2106-B Acklen Ave., Hillsboro Village
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).
1186 Antioch Pike, Curreywood Acres
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.
The Monkey’s Tree House
91 Seaboard Ln., Brentwood
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.
Frist Art Museum
919 Broadway, Downtown
The Frist has an entire interactive area—the Martin ArtQuest Gallery—devoted to artmaking activities where children of all ages (including adults!) can come by every day between 10 and 5:30 and on Sunday starting at 1 p.m. There are thirty decked out stations set up for visitors to experiment with different media including painting, printmaking, and even animation with toy figures and animals. In the main galleries, the Frist offers an encyclopedic lineup of rotating exhibitions from all over the world. Bonus: Children under eighteen can always visit for free.
Nashville Public Library
615 Church St., Downtown
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.
Adventure Science Center
800 Fort Negley Blvd., 8th South
Although kids will love this museum’s three-floor soft jungle gym (where they can slide, climb, and jump through a model digestive system) and the child-size firemen’s truck and ambulance, adults will get a kick out of it, too. There are exciting, interactive exhibits where you can learn about astronomy, biology, physics, weather, technology, energy, sound, and creativity. Plus, Adventure Science Center is home to the renowned Sudekum Planetarium and is located five minutes from downtown Nashville with a breathtaking view of the city.
Mike’s Ice Cream
129 2nd Ave. N, Downtown
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.
Phillip’s Toy Mart
5207 Harding Rd., Belle Meade
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’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 here—it’s been here forever, full of costumes, books, and wooden toys. Reese Witherspoon used to come here with her grandparents. GP's kids could have spent an entire day in this shop and would get excited at the very mention of the word “Phillip’s.”
4027 Hillsboro Rd., Green Hills
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.