My kids and I were crestfallen when one of our closest family friends opted out of Chicago winters and relocated to Nashville, where the temps don’t often dip near freezing. And while forecasts in the 40s and 50s didn’t scream tropical vacation during our first wintertime trip to see her, our family quickly realized we had a new resource for fast and cheap (90-minute flights on Southwest are often less than $100 one-way) getaways from the gloom of Chicago winters. Here’s how we spent our weekend in Music City:
A late-afternoon flight had us hungry for barbecue the moment we landed. We made a beeline for the “pit to plate” goodies at family-friendly Jack’s Bar-B-Que (416 Broadway, 615-254-5715) to fill up on brisket, smoked chicken and meaty pork ribs. The kids made themselves a feast out of mac and cheese and baked bean sides, so everyone was happy. I managed to sneak out of dinner (under the guise of a bathroom visit) for a quick run down the street to the Hatch Show Print shop (316 Broadway, 615-256-2805) to browse some of the iconic letterpress country-music posters and pick up a souvenir.
We took an after-dinner stroll around Music Row (16th and 17th Aves South) at dusk, just as it started hopping with street performers and, as my kids observed, “lots of cowboys!”
While other tourists waited in the winding queues outside of the ballyhooed Pancake Pantry (1796 21st Ave South, 615-383-9333), our in-the-know pal took us to the Pfunky Griddle (2800 Bransford Ave, 615-298-2088) in Berry Hill, where we saddled up to a table outfitted with a cooktop and flipped our own flapjacks. The kids love playing chef, and we all liked customizing our breakfast with a wide array of add-in ingredients (peanut butter and chocolate chips!). Substantially carbo-loaded, we headed to Adventure Science Center (800 Fort Negley Blvd, 615-862-5160; $11, seniors and kids ages 3–12 $9, under 3 free), where the kids ran right to the multistory Adventure Tower to stand in the middle of—what else?—a massive guitar! They plucked its strings, then got all He-Man by lifting a full-size car from the ground with the help of a properly positioned lever. Then it was on to junior astronaut training at the “Space Chase” exhibit, where they experienced simulated weightlessness and changes in gravity.
Next stop: Fannie Mae Dees Park (2400 Blakemore Ave) near the Vanderbilt University campus. It’s known by the locals as “Dragon Park” because of artist Pedro Silva’s massive, mosaic sea-serpent sculpture, which practically begs kids (and some grown-ups) to climb it. From there, we ended the day browsing quirky East Nashville and stopping for an early dinner with an informal picnic from I Dream of Weenie (1108 Woodland St, 615-226-2622), an old VW minbus tricked out as a hot-dog stand.
Some locals claim that if you haven’t been to Grand Ole Opry (2804 Opryland Dr, 615-871-6779), you haven’t been to Nashville, and who are we to argue? We ended our trip with a daylong visit to the mecca of country music, wandering through nine acres of indoor gardens at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, including a boat tour down the indoor river and plenty of time ogling the star memorabilia. Mom’s fave: a price-tagged hat that belonged to Minnie Pearl. The kids’? Something signed by Carrie Underwood. You can lead a horse to water, but, even in the heart of Music City, you can’t force ’em to listen to the good stuff.
IF YOU GO:
Airfare: $175 r/t on Southwest
Hotel: Hotel Indigo Nashville, rooms average $160 per night