Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Vacationing with a Toddler: Nashville, TN

The Grand Canyon - Spring Break 2008:

Savannah, GA - Spring Break 2011:

Nashville, TN - Spring Break 2013:

One of these things is not like the other...  But she definitely belongs!  This year over Michael's spring break we got to take a little family trip to Nashville, TN over a long weekend.  Although it's surprisingly close, we'd never actually been to Nashville, so we had a lot to see.  We started asking friends for recommendations on where to eat, stay, shop, etc., and soon realized that our trip was going to be quite different from theirs.

So we started searching things like "Nashville, TN family" and "Nashville with kids" and luckily, Michael stumbled across this awesome family site which is a Disney site dedicated to, well, families.  The site isn't exclusively travel advice.  It includes things like seasonal crafts/activities, family friendly recipes, and even parenting advice.  I haven't even begun to delve into all of the amazing resources, but we instantly fell in love with the travel planning help.  The travel guides are arranged by city, so in our case, we went here to find advice on family-friendly activities in Nashville.  Scroll down a bit and you will see a section titled "Suggested Trip Plan by Age" - this is real bread and butter of the site.  Choose from babies, toddlers/pre-k, school age, and pre-teen/teens to see different things to do, places to stay, and places to eat based on the age of your kiddos.  Cool, huh?

The site also give tips for taking each age group to each of the attractions, such as "stroller friendly" or "plan no more than 2 hours here."  Based on the advice (and a little of our own searching/roaming), we were able to plan a pretty awesome family trip.  Here's a few of the highlights:

1.  Buying boots - because you can't go to Music City without bringing some home!  With the help of a friend, we found a great little place on 2nd Ave. called Nashville Cowboy.  They carry a big selection of styles/sizes, and even had kid's boots for Peanut.  The best part - you pay for the highest pair and get two others free!  Granted, they are pretty high-end boots, but totally worth it for the quality.  Just to give you an idea, I wore mine for two days in a row right after buying them and no blisters or sore feet at all!

look, my size!
(well, close to it)

can I borrow yours, Mama?
2.  Nashville Zoo - what's great about the Nashville Zoo is it's small and pretty easy to navigate.  We went late in the afternoon on a Friday and were worried we might not get through it all.  A couple hours later, we'd seen it all, including a Dip 'n Dots pit stop in the middle!  Granted, there were no shows going on and Annalyn was in a stroller, so we were still able to set the pace.  With the extra time before the zoo closed, we let her down to play in the big grassy area in the middle of the zoo complex.  Once she got used to the uneven surface, she loved walking around on the grass.  It was a super relaxing and enjoyable afternoon.

hmmm... should I bark at this animal?
or call it a baby?

bamboo forest

Dip 'n Dots

the farm

finally, stretching those little legs!

what a goof!

3.  Country Music Hall of Fame - being huge country music fans, this was a definite must-see attraction.  Aside from a couple staircases that Michael carried her down, it's fairly stroller-friendly and has lots of colorful costumes and activities for older kids.  There's a lot to read and watch, but we didn't stop for too long for fear of wearing out our little one's patience.

4.  Gaylord Opryland Hotel - we didn't stay at the resort, but we spent an evening there anyway, just to check it out.  It has huge indoor gardens, water shows with light/music, restaurants, shops, and even boat rides.  It was a perfect way to spend a few hours one night.  Annalyn especially loved the pizza and all the other little kids running around. There are a range of restaurants from simple and kid-friendly pizza and burgers to more expensive/fancy options.

Delta Island - where all the fun stuff is located!

5.  Cheekwood Botanical Gardens - This was probably my favorite part of the entire trip.  The last day we were in Nashville was a perfect 70-something, sunny spring day.  We spent the entire afternoon roaming the gardens, walking the sculpture trail, and just enjoying the beautiful surroundings.  And, of course, Mama worked in a little photo shoot of my cutie :)

did someone say cutie?

my handsome hubby rockin' his new boots

Peanut's favorite sculpture
It was a great trip and definitely a memorable one.  I think my best advice for those of you traveling with babies/toddlers is to build down time into your schedule and just be flexible.  We ended up coming home Saturday night instead of Sunday morning because she just didn't want to sleep in the hotel.  After a sleepless night the day before, we figured we'd rather get home late then keep the whole 4th floor awake and still get no sleep.  We'd already seen what we'd wanted to see and waking up at home the next morning was just what the doctor ordered.  This trip was not only an eye-opener, but also a practice run for our week long vacation this summer (destination to be determined - any ideas?).  More than anything, it was so nice to get away and just focus on us.  And for that, I'm going to call it a success!

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