The Nashville Guide
Nashville, in case you hadn’t heard, has completely outdone itself in the past couple years. It’s always been a key player in the music scene, drawing in some of the most creative people anywhere—including GP, who spent months eating and drinking her way through the city while filming Country Strong, and Lily Aldridge, who let us in on her Nashville address book. But recently, the Tennessee capital has gone a few steps further, reinventing itself as a formidable food, culture, and shopping destination in its own right—and it’s a trajectory that shows no sign of slowing down. Combine an unparalleled history of music, an emerging art scene, and some of the best restaurants you can find anywhere in the world, and you land in Nashville—a city with beauty, soul, and more than a little grit.
Adventure Science Center800 Fort Negley Blvd., Pie Town | 615.862.5160
This behemoth of a building is devoted entirely to kids activities. There is a spaceship where they can simulate zero gravity, a three-floor soft jungle gym where they can slide, climb, and jump through a model digestive system, a child-size firemen’s truck and ambulance that reveals what’s inside those mysterious vehicles, and so much more. The biggest hit were the wheelchairs they could try—we heard about them for days.
Arcade Kids2106-B Acklen Ave., | 615.928.7660
After a decade in New York, Arcade founder and Nashville native Genie Lockwood moved back home and set up a kids’ shop. It’s the kind of place she always wanted while raising her own two little boys. You can pick up beautiful children’s clothing, whimsical bath toys (we love the forest mushroom and seahorse variations), and maybe even a chic diaper bag (yes, they really exist).
Cheekwood Estate & Gardens1200 Forrest Park Dr., Belle Meade | 615.356.8000
While this destination has plenty to appeal to grown-ups, too, they also host Tuesdays for Tots (from September through May) and Saturday morning activities (year round) that are for littles. You can bring your kids from 10 to 12 for a drop-in art class. It's a good opportunity for little ones to get down and dirty with glue, markers, glitter, and paint.
Frist Art Center919 Broadway, Downtown | 615.244.3340
In addition to an always-compelling roster of exhibits, the Frist has an entire gallery—the Martin Artquest Gallery—devoted to art activities for kids, every day of the week. There are 30 decked out stations set up for kids to experiment with different media including drawing, sculpting, printmaking, and even film-making with toy dinosaurs, plastic animals, and big toy spiders.
Five Daughters Bakery1110 Caruthers Ave, Midtown | 615.490.6554
Between raising a family (they actually do have five daughters) and growing their small business, Five Daughters owners Isaac and Stephanie Meek definitely have their hands full. Isaac comes from a family of bakers—his grandfather baked cakes and his father owned a pizza shop—and he's made this fledgling bakery famous for a 100-layer donut, which tastes like an overly decadent cronut and takes three days to make. Between those magnificent creations and their sister sweets, like paleo donuts (read: grain, dairy, and sugar-free) and arguably the best cupcakes in town, it's no surprise that they sell out both here and at their 125 South and East Nashville locations, every day.
Gaby’s Gymnastics1186 Antioch Pike, Curreywood Acres | 615.331.8111
Gymnastics was the main event in Nashville for GP's kids. They loved every minute of their classes with Gaby and came back asking for more. She is wonderful with children and they are completely entertained from start to finish. You can book private lessons or go to classes with a bunch of other kids.
Mike’s Ice Cream208 Broadway, Downtown | 615.742.MIKE
Mike's has murals on the wall that remind you of a soda fountain, and tall bar chairs with coiled backs. Plus, perfect sundaes: Not too large, made with good vanilla ice cream, drenched in chocolate and peanuts, and topped with just the right amount of toffee.
Nashville Public Library615 Church St., Downtown | 615.862.5800
Here, there's storytelling on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and marionette shows on Fridays and Saturdays. Stories are presented by a cast of wacky characters including “The Professor” who not only reads but gets sing-alongs, and lots of rainbow drawings going too. The professionally crafted marionettes at the library are something special, made by a master puppeteer named Tom Tichenor. GP's kids got to see “The Princess and the Frog” but the shows change often and throughout the year.
Phillip’s Toy Mart5207 Harding Rd., Belle Meade | 615.352.5363
Tim and Faith’s girls, Gracie, Maggie, and Audrey McGraw, recommended this store to us—it’s a kid’s dream come to life: there are toys crammed in every nook and cranny of this shop. You will find no big-brand toys in here—it’s been there forever, full of costumes, books, and wooden toys. Reese Witherspoon used to go there with her grandparents. GP's kids could have spent an entire day in there and would get excited at the very mention of the word, “Phillip’s.”
Snap Kids4027 Hillsboro Rd., Green Hills | 615.460.7627
The people at Snap are incredibly nice and helpful and they seem to have all the lines little ones like best: They carry Tea Collection, Bonpoint, Ella Moss, and Splendid, plus the displays on bright white lockers are really sweet.
The Monkey’s Tree House91 Seaboard Lane, Brentwood | 615.646.5002
This is a big hit with kids: It's a huge playroom with soft, cushy floors and walls, and an enormous “tree house” that kids can climb and crawl through. There’s a dollhouse and train cars that kids can ride, and a section for babies, too. We were amazed by the cleanliness of the place and found the staff really helpful. On Sundays you can rent the entire tree house out for a birthday party.