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Want to know where in Nashville you can create music, make stop-motion movies, or learn how to weave? The city's family-friendly museums offer all these options and are one of the best things to do in Nashville for kids. With art, science, music, and outdoor play, these family activities and attractions are a great way to have fun on your family vacation. Check out this list of kid-friendly museums in and around Nashville to make your visit to Tennessee memorable and fun.
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Cheekwood Estate and Gardens
With botanical gardens, outdoor sculptures, and art galleries, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens truly is a great place to see art -- both manmade and natural. Nashville parents also will tell you that Cheekwood is the perfect spot for kiddos to run around and burn energy. Adults will enjoy the fine art and traveling exhibits located in the historic mansion and on the grounds. However, there's plenty to keep kids busy: a woodland sculpture trail, a children's garden (complete with a turtle pond), and acres and acres to run and play. Follow the Storybook Trail, guided by pages from The Little Engine That Could; it ends in an outdoor model train display next to a giant wooden playhouse. Lunch is available at Cafe 29, which serves barbeque, soups, sandwiches, and salads, plus kid-friendly meals.
Adventure Science Center
The Adventure Science Center is one of the most popular kid-friendly activities in Nashville. Our family always loves BodyQuest, where kids can play a laser game to learn about the immune system, build at a water table to see how the circulatory system works, and go down the digestive system slide (complete with rude noises that kids will find hilarious). The huge Adventure Tower is great for older kids who like to climb, while parents of little ones will enjoy Destination Exploration, made just for kids under 5. There's plenty to explore in the museum at any time, but remember to check the calendar for daily events like live science demonstrations, planetarium shows, and makerspace sessions. For a little extra Nashville flavor, head to the SoundBox exhibit, which has profiles of local musicians and instrument makers along with hands-on activities about the science of sound. Hungry? Check out the Subway restaurant on the second floor, or bring a picnic lunch to enjoy at the outdoor tables.
The Discovery Center
The Discovery Center is my favorite museum to enjoy with toddlers and preschoolers. Located about 45 minutes southeast of Nashville, the museum is the ultimate place for imaginative play. There's a make-believe farmers market, a 1954 fire truck, a water table, and a two-and-a-half-story slide. Totspace is a safe area for infants and toddlers to wander and play, while Tiny Town allows slightly older kids to run their own post office or grocery store. If you visit on a day with good weather, step outside to explore the Wetlands Boardwalk (and keep watch for otters!). There is no cafe or snack area, but picnic tables are available outside if you wish to bring your own meal, and several restaurants are nearby.
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Frist Art Museum
When my kids were younger, I worried that taking them to a fancy art museum would be a stressful experience -- for me AND the museum staff. However, the first time I took my kids to Martin ArtQuest inside the Frist Art Museum, I knew I had found a safe space for my kids to play and create. We've spent hours in ArtQuest making animations, stop-motion films, watercolor paintings, and prints, only stopping when hunger drives us downstairs to the Frist Cafe for sandwiches. While ArtQuest can fill a whole day, don't skip the rest of the museum. The Frist frequently hosts traveling collections, including kid-friendly exhibitions like the works of Eric Carle and Art Deco automobiles along with classic masterpieces from Pablo Picasso and Frida Kahlo.
Lane Motor Museum
If you live with tiny car enthusiasts, be sure to check out Lane Motor Museum. This specialty museum is filled with vehicles from the early 1900s through today. With a wide variety of cars, planes, and motorcycles, the museum is a must for fans of things that go. Some of the museum's fascinating exhibits include amphibious cars made to float, folding scooters, and a motorized sled. A special children's area includes toy vehicles, a giant town map with plenty of roads to explore, cars to climb on, and a seating area for tired parents.
With options for art, science, music, and outdoor play, these kid-friendly museums are great ways to have fun on your family trip to Nashville.
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Located in the heart of downtown, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum features memorabilia from country pioneers such as Mother Maybelle Carter and DeFord Bailey as well as today's stars like Kacey Musgraves and Darius Rucker. Check the calendar before visiting to see if performances or classes are being offered in the Ford Theater or the Taylor Swift Education Center. My kids love the interactive parts of the museum, including costume designing games, quizzes, and listening areas. Light snacks and meals are available at the Red Onion kiosk in the lobby.
Historic Mansker's Station
While Historic Mansker's Station isn't exactly a museum, I think it's a great stop for families looking to add some history into their Nashville visit. The Middle Tennessee area has several antebellum homes that explore the history of the area, including the Civil War and the tragedy of slavery. However, Historic Mansker's Station is my pick thanks to their hands-on demonstrations of frontier life. During a guided tour of the reproduction log fort, kids can explore blacksmith and woodworking shops as well as living and gathering spaces within the fort. The brick house on the property is one of the oldest homes in the Nashville area and offers a glimpse into architecture and furnishings in the late 1700s. Depending on the day, tour guides and artisans sometimes offer demonstrations of weaving, gardening, and blacksmithing. Be sure to stop by the gift shop to find souvenirs made at the fort or in the mansion.
Let them make movies and art and walk through a digestive tract! These are the best museums in Nashville for kids and teens!
If you're looking for even more museums to visit, check out the free Tennessee State Museum, the Johnny Cash Museum, and the new National Museum of African American Music. There's plenty to do in Nashville with kids, and whatever you choose, you'll have a great time!
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