversation and enjoying the wonderful aroma of cinnamon and maple syrup.

Sorry for the blurry pictures. The food was too good to stop long enough for a good photo!
After breakfast we still had some time so I drove over to Centennial Park to see the Parthenon and explore the park, but on the way it started to rain again and both babies fell asleep. So we just made use of the rest of our time driving through the park. It has a great playground area, along with a steam locomotive, and fighter jet.

By the time we finished driving through the park it was time to pick up my husband and head home. 
We had so much fun in Nashville, everyone was friendly and helpful. It was a great place to take a family. The downtown area and parks were so clean and felt safe. There was so much to do and see and a lot of it was free! Along with the Parthenon, there were a few places we didn't get to visit, so I can't wait to go back!

Thanks for sticking with me through this post, I know it was long, but we had so much fun I wanted to share it all with you.

If you are traveling to Nashville anytime soon I hope this helps you in your planning.

Until Next Time,

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